Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Return of the Micro-Ducks"

When Erik asked me to write about "Micro-Ducks from Outer Space," I was glad both because I got to write about a fun story and because it primed me to do a follow-up post on this sequel from 1977, imaginatively entitled "Return of the Micro-Ducks" (inducks lists it as the full "Return of the Micro-Ducks from Outer Space," but since it was written by a Canadian in English, I think we can assume that the shorter version is the original title). I think people haven't heard of it because it appeared in an issue of the Walt Disney Giant line, one of those strange, marginal Gladstone II publications--also including Penny Pincher and perennial worst-title-ever contestant The Adventurous Uncle Scrooge McDuck--that seems to have no good reason to exist.
I sometimes wonder that there aren't more explicit Barks sequels out there--everyone reveres the man, so you'd think it would be a natural thing to do, and yet outside of Rosa's mostly-excellent offerings, what is there? Not a heckuva lot, unless Gladstone, Disney, and Gemstone were all involved in an ongoing conspiracy to avoid printing them in the US. I'll have to do a future post with some good sequel ideas.

But for now, a sequel that we'd kind of rather didn't exist, given the execution. Vicar's art is fine as usual, even if it doesn't quite have that Barksian panache, but the story itself, by the diabolical Jim Kenner, leaves something to be desired. Note that even though it's credited as an Uncle Scrooge story, Scrooge is pretty much the least-featured character.

It's actually okay for the first few pages; you're automatically disposed to like it, 'cause hey! The micro-ducks are back! Huzzah!

I dunno...there's just something fun about being reminded of the original story, though it's certainly disappointing that these are all-new micro-ducks, and thus there's no Princess Teentsy Teen. Out of all the opportunities this story misses, a continuation of the ballad of Donald and Teentsy is the most egregious.

In fact, they're back to buy more grain, as they said they would be in Barks' story, never mind the fact that, even in the highly nebulous duck-chronology, there's no way that there can have been an eight-year interval (the time it was to have taken for the micro-ducks to return) between the two stories. Fair enough, even if this is the most unimaginative possible premise. You'd kinda think Scrooge would want to take this opportunity to show up the Skeptics Club, but again--no narrative ambition whatsoever. So it never even comes up. Also, never mind the idea that the micro-ducks can just enlarge themselves if they want to, which would have pretty fundamentally changed the nature of the original story…man, I'm asking you to hand-wave a lot of silliness away, amn't I? But that's because the most unforgivably bad aspects of the story are yet to come. Note that Princess Luna here (it's required by law that every micro-duck sortie include a princess, apparently), is "pining away with sadness." Who or what is she pining over? That seems to be the basic question here!

…okay, the idea that she'd be of an age to be playing with HDL is seriously incongruous--she looks like she's more or less the same age as the previous princess, who served as Donald's amour. That gives a very weird vibe to these proceedings.

More to the point, though: it's just impossible to read her in any way. She just has this perpetually panicked/clinically depressed look about her.

…and again: who or what is she "pining" for? The way the comic is built up, that's the biggest question that the reader has. What's her Terrible Secret?

…well, if you want an answer to that question, tough shit. 'Cause she sees Donald getting batted around by monkeys, and bam, she's instantly cured. Apparently she wasn't "pining" so much as "being generically emo-y." But now she's better! Huzzah! Calling this dramatic arc half-assed is giving it far more credit, asswise, than it deserves.

…so then Donald's going to go back with the micro-ducks, which is "the best job offer [he's] ever had!" Hooray!

...but no, sorry, he can't go, because Scrooge is a raging asshole. Obviously Donald's not gonna be going in any case, but the only reason to have him get so excited about it and then have Scrooge fuck him over is for some pointless sadism. There's a lot to be said about the moral "rules" of duck comics, but having Donald get punished so when he hasn't done anything remotely wrong in the entire story is very much not cricket. There's a big difference between getting banged up a bit and not being able to realize your fondest dream because your Uncle is an evil-minded, tyrannical fuckhead.

...and then the ending has to rub it in. I mean good lord, has Scrooge ever been shown in a less appealing light than this? Just look at him in that second panel! What possible justification is there for his look of vindictive glee? And, of course, this behavior is surely illegal. Donald should sue the shit out of him, 'cause he'd win. And we'd all cheer.

