Monday, February 14, 2011

"Three Little Cupids"

Okay okay, so this is a totally predictable seasonal choice--but hey, why wouldn't you take the excuse to write about a nice story like this one? No reason that *I* can fathom.
Apparently, Pat Block wanted to hit the ground running after the dissolution of his partnership with the mysterious Ron Fernandez, so this collaboration with his wife, Shelley, appeared in 1996, just a few months after the last Block/Fernandez collaboration, "The Poorest Duck in Duckburg." Unfortunately, this didn't really pan out: the only Block/Block stories since this one are as follows: two ten-pagers, one further adventure story, and a "choose-your-own-adventure"-type story (a failure, but a noble failure). Pat also did the art for "Somewhere in Nowhere." As I've noted elsewhere, the two also did a bunch of scripts for stories drawn by European artists; some of these are sort of amusing, but in general they're nothing very special.

Amazing fact: according to inducks, after "Three Little Cupids" was first published, in Gladstone's Donald Duck Adventures 37, it was never again published by anyone, anywhere. The other Block/Fernandez and Block/Block stories haven't gotten huge amounts of traction, but this is the only one that can claim that dubious distinction. Fercrissake, according to P Block (veiled Mario reference!)'s reminiscence in Gemstone's Somewhere in Nowhere one-shot, no less a figure than Carl Barks himself read and enjoyed it. And I--a similarly eminent figure--have and do also. So what's it take?

Actually, I was sort of lukewarm on the story the first time I read it, but rereading has revealed significant charms that I missed the first time. So let's get to it.

As we open, Donald and Daisy are fighting.

I would say the overriding theme of this story is artifice, and the ways that people either adapt to it or don't--the vending-machine jewelry that Donald has purchased for Daisy being an initial manifestation of that. Really, Don, you didn't even remove the plastic bubbles? That's not a winning strategy.

As the title indicates, it's up to HDL to get those two crazy kids back together. As such, they come up with a plan to fill out dating-service questionnaires for the two of them using fake names and thus guide them back into one another's arms. If there seems to be a rather obvious problem with this scheme, well, read on.

It's a small thing, but I like the fact that HDL are doing their thinking in a soda shop--it seems obvious, but a lot of stories really aren't grounded in the real world like this. Note also the sweet comics for sale here, including "The Amazing Box Head" and of course "Killer Converse," the story of the running shoe THAT KILLED! As you can see, Donald is to be a secret agent; Daisy is to be "Vanilla Bean," a bubblegum heiress.

Hey, Duckburg has a zip code! Now we can determine exactly where it's supposed to be!

...somewhere in Maryland? That can't be right. Are we to assume that this was where the Blocks were living at the time?

Yeah, so as alluded to above, this points to a potential flaw in this story: neither Donald nor Daisy have any qualms whatsoever about committing wholesale identity theft here. But I think that this works within the story, thematically: we see that neither of them is really capable of being "themselves" in an unadorned fashion. Now we have the extra layer of them both pretending to be other people.

Is Daisy's hairdresser the first unambiguously gay character in Disney-comic history? I might be missing something, but it certainly seems possible. 'Course, her getting a makeover for this gets back to what I was just talking about; we'll see Donald getting his own makeover of sorts.

(I also like the inexplicable poster on the wall of some furry dude emblazoned with the word "fashion.")

Question is: does their mutual attraction transcend their disguises, or is it only the result of said disguises?

Regardless, their mutual flusteredness as they try to explain their own bullshit is kind of endearing--more often than not, we see the two of them as aliens to one another, trapped in impermeable gender stereotypes. It's nice, here, to see them both in the same boat.

Donald buys her more vending-machine jewelry, but thanks to the new context in which they find themselves in, this time he gets away with it. A good rejoinder to "every kiss begins with kay," that most indefensible of advertising slogans, at any rate.

Cool image. The way the jewelry contrasts with their silhouettes is striking, and I think orange was definitely the right color for the background.

However, this doesn't last: due to circumstances, they are mistaken for jewel thieves and tossed in the hold. At that time, their disguises melt away and they really see each other--for the first time in the whole story.

Tell me that's not affecting. They just needed a little perspective. At any rate, thanks to HDL, the problem gets sorted out and they get released, and

HOLY SHIT, Grandma just spent the night with the dashing captain. The best thing about this is that it's the only reason grandma even appears in this story--oh, sure, she's putatively there to look after the kids so that they can be present to bail out D&D, but let's face it: she wasn't necessary--the story could've gone on without her perfectly easily. No, the truth of it is, Pat Block made a drunken bar bet with someone that he could get a story published in which Grandma Duck gets laid. Well done, sir!' the kids get April-May-and-June-esque love interests, and that is that. Give up the layers of artifice that you've built up as defense mechanisms, and anything can happen. It's not a super-profound message, I suppose, but it works, and I suppose for Saint Valentine's Day, we can eschew cynicism and just embrace it.

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Blogger Chris Barat said...


Pretty good story; at the time, however, I thought it paled a bit in comparison with the adventure tales that Block and Fernandez had given us. Now, I'd gladly settle for dozens of lighter tales like this if we could only get Block drawing AND writing on a regular basis again.

It is rather surprising that the story was never reprinted anywhere. Surely, it would have been a fine candidate for Boom!'s VALENTINE'S CLASSICS hardback collection. The Brazilian story of Donald and Daisy's wedding (a good candidate for review, BTW; lots of weird, quirky stuff) deserved an airing for novelty value alone, but a reprint in a prestige collection would have done Block's rep good, I think.


February 14, 2011 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Serious question: would Block be able to write/draw new stories even if he wanted to? If I'm not mistaken, most or all of his work was specifically meant for the US market; I get the impression that it's very difficult to break in in the European market, and given that he never really seemed to get much traction there, it seems like it would be an uphill struggle. Seems like the best way would be for Boom to specifically commission something. Here my words, Boom people who I know are reading this! Write the man a blank check! This will rocket you to previously inconceivable levels of awesomeness!

February 14, 2011 at 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Wynns said...

Yup, I remember being let down by this story at the time, because I wanted more adventures in the vein of "Mystery of Widow's Gap" (which I'm now inspired to reread. Gonna finally get through "Duck of the Deep", too, which has been sitting in my "to read" pile. [And a "shout out" to "Somewhere in Nowhere", which is a gem!] Similar to how I have an itch to revisit "The Money Ocean" after the Rota discussion!) I'm still not big on sitcomy mistaken identity premise, but I now recognize very nice art in some the panels you've excerpted. (In particular, the disguised Donald and Daisy at dinner -- especially Daisy with dollar signs in her eye; then the couple dancing -- for the very reasons you gave; and the two-panel sequence where the reality of the situation hits them and they subsequently each break down. Completely understand why you included that bit!)

February 15, 2011 at 4:39 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

"Is Daisy's hairdresser the first unambiguously gay character in Disney-comic history?"

Not if you count the dainty men who take an interest in embroidered lamp shades in Barks' "Golden Helmet".

February 24, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Kevin Johnson said...

That was indeed rather endearing, and fairly deep if you think about it. I like how when Daisy pretty much gives herself away when she describes the cheap bubblegum jewelry, Donald doesn't even get -kinda- suspicious. Very committed to the act of being someone else.

Catching up on these, excuse the delayed replies.

February 25, 2011 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

This blog is open 24/7. Glad to see you back 'round these parts.

February 25, 2011 at 8:44 PM  

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