Saturday, December 30, 2017

"The Fountain of Strength"

Well, we recently learned from Mark Evanier that Vic Lockman had died on June 1 of this year, at the age of ninety. I felt that I should write something in...I dunno. Tribute? Recognition? Acknowledgement?

The thing is, Lockman seems like such an odd figure to me. He was an extremely prolific writer for Western; I'd say that outside of Barks (who was working on a completely different level and probably isn't really a valid comparison), he did more (for better or worse) to define their body of work than any other single person (Paul Murry and Tony Strobl probably come close). He definitely had a hell of a work ethic. And yet, he sure isn't widely known or acknowledged (the fact that we've only learned of his passing almost seven months after the fact is indicative of something), and you can see little if any of his influence in any subsequent comics (though let's give a shout-out to our friend Joe Torcivia, who is a big fan and whose own localized scripts bear an acknowledged Lockmanian influence). To give him his due, he IS one of the very few post-Barks cartoonists to have created characters who endured and were used by creators after him. That's an accomplishment however you cut it, but I think we could fairly describe the impact of Moby Duck and Emil Eagle as modest. He remains little remembered and held in little affection. Or such is my perception.

Two probable reasons for this: reason the first is that his work is also kind of inextricably associated with Western's long, slow slide into mediocrity and worse. Associations do not tend to be positive, to the extent that people make them. And reason the second...well, look, I'm not trying to smear the man, but I don't think it's really possible to talk about him in an honest way without at least acknowledging his, ah, interesting political and religious views, and I really do think they explain a lot. I mean, I don't want to dwell on this; you can pretty quickly figure out exactly where he stood by looking at his website. In fairness, these mostly didn't come out in his Disney work (mostly), but they've somewhat overshadowed said work. If he had just retired and not made a second career for himself self-publishing crankish tracts, I think he'd have a much less problematic reputation (I mean, as Disney comic writers go--it's all relative). But I'm not trying to argue that his general low profile in the Disney world is because he had fringe beliefs. Rather: I'm arguing that it sure looks like he actually wanted his Disney work to be overshadowed. As far as I know, he never gave any post-retirement interviews on the subject, and his official website breathes barely a word about what he spent the bulk of his career doing (it's vaguely alluded to if you click on "drawing books," but that seems to be it). Also, there's this odd bit from Evanier's obituary:

I called to sound him out as a potential recipient of the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, which I administer and which goes to writers who have not received sufficient recognition and/or reward. Since Lockman certainly qualifies for lack of recognition, I wanted to see if he'd consider accepting it should the judging committee select him some year. I am not sure I completely understood his response but it was unmistakably negative about the award and the whole concept of celebrating comic books that do not celebrate God's covenants.

I know I'm just speculating here, but I get the impression that he may have in retrospect conceived his Disney work as taking away from what he felt he should really be telling the world about, and what he really wanted to be known for. Which is kind of a shame, because as...not that great...as a lot of his Disney comics are, they're a much better legacy than "evolution demolished in this exciting novel! Harry Potter, 'Goodbye!" Bible Kids, 'hi!'" I mean, really. Some of his scripts were drawn by Barks himself, fercrissake! That's something anyone should be proud of! But the thing is--I think--he considered his most important work the post-Disney stuff, and it's not easy to think of him without thinking of it and feeling kind of ambivalent. There's just no getting around it.

Still. I felt I should write something in commemoration. The problem is, in all honesty, it's a bit difficult for me to find stories for him that I unequivocally like. They exist, and you can click on the "Vic Lockman" tag on this post to see a fair variety of stuff he did that I've written about--both high points and low. But look, if we're talking about him, we should talk about him, warts'n'all. So HERE we have this 1968 story PERSONALLY RECOMMENDED by David Gerstein for your delectation. I mean, recommended for me to write about; not necessarily recommended for you to read. So if you do and you don't like it, you have only yourself to blame. Cha! This is from the Beagle Boys line, one of those spin-off comic books that I can barely believe were successful enough to be as financially viable as they apparently were. This one was irregularly published for FIFTEEN YEARS, with an additional year as The Beagle Boys versus Uncle Scrooge. Can you imagine? I'll try to be mostly positive about this story--there ARE things to like--but a man has his limits, so we'll have to see what we see.


