Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Days at the Lazy K"

So I did the "choose a random comic book" thing, and I came up with…"Days at the Lazy K," a sour little story from 1945 that could easily be viewed, in this day and age at least, as right-wing propaganda. Whether there's actually anything to this, I'm really not sure. But let's look, shall we?

So Donald and HDL are hanging around at the Lazy K. Before the establishment of Duckburg, you could often find them here and there for no obvious reason. They decide to go to town to see a movie:

This does not sit well with Donald, however.

I actually like this part--I think it's hilarious that Donald takes it as a personal insult that the kid in the movie was able to carry out this feat. Look how enraged he seems. Damn kid thinks he's so great! But that's Our Donald--he will always have his neuroses, but in these early stories he often has little else.

As you've probably guessed, he decides that HE needs to tame a wild colt. That'll learn that upstart kid to…be in movies…and…do things…that Donald can't…do. Or something.

So they get a rancher to get them a wild colt, and godDAMN is the creature they end up with an evil hellspawn.

The bulk of the story consists of stuff like this. Not that it doesn't have a right to be angry over having been captured, I suppose, but geez.

See? See? Like the terrorists who will break out of our maximum security prisons with their super strength and bomb you to death in your bed, this creature has super powers.

Anyway, after Donald gives up, HDL ultimately decide that they're going to take the law into their own hands.

Ar! No mercy!

Aw! See what tough love can do? But then its mother calls for it, so they decide to let it go. AND:

SEE? SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TRY TO BARGAIN WITH TERRORISTS? Reminds me of that one Redwall book that painstakingly makes the point that some races are just intrinsically evil and it's better to just slaughter them right away rather than trying to talk to them. Well, maybe not quite thatNazi-esque, but it's hard to say how we're meant to read this. It's a bit too easy to say "oh, it's just a kids' comic--there's no subtext." This was published in August, so World War II would still have been going on as Barks was writing it. But it also seems like it might be kind of pushing it to read this as some sort of veiled anti-Japan allegory. Then again, the hypnosis bit would fit in well with an Orientalist reading. So maybe!

What it boils down to, however, is: I don't know. I'm honestly sort of at a loss here. Feel free to chime in with any brilliant insights.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought that was pretty much every Redwall book. But really, we have Tolkien to blame for promoting that belief in fantasy.


September 10, 2009 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

True to an extent, but Mossflower had a non-evil wildcat and a non-evil pine marten. Outcast of Redwall, on the other hand, was explicitly devoted to answering the question: can animals from "evil" species overcome their natural inclinations and be "good?" Not so much, as it turns out.

September 10, 2009 at 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah. I'm not even sure if I ever even got around to Outcast of Redwall; I went through those like 15 years ago. As I recall, the first two or three were not bad, and everything after that was horribly formulaic. Also, after some point, every book had to include cloying infants talking in broken English.

As I said, I think Tolkien is really to blame for the "evil races" bit. Everybody always went on about how he recreated the tone of ancient epics, but in one aspect, he did the opposite. In ancient epics, good or evil was the personal choice of each character, and even evil characters could be praised for their bravery or skill in battle. But in Tolkien, everyone from an "evil" race is exactly alike, completely incapable of any non-evil emotions, and always disgusting and despicable, so that it is always praiseworthy to slaughter hordes of them in whatsoever fashion you can think of. In that sense, the influence of Tolkien on popular culture has not been entirely positive, I think.


September 10, 2009 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I must confess: I haven't read Outcast of Redwall either. But I know two people who have and who will back up my interpretation! I found the first two books of the series, Mossflower especially, to be totally enchanting when I was small, but my interest waned pretty quickly after that. As you said: pretty formulaic.

I'm trying to think of an example from mythology of an 'evil race,' and not having much luck. Sure, there are evil/mischievous spirits, but they're so fundamentally different from humans that you don't really think of them in those terms. I guess the demons in the Ramayana are as close as I can think of, but it's still not the same. And there IS at least one 'good' demon in there, as I recall.

I don't know if you can attribute malice to Tolkien, really. And anyway, in most of these fantasy books, I think the subtext is going to be mostly invisible to readers who aren't specifically looking for it. It IS disturbing, though, when you do! I would never wish RA Salvatore on an innocent human, but he's easily the worst I've ever read on this. Try reading The Legacy sometime [please don't try reading The Legacy sometime]. It's amazingly repulsive!

September 11, 2009 at 12:10 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

As you have been neglecting your duty to entertain us lately, I might as well reread some old posts and reply. Here I think you miss something.

The Ducks take away the colt's freedom, they torture and suppress him. Finally they free him, yes, but doing that they only allow him the human rights one should have in the first place. Think about slavery or colonialism. Still they expect him to be grateful (And how: "He will love us for it!" "I bet he is grateful to us for this!" "He knows he owes us something!" "He's coming back to pay us his thanks!" They really think highly about themselves). From the colt's perspective THEY owe HIM something.

What the colt fails to see is the moral change HDL went through. They did something which was unthinkable earlier in the story. By giving them what they deserve he puts an end to their short moment of compassion.

But in the end it wasn't much of a change anyway: the Ducks had always felt they were doing something good to the colt ("I want this colt to know nothing from humans but kindness!" "I believe you understand already that I'm your friend!" "That colt tried to hurt us! And after unca' Donald was so kind to him!") Even after the change they fail to see they are the bad guys.

Already as a child I really liked the image of the mother horse. While the colt is drawn in a cartoonish way, she is very realistic and serious. At that moment you realize the colt isn't just some little funny devil, but a child like you.

December 5, 2014 at 7:59 AM  

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