Thursday, May 21, 2020

"Isle of Golden Geese"

Boy, it really is a thing: as I've remarked elsewhere, I've got nothing but time, and yet I am being really remarkably unproductive in every way. It's understandable in some ways, but...okay, time to write about this 1963 story. I have no further introduction. Let's get into it.


So this story is fine; I like it well enough. But the thing that you notice again and again as you read it is how obvious it is that Barks wasn't overly concerned with plotting here: there are so many moments where thinking about it too hard does not yield useful results. Really, this ought to be a trainwreck--or shipwreck (those generic Western stories I was just writing about that similarly didn't much care sure were)--but somehow it's not, because it's Barks, and while he wasn't incapable of writing lousy stories, it sure didn't come easy to him. Still.


Much has been made--by me and other people--of the postmodern flatness of a lot of Barks' later work. So you look at that opening splash panel: it could easily have come from a story written ten years previous, but there, the ship would have actually signified some sort of history. There would have been depth behind it. But here it is really, really obviously just, okay, whatever, some sort of justification for the story, ship in the "feather trade," whatever.


I feel like you might have seen similar gold elsewhere. Just a thought.  It seems there's a whole ecology of gold animals.  His reaction to finding this is odd: you'd expect him to be over-the-moon about having found this gold feather, but instead he's just like, huh. That's kind of interesting. Welp, let's get going. I mean, it's sort of an interesting reaction, but I don't think it's the result of any kind of deep consideration of the character.


Here's the sort of thing I mean when I talk about Barks not really taking this whole thing all that seriously: "the ONLY source of goose eggs?" How does THAT make even the tiniest amount of sense? And isn't the door wide open for someone to break this monopoly? Very weird stuff.

Also, note that his fortune has remained static for years. Try to reconcile THAT with any number of previous stories.


I mean...this is a kind of derangement, and yet it somehow doesn't seem like a typically Scroogian kind. But hey, it amuses.


Probably the most obvious non-canon-y thing here is the depiction of Magica. It had long been established that she lives in Italy, and yet now she's just "across the tracks?" And, of course, her dime fetish is very noticeably absent here: Barks had made that her main character trait, but here he just discards it like it's nothin'. She's just an ordinary, solid citizen, making secret potions and buying--or trying to buy--eggs. I mean, I'm sure her new secret potion is villainous and all, but she's not explicitly setting out to do anything illegal. It's just coincidence that she gets involved with this nonsense at all.


Ratface's line is cute. Also, "hocus pocus shrimp cocktail calocus."


What are we to make of the fact that everyone just seems extremely bored by their inability to reach the island? Should we chalk it up to Barks himself being unenthusiastic, or is that too obvious? Well, I think at the very least, we can say he wasn't quite feeling the drive he might once've.


I think it's funny how Magica just casually dominates the Beagles like this. This isn't the first dual appearance of Magica and the Beagle (that's "The Unsafe Safe"), but it IS the first time they actually interact, so that's interesting (fairness compels me to admit that there's an earlier Italian story featuring the both of them, but I've never read it so I'm pretty sure it doesn't actually exist).


This whole business where Ratface was, apparently, using magic to prevent Scrooge from thinking of an idea...I don't know (and the idea that he was rubbing goose eggs on his head because of a crazy thing the ship's log said--yeesh). Doesn't bear too much scrutiny.


...and really, did this idea require THAT much thought anyway? It's certainly fun to see them all dressed as witches, but I'm not sure the costumes really had any effect on anything. That "a fast cruiser is rented" is a notably odd use of the passive voice.


Oh hey, I wanted to point out this bit, which is interesting to me. So we can see Huey there lampshading the concept of...buying a cannon at a rummage sale? Ah yes, THAT old chestnut! Is that a thing? A google search for "rummage sale cannon" doesn't turn up much aside from notices of sales in a small city in Minnesota called Cannon Falls. Has this happened in any story you can recall? Maybe. But it seems odd that Barks would let so much weirdness go through without a second thought and yet he felt the need to acknowledge this trope that may or may not actually be a trope.


I like all of those geese, both belligerent and happy. That's fun. Has any goose in the world ever said "whonk?" Is it some sort of dialect thing?


"Featherbrain Castle." I like the geese lining up like that for their queen.


Wak! Yeah...a little bit of an alarming character design. But it's not just that. Well, it's mainly that, probably, but it's also that she just appears to come from a completely different universe from the regular Disney characters. They're from comics, and she's from some sort of faerie tale. It is, I suppose, no surprise that not even the Brazilians have seen fit to reuse her.

But the bit that always gets me is "Last of the Featherbrains." So...this is it? The line ends with her? That's kind of melancholy. Scrooge may be the Last of the McDucks, but he still has family. And can we assume that when she's gone, nobody will be able to get goose eggs, anywhere? I know this isn't something that anyone was meant to think about, but I can't help it.


