"Return to Bear Mountain"
So I had this great idea: a Bear-Mountain-themed Christmas! What fun! But then the time came to reread "Return to Bear Mountain," and I realized: huh. This story's kinda bad, and not in a way that makes me feel hopefully-entertainingly-ranty. Just kind of blah-bad. WHAT HAVE I DONE? Still, I DO like the idea of this blog being a repository for all Bear Mountain stories, and if nothing else it's interesting to see a rare non-Rosa sequel to a Barks story, so HERE WE GO. I guess.
The question we have to ask is: what's the point of a sequel, exactly? A Barks sequel, that is; forget about movies for the time being. Spinning it positively, you could say they're labors of love: everyone loves Barks, so riffing on his work is an opportunity to give us a new perspective on fondly remembered stories and characters. Though I like some more than others, I think this is true of all of Rosa's sequels. However, there's also another possibility: you look at this, you look at "Return of the Micro-Ducks," and you get the very strong impression that they were less products of love than sheer laziness. As in, hey, everyone loves this this Barks story, so we can just piggyback on the premise and everyone'll overlook our crappy storytelling out of residual affection for the original! Yay us! I mean, making a good sequel certainly isn't easy. You have to try to take the original premise in new and interesting directions while still maintaining what made it good in the first place. A tall order, and even Rosa didn't always get it right. But one gets the very real impression that some writers weren't even trying.
According to inducks, the official title of this story is "Crazy Christmas on Bear Mountain," but it appears that no publication has ever actually called it anything like that. For the best, really; there's nothing notably crazy about it. Also, it makes it sound as if the story's trying to one-up the original. It's written by Lars Bergström and Tom Anderson, and drawn by Daniel Branca--all people whom I associate very strongly with Gladstone-era comicking (yes, this particular story was published by Disney, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN). I could be wrong--inducks doesn't, as far as I know, let you filter stories by publisher within a country--but I'd bet that that's where the great bulk of their stories--those that have appeared in the US at all--have been printed. I wonder why that is, assuming it's true? I suppose in large part because they generally produced relatively conservative stuff, and if you're trying to serve a niche market, you get a bit skittish about alienating people by showing them how wild these things could get. As much as I respect them, though, and appreciate what they did, I think this instinct didn't serve them too well artistically, as I find a lot of this stuff pretty leaden and dull, present entry very much included. Not much of a Branca fan, me, though of course I'm sorry he died so young.
Well, I'll take what Christmas cheer I can get, and this opening is cheery enough, I suppose. The "Bear Mountain" sequels are certainly more Christmasy than the original, I'll grant you that much. BUT WHAT SURPRISE IS OMINOUSLY LURKING IN THE BACKGROUND?!?
"Scrooge invites family to holiday home for Christmas with ulterior motives?" Awfully similar premise to "The Blight Before Christmas" (not that I'm accusing anyone of plagiarism), though I'm sure you could find lots of stories with similar premises. Point is, though: man, I wish this were as good as "The Blight Before Christmas."
...given that this little mystery is completely abandoned and never touched on again, we can only assume that the answer to Gus's question is "encroaching senility." I surmise that at some point in the preparation of this story, there must have been the idea that Grandma--yes, I'm going to SPOIL the ending, sort of, early on; please try not to be too upset--had some sort of closer relationship with the dang gnatlings, and that they would be the ones who mysteriously cleaned her sleigh, but NOPE! As it stands, these four panels are just completely worthless, contributing absolutely nothing to the story except filling up space! Well done, gents!
Yay. Note that in this instance, "the whole family" does not--as per normal procedure--include Gladstone. Makes sense, really; the thing's hectic enough without having to artificially shove the whole "luck" business in there somehow.
Also: ha ha, Donald almost said "hell." Though I'm pretty sure he's actually said it in some British publication somewhere, so not that amazing.
MORE TIME-WASTING. Not quite as egregious as the thing with the sleigh, inasmuch as this DOES come back, sort of, briefly, but this really is not great storytelling.
