Saturday, March 25, 2017

"The Stone Money Mystery"

My place in the Sun: I got an email the other day informing me that Duck Comics Revue is the internet's fifty-ninth-best comics blog. I am humbled and honored by this, uh, honor. They gave me one of those tacky little gifs of a medal to put up, but I must humbly decline on the basis that coming in fifty-ninth isn't actually very impressive, and also on the basis that feedspot is just a skeevy spam/email harvesting operation. Still, it was an honor to be nominated, or something.

Anyway, if I want to continue to be used by questionable dudes to get strangers' emails, I should probably update more often, shouldn't I? According to that list, "it is a blog on wonderful comic stories about Donald Duck." Well...from time to time. Let's see if this, a 1960 story drawn by the indefatigable Tony Strobl, counts as "wonderful." At any rate, it's currently the fifteenth-highest-ranked Strobl story on inducks. Those are some heady heights!


We open in the Duckburg Museum. I've always liked museums, and therefore I like this. It's a nice vibe; I really do dig the fact that the duck family is into learning cool shit. Mind you, it's hard to be TOO impressed by the curators: "Sea shells used as money by island natives." Yeah, that's some impressive anthropological rigor, guys. Still, even if there's not that much to it, and even though the depictions of actual cultures can be problematic, I think--from my own personal experience--that things like this can actually be helpful in widening children's minds and increasing their curiosity, perhaps--showing them that there are whole other worlds and culture out there. Take that, Dorfman and Mattelart!

(Yes! First How to Read Donald Duck reference of the year!)

This Yap Island money business is a totally fascinating thing, and a natural subject for a Disney comic, though unsurprisingly, it's been a bit squashed and mutated in the retelling. It probably goes without saying that it was not actually moved around like kids with old-timey sticks and hoops. Still fun, though!

(I will pass over Donald's "if stuff like that could be used today" comment in silence because it is really not clear to me whether this is Donald's fatuousness, or the author just has a really shaky understanding of economics. Could go either way! Also, what do you mean, "you're not passing it over in silence; you're writing this paragraph?" Can't you see it's in parentheses? So it doesn't count! Jeez!)



Unsurprisingly, the stone gets loose, and I cannot not laugh at such dopey slapstick as this. Hooray!


And now, we get a recurring motif in these old non-Barks stories: writers not being clear on what sort of rich guy Scrooge is supposed to be--what with the limousine and driver and all. You'd think by 1960, people would've had a better handle on the issue. Oh well! I DO like his rare bit of generosity to Donald here: as I think I've suggested elsewhere there HAVE to be times, off-panel, when he's not a total dick to his nephews; otherwise, it would be really pushing it to imagine they'd keep hanging around him. I especially like it here because of these non-Barks Western writers' proclivity for having him engage in incredible, gratuitous, Guido-Martina-esque sadism. And, as we'll see, it's balanced out rather effectively in the end. I don't think the writer was aiming at this; I think it just happened for plot-expediency reasons.

(And man, sometimes I step back and realize: what I'm writing here would be total gibberish to anyone not marinated in duck comics. Questions might include: What does "what sort of rich guy Scrooge is supposed to be" mean, and what do the limo and driver have to do with anything? What does 1960 have to do with it? Why are you referring to comic authors as "Western writers?" Who the hell is "Guido Martina?" Sometimes I worry that this all may be a bit too insular.)


Ha ha, Scrooge sucks compared to "the museum!" I like seeing Donald and HDL needling him like that. Also, what's this "outside of some historical value, that rock is worthless in terms of money" nonsense? MOST old money is "worthless in terms of money!" Historical value is, like, the main thing! Do you really just measure value in terms of what something would be worth if you melted it down and sold it? Don't be daft. Though I suppose this is an implicit theme that you see even in Barks: he may not want to sell Genghis Khan's crown, but he wouldn't want it if it weren't made of valuable materials either. WHATEVER, DUDE.


This story isn't a heartbreaking work of staggering genius or anything, but I must say, for a story of its type, it does amazingly well in setting up a real-world setting and mystery. Okay, that's grading on a substantial curve, but most stories don't even try. Look at that thing with the wheel having left mysterious sigils in the concrete. There's never anything more to it than the above, but it's STILL quite impressive. For what it is. As I keep feeling the need to qualify my praise. BUT I LIKE IT, OKAY?


And, I mean, look at this stuff!   It's totally trying to be Barks. If more of these stories would do that, we would be happier.


Seriously, it's like a dry run for Don Rosa. Only not as good-looking. Or well-written. Or interesting...okay, I should stop damning this with faint praise, because I mean it for serious: this is substantially, noticeably better than the norm. Hooray for a writer whose name has been lost in time! Don Christensen, maybe? That'd be my guess. The timing is good, and he also wrote another of my non-Barks Western (there's gotta be a more concise way to say that) favorites.



It's...difficult to say what to make of this. The natives are properly civilized, but then when this one subject is brought up, they regress to their savage ways okay it's not THAT difficult to say what to make of this.  Still...we've seen worse. And better! But worse is more likely.


Unfortunately, the story fails to live up to the potential that the surprisingly decent set-up suggested. The mystery is never addressed in any interesting way, let alone solved. WHY exactly is gold now forbidden, and terrifying to everyone? This question is not even nodded at. It just...is what it is.


Donald finds da cartwheelz! Bully for him. I mean, the image is all right. But the question remains: why? Why why why?


Pretty silly--I think it's safe to say that CROCODILES DO NOT WORK LIKE THAT--but I've always liked the visual.


So there you go. The idea that Scrooge is going to row all the way home seems...unrealistic, somehow. But as stinginess goes, it's less unreasonable than some depictions you'll see. Anyway, let's face it, at some point, he's gonna get tired out; there's no getting around it. And then Donald can make some of that money back.

