Friday, April 29, 2011

"One Thin Dime"

I may, in the past, have made disparaging comments regarding Pat and Carol McGreal based on reading one single story. Now, in my defense, the story in question, "A Gal for Gladstone," pretty badly botches what ought to have been a sure-fire premise (Gladstone and Magica, sittin' in a tree). And the art ain't so hot neither. Still. Fact is. I've read a fair bit of additional material by the two of them since then, and I'm not gonna deny it: they have writing chops. They write things that are worth reading. So, mea maxima culpa.
F'rinstance, here's this one, "One Thin Dime." It's a really great story, and that's all there is to it. However, the McGreals only deserve fifty percent of the credit for this. The other half goes to the artist, José Massaroli. You don't hear too much about this guy (well, I don't--granted, I may not exactly be fully tuned in to the duck-comics zeitgeist), but he is good. Really damn good. If Boom or anyone is casting around for material to publish in the US, they could do a helluva lot worse than checking out some of his many unlocalized stories. Hell, a number of them are also written by the McGreals, and so presumably wouldn't need localization.

Point is, I tend to have this bias in favor of writing--that is, the tendency to think that the art is secondary to the words. But in fact, the art can play a role in comic storytelling that's at least as important. Wow, what a brilliant revelation that was. But at any rate, that is clearly the case here, and I will try to point out some reasons why this is so.

So as the story opens, Scrooge is freaking out as shown. Anyone could illustrate this, but showing him in silhouette followed by the close-up of his face really emphasizes the feeling of creeping dread.

His shaking his fist at the heavens like that--followed by that collapse--seems to me to be a pretty perfect illustration of what he would experience under the circumstances.

So naturally, he assumes that Magica is responsible.

...but, obviously, not. And, while it's not a major detail, I have to say I just love seeing her doing dishes like that--a mundane thing to be sure, but she's always depicted as so Scrooge-fixated that seeing her doing an ordinary, everyday thing like this seems like a revelation.

Also, Massaroli is great at drawing Magica--seriously, how awesome is that pose she's striking? Very much so, is the answer.

The one of her swearing a Great Oath, also.

So as you can see, they team up 'til the dime can be recovered.

These are the antagonists who nabbed the dime. They're pretty well-characterized, both visually and dialogue…ly.

Scrooge and Magica track 'em down, but then, well…they try to drown Scrooge, which you have to admit, is unusually nasty for a Disney villain.

I like to think that Magica is in fact saving Scrooge out of a repressed sense of human decency, for which her rationalization here is just a smokescreen so she can maintain her self-image. Granted, there's no textual evidence for this within this story, but it doesn't seem like a totally crazy idea, and, for all its faults, "A Gal for Gladstone" does demonstrate that the McGreals are at least in theory able to envision a somewhat more human side to her.

They figure out that the baddies are going to melt the dime in this here volcano, so they get there first to intercept them. First: great art. Second: man, what I wouldn't do to have arrived five minutes earlier, to hear why Magica resolved to learn the dark arts &c. Third: can't you just imagine her eyes glazing over as Scrooge recounts every single detail from the L&T, in its entirety?

Actually, a moment like this might well provide a good opportunity for them to gain a greater understanding of one another, but the story doesn't quite go there, alas.

Anyway, they stop the bad people, but Magica falls, and once again, her flailing about like that is priceless.

There's a certain poignancy to the fact that both of their smiles look completely guileless in that bottom right image. But…

Alas! You know, I wouldn't have expected anything other than for her to nab the dime at the first opportunity, but I dunno…maybe just a word or two, indicating some small degree of increased empathy on her part, wouldn't have come amiss? Character development is something I crave, and there's none of that here.

…which shouldn't take away from how cool she looks in the dust in the bottom left. Or how funny Scrooge's deadpan sarcasm is in the bottom right.

No, seriously, that's just cool. How often do you get the impression of real eldritch-type sorcery-type stuff from Magica? As I said: the art gives this story a lot more weight than it might otherwise have had.

Well, of course. What do you expect. But her visage in the bottom left is still awesome, as is all the magic stuff in her workshop.

Seriously, I'm just tossing these images up here because of how much I like them. That vulture and those bats are sweet.

Thus ends that. I'll grant you, the "look, Scrooge conveniently has a previously-unalluded-to ability that allows him to come out on top!" bit is a bit more reminiscent of the more contrived moments in your old Tony Strobl stories than one might like. Still, this is mostly very solid stuff, even if I'd like to see something a bit more interesting done with Magica. Good job all around.

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Anonymous Ryan Wynns said...


This post deserves comments!

Totally in agreement with you that the art's resplendent. Yes, I also really like those first two panels that you showed -- the ones of Scrooge" freaking out upon discovering that the dime's missing. Very dramatic and dynamic. And certainly not the story's last example of such qualities, as further perusal of your post definitely reveals.

Beautiful "wide shots" of Magica's workshop at nighttime, and the peak of Mt. Vesuvius.


May 6, 2011 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger dibujante said...

Excelent! , Superb ! Artwork.

June 29, 2011 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Vree said...

Speaking of Magica shipping, I wonder if you've tackled "When a witch loves a duck" yet.

December 22, 2014 at 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have GOT to track this story down. Their exchange when Scrooge saves Magica just might have become one of my favorite Ducks comic scenes ever. This looks like the good Scrooge and Magica team up story I've always been sorry no one wrote.

February 25, 2016 at 11:06 AM  

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