"Another Christmas on Bear Mountain"
That's right...ANOTHER Bear Mountain story! Send collect five of 'em and send 'em in with your shiny tin dime to become a member of the Junior Birdmen of America! In the US, this 2007 tale was part of last year's extremely welcome onslaught of Italian Christmas stories, and without it, there wouldn't be enough to do a Bear-Mountain-themed series, so you can thank your lucky stars for that. It's written by one Tito Faraci, who is new to this blog. He hasn't been widely published in the US, but most of what has been is...Ultraheroes stories. That doesn't necessarily bode well! On the other hand, he's also credited as co-author of "River of Time," that rather cool Steamboat Willy "sequel," which bodes somewhat better! So we will charge into this one with an open mind!
You know, you can point out that it's based on the Barks story (well, related to it, let's say) all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that if you're not familiar with the original, you're going to miss a lot here--if nothing else, it plays off its predecessor in ways that'll be totally lost on you. Sucks to be you, hypothetical you! But not the you reading this, no. You, of course, are a suave, dashing, and effortlessly socially adroit lady and/or gentleman.
The most obvious thing about this story--to me, at any rate--is how utterly un-Barks-like the art is. I mean, duh: Cavazzano's art has always been the furthest things from Barksian. But I can't help feeling like it would've helped had he at least made some effort to move in that direction for this particular story. That said, I do like the bits of detritus Scrooge has accumulated here. As far as I can tell, it's not Barksiana--as it would be had Rosa drawn this--but it's still pretty charming. I especially like that cheerful green robot in the lower left.
But oh my daaaarling, why did you change?
Let's give this story credit for delving--not that deeply, but reasonably enough--into Scrooge's character. Of course, as I've probably noted when talking about the L&T, it's really impossible to actually draw a linear progression between old, mean Scrooge and new, less-mean Scrooge. Still, let's do it anyway, to the best of our ability. Why not? You may often forget it amidst all the falderal, but Christmas can (should?) be a contemplative time. So why not use it to consider these things?
This is pretty funny. I really like his clenched fist in that last panel. The first time I read this, I wondered if this was, in fact, Santa himself, playing a li'l trick in Scrooge--and when I realized that this was not the case, I wondered if it had been in the original until it was changed in translation for unknown reasons. Comments on the first "Bear Mountain" story seem to have pretty well established that this is not in fact the case, but it easily could be his identity--it's all in the text. I suppose it just feels odd that that twist doesn't exist, given that there's absolutely nothing to visually distinguish him from regular ol' Saint Nick. Still, I'll concede that it's better this way, as his relationship to Santa and Scrooge's to Donald can then be paralleled.
Donald the equivalent of Santa Claus? Well...it's a thought! Anyway, this is all rather clever. I really like Evil Santa's dialogue (all due credit to Gary Leach's script--not to mention Cavazzano's art, which really helps to sell it).
So anyway, time travel. A very different approach to that last thing we looked at, at any rate.
It's certainly interesting to see Donald's attitudes retconned here to match the later Scrooge--obviously, you never would've seen dialogue like this in Barks' story because Scrooge was just an inchoate idea at that point.
Yup. Here we go. Um...yes. I'm afraid I'm revealing that, even though I certainly prefer this to "Return to Bear Mountain," I don't have a hell of a lot to actually say about it.
And THAT is why I am going to skip forward. It Grandpa Claus can time travel, so can I! The fun thing is that we get to the same general conclusion through a different route: so in the previous story, Scrooge sees Donald passed out next to a bear and thinks, crud, he's so flippin' brave he's just sleeping there, whereas here Donald's fake bravery comes from acting tough because he thinks the bear is just Scrooge. Well, okay, AND from rescuing the bear cub--but if that's meant to demonstrate a real difference in Donald's attitudes between this and Barks, I don't think it does a very good job of it. Still, here we end up.
I like a bit of psychologizing as much as the next man, so subtle though it's not, I enjoy Grandpa's dialogue there in the top left. So true!
It was all a dream...OR [blah blah etc]?!?
And Scrooge gets his clothes back. I don't understand how this works. Why wouldn't he just automatically switch back to his present-day clothes, in the same way he switched into his old-school ones when he went back in time? Don't understand; don't care!
I apologize for the poor quality of this entry. Jeez, I thought I didn't have much to say about "Return to Bear Mountain" (and still do), yet somehow that entry is significantly longer than this. The thing is, I do respect this story, I think it's perfectly clever as far as it goes, but I don't especially like it. Or dislike it! It just feels very thin to me. Very limited. Like--here's a simile that will be meaningless for most--extra content in an RPG where they obviously haven't really integrated it with the main game, so you don't have your usual freedom, you can't go everywhere and talk to people, etc. I guess it does what it's meant to do, and within those parameters, it does it well. I'm just...largely unmoved.
But in all sincerity, I wish you all the best of Christmases. Selamat Natal, as we say hereabouts. I won't lie: these are dark times, and I'm not feeling great about the future. All we can do is try to maintain our human connections and not give in to bitterness or hatred. What does this dumb ol' blog mean in that context? Not a whole helluva lot, but it's definitely the case that it helps me to maintain my equilibrium and sanity. Hope to see ya'll around here for years to come.