Sunday, January 9, 2011

Requiem for Ducky Bird; or, The Vagaries of Fortune

It really is inexplicable how things work out sometimes. Look at John D Rockerduck, f'rinstance.

…or, don't look at him. Up to you. I don't find him particularly arresting. He's a rival billionaire to Scrooge who plays a minor role in a minor Barks ten-pager--not very interesting from my perspective, yet for some reason, he resonated like hell for a whole bunch of Europeans, and so became a very common (far more so than Glomgold, per Inducks' statistics) foil for Scrooge in European stories, a role that he continues to occupy to this day.

On the other hand, a much cooler one-shot Barks character, who appears in a much better Barks story, and who would seem to me to have had an awful lot of potential for further use--utterly gone. Not even indexed on inducks. Be honest: just from hearing the name, were you able to immediately pinpoint the character? If so, congratulations; you're a true Barksian. If not, though, I certainly wouldn't blame you, since, in spite of the fact that everyone involved with duck comics worships Barks, it has never occurred to anybody to make use of this character. Here's Ducky Bird, from "Mystery of the Ghost Town Railroad:"

(According to some people, "ducky bird" is slang for penis. If Barks was actually trying to get one over on Western, all I can say is WELL DONE. It certainly doesn't seem to be a common term, however--sounds Victorian to me--and I don't think this would be enough to explain the character's total disappearance)

She's the granddaughter of Katie Mallard, whom Scrooge knew in his prospectin' days.

Katie has never been used again either, which is also a bit baffling--a Barksian character from Scrooge's past! How does that not interest everyone?--but I suppose a little less so; she lacks the romance of your Glittering Goldie. Still, I wish she had made an appearance in the L&T.

UPDATE: Commenter Thomas astutely notes that a character who must be a young Katie Mallard does indeed make a cameo appearance in "The Empire-Builder from Calisota:"

Neat-o! I still wish she played a more important role, however.

Now, honestly, I'm reading a fair bit more into the character than is actually clear from the story. I think that's fair, though, given that everyone reads far more into "Back to the Klondike" than the story provides. I think that Ducky would make a good recurring quasi-romantic foil for Donald. She's tough, yet with a certain appealing clumsiness.

My brother argues--and I think there's definitely something to this--that the best female characters in popular fiction are women who are tough, but who don't define their toughness in relationship to men (eg, "no man can defeat me!"). This is getting kind of obscure, but the canonical example of this is the character of Nagi Kirima from the anime Boogiepop Phantom. I think Ducky could easily fall into this category. In my opinion, she would make a great quasi-romantic foil for Donald.

The thing about Donald's relationship with Daisy is that more often than not it becomes nothing more than the Battle of the Reductive Gender Stereotypes, where the characters see one another as more or less alien and can only interact with one another through very simplistic lenses. One sometimes (okay, often) wonders what exactly they see in one another. It would definitely be good for there to be a female character who works with Donald as an equal and can provide at least an implied threat to this status quo. There are occasional attempts to create a character who fulfills this role, like Kay K from the Double Duck series and "Dezzi Digger" from this story*, but these are all one-offs; there's never anything sustained. This could be Ducky! Or she could do something else; but the point is, there she is--why in god's name wouldn't you want to take advantage of that?

*Bullshit spoiler: "Eye of Ra" all turns out to be a dream in the end. This filled me with rage, as it's a surprisingly good story up to that point.

But hey, maybe I'm wrong; I can totally understand why several potentially super-interesting characters from one of Barks' best latter-day stories are systematically totally ignored by everyone. After all, Barks, right? Who gives a shit about anything he writes?

It may surprise you, but the above paragraph is a lie. I am completely and utterly baffled by this. I demand an explanation from my perspicacious readers.



Anonymous YK said...

I remember thinking that Ducky was an unexpected surprise when I read that story but other than that, she just wasn't very interesting. Most of the Duck cast are those that stand out with certain attributes and Ducky was just... there. In my opinion, she wasn't even that good a foil.

Doesn't mean she can't be an interesting character at all, but unless a new story brings that to light I'm afraid she's just 'that cowgirl who appeared in that one Barks story'.

Mind you, I'm only a casual reader so I might not really understand how the Duck universe and fans really see things but it's just my two cents as to why this character is hardly in the spotlight.

January 9, 2011 at 3:40 AM  
Anonymous Francois said...

The reason that Glomgold became a successful character is that the so-called "Studio program" decided to use it. He is one of the main character in a fantastic story, "Around the World in 80 Daze" (
I think the fact that the re-used Barks' at the time minor character is just anecdotic.

FYI, only recurring characters (i.e. characters who appear in at least two stories) _should_ be indexed in Inducks. One-shot characters may be indexed, but there is no obligation. In fact, we only rarely do it. (In that case though, I have added them to Inducks, because they're indeed interesting).

