Friday, June 4, 2010

"The Beachcombers' Picnic"

A number of people have asked me, "HEY! YOU! Gladstone, 'chaotic evil?' LOLWUT?" Hey, zero is a number, according to my records. Anyway, someone COULD ask it. So let's answer preëmptively!
'Course, it should first be noted that, in spite of what a lot of people intuitively believe, "chaotic" is not an intensifier here. People and ducks may be different "levels" of evil, but whether their evil is "lawful," "neutral," or "chaotic" has nuttin' to do with it. So let's not overstate things TOO much.

Still, among the regulars in duck comics, Gladstone is definitely the biggest prick. Magica at least has comprehensible REASONS to do what she does. Whereas Gladstone's only real motivation for being an asshole is that he finds it mildly, fleetingly amusing to do so. Should we pity him? Maybe. But that doesn't mean we can't hate him also!

With that goal in mind, let's do a quick-and-dirty rundown of a representative story, 1959's "Beachcomber's Picnic"--one of a surprisingly high number of Barks stories that haven't been published in the US outside the two Carl Barks Libraries since the seventies. What the hell, peoples?

Note that this would also be a good story to use in a discussion of Daisy--who spends most of the story shrieking for help--but for now, we will table that aspect. We will definitely return to it at a later date, believe you me.

Anyway, the story concerns one of Duckburg's weirdly anachronistic mating rituals:

Ahem, yes. Daisy don't take your lunch to town. It's not surprising, really--obviously, there can be NO SEX IN DISNEY COMICS ("Prisoner of White Agony Creek" notwithstanding), so it's only natural that you'd see it occasionally manifesting itself in amusingly sublimated ways.

Now, the fun:

Gah. It's not that different, I suppose, from rich people who think that they got to where they are due to some sort of nebulous moral superiority. "But you fucking INHERITED all that!" "Begone, peasant!"

...and this is where it gets REALLY creepy. Hard to see Gladstone here as anything other than a really unpleasant bully. Daisy is really just another thing to him. Winning this contest wouldn't mean anything to him except as yet another validation of his awesome luck. Say what you will about Donald--he's totally sincere here. The contrast is striking.

See? If he LIKED her, he wouldn't respond like that. And the sexually coercive nature of all this could not be more apparent. "You don't want me? Well, too bad--you're going to have me anyway, and there's nothing you can do about it."

Anyway, blahdy blah, long story short, the tide comes in and floods everything, and Daisy is in danger.

"With MY luck, being a hero is the easiest chore there is!" God, he just can't resist being a dick, even when there's absolutely no practical reason to be.

I do like the fact that there's an inflatable elephant. It keeps things visually interesting, and it's a good illustration of the extravagance of Gladstone's disgusting luck.

Even in a routine ten-pager, Barks would do a cool splash panel like this. Very nice. And of course, here we see the extent to which G actually CARES about Daisy. Crikey.

Yeah, nothing bad, as long as you don't have a momentary flash of self-awareness. Then you'd be in big trouble.

So yeah, Gladstone loses out, sort of, but only because he doesn't really care. His indolence is such that even cashing in on his good fortune is often too much work. Bah.

I have a Rosa print--based on this cover--in which a deranged-looking Donald is about to hack apart Gladstone's corpse. Who among us HASN'T dreamt of such a thing coming to be?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post.
Could you post the cover by Rosa that you refer to at the end?

June 6, 2010 at 7:53 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I dunno how Don feels about having these things splashed all over the internet. If you do a google image search for "Walt Disney's Comics and Suspenstories," you'll find a few low-quality images which should give you an idea, though.

June 8, 2010 at 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip. What a cool and very different twist.

June 9, 2010 at 7:23 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Whatever Don Rosa thinks about it, it is already on the net: .

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