Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Secret Resolutions"

Happy New Year! Let's all make resolutions involving duck comics!

This is actually a rare instance of something vaguely continuity-ish in Barks--this comic is from 1956; in the 1955 New Year comic, uncle and nephews had done just what it says--in the end, the kids had to goad Donald into losing his temper, and the result was that picture I'm using as an avatar (sometime in the future I will change that picture, and then the previous statement will be very confusing). To prevent that from happening again, Donald comes up with a rather baroque plan:

...yeah, except once you open the envelopes, you'll all know, and then you can get back to sabotaging one another. Or so one would think. I actually kinda think that's the unspoken idea--that they all enjoy these nephews-vs-uncle duels in some perverse way.

Best of intentions on both sides--it's not hard to figure out how THIS is gonna shake out. As it happens, Donald resolves to only serve the kids food they like (ie, desserts), and the kids resolve to eat only the healthy stuff that Donald wants them to eat. Hijinx!

I like the way Barks acknowledges that "wash dishes for a month" is his stock punishment.

Let me tell you, when I read this story as a kid, I sympathized so hard with HDL here. They have a chance to eat only desserts! And yet they cannot! Instead, they have to eat--yuck!--green stuff, as we called veggies in general. Quelle tragedie! They're practically Christ-figures!

...difference being, now I sorta sympathize with Donald here, too. That's gonna get very oppressive very quickly.

But still! Such a portrait of suffering! Just look at the one on the right. How does your heart not break?

Initially, they had been neck-and-neck, morally speaking, and therefore you couldn't tell for sure who was going to "win." No longer, though. I suppose it's easier to sin when you don't have to justify yourself to someone else. Hmm…I think I just backed into a theological argument there that I don't really believe. But never mind! I do like how the kids' agonizing about this is contrasted with Donald not giving it a second thought (he also takes a peek at their resolutions, naturally).

Pretty clever climax to this--obviously, as we'll see, there's plenty of convenient coincidence involved, but it still plays quite naturally.

...wait for it...

Oh shit!

When they note that he's wearing his cap right then and there...

But wait...didn't something happen earlier...?

As you've probably gathered, Dewey caught wind of Donald's resolution whilst playing detective. So there you are. The kids win! I like the fact that there's little or no pretense that these "resolutions" are actually going to be for, you know, self-improvement or anything like that, as opposed to just providing another opportunity for some family battles.

We celebrate also! 2011! Huzzah! I resolve to write more about duck comics in 2011. Let's keep it simple, shall we?



Blogger Christopher said...

I resolve to do my best to figure out what marshmallow moo-say is: I remember trying to find out what it was long ago when I first read this, and my internet searches only turned up references to "Secret Resolutions."

January 1, 2011 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


I gotta say -- as funny as this story is, it always struck me as being INCREDIBLY contrived. Donald isn't the model of a perfect parent, to be sure, but even he would have had more common sense than to resolve to feed the boys desserts and NOTHING ELSE. It would have been far better had the boys resolved not to ask Don to buy them things -- toys, games, sports equipment, etc. -- while Don resolved to pamper the boys more. Don still wouldn't have been exhibiting good parenting skills, but the damage would have been to his bank account, rather than the whole family's physical health.

I should also mention that I LIKE doing dishes (we don't have an automatic dishwasher), so the Ducks' standard forfeit never impressed me much. Perhaps there was a greater stigma attached in the 50's to being forced to wash dishes??


January 2, 2011 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Christopher: Wow, that IS mysterious. I guess I never really thought about it because it just sounded kinda vaguely marshmallowy to me.

Chris: Yeah, I guess it IS probably a bit on the insane side. Still, I'm not sure that "lots of toys" would've hit me quite as viscerally as "infinite desserts" when I was small.

I don't have any great problem with doing dishes either. The question of whether this punishment was playing on cultural signifiers that have since become more or less invisible is an interesting one.

January 3, 2011 at 2:32 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I was thinking of the Erle Stanley Gardner book (and the subsequent TV adaptation on the series Perry Mason) "The Case of the Drowning Duck." There, a young scientist performed a demonstration that ducks can float in water because of the natural oils in their feathers, but if only a simple detergent is poured on the water, the oils no longer work and the duck will sink (by the way, no ducks are harmed in the book or adaptation, since the duck is rescued before it actually drowned). It makes me wonder if washing dishes is particularly painful for ducks in the Barksverse, since the suds might make their hands heavy and waterlogged. You didn't include the last panel– is Donald wearing rubber gloves in that final scene?

January 3, 2011 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

My new best guess is that "moo-say" is a corruption of "mousse." Maybe it was spelled like that to show Donald's messed-up pronunciation, maybe the Disney powers that be, Mickey fans that they are, thought kids might think the ducks were eating mice. "Marshmallow mousse" does make sense.

January 3, 2011 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I'm a big fan of that idea, as well as your cogent notion about the dish-washing thing. Keep posting.

January 4, 2011 at 1:11 AM  

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