Well, right out of the gate, we have this opening, which I find unironically funny. I don't know if it was Lockman's intent, quite, but the sheer idiocy of the Beagles just firing indiscriminately at the darkness is just hilariously stupid to me. Yay!


Well...yup, it's the Beagle Brats. If they're anyone's favorite characters, I'd sure like to meet that person. No I wouldn't. Did Lockman actually create them? Hard to say--inducks isn't willing to hazard an opinion about their first appearance; I'd bet it's him, but the dialogue isn't distinctive enough for a hundred-percent match.

Really, as much as I don't like the concept, I guess it was somewhat inevitable. It's the Disney Law: EVERY goddamn character needs, at some point, to have either nephews or nieces depending on their gender, and this applies to villains as well: Magica has nieces; Glomgold, Rockerduck, and Pete have nephews...has the Phantom Blot ever had a nephew or two? He's gotta have had, doesn't he? Dorfman and Mattelart will tell you it's because the Disneyverse has been drained of all generative power, trapping everyone and everything in an endless now. Maybe so! That's neither here nor there.

Point is, as much as I'm not a fan, the Beagle Brats could be worse in this story. But it does make ya wonder, even more than you normally do: just who the heck are these kids' parents? Do the Beagles have law-abiding siblings whose kids have betrayed them? Or what? Hmm. Also, do all the Beagles have the same birthday? Are these three just triplets? Or what?


Lockman was into goofy wordplay like you see here: "spin-the-stool-pigeon," "bum rap." It's not as pronounced here as it is in some of his stories, but you can still see it. It's okay, I guess. At any rate, it adds interest to otherwise pedestrian plots.


Well, at least the search is motivated, kind of. 'Cause they feel they're getting old and weak 'cause they can't keep up with their nephews, you see. There's an extremely interesting existential tale of existential fear of aging buried somewhere in here, though obviously it was never gonna come out. I mean, not in anyones' hands, probably, and certainly not in Lockman's.


Meet Cousin Tic-Tac-Toe, a character who for some reason is inducksed
despite only appearing in this one story. Lockman was hella into gimmicks (part of the reason why I think he invented the Beagle Brats); this Beagle with a tic tac toe board on his shirt is one example. I actually like him, kinda. Dig that roguish grin. He seems like a fun guy.  And I like the way he insists on taking the exact route, as opposed to, I dunno, walking around all the houses and barns that have cropped up en route, even though it makes zero sense to do so.


See? He's aging faster with every step he takes! Time's winged chariot hurrying near &c.


And so, Cousin TTT cheerily exits the story and the Disneyverse. I really like how he just straight-up does not care what difficulties the Beagles may have run into; you just pay him and he fucks right off. Farewell, Cousin TTT! We'll not see the likes of you again!


Here's another Cousin! He likes explosives and his number plate is a countdown. That's all. This fine fellow has appeared in two separate stories. Why couldn't that be TTT? I like him more.


Look, it turns out that fountain's actually out of town. Science, okay?  Or possibly because Lockman wanted to shoehorn Grandma into the proceedings.  Either way, JUST ACCEPT IT.  SO, here's ol' Zeke Wolf, whose name Lockman may or may not know! This is just a cameo, but it shows another aspect of Lockman's general penchant for gimmickry: his love of weird crossovers. An example most people will know--because it was drawn by Barks--is the one with Dumbo on Grandma's farm.

Anyway, here, Zeke literally gets his ass kicked by a cheerful chicken. I think that's a lot of fun.


