Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Chapter Five: "The New Laird of Castle McDuck"

Well, here we are, back in Scotland! A chance to see a little more of Scrooge's family, which is always fun.

This story has one bit that I consider a bit problematic, but generally, it has a really nice atmosphere to it, as evinced by the above.

And hey, Hortense chasing Whiskervilles with a broom! What more can you ask, really? Granted, the whole little-girl/hellion business is a bit of a broad comic type, but I still like it, especially the way she's not even looking at the guy as she's whapping him in the third panel there.

Long story short, the clan needs cash to keep the castle, which Scrooge has from the last chapter. But this Whiskerville jerk provokes him into a fight. The choreography here is a bit stiff, like they're robots going at it--seriously, what's the deal with Scrooge in that middle panel? Well, maybe it's meant to be funny.

At any rate, even if the question of Rosa's ability to depict natural-looking sword fights is up in the air, this climax is badass, absolutely. Pretty much exactly what you'd want from a story like this.

But then...well, there's the part where he falls into the water and temporarily dies, and we're treated to a surprisingly long segment with his ancestors playing golf and sniping at each other in the clouds (as far as the theology of Rosa's comics goes, it's this and Finnish mythology. Make a note of it). This is something of a momentum-killer to put it mildly; I could definitely do with less of it, and good LORD, what a hellish afterlife this would be.

(An' also: how come there are no female McDucks here? I know I know--because Barks didn't create any. But it's still extremely noticeable.)

On the bright side, here's "Matey" McDuck from Barks' "Back to Long Ago." Rosa has named him "Malcolm;" this place claims that, due to chronological discrepancies, they're two different characters, but that strikes me as a pretty dumb bit of over-explaining for an obvious slight slip-up on Rosa's part. Really now, how plausible is it that Rosa didn't include an actual Barks character in his family tree, but DID include his heretofore unknown identical twin? Not very, I'm gonna say! Of course, either way, the mystery of how he could possibly have served in the British navy with Donald's ancestor remains.

Granted, I DO like the fact that all of Scrooge's ancestors seem to have been killed in unpleasant ways…

But man, even if we HAVE to have this bit, this allegedly-comical denouement really doesn't work for me. Should Scrooge die here? It's a serious theological question that requires OH HOLY SHIT HE'S GONNA LOVE MONEY?!? SAY NO MORE! It feels as though Rosa was having a bit of difficulty finding a graceful way out of this situation, and…well, came up with this. In any case, it seems to me that any Barksian evidence that Scrooge's ancestors were all as stingy as he is requires some extremely tenuous inference.

Anyway, he comes back and pwns the Whiskervilles, and I'll grant that this is a pretty good climax to the whole thing. Yeah yeah, that "last of the Clan McDuck" business relies on patriarchal assumptions, but whadaya expect from a bunch of crazy, dead Scottish ducks? Although the question of how they KNOW he's not going to have children--given their apparent unfamiliarity with his life-book--is an open one.

And here's the ending. You don't, or I didn't, exactly register the fact that it was raining throughout the entire story 'til you see the sun come out. In his commentary, Rosa declares that this rainbow looks, in retrospect, "too stupid." I think he's doing himself a disservice. Yeah, when you point it out like that, I can see how it's not exactly "realistic," but it remains one of my favorite images in the series, and I just love the "always another rainbow" reference. It has a lot of emotional resonance for me.

(Another thing Rosa does in the commentary is expend a LOT of space telling an incredibly pointless story about how he vaguely remembered seeing a movie that seemed relevant to this installment, but he couldn't find it on video anywhere, and he searched and searched, and finally he found a copy, and it provided no inspiration for the story. Riveting!)

At any rate, tomorrow it's off to, sigh, Africa in "The Terror of the Transvaal." If you know my opinions about the common portrayal of a certain Barksian character, you can probably guess wherefore that "sigh." Nonetheless: imagine how dumb you'd feel if you forgot to check it out. Doesn't even bear thinking about.

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Blogger Jasper Y. said...

Again with the critical eye. I rather enjoyed the jaunt into the afterlife, if only for the one panel at the end where Scrooge is unscrewing his armor at the bottom of the moat. I wouldn't say the Malcolm/Matey issue is really a "slip-up" on Rosa's part, he just "retconned" Barks' name into a nickname because he thought it was too informal, much like the Uncle Pothole/Angus deal.
Not to come across as completely defensive (too late, I know), I'm willing to bet that real swordfights in massive suits of armor look even more robotic. But these are ducks we're talking about.

