Monday, May 3, 2010

"The Beagle Boys vs. the Money Bin"

As long as I'm talking about the Beagle Boys, I should give a mention to this excellent Don Rosa story, which was written to commemorate the introductions of both the Beagle Boys ("Terror of the Beagle Boys," November 1951) and the Money Bin ("The Big Bin on Killmotor Hill," December 1951). The result is a highly unusual story in Rosa's canon--the ducks barely appear; aside from a brief, wordless Donald cameo towards the beginning, the seventeen-page story (or fifteen, depending on how you count--more on this later) is Beagles-only until Scrooge makes his entry on page sixteen, and he doesn't actually DO much of anything. An interesting and welcome change of pace from Rosa's usual Scrooge-centric stories.
What's really great about this story is that it's pure, unabashed pornography for ducksessives--a fact that is driven home by its centerpiece: a meticulously-rendered, two-page set of Bin blueprints.

YES YES YES! Not quite sure what it is, but there's something about maps and diagrams--I guess it just solidifies the "realness" of the world. Whatever it is, though, it's intensely satisfying for the devoted fan. It's the same thing that makes Trekkies buy Enterprise blueprints and whatnot. You can quibble with some of the specific details here if you want to (if the front entrance features a huge gauntlet of traps, how the heck do the employees get in every day? The potential for litigation seems astronomical), but that would be a humorless thing to do in the face of such a bravura performance.

The story is simple enough: after a brief meeting with Grandpa Beagle (originally featured in "The Money Well," I believe), the Boys get ahold of these blueprints and use them to infiltrate the bin, with infelicitous results. There are seven of them, and they break up into three groups of two while one of them goes solo. This involves somewhat tricky logistics, but Rosa handles it well and it never gets confusing.

Each Beagle gets foiled in a different way, but let's start with the only one that doesn't really work:

Okay, I'm going to assume that there is a Disney mandate against actually depicting toilets, resulting in some odd circumlocutions here. But the main problem is that the way head-trapped-in-toilet-seat Beagle is foiled doesn't relate in any way to anything in the Beagles' or Scrooge's history (the one where the Beagle is trapped when he tries to rip the wiring out of the alarm system feels like a bit of a stretch as well, but that at least plays on Scrooge's obsessive security measures and his cheapness in not upgrading to modern wire). It's undoubtedly amusing to eight-year-olds, which is always a plus, but in a story written for the purpose of commemorating an aspect of Barksian history, it feels out-of-place. The trapped Beagle Boy ends up killing time by reading a "Ducktales Comic," which is a somewhat amusing metajoke, but it doesn't really address the issue.

However, that is the only negative thing I have to say about the story. And in any case, dig the way those ducts flow through the panel divides. Very innovative.

YES! It's time to play "spot the reference!" I am not being even slightly sarcastic here. I love this game. I'm afraid I'm not batting 1.000 here, however. I think some of these (the chests of jewels and such) might just be generic Treasure (that urn in the foreground sort of vaguely makes me think of "The Mines of King Solomon," but Scrooge didn't actually get any treasure out of that, and in any case jewels are jewels--they're not that individually distinctive), but some of these definitely AREN'T, and I'm still not quite getting them. Let's enumerate what we know, shall we?

-The square eggs from "Lost in the Andes" are on the bottom middle (I don't think any of them were actually recovered, either in that story or Rosa's sequel, but let it pass).

-To the right of that is some golden fleece (apparently, there was some left over after making that coat in "The Golden Fleecing").

- The thing in the middle is the title artifact from "Crown of the Mayas."

-Those gold bars on the lower right are presumably from "Lost Beneath the Sea."

-The coin labeled "1916" is the quarter from "The Secret of Atlantis," obviously.

-That trough on the left of the upper right shelf could conceivably contain the gold/corn from "All at Sea."

-The pipe in the upper left is from "Land of the Pygmy Indians."

-On the pedestal, we see the goose egg nugget from "Back to the Klondike."

-That purple urn on the very left is probably the terry fermy trophy from "Land Beneath the Ground," though I've never seen it colored purple before (not Rosa's call, obviously).

-The locket around that purple thing might be the title item from "The Lemming with the Locket."

-The bronze plaque on the upper right is from Rosa's "His Majesty McDuck."

-The box with the Junior Woodchucks logo in the foreground is from his "Guardians of the Lost Library."

[deep breath]

But on some of these, I have to admit defeat--what's that red thing with little gold things on it? That wooden plaque with a gold center? The elephant tusk? I've read every Rosa story and, if not every Barks story, then at least every adventure story, so these details must just be slipping my mind, but it's very infuriating. Any help from the peanut gallery?

(I realize that for the slightly less obsessive fan, these details must seem unbearably tedious--but this story positively DEMANDS this kind of picking-apart.)

More fun is to be had in Scrooge's larder:

The fact that Scrooge apparently lives on prefab food may not be any kind of reference, but it's a believable and kind of poignant detail. His predilection for nutmeg tea comes from "A Spicy Tale," and oh look--there's the bombastium from "A Cold Bargain." Scrooge's plan in that story was to sell it to ice cream makers (don't ask--read the story and find out), but I think it's perfectly believable that he would ultimately keep it out of sentiment. And good lord--is it conceivable that "scones" is a reference to this Tony Strobl story? If so, I really have to give Rosa the maddest of mad props, given that this is something that approximately four people in the entire world would pick up on. Of course, it's not definitive, but still, scones? You feel like something that specific has to be referring to something.

Also: prunes! Yes, strangely enough, 176-167 is the only Beagle Boy with a unique characteristic: his love of prunes was first established in "The Mysterious Stone Ray," and reiterated in "The Giant Robot Robbers"--quite surprising for the continuity-averse Barks to do something like that, especially after an eleven-year interval. Anyway, as you can see, the tradition lives on!

Anyway, I don't think I need to go through the whole story blow by blow--I think you get the idea. Scrooge comes back; having pre-neutralized themselves, the Beagles are all apprehended in short order.

Oh, not THAT dumb, surely--they certainly have their moments. It's still a great punchline, though--and the story itself is an effective, highly entertaining celebration of an important part of Barks' legacy.


Anonymous Elaine said...

By the way, in case you're not aware of there being something missing in this story: Here's Don Rosa from the DCML (DCML digest #551, May 2001), when the story had not yet been published in the USA: "Finally, in the panel where the Beagles emerge from the well in the basement of the Bin, they are supposed to be looking at a wall where a disgruntled workman has scrawled nasty graffiti about Mr. McDuck, this being how the Beagles know they are in the Bin. But in the Norwegian version there is no graffiti! The wall is blank! How do they know where they are?" This mistake was carried over into the Gemstone publication in U$ 325. When I saw Don at a ComiCon, I had a color-photocopied enlargement of that panel, on which he kindly penned in the graffiti! ("Mr. McDuck is a f..."; it runs off the edge of the panel, so you don't know what epithet the employee used.)

August 1, 2011 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

The joke about Scrooge having ceap food is actually a popular joke in Intalian stories where Scrooge sometimes it's nothing but biscuits and rain water...

January 26, 2013 at 5:16 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

The "red thing with gold stuffs on it" may be another miscolorisation victim: my guess is that it's a kind of panel on which he has sticked his most important jewels.

May 27, 2015 at 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's not an elephant tusk.... it's a tail of jade elephant from treasure of marcopolo

July 1, 2017 at 4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The gold bars could be the treasure from The Flying Dutchman.

November 5, 2017 at 9:31 PM  
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