Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Chapter Three: "The Buckaroo of the Badlands"

We follow up one of the better entries in the series with one of the weaker (Rosa himself acknowledges that it's a bit subpar). It could have been worse; from the sketches include in the Gemstone book and Rosa's own account, it's clear that his initial conception would have been substantially worse. So kudos to Erickson for rejecting that--but the question remains: could it have been better had Rosa had more space to work with? I'm going to answer in the affirmative.

I should confess, I suppose, that part of this is down to my own biases; Old-West mythology doesn't really do much for me. But hey: I've enjoyed some western novels, like Warlock, and, in duck terms, "Sheriff of Bullet Valley" is certainly a classic. So let's not be heaping too much calumny upon my head, okay? A li'l calumny is okay, though.

Part of the problem was the stuff Rosa had to fit in. In this case, the insane, Nordic powers that be mandated that he make reference to "Lost in the Andes," resulting in this weirdly superfluous sequence. "What's the point of having Scrooge meet [this guy]?" Rosa rhetorically wonders. What indeed. On a broader level, you could ask that about a lot of the Barks references, but in those cases, well…it's Scrooge's story, which provides some justification. This is just odd.

Also eating up space is this bit with Frank and Jesse James. Yes, it comes from a Barks reference, but still…it really just feels like another narrative dead-end. At any rate, the expression on Frank (the one with the bandanna)'s face in the left panel is funny.

Anyway, Scrooge falls in with these guys, and for whatever idiosyncratic reason, I cannot TELL you how creeped out I am by those horseshoe imprints on his chest. It looks like he's been attacked by lampreys or something. Shudder.

…and then there's this rather distasteful bit where he loses his clothes as he's riding the bronco. And what's with this "luck" business? Save it for The Life and Times of Gladstone Gander, Rosa!

Of course this is also the episode where--in the course of looking for a bull that the McVipers stole--he meets Theodore Roosevelt (only identified at the very end of the story, and only as "TR"). I will have more to say in the future about Rosa's use of historical figures--which, in later stories, you could fairly describe as "rampant." This one works out okay, arbitrary as it is. Does Rosa idealize the man to an excessive degree? Absolutely. Is this dialogue here on the didactic side? Just a li'l bit! But nothing too awful.

The real problem is that there's so little space that the main action of the story just feels rushed. It's not all that original/interesting/exciting, and it doesn't really get the space it needs to develop those characteristics.

Still, at least there's this spectacle. It's all very obviously self-consciously set up to result in this wacky tableau, and as such it feels somewhat on the forced side--but in spite of that, I think it works; it's still a lot of fun, and surely the highlight of the story.

"Sure, but only until the next chapter starts!" Yeah…a bit of a sloppy transition.

Pretty good parting advice from TR, sort of hinting at the notion that Scrooge is essentially a tragic character. It's certainly an ambiguous situation, and one that Rosa--rightly, I think--isn't willing to fully commit to, but it definitely adds richness to the series.

Tomorrow, it's "The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark!" Bee there orr be a rectangular thyng! Man, who can get THAT reference without googling it?

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Anonymous Swamp Adder said...

The fact that Scrooge is now wishing to have been born rich just sort of highlights the absurdity of the moment in the previous chapter when he regrets finding the treasure too easily. Consistency, Rosa!

December 11, 2011 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, in fairness, he's saying that in a moment of depression and low self-confidence. Once he's back to his old self, he'll presumably go back to believing in hard work.

December 11, 2011 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Notice how Scrooge apparently had the hoofprints on his chest for years, but just a few panels later, after his clothes are thrown off, those hoofprints are GONE. Does the open country air have miraculous healing powers or something?

And is the old scholar supposed to be the legendary "Professor from Birmingham" from "Lost in the Andes?" Shouldn't he have a more pronounced Southern accent?

December 12, 2011 at 1:52 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

It's supposed to be a guy who met the professor, apparently: according to Rosa's commentary, it was originally supposed to be the professor hisself, until it was pointed out that in "Lost in the Andes" he had been referred to as being already dead, at which point the script was revised a little so now he's...this guy.

December 12, 2011 at 2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of all the short chapters, this is definitely the one that needed to be feature length, along with #6. Given Rosa's well-known love for classic westerns, I think with 24 pages or so he'd have knocked this one out of the park, and it would have been as epic and atmospheric as #2. Sadly, thanks to bogus editorial decisions, the only real standout element is that "three ring circus".

September 14, 2017 at 11:52 AM  

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