Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Oddball Odyssey"

Why am I doing a Magica story? Because I decided, okay, I'm gonna flip through my big box o' disney comics and write about the first Barks or Rosa story that comes up. That story, to my mild dismay, was "Oddball Odyssey" (1963) in Uncle Scrooge 361. Alackaday!

Oh well--better get going! It's actually a somewhat theoretically interesting thing. Let's kick things off in media res for a change:

"A cool chick." There's some sixties culture for you, which always seems a bit odd when it crops up in Barks stories. Note also the anachronism here--mashing contemporary idioms together with Homeric epic.

That's right--it's our old friend postmodernism. In this story, we see an interesting blending of history and simulacra, myth and demythologizing. How much of this is real and how much is pure artifice? And does this oddball version have any real relation to the actual Odyssey?

(note also the square speech bubbles. This was apparently a new format at the time, but the editors recognized that it didn't really suit Barks, and gave it up tout de suite. There were apparently originally no borderlines around them either, but Gemstone added them for this reprinting. Not that this is anything but coincidence, but hey--things are changing!)

So anyway, Scrooge approaches his nephews with an unusually arbitrary-sounding plan to get more cash.

Now admittedly, this seems somewhat gimmicky, as were a number of late stories (qv, always and forever, "Mythtic Mystery"), but I think this is mostly justifiable. Just how the hell relevant to anything anymore IS a plan to find treasure from Greek mythology? I ask you!

Still, take note of that "mostly."

Would Scrooge really fall for this? you might ask. Well, it turns out the letter has some sort of hypnotic perfume on it, okay? Okay! Compare this, perhaps, to "Cave of Ali Baba," where fascination is also a thing that occurs, also in order to create the illusion of great treasure.

So anyway, it's off to Greece. Scrooge is meant to bring his Number One Dime to identify himself. Of course.

I believe you'll find that the technical term for "duckess" is "duck." But anyway...

She offers Scrooge some totally sweet treasure in exchange for the dime. But the unmesmerized HDL take a closer look through a spyglass, and...

Usetabee you could depend upon the integrity of ancient treasure, but these days, not so much. Scrooge's previous modus operandi appears to be obsolete. In "The Golden Fleecing," you could rely on Greek mythology. The larkies were antagonists, but they were the real thing. Now, however, myth appears to be an empty simulation thereof, with none of its greater significance. And in "Mythtic Mystery," Greek gods are really spacemen (as in that dumb Star Trek episode). It seems you can just fuck around with this stuff with impunity. None of it has any real stability.

Magica fails to get the dime--Scrooge's attachment to it is too great, and her foof bombs prove ineffective. However!

It turns out there really WAS a Circe. Whaddaya know? Fine, but while that does add another layer of ambiguity, one could hardly suggest that this Circe has much connection to the "real" Circe. It's just a device for wacky, transmogrification-oriented hijinx.

Yeah, she finds the wand that Circe used to turn the sailors into pigs. There follows a struggle where she transforms our heroes into various critters. Even their stability as ducks is threatened! But it's not threatened by the actual historical/mythological forces that might have been a factor in previous stories. It culminates thusly:

I find that image amusing. What more can I say?

There's certainly a danger, when writing these little articles, that one will end up just saying the same things over and over and over, but I think this story really does illustrate something fundamental about Barks' ambivalent vision of modernity and post, making it worthy of spotlighting.



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Magica is trully evil in this story... I personaly got use to more "humanise" Magica from Italian stories where sha has a family, social life and can be pretty nice in her dime-free time... She still a villian, she just isn't 100% evil and has a life outside of Scrooge's dime.

I especially recomand this story which makes a good job of exploring Magica's nostalgic side :

I still enjoy Barks oryginal version even if this isn't his best Magica story.

Magica shows Barks could write interesting female characters (let's face the fact - Daisy is just one big girl-stereotype) I always asume that before this story Magica was more insane then she was actual witch. All previews stories shown here using gadgets & potions (all changes she makes in "10-cent valentine" where by using puff-bombs so she just use the smoke to change her costumes) so this is the one she actually hot her paws on real magic.

I wish You would explore Magica a bit more on this blog like You have with Glomgold for example... :)

March 9, 2013 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

It was probably a real mistake by Barks, but I could think of two ways Magica's "duckess" could be justified.

1. It's not commented upon much, but Magica is Italian and therefore not a native English speaker. It stands to reason she'd make a few easy mistakes like this one from times to times.

2. Feminist Newspeak. In real life, female ducks aren't going to complain on the TV that there's no special word to tell them apart from male ducks. In a world of anthropomorphic ducks however, I can well imagine that duck feminists would have made "duckess" up at some point. It would even fit in the whole "postmodernism" theme.

September 11, 2016 at 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Duckess" is a pun on "duchess", of course.

July 15, 2020 at 4:34 PM  

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