Sunday, December 13, 2020

"Much Ado about Daisy"

 April! May! And let's not forget: June. I suppose if there were a niece-equivalent of Phooey, she could be named July. They first appeared, unnamed, in Barks' "Flipism" story in 1953. Their first-ever dialogue?

That's auspicious for sure. Then, they disappeared for six years. Then, in 1959, they had a brief, non-speaking appearance in the Barks-drawn "Double Date." They still were unnamed at this point; it's not clear whether the writer of "Double Date" was even aware of the early story or if he just wanted three female nephew-counterparts so Barks brushed off the old design. Progress: one of them appears in 1960 in a story called "The Course in Confusion," named April. And on that same day--so says inducks--a Duck Album was published with a story called "Easy Does It," in which they are all named. At what point did they start being written as Chickadees, the distaff Junior Woodchucks? Possibly in this story, but it's a Studio Program thing I haven't read. But if so, it wasn't an enduring idea, and the first story I HAVE read where it's definitely a thing is this one, from 1970. It seems like the obvious thing to do, but I feel like some of the early writers were a bit hobbled by implicit sexist assumptions.

So what do I think of these characters, anyway? Well, I'll say that when I was small, I really just loved the novelty of any new nephews or nieces, even if they were just one-shotters who never really did anything. But it's probably pretty fair to say that nobody had a particular vision for who they were or what purpose they were meant to serve. Like, they're Huey Dewey and Louie, only girls--and what are girls into? Girl stuff, that's what. You know...girl stuff. The fact that they were introduced wanting to see a violent horror movie suggests an amusing subversion of that, but naturally, Barks' compatriots didn't really follow up. Of course, nowadays, you can do what you want with them! I'm not super-familiar with their latter-day exploits, but there's a lot of room to explore, for sure.

Anyway, that was quite a lot of build-up to a very short story! And, it must be said, not a discernibly Christmasy one, even if it DOES involve buying a present.  Hey, you get what you pay for. Are you paying for this? If not, WHY NOT?!? Should I start a Patreon?

Is Donald's reaction to this memory excessive? You must read on to find out!

I like that Strobl created a different-looking duck character for the clerk here. That's always fun. I don't like the word "drooly" so much but such is our destiny.

So Donald's first trauma here is having to clean off fingerprints. And I must politely call shenanigans on this: if the store has an easily-touched display case, it's going to get touched--and that would be the case even if they had a "do not touch" sign, but they don't, as far as we can tell. It would just be an expected part of doing business. They wouldn't be hollering at customers about it. That would get them a bad reputation fast. Also, notice that in the earlier panels, when AMJ are actually touching it, he doesn't tell them to stop or react negatively in any way, which makes the fact that he suddenly explodes in rage just make him look unbalanced.

Does this seem like a particularly big deal? Well, you can be the judge of that...

...but I really do have to maintain that this violent response is sadistically excessive. Come on, man. This isn't super-fun. It's funny in old Barks stories when Donald gets banged around due to his own hubris and incompetence, but here, it's just cruel.

Credit where due: those hats are indeed sensational. But Donald's final passion is that he sat on this indecipherable statuette thing. It's pretty hard to blame AMJ for this one in any sense, for one, and for another, why are they just leaving their 12.50 Pierre Originals just lying around on chairs like that for people to sit on? Seems like a bad choice.

Okay, but here we come to THIS, which I think is probably the best line in the whole book. I think perhaps I find it funny in a different way than Lockman intended it: I feel like he meant it to be just "ha ha, he's throwing it away either way," whereas to me, the humor lies in the inexplicable dickishness of the line. Either way, though--good times.

Yeah so anyway, here's The Punchline. Please enjoy it. I find it difficult to work up anything like an opinion about it, but you may differ!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems the story is trying to act like window shopping is bad for no properly explained reason. Donald runs into two unreasonably mean employees that would've been fired for the way they treat customers in any realistic world, then breaks something by accident and has to pay for it. Not seeing how AMJ or window shopping as a concept are at fault here.

December 14, 2020 at 1:07 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

The only thing that stuck in my mind about this story from childhood is the fabulous hats! Particularly the one with the little Mercury wings on the top.

