Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Collection Crisis"

We've been focused on long stories, but we'll run out of them rather quickly at this rate. Besides, the shorter pieces can be quite interesting in their own right. So...

1946. "Collection Crisis." Or else "The Tax-Collectors," apparently. I'm not sure who gives these untitled stories retroactive names.

Donald is a bill (not tax) collector. You will notice as you go through Barks' oeuvre that Donald is actually quite a LOT of things. He's always taking on SOME new job. Of course, this is so there can be new stories to write, but that doesn't mean it can't speak to who he is. I know that in the last entry I called him a pre-modern, but I'm still not entirely sure that I would classify him thusly overall. I think "nervous modern" would probably be a good phrase--in most stories, he's damn well trying his HARDEST to fit in in a modernist world, with highly questionable results. It's not as though he's disengaged, but he always has a hell of a time with it. I certainly wouldn't call him a HAPPY modern.

So yeah, bills. He hasta collect them. HDL would prefer not to get involved with this, but their uncle dragoons them into helping. You can't think about these things solely in theoretical terms; there are aspects that are just laffs. IE, when Donald's first target is a guy named Scarpuss McKnucks, living in the seedy-looking "Ike's Flophouse," you think, this bodes poorly. But:

Ha! See? No problem! Likewise, when he has to collect from the "Wild Woman of Borneo" for "a dental bill for having her fangs sharpened," you have to figure--wait, what? The who of where for what? Hoo boy. No matter actually happens here, there is no way this is going to turn out well for the reader, at any rate.

*Has aneurysm; dies*

Yeah. No one's proudest moment. The fried chicken is just insult to injury. But hey! At least she's not hostile, like the natives in, say, "Darkest Africa." "Why," you might ask, "if she's actually from Borneo, does she speak in a caricature of a kind of generalized African American vernacular pidgin?" The answer, of course, is she's not actually Bornean. She's one hundred percent American. But as a single African American woman in the 1940s, she lacked any kind of economic security, so she took this circus job which, if nothing else, is stable. Sure, she has to play the part of "Wild Woman" to entertain curious white people, which is not ideal, but under the circumstances, it could be worse. She has stability, at least. So anyway, that's why she talks this way: it doesn't much matter how she sounds; it just has to be "exotic" enough to entertain the rubes.

That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

So that goes well for Donald, at least, so he decides to let the kids all the work.

Isn't that always the way? The economically downtrodden gain some power, and BAM, they turn into the oppressor. It's why revolutions are such a dicey prospect.

The kids' first assignation is to get an acrobat to pay up, which they do after minimal wackiness. But then! Oh ho ho! The next person on the list is DONALD HIMSELF, who has not paid for a book called Value of Being Honest. ISN'T IRONY GRATE? From the lack of an opening article, I will assume that it was poorly translated from the Japanese or somesuch.

Predictably, Donald is not keen to pay:

Good ol' Mehitabel Mudhen (I'm writing out the whole name so it comes up in google searches). How well I remember her jocose japery and hi-larious hi-jinx. Or at least, that's what I'd be writing in an ideal world. In OUR fallen world, however, this is Mehitabel's only moment in the sun, if teh google is any indicator. Too bad Don Rosa couldn't find a place for her in his great family tree. Hard to see where she'd fit in, however. I reckon she could be the wife of the rarely-seen Abner "Whitewater" Duck.

Now that the shoe's on the other foot, Donald would prefer not to pay:

THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS! You enthusiastically participated in this system when you were on the giving end; now it is time to receive. 'S just the way it is.

So naturally, they get him to pay, but then Donald decides to take back the reins, and then, oh irony of predictable ironies:

The question is, who sells lollipops on credit? The other, perhaps more pressing question is: who exactly compiles this centralized database of everyone who owes anything to anyone? 'Cause that's actually sort of scary.

Anyway, that's really all there is. I guess I haven't made any profound points here, but what the hey. This isn't a spectacular story or anything, but it's okay, and at least worth remembering. And you'll HAVE to remember it, since, for obvious reasons, it's not reprinted a lot--in fact, according to Inducks, it's NEVER been reprinted in the US in regular comic book form.



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

How odd Don Rosa ingor Mehitabel Mudhen but then agina it could very well be a name Donald made up to trick the boos.

I think Lulabell Loon sounds better as Fethry mother but thats just my opinion...

October 8, 2012 at 7:21 AM  
Blogger whc03grady said...

I read the chicken leg as a hand mirror, actually. It looks more flat than round. Not that it changes much if so.

April 10, 2014 at 12:19 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Interesting tidbit: in one 1943 story, Barks features one Minnie Mudhen who appears to be on good terms with the Ducks. Perhaps she is a relative as well (possibly the sister of Mehitabel?)

December 20, 2016 at 4:50 AM  

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