Saturday, October 13, 2018

"My First Million"


I first read this story in the old Comixology version. I'm not actually quite sure how that came to pass. I've read very few stories that way on account of the rubbishy translations. Maybe I'd come back after a long time wanting to know if they'd improved at all (spoiler: no). But however it happened, it happened. So when I saw that this was going to actually be printed in an IDW book, I thought, HEY, why are they printing this mediocre-at-best story? Well, because the powers that be mandated it, presumably. Just because they're powers doesn't mean they're particularly bright. But, I thought, well, at least it'll be a better localization, which might give it a bit of a shot in the arm. I did not know at that time that change was afoot at IDW...

So as we all know, this--and subsequent IDW releases--is not by the editorial team responsible for the company's run to date. I think it's extremely important for you to remember that, in contrast with the previous thing, this translation is Fresh and Modern (which is an ACTUAL THING that IDW has called them--frankly, it just sounds like they're trolling us). Yes, I am never going to let that go. But how can I, really, given that it's the only justification that was provided for this new way of doing things?

Actually, the contrast with the Comixology version is interesting, because: there isn't one. No, of course that's not strictly true; they're clearly different translations, and this new one does have fewer bits of maladroitness. But it's sufficiently similar that it's very, very obvious that both of them are totally direct translations from the Italian with no effort to, I dunno, add anything new or alter them even a tiny bit. And as a result you get stuff like the above, which isn't exactly wrong in any concrete fashion you can really pinpoint; except that it sounds, not unidiomatic per se, but still wooden and uninteresting in a way that you would not have expected from IDW's previous Disney output. More on this anon.

The story, well, it is what it is. Some people objected to Rosa's Life & Times on the basis of, hey, why do YOU get to decide Scrooge's history?!? Rosa's response--this is just my version; anyone else is free to create their own--always sounded just a trifle disingenuous, because, yeah, but who would actually be interested in such a thing when you've sucked up all the air? Not that I think much of this criticism anyway. BUT. Here we have, I guess, sort of, an attempt to do an alternate history of the character, or at least the money-making part of his life, which is most of it. So fair enough. But really, Rosa does not have a lot to worry about here, and if this kind of slackness is the best that other writers can do to challenge him, the complaint seems not to have had much force in the first place. Is all I'm saying.

Oh, look! It turns out the Fresh and Modern translation has no idea how HDL refer to their uncles! Isn't that just special. This is characteristic of British translations that--wait for it!--had no idea how the characters were meant to speak.  Say what you will about Western's long, mediocre run of seventies stories, but they never had the kids refer to their uncles as anything but unca.  Heck, I don't think even the misbegotten early run of Boom comics made this mistake (I could be wrong, but I think I would've remembered).

Now...this in itself is a small thing, and I'm sure it'll be corrected in future stories, but it really, really just goes to show.

So look, let's take a step back for a moment. American localizations have more or less followed the general philosophy pioneered by Geoffrey Blum in the eighties when someone came up with the crazy idea of maybe publishing some European stuff in the US. And I generally like this philosophy. But since I am just the world's biggest sweetheart, and I am trying to be fair as heck here, let me say: you have to admit, it's a philosophy, and it's not above criticism. So, for instance, if one were so inclined, one could argue that these scripts were getting overly calcified and could benefit from some new blood. This isn't an argument I personally would make, but one could make it. And, really, that or something like it is what one would have to do justify taking the steps that IDW has taken.'s just so obvious that this is not the case. None of it is. We can tell from nothing more than HDL's "Uncle Scrooge" that whoever is overseeing these things at IDW isn't actually interested in them. They have no idea about US Disney comics. They were just upset, for whatever reason, about the way the previous team was doing things and thought they knew best, in spite of the fact that they actually knew nothing about the form. It would be one thing if someone who did understand it had decided to go in a direction that I didn't like; but someone who doesn't doing bad work because of sheer cluelessness? That really sticks in my craw.

To be clear, my ill will here is not directed at Erin Brady, the translator and scriptwriter. She was hired to do a job, and she does it. True, she doesn't have any background in Disney comics, but as a freelancer, she's not gonna just turn down an opportunity like this. The blame goes entirely to the editors, who decided that the whole thing should be written in an incredibly restrictive idiom and who failed to correct mistakes that she made out of ignorance (I realize that "out of ignorance" is ambiguous in this sentence, but I'm leaving it in inasmuch as the ambiguity doesn't matter--you can take it as applying to either Brady or the editors and in neither case would you be wrong). Those people, I have nothing good to say about.

Point being: we, the readers, know and love these characters. They live and breathe. You, the editors, do not know them, and they wither and die with your airless, humorless treatment of them.

I can only imagine what a good localizer could have stuck in Scrooge's balloon there. I'm willing to bet it wouldn't be dopey, completely out-of-character gibberish like that, however.