Surprisingly specific Barks reference there. Artificial as all get-out, but, I must admit, still sorta fun. Shove your Barks references into your sequels hard and deep, people! It will give your story a probably-undeserved appeal! Sadly, this is about all we get here. Just for the record, the reference is this:
Let's note, that this sheds some light on the long-unanswered question: which nephew was asking for oatmeal in "Christmas on Bear Mountain?!?" I must know! According to this sequel, the answer is: Dewey. Well...maybe. But there's also the uncomfortable possibility that the oatmeal-requester was speaking behalf of all the nephews, in which case, this doesn't answer anything! Dammit!
Let me note one more thing here: "I don't think you'll be deprived of your oatmeal this time." So there are a lot of obnoxious prescriptivist grammarians who insist you SHOULD NOT USE THE PASSIVE VOICE, on the grounds that it conceals agency, it's overly wordy, and it's clumsy. They're WRONG, of course: sure, the passive can do these things, but active clauses can be just as wordy and clumsy, and they can evade agency just fine. Often, they, the grammarians, provide examples that demonstrate that they don't actually even know what the passive voice is. So, this whole thing is dumb as hell. Use the passive when appropriate! Use the active when appropriate! And stop feeling superior just because you've capable of regurgitating bits of arbitrary grammatical pedantry!
Still! Look what we have HERE: an actual, grammatical passive, being used to evade agency! Just who did this "depriving," Donald? WHO WAS IT?!? That's right--YOU! YOU deprived your innocent nephews! Don't try to hide it! Especially not in this weird, clumsy way! Though actually, it's not at all clear to me in the original whether HDL actually wanted oatmeal, or whether it was just part of the joke! Why am I shouting?!? What do you mean, "you don't think you'll be deprived?" You don't think YOU will deprive them again, because of the awesome magnanimity you've developed since "Bear Mountain?" Or you don't think they'll be deprived because Scrooge isn't likely to just throw around lobster? Why am I thinking about this? ARGH somebody make me stop!
Anyway, now that I've talked about this dopey throwaway reference more than I will about anything else in the story, let's move on, shall we?
Well, this is a[n obvious] reference too, though it feels like this one was somehow inevitable.
...stop trying to make me feel suspense. I do not feel suspense. Not even a little bit.
And, again, stop wasting our time! Donald can't cut a tree down, but then he can. This is meant to be contributing to the mystery and all, but I say unto you, once again: it is not useful. It contributes to nothing. I want it gone.
Yes, fine, so here's why we're all mucking about up here. Please enjoy.
Given the sequelly nature of this whole thing, you'd think it would be more bear-oriented. But in fact, we just get this one brief chase sequence that goes nowhere and is apparently only in here at all because the creators wanted to justify the title. BLAH.
Um. Yes. So. This. Uh.
JEEZES, I have nothing helpful to say about this. It's SO cutesy and twee and annoying and wildly tonally off from anything you'd want or expect from any Disney story, including this one. Dammit. Stupid little...
Alas, Mothbeard failed to become a beloved recurring character. How this is possible, we may never know. Or care.
You are not making things better. I don't want an explanation. I just want you to go away and never come back.
Well, to conclude on a bright note, I believe I've noted before that I'm a total sucker for a festive tableau! And there are no goddamn gnatlings pictured, so triple word score!
WHY ARE YOU MENTIONING THESE STUPID CREATURES AGAIN CAN'T WE JUST FORGET THAT THEY EXIST? I mean, if not for that, this bit would be pretty okay.
Yes. Well. Whatever. Here they are and here we are and HAPPY HOLIDAYS. Here's this story. It is. It exists in the physical universe. It fills up space on a page, and now I've written this thing about it that fills up space on the internet, and you have read it, and thus the circle of life is complete. That's about all you need to know.
More Bear Mountain for ya on Christmas day, but don't hold your breath expecting a gnatling reprise.