In terms of "girls doing, you know, girl stuff," the story is based on gender-stereotypical tropes, where the guy is very reluctantly accompanying the gal on a shopping trip, which the gal enjoys and he finds to be torture.

There have not been many stories that I can find among the tens of thousands of indexed Disney comics stories where AMJ get to shine. Even in recent decades few writers have developed the characters, outside of the Dutch stories in Katrien which I haven't been able to access. Come on, you Dutch women, start selling your old copies of Katrien on! In those stories AMJ have been given distinctive haircuts, but I don't know to what extent their personalities have been differentiated.

Of the Egmont stories I can find, the best is "Robbery on Rosebud Road" by special guest writer Camilla Läckberg, the internationally best-selling mystery author. In that one, the girls get to be amateur detectives solving a theft. Art by Midthun, so I'm lobbying to see it printed in a Midthun Disney Masters volume one of these years!

Second best is Per Hedman's "The Substitutes", wherein the girls end up as temp security for the bin, taking the place of HDL, who were themselves improbably going to take on that role. AMJ handily fend off the Beagle Boys. The whole scenario is unlikely in the extreme, but the story would have made child-me *very* happy.

"The Substitutes" was printed in the Netherlands, and the girls were redrawn in their individualized haircuts. I note that the coloring tradition in much of Europe is to color the identical girls all dressed in pink! Aargh. At least in American comics, they get to wear different colors. And not always just pastels. Sometimes here or abroad they've been dressed in pastel versions of HDL's colors: baby blue, light green, pink. But in the story at hand, for instance, they're in light red (not pink), orange, and a darker, slightly more purplish blue than Donald's cap and the appliance store guy's pants.

I will here not go into the whole saga of AMJ's membership in the Chickadees or in some other one-story-only female scouting group. I have researched this in the past in USA comics, and it's a tangled web, zero consistency from one story to the next in uniforms not to mention scouting group names. I wrote about it on the Disney Comics Forum years ago.

December 14, 2020 at 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

p.s. on "July" and names generally: AMJ's last name has never been officially specified, as they are the daughters of Daisy's sister (per Flipism). I am glad that this means that their last name is *not* Duck; too many Ducks in this universe, plus no one should have to grow up with the name "May Duck." In my headcanon, their father's name is Julio Mallardez. In truth, parents would not need to have a month-related name in the family to come up with "April, May and June" for girl triplets, but I like the connection. The father could also have been Augusto, but that just makes me think of Pinochet. Though Augusto was also Sandino's first name, so that's equal opportunity on the political spectrum, I guess.

I used to think that their mother, Daisy's sister, was a Julia, but after landing on Julio Mallardez as their father's name I have decided that Daisy's sister has another flower name: Iris, or Lily, or Rosa! Which flower name would you folks vote for?

December 14, 2020 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Somewhat infamously, a few years ago, Google's algorithm mistakenly insisted that her name was Rosa due to misreading a paragraph of Daisy's Wikipedia page which mentioned Don Rosa. I like these sorts of "accidental canon" things, so that renames true to me. Iris has pleasant associations with Paul Magrs's Iris Wildthyme, though, so it's a suggestion I'd certainly be happy with if it were canonised someday.

As for the father, fandom as it is, I find no reason to argue with the apparent suggestion in that one Disney reference book that April, May and June are the daughters of Donald's mysterious artist cousin “Fred”. Although I also don't mind the alternative idea that "Fred" is in fact a gender-non-conforming diminutive for "Frederika", rather than any reference to the girls' father!

December 14, 2020 at 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I'm also fine with the accidental choice of "Rosa" as Daisy's sister's name, both as a flower name and as an unintentional tribute to Keno Don. Though I'd guess this is not the character he'd have chosen as a personal homage. (There is also that Egyptian character in The Treasure Temple of Khaos....)

Fred, though--ick. Achille, I know you love to work in every factoid in a Disney-approved publication, but really, Monique Peterson's family tree is nothing to go on. As you acknowledge, it shows the girls as possible children of Daisy's *brother* Fred, when we know from Flipism that they are the children of Daisy's sister. And yes, I know someone has suggested it might be short for "Frederica," but they're just trying to retcon Peterson's mistake. No good reason in my mind to do that. It's not like there was a published *story* where the girls were referred to as "Fred's kids." It's just an isolated family tree with question marks. Anyway, I don't want Rosa's husband to be Donald's relative, any more than I want Daisy and Rosa themselves to be Donald's blood relatives.

