Friday, August 3, 2018

"Boat Buster"

Pan Miluś wanted me to write about Rockerduck's debut, so here we are. He also referred to the story--accidentally or on purpose, I'm not sure, it amuses me either way--as "Boat Bastard." That certainly has more force than the so-called "real" title. he is (incidentally, this story is from 1961--arguably Barks' low point--and you can kind of tell from how oddly squashed Donald looks in the splash panel). To tell the truth, though, I don't actually have much to say about him as he appears here. I mean, for all that Glomgold wasn't any more "villainous" than Scrooge in his debut, at least he has an evil-sounding name. Rockerduck is, literally, just A Guy. He and Scrooge bluster at each other, but there is absolutely no possible textual justification here for seeing Rockerduck as "worse" than Scrooge in any way.  In fact, if anything, Scrooge comes off worse, given that he engages in what seems to me to be pretty blatant cheating. If others hadn't run with the character and this was his only appearance, I'm quite sure that, to the extent that we remembered him at all, we wouldn't remember him as a bad guy. The only reason to assume such is if we assume that Scrooge is automatically the "good guy" and that anyone opposed to him, therefore, must be bad. But the both of them come off more as Chaotic Neutral Guys here.

See, here's something that underlines a difference between 1952 and 1961 Barks. Because this looks for all the world like detached, deadpan sarcasm, of the sort that you saw from Donald in "Only a Poor Old Man." Dumb billionaires with their dumb billionaire problems, acting like children--

--only Donald's excitement that he gets to participate in this foolishness tends to undermine that conclusion. I feel like the way this story tries to be about a McDuck rivalry and also about a typically-bumbling Donald is a bit awkward; not necessarily executed super-well.

...yup, a lot of stuff of Donald screwing up in a typical way. It's okay, I guess, but it's not executed with any great panache, and this truly might have felt like old hat by the time it was written.

Still, I like this. "What happened now--and why?" could be Donald's catchphrase.

Oh, and I also like Donald's doomed battle with this determined crane. That "WHACK" looks so definitive. The crane does not care about your common ancestry, Donald; you are NOT passing here.

But here's the part where I say WHOA. Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. So...Scrooge appears to have moved the goalposts for this competition significantly. Two things: first, if this is what he's done, and if we take it as given that ANY of the boats but Rockerduck's winning counts as a "win" for him (and if that's the case, as I said before, this seems like very straightforward cheating) then why is he so concerned about Donald in the first place? But second--and more importantly, I'd say--this completely changes what would need to happen in the competition. If Rockerduck's boat comes in right the middle of the pack, the contest would prove nothing: his fuel beats Scrooge's half the time, and loses to it half the time. A total wash. More than half the boats would have to beat him for Scrooge to really win. There seems to be the assumption that only ONE would be enough, but that's obviously not so. And also--as long as we're really nitpicking here--in that case, why would he want Donald in the race at all, if the assumption is that he's a huge screw-up? That just gives Rockerduck that much more chance to win. THIS IS NOT VERY WELL THOUGHT-OUT, is all I'm saying.

I do have to give Donald credit here, though: he shows some pretty serious determination, co-opting a mattress for his boating needs. No matter what happens--and we all know what happens--he definitely earns the win here.

(Okay, so the idea that any of this slapstick goofiness says anything whatsoever about the gasoline seems, uh, questionable. Whatever!)

Dammit, Scrooge, you didn't "know" he'd lose, and he DIDN'T "lose," and words appear to be becoming completely unmoored from objects. Donald counts as having "lost" even when he won, his sticktoitiveness counts for nothing, there was nothing he could possibly have done to come out with a positive outcome, ARGH! Yup, 1961. I dunno. I suppose there's nothing hugely wrong with this story for what it is, but if it didn't, entirely by accident, introduce a new character, we sure wouldn't be thinking about it too much. Not that we do anyway. WHATEVER.



Anonymous Achille Talon (who has come unlogged for mysterious reasons) said...

Oops, several typos in the second paragraph (the one after the image of the story's opening). Looks like 1961-Barks's "what the hell, who cares" attitude is contagious… let's hope it doesn't last!

I actually find Rockerduck quite a bit more interesting in this story than he's usually given credit for. He seems like a second shot at “Second-Richest Duck”-Flintheart Glomgold, only redesigned and renamed to fit the "oil tycoon" idea more closely. The opening argument-cum-fight beween Scrooge and Rockerduck here seems right out of “Second-Richest Duck” or “Money Champ”.