And, I mean, in general, animals who've drunk from the magic pond kicking the shit out of everyone is good for a laff or two.


"The prison farm." Where Grandma just sort of loiters around and gloats, apparently.


...if she knows that she has a pond of magic water, shouldn't she do something with it beyond making the Beagles into more efficient slave labor? I realize that's a question that was pointless to ask and that no one can answer, but really now.


...and so, the Beagles are forced to work like beasts of burden by the cackling, inbred wardens. But at any rate, the Brats are back, to give the story a sort-of symmetry! Hurrah!

Welp, love him or hate him, that's Lockman, and this is a generally above-average example of his work.  Whaddaya rate the chances of this being redrawn by Daan Jippes?  Actually, if nothing else it would be kind of interesting to see what he could do with a few of these middling Late-Western things.  I may write about a few more of Lockman's stories in the coming days, so if you have any favorites, let me know.

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10 Comments:

Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo:

It’s always been my belief that Vic Lockman created the Beagle Brats! Once April, May, and June were established (and Lockman used them FAR MORE than Barks ever did), he apparently set out to have “Junior Member” analogues to the entire cast – like “Newton Gearloose”.

The Phantom Blot had “The Phantom Brat”, though not created by Lockman!

Needless to say, this is a major loss to me as Vic Lockman’s body of work, with all its unique quirks, has been such a large influence on my own comics work. I’m presently working on my own “tribute post”, which will appear after the New Year has been rung-in, because of a backlog of holiday related posts that are in the midst of being published.

Lots of Lockman goodies will be found there, with highlighted stories both good and bad! More good than bad, because I don’t think most folks really know the “good”, because the “bad” stands-out so! Naturally, I link to your classic post on “Bird Bothered Hero” – the single worst Disney comic ever created in terms of poor story, bad art, and unattractive lettering!

I also discuss and illustrate what I consider to be “The Ultimate Vic Lockman Story”! You’ll just have to drop by in early January to find out what that might be!

Finally, let’s not forget that, for just about everyone who toiled in comics prior to the 1970s… IT WAS JUST A JOB! That seems unthinkable in this age of nothing but fandom-spawned creators – not the least of which are what I call “The IDW Creative Core Four”: David Gerstein, Jonathan Gray, Thad Komorowski, and myself!

We savor and appreciate every moment spent in furthering the legacy of “giants” like Carl Barks, Floyd Gottfredson, or Romano Scarpa. But, to the generation of which I speak, they were not “heroes”, just co-workers or contemporaries. Most of these folks did what they did for the paycheck – and, not surprisingly, Vic Lockman would seem to be one of them.

Though, despite such views (and the “other views” of which you write), I’ll offer Vic Lockman a hearty “Yay for you!”

December 30, 2017 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Lockman stories I actually like (we'll see if these turn up on Joe's list):

(1) The Hound of Basketville--because I remember it fondly from early childhood as the first story which showed me what a literary parody is. In a nice completion of that arc, the first story that showed my Disney-comics-loving godson what a literary parody is was the Simpsons' comics parody of Uncle Scrooge!

(2) The Dime from Uncle--starring Witch Hazel, here called Wanda Witch, presumably because everyone and their cousin had a character named "Witch Hazel", including the prominent character in the Little Lulu comics. This one was championed by our friend "Scrooge MacDuck" on Feathery Society, who wrote: "Vic Lockman sucked at doing serious Barksian plots, but when he could just write whatever crossed his mind thanks to a plot device like witchcraft, the results could be hilarious hilarious." I agree that this story has delightfully silly and funny stuff in it, and a female character with agency who gets her happy ending, to boot!

My favorite moments: tied-up Scrooge, sneaking off to dial a phone *with his beak*, saying "There's no use calling the police! They are helpless against black magic! I'm going to call the Junior Woodchucks!" By which he means, he's calling the phone in Huey, Dewey and Louie's bedroom and waking them up in the middle of the night! Who you gonna call...? And on the next page, a Beagle says, "Cease fire, everybody! Let's let Scrooge have the floor!" leading Wanda to say to Scrooge: "Make it snappy! I was winning!"