There's also no good argument to have either AMJ's mother or father be blood-related to Donald and Della on the basis of the fact that both AMJ's parent and Della produced triplets; identical multiple births do not run in families, only multiple conceptions (fraternal multiples) do. That is, assuming we're operating on the assumption of human biology in this matter, which I realize is in dispute! :-)

December 14, 2020 at 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like my puns, so I love the idea of their father being named August and their mother being named Poppy (the poppy being one of the flowers symbolizing the month of August).

December 14, 2020 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Well, as you also know, too many stories purport that Daisy is some sort of relative to Donald for me to ignore that. And so I am working in that framework when saying that Fred the painter might indeed be Daisy's brother-in-law; I am proposing that Fred (who never looked like Donald) is a distant in-law of some kind to Donald, being the husband to Daisy's sister, who, like Daisy herself, is some kind of cousin of his. I am not implying that Fred would remain related to Donald separately from Daisy.

Beyond which, I think the argument that stories should count more than non-narrative publications is particularly thin when talking about Duck genealogy (although I don't give it much stock at the best of times). A lot of the core texts of Duck genealogy, such as the Barks, Worden and Rosa family tree, are non-narrative.

Insofar as I choose to ignore things in my personal headcanon, I judge not by narrativity, nor indeed by whether it's a licensed Disney publication (I hold Sarah Jolley's works in high canonicity), but rather by whether I like having those facts to work with. And it amuses me to try to work in Fred.

Specifically, I think the "Frederika" interpretation is inherently a good joke. The overly-feminine bow-wearing Daisy having a butch sister who prefers to be called "Fred" — and that woman being the mother of three girls who dress like overly girly dolls, but like to watch movies called Gore in the Gully — is terribly amusing to me. And rife with potential story ideas, of course; I'd love to see a ten-pager featuring Daisy interacting with that hypothetical conception of "Fred(erika)". We see so many identical twins and triplets in the Duckverse that we don't have much in the way of dissimilar siblings, after all, so that's largely untapped ground. In Rosa, you've got Fethry and Whitewater, of course, but it's not as though anything's ever been done with the Fethry/Whitewater dynamic in a storytelling context.

December 14, 2020 at 5:50 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Obviously, Achille, I also go by whether I like working with certain "facts". And I am perfectly comfortable with jettisoning the facts presented in whole bunches of stories (e.g. the stories that portray Scrooge and Grandma Duck as siblings) which don't accord with my headcanon. I don't like Daisy being a blood relative of Donald, and I don't see anything in any of the hundreds of stories that are canon to me that requires that, so in my headcanon, they are not blood relatives. I have no problem with her calling Elvira "Grandma" (*everyone* called her "Grandma" in early days! It said "Grandma Duck" on her mailbox!) and even Scrooge "Uncle" on the basis of her long-time connection with Donald. Though I personally resist the depiction of her saying Scrooge is "my uncle" or Scrooge's saying Daisy is "my niece" (among stories I like, I think that's only occurred in Brazilian dialogue). And I exclude from my headcanon those stories that depict her as literally Grandma Duck's granddaughter (among stories I've liked, I think that's only occurred in one Dutch story, the one where she got her first diary from GD).

I didn't mean to dismiss family trees as across the board less important than stories. I just would feel differently about parent-Fred if a story I valued had referred to AMJ as "Fred's daughters." In any case, it is abundantly clear that the various published family trees cannot be reconciled with each other, and I simply think that Peterson's with its question marks doesn't have much of a claim to authority. Just a fan theory that got published, with the obvious mistake of AMJ being the daughters of Daisy's brother.

So, when you entertain the amusing notion of Frederika/Fred as the sister of Daisy and mother of AMJ, do I take it that that is then a different character from Cousin Fred?

And it is clarifying when you say that in your mind, "cousin Fred" need have no independent blood relationship with Donald, being related by marriage to Donald's some-version-of-a-cousin Rosa. Though I must say, if cousin Fred from A Picture of Justice is in fact Rosa's husband and AMJ's father, it seems very odd to me that he would be referred to simply as "Cousin Fred"!! Also, I think it's extremely likely that Peterson put Cousin Fred in her tree in that way because she *did* think that Fred was a "cousin" who could fit into the picture in the slot of AMJ's father.

