Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Chapter Four: "Raider of the Copper Hill"

(This is one of the five parts of the series that doesn't start with "the." "Of Ducks, Dimes, and Destinies" and "Hearts of the Yukon" are obvious, but I don't understand the others.)

I indicated that this entry is better than the last several, and that's certainly true, but it still has a few issues that shouldn't be overlooked. So let's get going.

It begins with Scrooge ending his involvement with cattle farming and feeling morose about his bum luck. The image of him listlessly stabbing at his peas is very well-observed.

Also, the following panels, in which he and his companion (Marcus Daly) don't understand the idea of electric lights, is quite funny.

At any rate, turns out you need copper wiring for this electricity thing, so prices are up and Scrooge moves in. And hey, here's ol' Howard Rockerduck, whom you remember from Chapter Zero. Doing something with his son John D. was no doubt necessary, given his prominence in European comics (and he is, after all, Barksian, if only technically). But I generally find he's a pretty infelicitous character, and Rosa clearly agrees. It would still have been interesting to see him use the guy in a present-day story, though.

Man, looks like Howard might've been better off if he'd been able to seal the deal with Magica. I'm always a bit nonplussed by the pro-corporal-punishment bit here. Don't get me wrong; I'm all in favor on general principle of Rockerduck getting whacked with a horsewhip. I just don't think it would have any positive effect on his behavior.

So then there's this thing, based on some historical thing, apparently, where having unearthed a small vein means that Scrooge should own the whole mine, and then there's a mad stampede by a whole bunch of other people to get there on time...

…leading to, uh, this. Nice level of detail and all, but seriously? It's pretty ridiculous-looking, and I don't know about the idea of painting Scrooge as some sort of mad berserker (though part of that's down to the red eyes, which may or may not have been Rosa's decision). Rosa justifies having Scrooge do over-the-top superhero stuff in the eighth chapter by casting it as a matter of the history having been mythologized, which works okay, but there's nothing like that here, and…gah. I mean I don't know; I suppose it's not so different than what Barks himself depicted in the flashback scene in "Back to the Klondike," but still…maybe it's something about the more "realistic" art style, but this just isn't a highlight of the series for me. It looks quite unpleasant.

So look: I'm all in favor of the idea that Scrooge's relationships with other people are poisoned by wealth. I think that's a good thing to bring up, and it certainly jives well with Scrooge's present-day character. But man…as you can see from these before-and-after images, it's really driven home here with sledgehammer subtlety, and in a way that doesn't necessarily make a huge amount of sense. I can't help thinking a lighter touch was called for.

I'm not totally sure what in that previous panel is meant to represent "respect." In general, I do like this interaction, though. It's true: this basically is what the present-day Scrooge is like. There are definitely dark undercurrents to the story.

Well you might have wondered: what happened to those qualms about "easy money" that he expressed in "Master of the Mississippi?" What happened to "earning it square?" Well, that's why he ultimately loses this mini-fortune, but this is maladroitly done. In the commentary, Rosa says that having him obtain the mine like this "was the perfect situation to place the young and callow Scrooge into, and then teach him that he won't be able to retain success until he earns it wholly of his own hard work." But how would this possibly teach him anything of the kind? He doesn't lose out because of something inherent in the way he had won; he loses because of an event inserted by arbitrary authorial fiat. This could've used a bit of rethinking.

And see? Rockerduck does get whipped, and it doesn't help. Or maybe it's getting whipped that prevents him from ever becoming less of a jerk, and this whole thing is secretly an anti-corporal-punishment argument. I have my doubts, though.

Anyway, now it's back to Scotland, and that's where we'll pick this up tomorrow, in "The New Laird of Castle McDuck."

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Blogger Christopher said...

When I first read this, I couldn't understand why Scrooge didn't hold out for a LOT more money than just $10,000. It's true, he probably would have lost the drawn-out legal battle, but he could easily have convinced Marcus Daly that paying him $100,000 would probably be less than all the legal fees.

The actual legal battles over the apex laws are fascinating.

December 14, 2011 at 12:05 AM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

Actually, my favorite part of this installment were the nods to those dime novels that Pothole is writing. Rosa was setting up that the Klondike was where Scrooge hit paydirt, so we have to wade through a series of false starts and could-have-beens that were established through oblique references.
I remember really wanting to see some stories with Rockerduck - until I actually saw them. He's often depicted as Glomgold without the beard most of the time. In fact, "Boat Buster" - his debut, doesn't really portray him as a villain at all, just someone whose business is in competition with Scrooge - more like Gladstone Gander than Glomgold. That would be a more interesting way to portray him.

December 14, 2011 at 10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proof that Rosa can work magic with the stupid 15-page limit.

September 16, 2017 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger F. Radcliffe said...

Hey, I know I'm coming very late to this blog but one thing has always bothered me about this chapter and I figured I post it just on the off-chance someone else sees it:

So, Pothole is obviously a quite successful author. Why isn't HE sending money home for the taxes? I know we learn later that he's not retired in luxury or anything, he's working in a wild west show...but still! How come the ENTIRE family's ENTIRE FINANCIAL BURDEN is dropped on the shoulders of an eighteen-year-old failure instead of a demonstrably solvent grown-up?

I'm pretty new to the Barks/Rosa stories so if someone genuinely knows the answer to this, I'd be grateful if you'd share. Thanks!

April 9, 2018 at 7:04 PM  

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