The one thing that always REALLY, REALLY bothered me about this as a kid was the fact that Scrooge ONLY takes a gold wheel. THERE ARE TWO UNIQUE PIECES OF CURRENCY YOU NEED FOR YOUR COLLECTION AND YOU ONLY TOOK ONE OF THEM JEEZ.

But what the hey! I like the story enough that I will generously donate my Top 75 Comics Blog medal to it:
If anyone at inducks is so inclined, they can feel free to put it on the relevant page.

Labels:

18 Comments:

Blogger Hex said...

I guess the scheme worked on you then :) as you did exactly what they wanted an put up a link to the webpage, making their google ranking higher etc. I got the same Top 75 message too, not as an e-mail but as a comment on the last blogpost (now marked as spam)

March 25, 2017 at 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Well, if Scrooge *is* going to be shown as having a chauffeur, I approve of his name being "Bleeker."

Agree that this is a significant cut above the typical NBW story. Add a brief historical explanation for the gold taboo (with a flashback to people casting golden cartwheels into the water) and it could be seen as Barks lite. What do you say, Joe, do you think Christensen wrote it?

It never occurred to child-me that Scrooge failed to procure a stone cartwheel-coin for his collection. So maybe that strange comment of Scrooge's about the stone wheel having nothing more than historical value is a set-up for what is to come. The challenge to his preeminence as a collector is enough to get Scrooge to investigate the sigils, but only *golden* cartwheels are enough to get him to plan the expedition.

March 25, 2017 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger GeoX's Nemesis, the Mysterious XoeG said...

@Hex I guess the scheme worked on you then :) as you did exactly what they wanted an put up a link to the webpage, making their google ranking higher etc.

Nope, check again :). I didn't copy the whole code; I only posted the image. No link to nowhere.

March 25, 2017 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Hex said...

The link in the very first sentence you wrote works fine. Doesn't matter where you put it, you are still helping them.

March 25, 2017 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger GeoX's Nemesis, the Mysterious XoeG said...

Mmm...fair point; try it now. But IN ANY CASE, what they WANT is a link on my sidebar or something, not a little thing in one single entry.

March 25, 2017 at 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

Wasn't there another comic based on the Yap Island money? I'm not sure who did it, but I think it was about Scrooge tracking down a debt and being paid in Yap stone coins.

March 25, 2017 at 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

The one I'm thinking of was probably written by William van Horn.

March 26, 2017 at 3:15 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

@Christopher: There was that Barks-scriped story about 'Dragon Cookies' where Scrooge ended up being paid in furs that turned out to be the currency of Inner Monghoulia.

By the way, GeoX, I can't help but notice that the whole "Scrooge disregards numismatical value of old coins" thing was used by Don Rosa in The Money Pit, where Scrooge outright says that for him, money costs only the value written on it. Granted, he was talking about old American coins, not about ancient foreign currencies.

March 26, 2017 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

CONGRATULATION GEOX! :) :) :) I always had faith you will make it someday! :)

It's like I always say to people : "GeoX blog is the funnyest! He is so funny that if there was an award for the most funny blog ever and he didn't win, he would had a big chance of winning next year! He is THAT good!" :)

March 26, 2017 at 11:53 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

To Elaine and Everyone:

One of the great crimes against comics-reading humanity is that so many of the original authors of both seminal and secondary works are forever lost to time – save our idle speculation.

Don R. Christensen (he would have insisted on the “R.”) is as good a guess as any. I see nothing at all to count him out. The fact that Scrooge would bail Donald out of trouble at the beginning, indicates someone who MAY not have as rich a history with Duck stories as Carl Fallberg might have had - but I can see one of Don Arr's many, many Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig adventures going that way.

Also supporting a vote for Christensen is a prevailing sense of humor that is on greater display than in the usual Fallberg or Vic Lockman opus. The runaway museum coin, Donald falling into native-gibberish mode, the slapstick business with the croc that would come naturally to a former animation storyman are all good supporting examples.

Personally, I loved "Vasco Da Gasket"! That's the kind of thing I would do in a Duck or Mouse story today!

Finally, how many noticed the “Lost in the Andes” vibe of the “Gold is Illegal” bit?

Congrats on the “award”, Geo! Display is proudly, my friend!

March 28, 2017 at 6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought- going by Rosa at least, isn't all (his) money only of historical value to Scrooge ("historical" referring only to his personal history)?
But since these theories never totally make sense, it really doesn't matter.

March 31, 2017 at 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

April 5, 2017 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger GeoX's Nemesis, the Mysterious XoeG said...

Right, so the above comment read:

EXPOSE THE CONSPIRACY! GOD AND THE DEVIL ARE BACKWARDS!! DON'T LET GUILT-FEELINGS, FEAR AND OTHER KINDS OF EMOTIONAL MANIPULATION RULE YOUR CHOICES IN LIFE!!

...followed by some links to anti-religious sites filled with crazed conspiracy theories that looked like old geocities pages. I was going to leave the comment up for its sheer bizarreness, but then I saw that some of it was pro-nazi stuff, and I decided, nope! Kindly fuck off and die, thanks so much!

April 5, 2017 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I'll bet that guy dosentt even read a Disney Uncle Scrooge comics :(

April 6, 2017 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

By the by, GeoX, will you resurrect "Duck Cartoons Review" when the new DuckTales premieres?

April 7, 2017 at 4:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yes! Please please please! :) :) :)

(Maciej Kur/Pan Miluś - who's at work so can't log in)

April 7, 2017 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger GeoX's Nemesis, the Mysterious XoeG said...

I do have at least some ambition to finish Darkwing Duck one of these days, but yes, the new Ducktales might be a good opportunity to get back into things.

April 7, 2017 at 11:42 AM  
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