Wednesday, September 7, 2011

"Donald's Buzzin' Cousin"

Hey, guess what, post one-fifty! Whoo!

I can only imagine how baffling Fethry must have seemed to American readers of duck comics in the sixties: he made his debut in this story, in January of 1966, appeared in two additional stories in the following months, made no impact, and, poof, was gone? Who was that? Why was that? WTF? people must have wondered (that last guy was a guy from the future, versed in internet acronyms). And their confusion would only have been exacerbated if they'd actually gotten their hands on the "Wonderful World of Disney" giveaways where a few of the Hubbard/Kinney stories appeared: so now there's a completely different conception of the character? Who also only appears for a very few stories and then vanishes completely? WTFROFLMAOBBQ?

(Yeah, that guy from the future could get annoying.)

Anyway, here's "Donald's Buzzin' Cousin," which, as you can see, attempts to "introduce" the character by having this be his first contact with Donald since childhood.

The problem is...well, I don't know if it's a "problem," per se, but it's hard to deny that this is not the same character you see in Hubbard/Kinney. Absent is the whole fixation-of-the-week schtick, and instead we have a guy who just does isolated, wacky things 'cause he feels like it. The above panels aren't evidence that he's obsessed with piloting planes; he's just doing it 'cause it's wacky.

Note that Fethry has red hair here, for whatever reason. Also, note the continued absence of HDL. It's too bad, really--I think interactions between Fethry and the nephews could be quite edifying.

Also, it's wacky to drive badly. Make a note of it. This is undeniably a less interesting--because already done to death with all kind of "zany" characters--version of Fethry.

The main action, such as it is, comes with Fethry getting the two of them reservations at a café in foreignland, 'cause he can't stand Americanized versions of foreign food. This is a recognizably Fethry-ish concern--you can easily imagine a Hubbard/Kinney story with Fethry-as-foodie--but again, here it's not part of any overarching story arc. It's just another aspect of his wackiness.

Credit where it's due, however: the story does have a nicely fast-paced, caffeinated (as the title indicates) energy to it, as it's just one damn thing after another in the quest for Faroffistandi cusine. riding a missile. Note the odd misspelling of "develop."

In spite of experiencing a certain amount of stress, Donald actually does all right here. It's reminiscent of any number of movies where a free-spirit type shows the buttoned-down stuffed-shirt how to live life to the fullest, which admittedly, is a pretty vapid plotline. It's okay just the once, I suppose, however.

This ending is both contrived--Fethry has hiccups, and the only way to get rid of them is by more eating, hence this--and pretty amusing in its way:

You can kinda see why, if this was how American-published stories were gonna be, the character never caught on here. There's only so much you can do with him along these lines. The Hubbard/Kinney stories are formulaic in their own right, sure, but they provide plenty of opportunities for unusual situations of a sort that you don't usually see in duckworld. This--less so. It's not really clear to me how the powers-that-be imagined this catching on, but fuck, what do I know? The whaler duck did, sort of, so why not this guy?



Blogger ramapith said...

" can easily imagine a Hubbard/Kinney story with Fethry-as-foodie..."

A real classic—unfortunately, only ever published in English in Australia.

September 7, 2011 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Sure, in and of himself, Fethry may not have been much, but consider his Western Publishing debut as being part of a bigger and very exciting movement in American Disney comics that began in 1964.

The Phantom Blot moved out of the pages of the WDC&S serial that revived him (Issues # 284-287) and directly into a fondly-remembered series of his own that presented a then-unique melding of the “Duck and Mouse worlds” and, to my knowledge, was the first comic book series to feature a villain as its title character!

This event began a period of creativity for Western Publishing’s Disney line not seen since its formation, and never seen again.

The debuts (in no particular order) of Super Goof, Emil Eagle, Dangerous Dan Mc Boo and Idjit the Midget, Moby Duck and Dimwitty, our subject and studio creation “Cousin Fethry” visiting in the DONALD DUCK title, revivals of Shamrock Bones and Neighbor Jones (…rhyming unintentional), the “Mickey Mouse Super Secret Agent” series, “The Walt Disney Theatre” in WDC&S, and titles for The Beagle Boys, and Junior Woodchucks all came about in the years 1964-1967.

Add to this the final years of work by Carl Barks, and it was quite a time to experience… and, personally, associating Fethry with this “greater whole”, has helped me form a more positive opinion of the character in general and of stories like “Donald’s Buzzin’ Cousin” in particular!

It may be just my opinion, but I LIKED Fethry more as a wacky, unstoppable force of nature over his “fad/obsession of the week” persona. The Duck comics had nothing like this! For this version, I imagined Howard Morris doing one of his manic, fast-talking Hanna-Barbera mid-sixties cartoon voices for him! Like Donald, I wouldn’t want to see him every issue – but, every now and then he could sure liven things up. I can’t imagine the events of “Bird Bothered Hero” unfolding, if HE were around!

I also liked Strobl’s version better than Hubbard’s, and am glad we never saw a Kay Wright version!

Lastly, if David Gerstein ever resolves to take you out to dinner, you may very well find yourself in something resembling the “Faroffistand” dining scenario! That’s why I insist on good ol’ pizza, burgers, or our familiar Texas BBQ joint! He’d likely be proud of that parallel! :-)

September 7, 2011 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

I've actually made oxtail cocktails—be very afraid!

(See, Joe—I can treat you to Kinney-inspired Fethry cuisine anytime, but Western-inspired Fethry-cuisine requires pricey plane tickets... is it any wonder which interpretation I prefer?)

September 8, 2011 at 12:43 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Yup, not as grotesque as Hubbard's Fethry--though he does still have an Adam's apple (see the panel where Donald exclaims "Faroffistan?"), which I find disturbing. Clearly, the fad-of-the-week Fethry has more going for him story-wise than this character.

(David--there's a trivia question for you at the end of the comments on the first Fethry post.)

And congratulations on Post #150! Thanks for the Duckburgian thoughts & laughs, which are helping me deal with my comics withdrawal (that, and ordering comics from Germany and France!).

September 8, 2011 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous didier de france said...

don't like this two-bit hippie;he 's no match for Gladstone!

October 16, 2013 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"was the first comic book series to feature a villain as its title character!"

—> Actually, the french character Iznogoud was created in 1962.

April 23, 2016 at 9:29 AM  

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