Wednesday, December 5, 2018

"Presents for All"


MORE CONNELL?!? Jesus, MUST we? Yes, we must. Ours is not to wonder why; ours is but to do and write about stories by awful hacks. Or so it seems. This is from 1951's CP 3, meaning it's the first non-Barks marquee story. The quality drop-off is...noticeable. Although actually, it could be worse; this story would be basically inoffensive except for just one damn thing, that you will see RIGHT NOW:


So we set the cheerful holiday scene with Donald being an angry, humorless slave-driver. I mean...seriously, Del. WHY? I know I've accused you of being an alien in the past, but I can't help but think that even an alien would basically be able to recognize that Christmas stories are meant to be more or less happy (I mean, unless you're trying to contrast the initial low state of affairs with a later change of heart, but spoiler, that ain't Connell's game here), and that you ain't doing a good job of getting that across.


Oh but it gets worse. So much worse, and you can almost certainly tell from the above exactly how it's going to get worse.  I would not recommend using an idiom like "eat your hat" in a story like this.  Connell is not one to defy your expectations, or at least not in a good way.


Yeah, okay. FINE. So...


Now Donald is a flat-out psychopath.  Just LOOK at his vindictive glee over inflicting pain on his children over this bit of absolute nothing.  A classic abusive parent.  I...don't even have the energy to get angry about this. It's horrible and I hate it a lot. I can say no more.


Do you think the irony of This-Story Donald accusing someone else of not being kindhearted was lost on Connell? Impossible though it seems, I want to say yes. But at any rate, this kicks off the plot, as Scrooge inadvertently whacks him on the head with a washer.


And it makes him think he's Scrooge. The question is: is this supposed to ACTUALLY be Scrooge's personality, or is it just meant to be the caricature of Scrooge that exists in Donald's mind? Same uncertainty that we had regarding "The Big Switcheroo," really. I very much doubt Connell spent a single second considering this, but I think it's more funny if we think of it as the latter, because it's just so goofy--although, in fact, not different than Connell's normal depiction of Scrooge, so maybe this is a distinction without a difference.


And so, he goes to buy expensive presents for everyone, which is, I guess, sort of amusing. I...do not know what "a racy airplane" is supposed to mean. Is Connell actually calling the plane risque, or does he think "racy" has something to do with "racing." And...now that I look it up, I see that, apparently, that really is a tertiary definition of the word. Whaddaya know...I've certainly never encountered it before, that I can remember. Do you think Connell actually knew that? Well, I suppose it would be contrary to the Spirit of Christmas to not give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.


And he needs all the benefit he can GET, because then we run into things like THIS: whether we want to think about this as Scrooge lusting after Daisy or Donald imagining Scrooge doing that--EW EW EW. Christ, Connell.


Dammit, Connell, you REALLY, REALLY didn't need to remind us of this story's infelicitous opening. It's, uh, great, or something, that you're trying to create a little frame for the story, but it's okay! We don't need it to be classically balanced! Trust me, it's okay.  Well, not "okay," of course, but the best you're likely to do.


Scrooge reacts about as you'd expect to all this spending, and "What's going on here? Help!" is both pretty funny on its own and no doubt a common reader reaction to Connell stories.


There's this whole THING with this vault that Donald had brought for, well, himself/Scrooge. It's pointless and goes nowhere, which seems pretty true to form for Connell, I've gotta say.


How would Scrooge possibly know this was the right sum, and why would the guy possibly believe him? You might say, oh, Scrooge is just overwhelming him in a bullying sort of way, but given that want to be super-hyper-cautious about not accidentally overpaying, it still doesn't seem in character. Or, more likely, you might say, why are you pretending to believe that this is something that should be taken seriously in any way? You know perfectly well that we know you don't actually believe that, we know you know we know &c, so JUST GET ON WITH IT. Okay, okay reasonable enough point, if perhaps expressed more forcefully than absolutely necessary.


So, like, I dunno, everyone's grateful to Scrooge for the stuff he didn't give them. Do you think Connell didn't actually know any Christmas songs, so he had to improvise in this laughably half-assed way? CHRISTMAS IN DECEMBER WOW WOW WOW GIVE ME LOTS OF PRESENTS NOW NOW NOW.


This is the sort of thing that could be kind of heartwarming, if the entire thing had been better-plotted and characterized and everything.


SIGH. And we inevitably wrap back around to this. Connell's so bad at plotting; why couldn't THIS have been a strand that he just sort of forgot about? BUT NO. Are we meant to buy that Donald really thinks this half-assery is "quick thinkin'" that's going to accomplish anything? THEY KNOW YOU HAVE A HAT, DUDE. I'M FAIRLY SURE THEY HAVE OBJECT PERMANENCE.


HDL don't have the authority to be as thuggish and awful as Donald was at the beginning, so this part isn't as bad as that, but it's still a very sour way to end the story.  It's odd because that last line from HDL about the Christmas turkey sort of implies that this was meant to be cheery and Christmasy in spite of everything, but BOY is it ever not.  The story is bad, there's no denying that, but it's mostly kind of low-level, insipid badness that doesn't really bother you much. But man, the whole hat-eating business just takes it to the next level, I'm sorry to say.

There are several obituaries of Connell (who died in 2011) that lament how obscure he was, but none of them note the rather obvious fact that, while his obscurity is more a function of him working for Western than him not being very good, he still wasn't very good. Yes, great, he created Super Goof, and I guess he has to get credit for that, but it's not like those initial Super Goof comics he wrote were much cop either. Barks wouldn't deserve all that much credit for creating Scrooge either, if he'd written him as poorly as Connell generally writes everyone. I feel mean beating up on the guy at Christmas-time, but YOU try writing about four of these impossibly inept stories in a row and see how YOU feel, and yes that's right there's ANOTHER to come. I daresay nobody's given this much concentrated attention to Del Connell in...well, ever, maybe. I'd say stay tuned, but it's hard for me to imagine why you'd want to.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Achille Talon said...

And he needs all the benefit he can GET, because then we run into things like THIS: whether we want to think about this as Scrooge lusting after Daisy or Donald imagining Scrooge doing that--EW EW EW. Christ, Connell.

I think it's more of a "this is just Donald temporarily dazed into thinking his Scrooge, but his fundamental attraction to his true love remains, he just rationalizes within the 'I'm Scrooge' framework" thing, which is noticeably less ew-y.

Also, what are the odds that two Del Connell Christmas Parade stories would involve identity-switching like that? This is weird.

December 5, 2018 at 11:44 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

If you google "racy roadster" you will get lots of hits--among them I found a 1945 toy "racy roadster rocket car."

December 5, 2018 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Nice The Simpsons refrence ^_^

December 5, 2018 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Oh, GeoX - Of course Donald uses HD&L to do all his work! What else you would get three nephrew?

December 5, 2018 at 7:46 PM  

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