December 14, 2011 at 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We got very different things from this chapter, sir. :) I found the whole sword fight to be interesting, but the golf scene in the afterlife to be absolutely fascinating, and one of my favorite parts! To me, it's interesting that despite the pain involved in his life to get where he ends up, that we see in multiple chapters that Scrooge is in some way bound by destiny, and how the world DOES hand things to him... easy ways out, comfort, love, but he abandons them because of the ethos HE feels the world should work on. How easy would it be for Scrooge to end up rich as can be, if only he were to take the easiest ways out? Stay at home and be a reputable local businessman, take the gold bullion, be a cattle ranch manager, own the Anaconda Copper Mine... among others you haven't covered yet.

Just my opinion, of course. :) I prefer character/treasure hunt stories to straight comedy or straight action and that colors me! Looking forward to your review of the most... Odd chapter of the saga.

December 14, 2011 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

It's not the NAME that's the slip-up; it's that Rosa has the character doing things at a point AFTER his death in "Back to Long Ago."

You make very interesting points, reviewordie.

December 14, 2011 at 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Another thing Rosa does in the commentary is expend a LOT of space telling an incredibly pointless story about how he vaguely remembered seeing a movie that seemed relevant to this installment, but he couldn't find it on video anywhere, and he searched and searched, and finally he found a copy, and it provided no inspiration for the story. Riveting!"

He was talking about the Powell and Pressburger classic "A Matter of Life and Death," and while it may be a bit obscure in the states it's an enshrined classic in its native Britain, where the Powell & Pressburger team hold a place in cinema culture like Hitchcock, Frank Capra, and Steven Spielberg rolled into one!

It's a really brilliant film, but Black Narcissus and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (also by this team) might be better.

December 14, 2011 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Not knocking the movie at all, which I've never seen--just questioning the relevance of the anecdote.

December 14, 2011 at 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I love this chapter, and I think Rosa was correct in his opinion (stated I don't remember where) that it works very well as a stand-alone story. I enjoy the comedy in the afterlife segment. The reason for the decision to give Scrooge another chance did amuse me and didn't bother me, perhaps because I have a Scottish-American friend who *is* a cheap penny-pincher and *is* proud of it! (Though he is generous in non-monetary ways.) I realize that the stingy/cheap Scot is a cultural stereotype, but perhaps there is indeed a cultural value of thrift which is parodied by that stereotype. This is why I am not bothered by the line in Micro-Ducks, where Scrooge looks at the MDs' money through a microscope and observes: "Now, isn't that the cutest stuff! Gold coins no bigger than a Scotchman's tip!" (Though someone saw this as a problematic stereotype, since it was changed for publication in one of the comic book printings. My view is, even if it is a stereotype that parodies a positive cultural trait, Scrooge is Scottish himself, not to mention averse to tipping, and thus gets to make fun of the Scottish stereotype.) That line does show that Barks sees thrift/stinginess as a general trait of Scots.

I like to think that the female McDuck ancestors just choose to do something more interesting in the afterlife than play golf.

As for the rainbow...I like it, too, and the "another rainbow" reference. Symbolizes for me my never-say-die hopes over the years that there will continue to be decent Disney comics published in the USA. But when I first saw that panel, it immediately looked wrong, because I know that a rainbow is always opposite the sun in the sky (and because one is never standing at one end, which is why one can never find the leprechauns' gold). This is what Rosa figured out after the fact, and why he's embarrassed about the panel in retrospect. But maybe one can see it as symbolic of the fact that Scrooge *will* find the pot of gold!

December 14, 2011 at 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not knocking the movie at all, which I've never seen--just questioning the relevance of the anecdote."

No offense intended, just recommending a movie!

btw, this is a great blog. I'm new to duck comics, so this blog has been invaluable.

December 15, 2011 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...


December 15, 2011 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


I have A MAJOR PROBLEM with the whole idea of Scrooge getting direct help from ghosts of McDucks past. I've mellowed a bit since I ranted about it in the pages of the APA WTFB (RIP), but it's still an irritant. Doesn't it totally fly in the face of Scrooge, the self-made duck??


December 18, 2011 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I see what you mean, but I'm not really bothered by it. I think it's meant to emphasize the sort of Duck of Destiny thing of which Rosa is so enamored. That can be a little heavy-handed, but does "self-made duck" really imply that nobody ever helped him with anything in any way? It's not like his ancestors earn his fortune for him.

December 18, 2011 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

The Ancestors never actually help him in any way, you know. Since the villains would have already been put knock-out by Scrooge alone IF Quackly had not interfered, the fact that said Quackly and his pals try to mend the problem by defeating the villains themselves doesn't affect the idea that Scrooge won alone (since in the end, the two paths were leading to the same present).

July 15, 2015 at 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First I want to congratulate Jasper for recognizing that you write criticism. Very observant.

Second, yeah, as cool as it was to see Scrooge's ancestors in the not-flesh, the first half of this story was approaching classic status until that point. It did give him a chance to draw that great panel of Scrooge beaten and soaked, though.

September 16, 2017 at 7:18 AM  

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