Saturday, July 9, 2011

"Darkest Africa" really, how cool is the cover of the issue of Donald Duck Adventures that reprints this story?

Very, is the answer. Kudos to Jim Franzen for drawing it and Disney for using it. Are there any other examples of Disney covers in which the main characters only appear as distant silhouettes?

This story is from 1947; Barks more or less remade it ten years later as "Forbidden Valley" (one of his rare late Donald adventures); that story has to get the nod over this one because, you know, dinosaurs, but there's certainly some interesting stuff in the older version, too. the way we can see the evolution of the characters. In later stories, the kids never would've been cool with Donald catching the butterflies for them (also, in most stories he probably would've messed it up somehow, but that's pretty much a universal thing).

Also, I'm not sure that "keeping them jumbled up in a box" is proper butterfly-collecting protocol.

Anyway, as you probably know, the fiendish Argus McFiendy (love those Barksian names!) tries to take the rare butterfly away from our heroes, leading to this classic line:

…as Andrew Breitbart said to James O'Keefe. I suppose it WAS a bit of a dirty trick, when you come right down to it; Donald certainly didn't have any prior claim to the butterfly. Argus may be all McFiendy and everything, but it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the ducks' basis for being good guys here is a bit questionable.

...I mean really: it's not like ol' Gnatbugg-Mothley here (another great name!) has any higher motives. It's just all about who gets to complete his collection.

If I roll my eyes at that dopey Scarpa story in which the goal is to catch the LAST animal of a species, I guess I have to here, too--though that story really plays it up much more, making the dopiness more readily apparent. Also, Donald as some sort of super-awesome secret-agent butterfly collecctor ("I admit I'm good!") is fun.

Mind you, the idea that, after snatching the disputed butterfly, McFiendy is immediately gonna dash off to Africa for the even-more-rare one strikes me as highly dubious.

...and of course, the idea that there's basically just one place in Africa that anyone could be going causes some serious eyebrow-raising. Nice panorama, though!

So McFiendy is indeed pretty fiendish, as he tries to both sabotage and murder our heroes. That's some poison there, that gives a crocodile a violent seizure and then kills it dead. God knows what it would do to a duck. Jeez.

Then there's this bit, where they fuck up McFiendy's campsite.

...but oh no, it's not him (yes, of course, it is him, but never mind)--is there some sort of implicit message here about fair play? If so, it doesn't seem to be consistently applied throughout the story.

Seriously? HDL just cheerfully poison a crocodile to death? I find this very fucking disturbing. The Junior Woodchucks of later days would never do such a thing, especially given that the stakes here are ultimately so low. A crocodile has to die so you can catch a butterfly? That doesn't add up.

Snappy dialogue! Not just anyone can manage that!

Ooh, now the fun part. Let's compare the depiction of the natives from the original, and those in the reprint!

Then along that river-bank a thousand miles/Tattooed cannibals assistants danced in files.

You know, as clumsy and frequently arbitrary as Disney's censorship track record has been, it's a bit hard to blame them here--not that I favor censorship of any sort, obviously, but I won't deny that I'm a bit appalled myself. In the modern version they seem more like garden-variety thugs than "savages," though whether that's actually less racially problematic seems debatable.

Still, it just wouldn't be Disney without a weird, nonsensical element: note that their payment has changed from "two false teeth" to "two confederate dollars." I can only assume that this was done because someone was afraid that "false teeth" would still carry connotations, however, faint, of cannibalism. But even if you're an inveterate cannibal, you still don't eat teeth, do you?

More cannibal excision, though the calculus that went into determining that head-shrinking was "better" is a bit beyond me. Also, they appear to want to refer to head-shrinking without actually referring to head-shrinking; hence "headman" in the bottom right panel, when "head-shrinker" obviously would've made for a less nonsensical line of dialogue. Note also that in the original version, the natives are just sorta capering around, whereas in the new one, they're waving spears. That makes it…better…?

Pretty sweet splash panel! I've placed the equivalent panel from "Forbidden Valley" next to it for comparison purposes. It ought to be superior inasmuch as it feature dinosaurs, but there's no denying that purely from an art-quality point of view, the original version is more detailed and dynamic.

I like that Barks ultimately humanizes McFiendy a bit here.