January 9, 2011 at 6:13 AM  
Blogger David K. said...

And Otto McDrake, for instance? I think he isn't that interesting too, except that he's got some knowledge about everything.
But I'm going to use those two characters in a future story of mine! I think I can find a way for that!

January 9, 2011 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


I'm quite sure that Barks was thinking of "Lady Bird" Johnson AND NOTHING ELSE when he came up with the name for Ducky Bird. Just look at when the story was prepared.

Ducky Bird's a fun character, but it's easy to see why she was a one-shotter. She was specifically characterized as a cowgirl, and that pretty much automatically limits her to stories in the West. Granted, Barks himself might have brought her back in a tale like "The Cattle King," and there have been more than a few Western Duck tales by other writers/artists, but hey... at least her one appearance was a really good one. In that respect, she is not unlike one of the one-shot characters in TALE SPIN, which wasted more potentially interesting characters in one-shot appearances than any other Disney "product" I know.


January 9, 2011 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Thanks for the tip-off on the origin of Rockerduck's popularity, Francois; and good call on the name, Chris. Interested in what you come up with, Cobbie Kops.

All y'all are probably pretty much right; it just seems to me that more than any other minor Barksian creation (nobody's gonna object too strenuously to the mysterious disappearance of Cuthbert Coot), this one was just screaming to become a recurring character--who the heck doesn't like sexy cowgirl ducks?

January 9, 2011 at 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

Katie has never been used again either, [...] I wish she had made an appearance in the L&T.

Katie Mallard appears right at the beginning of Lo$ 11. BTW, Rosa's version of past events is different from what's told in "Mystery of the Ghost Town Railroad". Compare!

January 10, 2011 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Oh, cool--I had never noticed that, but indeed, that must be her. Good catch. I still wish she played a more central role, though.

January 10, 2011 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Lest we forget, Glomgold’s popularity was cemented in the United States by two events in the year 1987. His being featured in Don Rosa’s “Son of the Sun”, and as a recurring regular on DuckTales!

Prior to that, regardless of any use by the Disney Studio program or anywhere else, in the US he was simply regarded as a minor figure in the Barks canon. Now, it’s difficult not to think of him in the same exalted grouping as The Beagle Boys and Magica DeSpell.

January 11, 2011 at 6:42 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

When I first saw Ducky Bird, I thought she was Magica DeSpell in disguise. They have the same hair, though Ducky's is brown, not black. This is slightly off-topic, but does anyone else wonder why Ducky, Kate, Magica, Grandma, and most other female ducks have visible hair, but Daisy Duck doesn't? I wonder why– do you think Daisy has some kind of avian alopecia or something?

January 24, 2011 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Interesting question that I don't have an immediate answer for. Note, however, that Daisy DOES have hair when she gets rather horrifyingly tarted up in "The Beauty Business," and that this alarming new look carries over to "The Not-So-Ancient Mariner" and "Hall of the Mermaid Queen."

January 24, 2011 at 1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A user said "Katie Mallard appears right at the beginning of Lo$ 11. BTW, Rosa's version of past events is different from what's told in "Mystery of the Ghost Town Railroad". Compare!" Just how Rosa's version of the event is different from how it was told by Barks? It seems the same thing to me.

January 5, 2015 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

GeoX, you're going to be glad, 'cause there is a story with Ducky Bird now.

It's named "Men of Mettle", and the INDUCKS lists as characters: Doctor Zantaf (!), Copperhead McViper, Katie Mallard, Rockerduck (!), Buck Duck, Calamity Duck and Chicken Duck (those characters from that old series of Western parodies that never really caught on unlike Moby Duck), Magica de Spell (!), Bruto Castrova (the spy from Barks's "Have Gun, Will Dance"). Oh, and have I mentioned it's part of that "Tamers of Nonterrestrial Threats" series with Donald and Fethry ?

I wonder what kind of a heck of a plot it has. But it sure must be interesting. It's likely that we'll get to have this story published this summer in France… Want me to send scans of it then ?

P.S.: By the way, how's the Unicorn story going ?

March 2, 2016 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

It IS interesting, but I have mixed feelings about the whole thing, because while I DO want more Ducky Bird (as well as the other characters who cameo), I find these damn TNT stories intensely non-interesting. Well, at any rate, there's a good chance this'll show up in the States one of these days, as DG is a big fan.

Unicorn: yes! It is going, and has gone. Given the limitations, I actually thought it was pretty okay, if insubstantial. I like that Scrooge ends up pissed off. If'n I ever get to writing about "Trail of the Unicorn" one of these days, you can bet I'll do a supplemental entry about this one.

March 2, 2016 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

So, I finally got the French printing of that TNT story. Ducky Bird and Co. actually only have a cameo.

October 31, 2016 at 1:18 PM  

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