So: I'm happy if you choose to see Daisy as related to Donald and want to go with Peterson's tree by having one of the two of AMJ's parents being "Fred." I don't feel that's any better or worse than my own choices; my "ick" reaction to Fred was mostly, Oh no, not another blood relative in the mix! And you actually are not advocating Fred as someone independently related to Donald, so there's no ick factor in your inclusion of Fred, even if it's Cousin Fred.

December 14, 2020 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

@Anonymous: the August/Poppy connection is indeed a fun one. The analogous pairing for Julio would be Lily, as the water lily is one of the flowers assigned to July.

December 14, 2020 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, HDL calling Daisy "Auntie Daisy" is just a holdover from a time when this was the normal polite way to refer to a female friend of the family, it's not meant to imply they're related.

December 14, 2020 at 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

True that! Back in the 1960's I myself had an "Aunt Mary" who was a friend of my grandmother's--too close to the family to be referred to as "Miss Lastname" but back in the day, children did not generally call adults "Firstname" with no title.

December 14, 2020 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

And yet...I kind of thing it IS implying that she's their biological aunt, or at the very least, that the writer hadn't thought about it one way or the other. I'll give you any odds that no one was thinking "these three aren't her real nephews, but I'll have them call her 'aunt' anyway, for politeness."

December 14, 2020 at 9:05 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Ah, but I contend it *would* have been natural for a writer who shared my cultural mindset in the 1960's to think "what would they call her? Not 'Daisy,' not "Miss Duck,' she's around all the time--they'd call her 'Aunt Daisy.'" That's not thinking, "HDL have to be polite," that's just thinking, "what would a kid say?" Of course, I'm sure some writers just saw that other writers had HDL call her that and went with it, as you say, not thinking for a moment about the status of their relationship.

I can't see any reason why a writer would have actually thought that Daisy *was* HDL's biological aunt. She's their uncle's girlfriend--surely anyone's assumption would be that it's highly unlikely that she's also their biological aunt.

December 14, 2020 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, I think one thing we can be sure of is that they would be extremely baffled if they'd known that fully grown adults would be arguing about this sixty years later.

December 14, 2020 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

The following is the answer of the Duck fan, with his nostalgia-fueled headcanon, more than of the cod-scholarly theory of Achille Talon, Canon-Welder Emeritus — but my deeply-held fondness for Daisy being related to the Ducks has very little to do with the usage of "Aunt Daisy", which, as Elaine says, could have had other justifications. I never had any trouble with Huey, Dewey and Louie occasionally calling Mickey their Uncle with a similar reasoning.

Rather, it is in fact rooted in a family tree I found in a French issue as a child — documented here on the Wiki as the "French Duck Family Tree", if anyone wants to look it up. This was a fairly strange effort, and, I suppose, rather slapdash, since it accidentally labelled what shoudl be April, May and June's portrait with the French name of Webby, but I found it very intriguing and it's stayed in the back of my mind ever since.

I view it more as a vague set of guidelines than a precise genealogical document, of course; but in that spirit, and to come to the point, the basic "shape" of everybody's relationship is that Daisy belongs on the same branch of the family tree as Ludwig, a branch to which Grandma (in her born-a-Coot conception) is closely adjacent. Thus Daisy has no McDuck blood in her, but she does belong at the big annual Duck Family Gatherings at Grandma's farm.

(I should clarify that Grandma's backstory exists in a bit of Schrödinger's-cat situation in my heart of hearts, as I have thought long and hard and realised I simply cannot choose between her two possible positions. Sometimes she is a McDuck and sometimes she is a Coot; those facts are evidently incompatible but they are equally valid.)

December 14, 2020 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

(P.S.: Incidentally, on the calling-people-"aunt"-even-though-they-are-not-your-blood-relatives, I spent my whole childhood calling a childhood friend's of my father "Unca John", even though I did not actually know him very well at all, never mind our being related. Which just goes to show that this was still a thing just twenty years ago in France!

