Monday, December 12, 2011

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Chapter Three B: "The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark"

This is one of two entries in the series--the other being "Sharpie of the Culebra Cut"--that really have no Barksian basis. As Rosa explains it, he wanted Scrooge to be in Java when Krakatoa erupted in 1883. Hence, his justification: "The greatest sport in Java, both in 1883 and today, is the annual bull race on Madoera Island. And Scrooge is working on the world's biggest cattle ranch at the time!" Well, whatever gets you through the night, I guess. Not that I think there's any need for specific Barksian justification; it just feels a little odd, given how maniacal most of the series is about being based around details from Unca Carl. In theory, I'd say it's actually a good thing for Rosa to strike out on his own like this.

So it's not for any philosophical reason that I say--with a heavy heart, of course--that this, for me, is one of the least successful entries in the series. There's some nice art, of course, but the plot is pretty muddled and uninvolving, with little real sense of adventure.

We open with a joke about Scrooge's ass. I'm not going to say that this presages what is to come, exactly, but…well, if nothing else, I certainly seem to be insinuating as much.

There's this business with these rival sultans who both want to use Scrooge's bull to win this here race. One of them is evil and one of them is, I guess, good, or at least not-evil. It's hard to tell, which is indicative of the problem. It's just pretty difficult to really care about any of this. It never really gets fleshed out in any interesting way. One is left feeling indifferent, somehow.

Here's a bit I like, though, where Scrooge is lost in the jungle. Kinda reminds me of "Swamp of No Return." I feel as though I should try to say something positive even about entries I'm not too fond of.

As another for-instance, the Cutty Sark's strange-looking, phlegmatic captain is pretty entertaining. There's also this perplexing running non-joke about how he can't find his camera.

Ratchet Gearloose also makes a repeat appearance. Here's a bit that really rubs me the wrong way: yeah, this is meant as a joke, of course, but seriously: I just can't help thinking of the untold human misery and environmental devastation that could have been avoided had they gone the "free geo-thermal energy" root. Damn you, Scrooge! Furthermore, Rosa (here and a few other places in the story) seems to have forgotten where this takes place in the chronology of the series: Scrooge is not supposed to be this greedy/dickish at this point.

If we're struggling to find things that contribute in some way to the story as a whole, we could note that this is also where he discovers his affinity for top hats.

And then…Krakatoa erupts. It's quite interesting, really; this idea that here we have an event so intense that it can't really be depicted in comic form. According to wikipedia, this eruption killed forty thousand or more people, making it implicitly one of the grimmer things in Disney comics.

And that's about all I have to say about this. As I've made abundantly clear, it just doesn't excite me all that much. I feel sort of bad having written predominantly negative entries about two installments in a row, but never fear: tomorrow is "Raider of the Copper Hill," which should reverse the trend nicely. Unless my goddamn memory is playing tricks on me again. But regardless, don't you fucking dare miss it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I found it to be very indicative of Rosa's love for movies, in a bad way. It's not in my top five favorite Life and Times chapters, but it struck me as a very wild, over-the-top kind of adventure story that lends itself well
to animation more than comics. I think this would be an extremely lavish, cool, over the top episode. The music, editing, the acting, all that jazz. You might think "Boy, that was beautiful, I loved watching it", even if it wasn't meaty fulfillment. As a self-contained comic book story though, it does feel flat. As it is, it gives me the same feeling I get when I watch a good episode of DuckTales. It could just be so much BETTER. More setup, less of the setpieces!

The framing device always makes me laugh a little though.

December 12, 2011 at 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't disagree more with this assessment. The Cowboy Captain of Cutty Sark is a cracking adventure story in the best way and one of my favorite Life and Times chapters.

Also, is has a terrific title.

December 12, 2011 at 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This plot was ridiculous, but unlike yourself, I found it to be deliciously so.

September 14, 2017 at 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. And I found it to be an excellent action adventure story. The very fact it was so over the top is what I loved about it.

September 16, 2017 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger F. Radcliffe said...

This episode did inspire me to read an entire book about the eruption of Krakatoa. So, that's something, I guess.

April 9, 2018 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger Nikolas Marinakis said...

I'm surprised no one mentioned that the captain is quite obviously Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, the Gregory Peck version.

November 16, 2020 at 7:19 AM  

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