See...this "O.L.M." thing sort of seems like it ought to be...clever in some way? Or something? But instead, it's just this really boring acronym that isn't anything? Also, this "he HAS to get the money by this date and time!" thing seems out-of-character anyway; that's just a flaw of the original story. But a better script could've finessed it so that we're willing to just more or less go along with it anyway. This...doesn't even try.

For the most part, Brady's writing is at least competent on its own terms, but then you get to panels like this, and you think, WHAT? How did this get written, much less approved? Fercryinoutloud, you want a straight translation, and you can't even do that up to minimal standards. I hope someone's feeling embarrassed here.

Again, this "dwarf berry juice" stuff is just begging for something to be done with it.'s not. It just sits there.

Yes, "Will Orwight"--a borderline nonsensical joke name--is in the Comixology version too, meaning it was just plucked straight from the Italian. And maybe it works in Italian, but it sure doesn't in English, and the failure to acknowledge the reality of things like this is only part of why this new editorial direction is so misbegotten.

Hate to keep harping on this, but Erin Brady is as far as I can tell a native English speaker and at any rate a professional translator, so how did this happen? And given that it did, how was it not fixed? I suppose it's because fixing it would've meant moving away from a direct transliteration of the Italian, and we can't have that, can we? For some reason.

And again! Again, maybe this dude's line works given the ins and outs of Italian syntax, but in English it's just straight-up gibberish in the context.  I mean, literally.  It makes zero sense.  And it is. Are we feeling Fresh and Modern yet?

A lot about luck in this story. Of course, the question of Scrooge and "luck" is a fraught one. I don't think this story does it very well, but the English script could handle it in various ways. This English script handles it by the time-honored technique of "no one involved even being aware that there's an issue."  Er...great.

Yes, what a great story, Uncle Scrooge. Well Barbie, we're just getting started. Except, here's the thing: we're not. This entire thing is utterly unacceptable, and frankly an insult a very loyal fanbase. It makes me angry, and until such time as IDW sees fit to restore editorial oversight to people who actually care, I'm out: I'm not buying any more of these, and I would strongly encourage all of you reading this to do the same. This kind of arrogant editorial malpractice shouldn't be rewarded.  If the company thinks it can alienate Disney fans yet somehow carry on thanks to the support of all the kids who'll be flocking to its Fresh and Modern attitude (because kids are well-known for loving bland stories with boring scripts...wait, what?), all I can say is, good luck to them.  

Also, please note that I used no profanity in this entry. That's because I care about these things enough that I want nobody to be able to dismiss the force of my objections because I'm just an immature hooligan resorting to foul language. Which, of course, would be ironic, because if only the writers of this script had been more familiar with fowl language, it would be a lot better off.

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Blogger Achille Talon said...

We can tell from nothing more than HDL's "Uncle Scrooge" that whoever is overseeing these things at IDW isn't actually interested in these things.

I think that may well be a Disney-mandated change like the rest of it. Remember that there are "Uncle Donald"s and "Uncle Scrooge"s galore in the old storybooks, and in DuckTales 2017. I think Disney may worry that kids would pick up the grammatically-incorrect ‘unca’ and so have decided to abn it.

October 14, 2018 at 5:02 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Oh, by the way, about the story itself and its relationship to the “L&T”, continuity-loon-me would like to point out that it's actually not too hard to fit this chapter into Rosa-continuity (this is not the case for later ones in the series, however).

Rosa only ever showed us the immediate aftermath of Scrooge going to the Dawson Bank and officially becoming a millionaire; it's entirely possible that My First Million happened right before the flashback in Last Sled to Dawson. Would Scrooge look as dazed at the cashier's announcement in that case in the Sled story? I don't know… but if that strains your disbelief too hard, there's always the fact that the Rosa flashback is a "dream" Scrooge is having, and memories aren't always reliable, so Scrooge may be conflating the announcement at the mine seen in My First Million and the announcement at the bank in his mind.

Also, and by the by, GeoX: could I wager that the reason you'd picked it up from ComiXology was at least in part that you were curious about what Italian-L&T looked like? It's certainly intriguing at first, even if it doesn't really measure up to expectations.

October 14, 2018 at 5:09 AM  
Blogger BrianL said...

I'd like to point out that 'olm' definitely has a meaning: it's the name of an extraordinary species of blind, cave-dwelling, neotenous salamander that, perchance, also occurs in north-eastern Italy. I suppose one could make a tenuous connection between this creature and a cave-excavating prospector. Certainly it seems pretty plausible that Italian artists might know of its existence.
If that's the explanation, it doesn't make for a fun or great reference, mind you.

October 14, 2018 at 6:53 AM  
Blogger (((Rootless Cosmopolitan GeoX))) said...

I think that may well be a Disney-mandated change like the rest of it.

I mean, if that's true, then burn the whole thing down for the nails; we are done here.

October 14, 2018 at 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this case, even “the nails” have been twisted into a state of unrecognizability! So quickly and thoroughly, too! From one month to the next! UGH!

