Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Gab-Muffer"

We now turn our attention to a story that Barks did for a Gyro Gearloose one-shot in 1959. I'm not generally all that super-enamored of these, but this one's good. And important! Well…that may well be a relative term, but it does a few interesting things, and therefore is worth glancing at. As though I needed an excuse!
It starts out with Gyro feeling bummed out by the fact that no one wants his inventions:

Man, if I lived in Duckburg, I'd be hitting him up for his latest and greatest on a daily basis. But clearly, actual Duckburgians have grown blasé about his abilities. The fools! Still, there's a clear problem here: dude, you have to invent inventions to invent inventions that inspire people to invent reasons to have you invent inventions. In it to win it, man.

(Actually, it must be admitted, this intro isn't a super-brilliant way to start the story, given that Gyro's crisis of confidence has nothing to do with the main plot, and isn't really resolved in any way.)

Yup...I'm miserable and screw you for trying to make me less so! Man, you just know that if this dude were around today, he'd be one of these witless "Fifty-Three Percent" people.

But anyway, here's Donald, who wants an invention. I am extremely interested to learn about these primitive mute-buttons that--if Barks is to be believed--you could get your hands on in 1959 (I mean, it seems believable--how complicated can the technology possible be?). Were they ever actually called "gab-muffers," however? That is open to question. Every google-search result for the term refers to this story. Frankly, it sounds to me more like a euphemism for a popular sex act than anything else.

Point is, he wants Gyro to make one that works on HDL here, whose enthusiasm for Tennyson reënactments has gotten out of hand. I really like whenever you see them doing real kid stuff in Barks, since it's so comparatively rare, especially once the Woodchucks have become a big thing. Their earnest expressions are delightful.

Science, ladies and gents. The concept of a "wak-shatterer"--designed, presumably, to obliterate the classic Barksian exclamation--is pretty great.

So, no big surprise, everyone ends up muted, and there's a fire, and mass chaos. The characters still have occasional think-bubbles, but they're silent for a substantial portion of the story, which is really interesting in a way I'm having trouble articulating. I feel as though their actions and reactions are altered and exaggerated (as if they were characters in a silent film, perhaps?) from what they would be if they were talking, to highly entertaining effect. You can especially see it in the above panel from Donald and the middle nephew.

There's a lot of great stuff that comes from this. It's a close call, but I'm going to have to say that I like HDL's stunned expressions even more than I like Donald leaping over them with a phone he's torn out of the wall. Not by much, though.

...and then the Helper casually solves the problem, and that's that. This puts all the previous tomfoolery in perspective, showing just how out-of-proportion (due to the silence--see how it's all interwoven?) everyone's antics were.

And that's that, except that I haven't yet touched on the most wonderful thing about this story, involving the Helper's subsidiary action, which here consists of playing checkers.

See? He defeats the bird. But more to the point:

Bam. Checkers with Bolivar! Who wins, no less! Look how delighted he is with himself! Simply adorable. I cannot put into words how pleased I am with this development. Clearly, I must rethink my previous assertion that Bolivar, unlike General Snozzie, is just a regular dog, lacking human intelligence.



Anonymous Elaine said...

I, too, love the checkers scenes, and the po-mo meta flavor of the empty balloons. Nice comment, Geo, on the similarity to silent film in the exaggeration of expressions. Doesn't it seem likely that Barks meant to write "gab-muffler"? Not that anyone but Barks used that term, I just think it makes more sense than "gab-muffer."

October 18, 2011 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Isn't a "gab-muffer" when you drop a gab for an error? (Seems apropos to mention this at world series time.)


October 19, 2011 at 5:08 PM  

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