I reckon it's not so much a cultural practice as a natural childhood instinct — conceptualising grownups as having siblings is a bit quaint, when you're a toddler, so once you're given the words "uncle" and "aunt", it's as good a grab-bag as any in which to shove any and all grownups-I-don't-know-well-but-who-seem-to-be-close-to-mommy-and-daddy-somehow.)

December 14, 2020 at 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Thank you, Achille, that is a very satisfying origin story for your emotional commitment to the idea that Daisy is related to Donald and his family. I can certainly see being impressed by a family tree encountered in childhood, especially when it provides some satisfying explanations of how folks are connected beyond what has been revealed in the comics.

FWIW, I will say--not in an argumentative spirit, but just because your comment brings this up--that I've assumed that Daisy comes to Christmas etc. at Grandma's farm because Rosa and her family travel some distance to spend such holidays with the Mallardez clan, which means that Daisy has no local family at the holidays. (Yes, I know that the older female duck pictured in "Donald's Love Letters" has been fan-identified as Daisy's mother, but I never thought of her as alive and in the picture; if I want to go along with that identification, I guess I'd have to say that Daisy's mother has died since the events of that story. Or that she's now in a nursing home which she can't leave for a holiday celebration.) Having no family in town at the holidays, she quite naturally spends them with her boyfriend's family.

Also, interesting to hear that you cannot decide between Grandma's two backstories! I'd say the only comparable situation for me has to do with Goldie. I enjoy Don Rosa's version of the Scrooge/Goldie story, and when I'm reading Rosa I'm fully committed to it. But I am also fond of an alternate history where their relations in the present are more along the lines of Claxton & Anderson's "Pipe Dreams" and the "Ducky Mountain High" episode of DuckTales. I haven't come down on either version definitively in my headcanon. I hold them both in tension.

December 14, 2020 at 11:43 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Evidence for "calling your parents' friends 'aunt/uncle'" being a cultural practice: in Italy, at least some part of Italy, it used to be the thing for children to refer to such adult friends of the family as "godmother/godfather"--similar process to get there, as in: too close to call them "Title Lastname" but too adult to call them "Firstname." But the words used are not aunt/uncle, they're another set of vocatives borrowed from different adults with a close relationship to the family.

I know this because this practice is the source of Mario Puzo's decision to have the mobsters call the boss the "godfather," thus essentially ruining the term for use in its original meaning. Post-movie, mobsters apparently adopted this appellation, but it wasn't used that way before. Now the word "godfather" just makes most Americans think of decapitated horse's heads.

December 14, 2020 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Richie said...

Chiming in with further support for the Uncle-Aunt business, this time with Mexican evidence; to this day and since childhood my mother will speak about some of her closest friends as "Your aunt Irene" for example. I always took it to be a cute way to signal they're so close they might as well be siblings (such terminology was used when I was old enough to know for sure there was no actual blood relation). I actually asked her just now and confirmed this was the intention all along.

On AMJ themselves, I quite enjoyed their portrayal in Legend of the Three Caballeros and would love reading tales that went for broke on that Gore In The Gully characterization. Trivia time! Here in Mexico they were also called Rosa, Blanca and Celeste and those were the names they chose for them in the aforementioned LOT3C.

December 15, 2020 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

I love how this story is so inconsequential that the majority of the comments here are about Daisy’s nieces’ family tree (or lack thereof). This story seems to me to be yet another lazy “bad things happen to Donald Duck because the world hates him” type of a story, as well as perpetuating the “females are impossible for males to understand” trope. Hilarity (or lack thereof) ensues. Tony Strobl’s artwork is at least enjoyable. Donald’s pose as he’s walking out of the jewelry store after cleaning the cases is reminiscent of Barks.

December 18, 2020 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger F Willot said...

In the 1990s I had created an Al Taliaferro website on geocities. I was contacted by a relative of al Taliaferro who claimed that Al actually invented April, May and June around the late 1930s, but was not allowed to introduce them, and that Barks reused them.
Sadly I have lost the email exchanges I had at the time. In this fact mentioned anywhere in articles about Al Taliaferro?

February 9, 2021 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I just now saw your comment. Extremely interesting if true; it would be GREAT if someone could produce an old Taliaferro sketch of the girls.

March 7, 2021 at 4:37 PM  

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