And indeed, Rockerduck doesn't really come across as a villain… any more than Glomgold did in “Second-Richest Duck”. We just have another story of "Scrooge pitted against himself," except in the narrow field of oil-refinery as opposed to billionaire-ing in general. But close your eyes and imagine Glomgold in Rockerduck's place. Wouldn't this story fit right in with “Second-Richest Duck” and “Money Champ” — arguably moreso than “So Far and No Safari”?

People harp on about how dem wacky Italians somehow forgot about Glomgold, then took an unrelated bit-character from a Barks story and rebuilt him into Glomgold 2.0 as pure parallel evolution, but from reading the story, it seems obvious to me that this is not so. Barks's Rockerduck is Oil-Tycoon Glomgold, nothing more, nothing less.

August 3, 2018 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

(…There, 'mback. Pfew.)

August 3, 2018 at 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Isn't the idea that the fuel used is only revealed for the winning boat? I agree Scrooge is not playing fair, though. And that the focus on Donald's performance is retrospectively mystifying.

The Good Guy in this story is clearly the crane.

August 3, 2018 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

A so-called journeyman effort by Barks is still better than a lot of similar fare using similar themes. This could've easily been mistaken for a Scarpa tale with the names and numbers filed off...although Rockerduck would've had more dialogue.

The implication of the first page is that Scrooge and Rockerduck have engaged in shouting matches & brawls often enough for the nephews to regard this as an average Wednesday.

August 3, 2018 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Another way to look at it could be that Scrooge’s cheating here may have been what “Moved the Needle” on the Scrooge / Rockerduck rivalry into the higher-stakes deviltry of Johnny D. in such later tales as those we titled “Mummy Fearest” and “Scrooge’s Ark Lark”!

Today’s Phantom Blot, for instance, is not Gottfredson’s… So why should today’s Rockerduck necessarily be Barks’?

Th’ great part ‘bout all this here theorizin’ is that anythin’s possi-bull! …With an emphasis on that “bull” part!

August 4, 2018 at 2:49 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I also think (like Achile) that if you would replace Rockerduck here with Glomgold you woudn't need change a line.

Maybe Glomgold's reaction to Scrooge faiting would be more funny since we know he knows who Donald is.

I can olny guess that maybe Barks oryginaly wanted to use Glomgold here but replace him with new character for reasons, one logical being why Glmogold would bother to go all the way from Africa just to argue with Scrooge about his fuel... or simply he didn't wanted to bring back an old character for such minor role.


I will be the odd duck here but... I sort of like how Donald looks in the first panel. He's more duck-like but in a cute way ;)

August 4, 2018 at 3:44 AM  
Anonymous Jannes said...

I also like the art in this story and in many others from this period. While I can't argue that this isn't Barks at his most inspired, I like this compact, solid look a lot (I prefer late Barks to early Barks)- and just look at the last half page posted here, there are so many different poses and expressions! Barks certainly had those ducks under control.
The stories are kinda hit and miss, but when they hit, I really enjoy them.

August 4, 2018 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

To be clear, lest there be any doubt, I don't have any problem with what later writers did with Rockerduck. There's not enough here that I'd say there was lost potential, or anything like that. Indeed, if Rockerduck was kept purely Barksian...there would be precious little to him.

August 4, 2018 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I think people tend to insirt what they already know about Rockerduck from the Italian stories.

All we learn about him from this story is :
1. He's Scrooge's rival and also rich.
2. He's competitive with Scrooge.
3. They like to get into fist fights while arguing.

Even Rosa's Rockerduck (The little of him appear in that one story) appears to be more influance by post-Barks authors. Even the "he inherited his fortune" bit felt more Italian stories inspired then anything we learn from Barks... Plus no hat eatinh here.

August 4, 2018 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

It is interesting that in the Brazilian version of this story, Rockerduck is not "Patacôncio" (the usual Portuguese name) but some "Rockfóli", being treated as a totally different character.

August 5, 2018 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Interesting indeed. I know there are a lot of one-shot characters who have nonetheless appeared in future Brazilian stories; it's surprising to me that they'd treat Rockerduck differently.

August 6, 2018 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Lieju said...

I grew up with the Italian comics and I recall this story being one of those 'hidden' stories. Harder to come by back then. 'Rockerduck actually WINS in his first appearance!'

As for Rockerduck inheriting his fortune... The Italian stories were very contradictory on how he got rich. Or how old he was... Him inheriting his wealth might be all Don Rosa more than anything but I gladly accept it... As I do him being younger than Scrooge.

August 25, 2018 at 8:17 PM  

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