I also like that that he plans to commit suicide with every bit as much vim and vigor as he devoted to the butterfly hunt.

But then, of course, Barks undercuts the whole story--a little commentary, perhaps, about the ridiculousness of this whole venture; ie, of grown men sabotaging, battering, and attempting to murder one another over a fucking butterfly?

Still and all, not a bad story, in spite of a few dated (to put it politely) elements.

Hey, guess what? It's NO COINCIDENCE that this story is going up when it is, as I will indeed be in Africa for the next few weeks, and hence not duckblogging. Darkest Africa? the recent past, yeah, pretty much. Things are better now, of course.

Anyway, I have a somewhat unusual entry that will hopefully be of interest set up for when I get back. Look for it 'round about the end of July.



Blogger Richie said...

That reptile murder bit is surprisingly out of character for HDL, alright. You'd think Barks would have used an element from "Lifeguard Daze" and the nephews would just use the already-dead crocodile they saw previously.

...Then again, it IS "Darkest" Africa, so maybe it's in line with the story's commentary you pointed out, about just how over the top and mindlessly dangerous men can get over something that, at the end of the day, isn't worth it at all.

Have fun in your trip, GeoX! Quite the traveler, huh? Fitting for a lover of Duck Adventures, lucky you! Take lotsa pictures and let us know how was it when ya come back! You tease! July's end marked on the calendar!

July 9, 2011 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

First, Mayan ruins… and now this?

Somebody oughta start a Blog about YOU!

What’s next? The Seven Cities of Cibola? Plain Awful? The Twenty-Four Carat Moon?

Enjoy your adventures!

July 9, 2011 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

One thing at a time! I'll see if I can't find a lost mine or something along those lines.

Thanks to both of you for the well-wishes.

July 9, 2011 at 11:01 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Enjoy your trip, Geoff—where in Africa are you going?

Sounds touristy to recommend this, but depending on what part of the continent you're going to, maybe you can experience this for me (...something I've always wanted to try):

July 10, 2011 at 1:53 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Rwanda--my brother's a Peace Corps volunteer there. That place does sound like quite an experience...'ceptin' that I'm a vegetarian. Not QUITE my thing, I think!

July 10, 2011 at 2:09 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Have a great trip!

July 10, 2011 at 2:18 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Have fun!

July 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Thanks, y'all. And with that, I am incommunicado until further notice.

July 10, 2011 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Ryan Wynns said...

Darn it, didn't get to pipe in before the "incommunicado" notice! Regardless, have fun, and will be awaiting future posts (perhaps including trip reports/photos?)


July 10, 2011 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


That crocodile WASN'T poisoned! It was just... lying down to rest a while (cf. KIMBA THE WHITE LION) and allowing the Nephews to use its corpus for the greater good.

My wife and I saw Paul Rusasegebina (sp?) speak in Baltimore a while back and so I'll be very interested to read your impressions of Rwanda. Have a safe trip!


July 10, 2011 at 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

In the Dutch reprint, the nephews claim it's a remarkably natural-looking inflatable crocodile they brought to play a trick on their uncle. Also, McFiendy persuades the natives by offering them a gun for their troubles.

I actually like the bit about the Confederate Dollars. It's conceivable that the natives don't know they're worthless, whereas two false teeth ... that's just cheap.

July 13, 2011 at 11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just re-read this story in Another Rainbow's CBL, and wanted to see the original inks (not Jippes' / Vlottes'). This post is the closest I've found (and so recent!) but yet still so far from a complete version. Are these your own scans? Is there any chance you could point me to a complete version?

August 7, 2011 at 2:11 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Drop me an email.

August 7, 2011 at 2:52 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I just got the New FANTAGRAFIC edition (in "The Old castle secret" volume) and I'm glad they left the oryginal depiction of African people.

It's not plesent image but at the same time tryig to censore it it's like trying to change history a bit and act like such stereotypes never existed. I think those early Barks stories are historicly significant and part of the history and therefore it's wrong to censore them. I have no problem dealing with this fact
- "Ok, so this is how people imagine African people back in the day... Let's move along".

I'll bet there is plenty of stuff that's normal/harmles to us, that will be consider political incorect in 60 years...

September 30, 2013 at 7:53 PM  

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