So that's about it. Someone needs to write a good micro-ducks follow-up, so that this mess isn't their final legacy.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sometimes really inspire me!

April 14, 2011 at 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Richie said...

Can't praise HDL's characterization either. When everyone at the zoo is laughing at Don's monkey business, they join in the "fun" by mocking and pointing their uncle, the way you'd expect from Gladstone. Their endlessly amused expressions in the next to last panel? What gives?! It only gets worse if you put it next to the image of Donald enthusiastically trying to get a hold of the flying saucer, claiming he'll "catch it for the boys". Ugh.

When I was young-ER and more innocent (read, dumb) I thought Vicar wrote the stories he drew. My first exposure to his was through tales such as "High Flyin' Donald" "A Statue for Donald" and "The Minus de Milo", all of which have HDL behaving the same way they do here. I wondered if Vicar hated Don, heh...

Btw, I'm curious. Which Rosa sequels you do not consider good times? God knows I have enjoyed the majority of his work with all my heart, yet..."The Crocodile Collector" feels bare-bones for me, as if Rosa's soul wasn't on it, and I didn't like how "The Lost Charts of Columbus", a sequel to a story with such a strong characterization of Donald, reduced him to a slapstick magnet for the most part. By Rosa's own admission, "The Last Lord Of El Dorado" is a follow-up to "The Gilden Man", can't say I'm fond of that story. "Escape From Forbidden Valley" is one I have warmed up to with each re-read; used to loathe the abuse Don goes through in that one before, though!

Let's end this on a positive note. The first comment here should make your heart warm. It'd have that effect with mine, at any rate!

April 14, 2011 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

It's true that I think of this blog first and foremost as a source of inspiration for the masses, so that comment was good to see.

You're not wrong about the portrayal of HDL; I was going to put something in about that, but I guess I felt there was enough negativity here. Lesson learned: there can NEVER be enough negativity.

As far as bad sequels go, I was mainly thinking of "Escape from Forbidden Valley;" I find the Donald-abuse pretty intolerable. If you count "Last Lord of El Dorado" as a sequel, that's another one; the scene where Scrooge is blithely unconcerned with Donald potentially FALLING and DYING is supposed to be funny, I guess, but it's just awful and unreadable and single-handedly ruins the story for me. Also, while it's not really BAD in any clear-cut way, I've never cared that much for "Return to Plain Awful," simply because nobody, Rosa included, is seemingly able to do an interesting portrayal of Glomgold.

April 14, 2011 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Interesting debate question: Which is better, this sequel or the DUCKTALES version of "Micro Ducks," which was quite different in its main focus (the Ducks getting shrunk and having to make their way to Gyro's lab) from Barks' story? The characterization of the princess here was certainly lacking, but the Micros didn't really have ANY characterization to speak of in the TV version, apart from the doofus crewman who kept calling his female superior "sir" and "ma'am" interchangeably.


April 14, 2011 at 9:37 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

Wow, this story looks cruddy.

April 15, 2011 at 5:14 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

As far as this versus the TV episode goes, for me it's an easy question: definitely the episode. It completely botches the actual micro-ducks business, true, but the honey-I-shrunk-the-kids stuff is very good in its own right, whereas there's really nothing good about "Return." If I were force to compare specifically the portrayal of the micro-ducks in the one versus the other though, man, I dunno--that's a serious lesser-of-two-evils situation. I suppose it pressed I would go for "Return," just because they ARE at least somewhat reminiscent of the ones in the original story; more so than the ones in the episode, certainly.

April 15, 2011 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I've got a funny fact: the french translators perhaps found as weird as you did the fact that they didn't reuse the original Micro-Ducks. And THEY DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT: Tenntsy Teen and Luna are the same character in our version ! For the chronological problem, I don't see any, but that's because I don't believe Don Rosa's theory of "aging ducks". I can' tell you WHY they haven't age since 1947, but that's not THAT hard to imagine something involving either an invention by Gyro or a spell by any of the plenty of witches of this world (Magica, Hazel, Queen Grimhilde…). So I just assumed that the story actually happens 8 years after the original. But I understand that it's a big problem to the people who believe Don Rosa's unofficial drawings about Scrooge's grave.

May 23, 2015 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Do you think the Micro Ducks will shall return ever agian?

August 26, 2018 at 6:14 AM  

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