December 31, 2017 at 12:12 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Elaine:

Those are indeed great stories but, since my post is WAAAAY long as it is, they are not included.

…Oh, wait until you see what I believe is “The Ultimate Vic Lockman Story”! I’ve reproduced it in its entirety, so that you might all experience it! I so enjoyed reading it again tonight for the Blog post! Hint: It’s not a Disney story, so don’t go scouring Inducks!

I’m aiming the post for January 03, 2018, with a “New Year’s” post coming first.

December 31, 2017 at 2:45 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

…has the Phantom Blot ever had a nephew or two?

I see Joe already mentioned the Phantom Brat, but she's a special case, since she's his daughter. The Blot had more traditional nephews in the form of the Three Blotlings, documented here on the Scrooge McDuck Wiki:

http://scrooge-mcduck.wikia.com/wiki/Three_Blotlings

December 31, 2017 at 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Jannes said...

I don't think I'll ever be interested enough to really "get into" Lockman´s Disney work- most of these comics are just so dull looking and, in my experience, if you actually read them it only gets worse... unless you stumble on the occasional nugget of weirdness, which can make it interesting for a minute. But I could be wrong! Maybe the (comparatively) few stories I read were just among his lesser work...
I forgot these Christian comics Lockman did later in life- and that he was actually a pretty capable artist! I think a lot of this stuff is pretty fun to look at (as far as I can tell, his homepage doesn´t provide the best pictures) and much more lively than many Disney comics from the time he worked on them... Sure, his work certainly seems to be on the more wacky side of religiousness and a lot of it looks kinda strange with everyone being just a little too happy and even the sun and the trees smiling a little too much... as if it could go into Al Columbia-esque horror-territory at any minute! But I feel like he put a lot of dedication into these drawings and it shows. "Link Lizard defeats evolution" is probably pretty wacky (what an assumption!), but it doesn´t look dull ;)
The topic of older cartoonists starting a second (or third, or fourth...) career in self published, ideology-based material seems interesting to me, although on first thought Steve Ditko is the only other one I could name... but I feel like there are more.

January 3, 2018 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Anders E said...

Some of of Lockman/Strobl's post-Barks WDC 10-pagers are actually very good. My favorite is probably "The Pride of Duckburg".

https://inducks.org/story.php?c=W+WDC+323-01

January 5, 2018 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger (((Rootless Cosmopolitan GeoX))) said...

You inspired me to read the story in question, and you're right; it's very good. The only thing is, there's really nothing in it to me that screams--or even just states in a normal tone of voice--"Lockman." Are we one hundred percent sure it's him? I mean, it could be; I'm no expert. I just wonder how definitive inducks' judgment is.

January 5, 2018 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger (((Rootless Cosmopolitan GeoX))) said...

...actually, I guess that distinction between automation and craftsmanship does seem a BIT Lockmanesque, maybe...

January 6, 2018 at 12:14 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

I’m not about to say Vic Lockman didn’t write “The Pride of Duckburg”, because I’m not sure anyone around today could prove yea or nay. But, if you ask me, I’d be more inclined to attribute the story to Bob Gregory.

The sad thing is we'll never really know because, before a certain time, all publishers didn’t think anyone would ever care enough about their creators – and the lasting impression they would make upon the readership!

January 6, 2018 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

On the other hand, I note as I'm putting my WDC&S # 323 back in its storage box, Vic Lockman very definitely wrote the Donald Duck lead story in the following issue, # 324, "The Clock Plot"!

Read these two back-to-back and you may be of the opinion that "The Pride of Duckburg" and "The Clock Plot" are the product of two different writers.

January 6, 2018 at 7:40 PM  

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