October 15, 2018 at 12:05 AM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

This is the most disappointing issue of Uncle Scrooge since the early days of Boom's run of the title. Or those awful digital comics. I can't think of anything else to say about it that you haven't covered already.

October 15, 2018 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

As for the name, yhe it’s mist joke opportunity if the anacronym doesn’t mean anything. It would be better if the Scrooge wanted to be a part of was a W.H.IM.*

(*Widely Honored Index of Millionaires)

October 15, 2018 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

Maybe they should've released this series backwards...ten issues, huh? With no knowledge of what's inside, the 8th issue teases that's the phase where Scrooge's wealth got to his head...there is SOME potential in a LOS-style series that spells out the apocryphal stuff, or has fun with the castoff material Barks wrote that Rosa found absurd,like the magic hourglass, or the hot melting sands of the desert. Also various fallouts and 1st encounters with Brigitta, adult Rockerduck, Belle Duck, Rumpus, Fethry, Ludwig, Quackmore, etc..those would be interesting.

I take it we won't be getting that, here?

October 15, 2018 at 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Yeah, words fail me. As they failed this particular translation. I also had those "Huh?" moments at the "He came out of nowhere!" lines and elsewhere. Blech. As you say, it's not the translator's fault; she was probably told to just translate the Italian "as is"... And she doesn't seem to have any experience in comics.

Fresh and Modern? What we have here is Bland and Occasionally Nonsensical.

In the Goofy story in (W)DC 1, Goofy uses contractions, so the translator had been informed about that, but his vocabulary and phrasing are too formal or sophisticated. Doesn't sound like Goofy at all.

On the "Unca" question: it doesn't seem likely to me that Disney (as in, the official vetters of scripts for the corporate Mouse) has decreed that the boys should say "Uncle Scrooge." It seems much more likely to me that neither the translator nor Disney Italia (which is running the show here) knew that they should say "Unca Scrooge." THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THE AMERICAN DISNEY COMICS TRADITION.

October 15, 2018 at 11:06 PM  
Blogger Lieju said...

Hmmm yes it's a shame this series isn't better. I'd quite a like a competing 'Life and Times'. I do like Don Rosa's version but don't like the idea that it must be canon to every story... It's nice to have alternative takes.

I do think I liked the 1929 market crash one in this series for its nonsensicality.

October 16, 2018 at 2:47 AM  
Anonymous Spectrus said...

Well, looking at various panels now, this is definitely inferior to the German version. The thing about the dynamite e.g. makes much more sense in German: "I'm not evil. I don't begrudge Scrooge earning his first million - at least not after I've earned mine!" So yes, there definitely is room for improvement.

Âs for the story itself: It was never going to be an easy story in any case, and I can understand people not liking the entire series because of the first episode, but believe me, the second million is a much better yardstick to measure how well Fausto Vitaliano has done his job. No, he doesn't really do much with Barksian references, but that's OK in my book.

The 2nd million contains a Donald Trump reference, by the way. It went right over my head when the story was published in German because I had no idea who he was, but it'll be interesting to see how they handle this...

October 23, 2018 at 5:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the Will Orwright name was fantastic. A joke on Wilbur and Orville Wright, as well as a pun "I will, all right". No idea how that worked in Italian, though.

October 23, 2018 at 11:16 PM  
Anonymous Spectrus said...

Interestingly enough, Italian comics generally don't seem to have an issue with English names. Especially in PKNA and MMMM, literally all the new side characters have very American-sounding names (Mary Ann Flagstarr, Inspector Jan Clayton etc.).

October 24, 2018 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Haugco said...

When are you getting to New Ducktales Season 2?

October 28, 2018 at 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... don'you think this could be just a fabke telled by scrooge?


November 21, 2018 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Domenico Ruoppolo said...

So, IDW got rid of the guys who were able to choose - if not the best European stories - at very least decent European stories. I have read only three of the stories in these series, and find at least two of them pure childish rubbish (one of the three was a bit better). As far as I have read on the Italian forum, even the Italian fandom (people in love with the low key Italian ducks) finds these "My millions" tales mediocre and repetitive.
Also, IDW got rid of the guys who were able to inject some life in those bland European dialogues. (With the exception of Artibani and Faraci, who are pretty damn good at dialogues). Well, I have said already a lot about this localisation issue on the feathery society, so I will not talk about it anymore.

Now they are surely going to sell a tone of copies...

December 7, 2018 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Domenico Ruoppolo said...

@Elaine Sorry, how is Disney Italia (which is actually the publisher Panini) responsible in any possible way for the boys saying "uncle" instead of the traditional "unca" in a translation from another publisher in another continent? In Italy HDL traditionally tell "zio", i.e. "uncle". In Italian we don't have a correspondent for "unca". (Technically there would be more informal way to say "zio", but they would sound extremely regional, not just informal as "unca"). It's up to the translator to know how those characters talk in the local tradition.

December 7, 2018 at 10:30 AM  

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