You might think that this would turn into some kind of morality play, but...it kind of doesn't. I mean, sure, later on Scrooge is forced to pay more, but the concept is never really developed. What does Fanny do with money, anyway? Does she buy stuff via mail order? I need to know more about the economy of the Honker Archipelago.


I mean, why don't HDL say something then and there, rather than just chastising him after the fact? As I say: not a lot of weight behind any of this.


So I don't find the Magica fight all that interesting, but I do like Fanny's reaction, probably more than anything else in the story. That line "cute--the way she made the birds do that--real cute." You can read that in a number of ways, but I like to see her character as a little bit spacey and disengaged; she doesn't care that much about this, but there is an element of game recognizing game. The idea that she's some kind of goose-themed sorceress herself makes this much more delightful.


This casual "I imagine I could..." definitely plays into that. Not that she necessarily wants to that badly or anything, but hey, if anyone else is into the idea, sure, why not...


ONE MILLION DOLLARS! I mean, considering that she sees all the golden eggs and feathers as worthless, you really have to wonder how much she cares about money in the first place. You always want to see Scrooge shown up, but it might be preferable if he actually learned something from this.  Okay, I guess learning is optional.


You are not wrong sister. We are indeed just plain dumb. Actually, "dumb" is one of the more charitable ways you could put it. I really like the casual admission here that she kills and eats some of the geese on occasion. That could fly right past you.

There are at least some Barks stories from this time, more or less, that have things in common with this but that I really don't like. I would write about "That's no Fable!" but it would just be depressing in a way that I don't know that we need right now. But this one is fine! It's good. I enjoy it more than slightly, even if, ironically(?), it is a little...slight.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Achille Talon said...

Miss Featherbrain is definitely a fairy-tale character from a fairyland; perhaps the effect suffers from her not being whimsical enough compared to e.g. the Larkies, but this seems to me like an avowed "Scrooge & Co. intersect with a fantasy story, hijinks ensue" story along the same lines as Mythtic Mystery and The Golden Fleecing.

About the "Last of the Featherbrains": you're not wrong, but, I mean, Miss Featherbrain doesn't look at all old. She has time to marry and bear children who'll carry on the legacy, I'm sure. You might argue that there aren't many people on the island, but maybe she'll fall for the captain of the trading ship or something.

Incidentally, your talk of Magica makes me remember that you still owe me your thoughts on a Sarah Jolley yarn of your choice.

May 22, 2020 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I kind of like that Barks had few stories with Magica that where not dime related. I do think it makes the character richer when they are used in non-conventional way.

It like that one Barks story where Gyro was riding a camel in a parade playing bagpipes. You would asume it's some mechanical camel or special bagpies that control him or part of some screw-ball science experiment... but nope. Well, ok it's not exactly the same as Magical here (I guess it would mean a story where she do something non scinece related)


And I actualy dig Featherbrain "I pose for all the Margaret Keane paitings" desgin and character. It's off enough to make her work as being mistical without spelling it out and adds unusual almost tripy vibe that gives the story unique flavor.

I like to imagine she dosent blink and outside of lips moving has this pernament doll expression. She's like something I would put on as a mask If ever had to home-invasion somebody (I said *IF*, no reason to get nervous)

May 22, 2020 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger GeoX, who is here to stay, like it or not. said...

Not to ignore people's helpful comments, but one other thing I want to ask: do you think Gus would have an existential crisis on visiting the Honker Archipelago?

May 22, 2020 at 12:56 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

My (darkly) helpful answer to this is: if you're going to make the line between Donald-style anthropomophic waterfowl and "cartoon barnyard animals" a bit more porous for such a thing to make sense… the truth is, Gus, if reimagined as a funny-barnyard-animal, strikes me as exactly the kind of funny-barnyard-animal who'd be generally chill about the fact that geese's days are numbered because That's The Way The World Goes.

…And now I'm thinking about an Italian-style Disney Comics parody of Animal Farm, with everyone being brought down a notch or two of anthropomorphism to act the animal characters. Barks's Pig Villain is obviously Napoleon, etc.

But, of course, the more serious answer is that within the Duckverse, there is no more sense in conflating barnyard geese with anthropomorphic geese than in conflating human beings with chimps. The Ducks might feel a bit queasy about eating small-d ducks for the same reason that most Europeans would feel queasy about eating monkey innards, but it doesn't cause existential crises or anything. (Most of the time.)

May 22, 2020 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

Scrooge sitting on the eggs is one of the very few instances I can recall of Barksian ducks acting in any way like actual water fowl. Donald pecked at some corn in "You Can't Guess," but that was under hypnosis. Can anyone think of anything else?

May 23, 2020 at 7:55 AM  

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