Friday, December 16, 2011

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Chapter Six B: "The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff"

An' now, a brief jaunt back to America for more cowboy hijinx. You just can't have enough of 'em, right? Well, maybe. You'll recall "Pizen Bluff" as a place that appeared in several Barks stories.

We open, somewhat confusingly, with Scrooge meeting this guy and getting this map. It's an effort to drag in more Barks stuff, but, in spite of being recalled at the very end, it has nothing to do with the rest of the narrative, and it feels distinctly odd. Of course, Rosa would later expand on this in "The Dutchman's Secret" (published in Gemstone's very first issue of Uncle Scrooge--boy, those were the days).

No, the main narrative involves Scrooge getting mixed up with these wild-west-show people. It's no lie: I love the shit out of this image. It's so crazy and simulacra-y, what with the guys dressed as Beagle Boys, the guy dressed as Scrooge as he appeared in "Master of the Mississippi," and Pothole on a mobile steamship-cart.

In fact, the whole idea of things being all surface comes through strongly in this story. It's hard to say to what extent we're supposed to buy this justification, but of course, the white people in question are only going to get a very empty idea of only the most basic signifiers of Apache culture from this here show.

Note that this whole "coconuts in the south seas" thing appears to refer to a chapter that never ended up getting written. What might have been.

One thing that I have to say I find a bit insufferable is when Rosa has Scrooge do absurdly superhuman feats like the above and then act all ostentatiously jaded about it afterwards. I suppose it's pointless to complain about the feats themselves at this point--not after the way he dealt with those animals in the last chapter--but this in particular does feel a bit much. He learned to shoot like that…how?

On another note, there's this running thing--I hesitate to call it a "joke"--where Geronimo there mistakes Pothole's profanity for various Native American languages. This strikes me as tasteless to say the least.

Okay, the idea is that the Dalton Gang has stolen some money, and everyone has to go and get it back. "Everyone" including, in addition to Scrooge and Pothole, Geronimo, Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, and PT Barnum. Yup…Rosa, for reasons best known to him, at some point developed this mania for cramming as many historical figures as possible into these stories. The "based on actual history!" stuff comes from Barks himself, kind of, but stocking the stories with real people appears to be his own innovation. Why does he do this? Well, there's an extent to which the question answers it self: because just he likes the idea of it. And he can. But I think there's also some of this: sometimes, stories need auxiliary characters. And Rosa, you may have noticed, is generally quite averse to creating his own, except as mandated by actual Barks things (ie, creating relatives to make the genealogy work). That's maybe too bad, given that his most notable original character, Arpin Lusene, turned out so well. But there you have it.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this tendency of his. A few historical personages here and there, okay, but when he gets carried away, it can become very distracting. Sure, you think, I suppose they could have all been there. But…why? It starts to feel like some sorta hallucinatory educational pamphlet. It also starts to feel decidedly overstuffed. Too many people here for the story to support, dangit. Oakley in particular is completely superfluous. She barely says or does anything of any note. I suppose the idea was to make the whole posse a bit less of a sausage fest, but it doesn't really work.

I like this a helluva lot. It's such a specific Barks reference--and yet, one that isn't going to be distracting or confusing to people who aren't up on the Barksian oeuvre.

I also like--nay, love--this part. The first time I read it, I truly thought: what the…? Hey, Rosa is not above depicting Scrooge--in reality--in terms very much like this, so it's not quite as implausible as it might seem. But here, it's just plain funny.

And...yes, as I believe I may have noted somewhere, Rosa can be a bit didactic when the spirit moves him. But hey, don't worry, guys--it's not like you were really anything other than flimsy cardboard representations of "wild west" archetypes anyway.

I was glad to see Pothole back in this story, but he really doesn't do much of note. He was a lot cooler and more capable in "Master of the Mississippi." However, this is clever and funny, in particular Scrooge and company's bafflement at the concept. In his commentary, Rosa claims that he was planning to do a sequel that would elaborate on this idea; I'm not entirely certain whether or not this is a joke, since it seems like it would necessitate a very odd focus for a Disney comic, but hell's bells, man, I would love to have been able to read such a thing--sounds like a hoot.

Certainly not an all-time classic story, and it does demonstrate some of Rosa's tendencies towards excess (and not in a good way), but it's still an amusing li'l lagniappe. Next up, Foster's: Australian for "Dreamtime Duck of the Never-Never."

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Blogger Christopher said...

I love how Cody can't actually SHOOT the villain– he has to fire bullets around the bad guy's feet until he swoons.

December 17, 2011 at 2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to recall a story where Scrooge is given amnesia, but has expert marksmanship nonetheless, presumably from his cowboy days. I think that's actually where the Two-Gun "Buck" McDuck came from. Rosa never shows him learning to shoot, but it seems he certainly has a knack for it as we seen in many other stories. And making fun of Uncle Pothole after he made Scrooge a buffoon by trivializing his accomplishments... well, that's the sort of dickishness that I enjoy from Scrooge!

I honestly think this is the funniest chapter in the whole series, and I have no reason to believe that Geronimo isn't deliberately screwing with Pothole, who is, admittedly, kind of a blowhard. Pothole's lack of competence is pretty much played for comedy, especially since he's been out of the game for about 10-12 years (damned if I can remember when this took place). It's not terribly consistent with his portrayal, but I'm also not too adverse to saying he's just... you know. Kind of a softie with the life he's living now. Also the recap pages are hilarious to me. They have absolutely no reason to be funny, but they are.

Annie Oakley's absolute lack of purpose in this chapter is kind of funny, I think. Scrooge even takes what should be 'her' moment, the shooting of the signpost. If there's anything that bothers me about Rosa's Scrooge (beyond the more callous displays I've seen you grow so frustrated by), it's that Rosa considers him to be the star, often at the expense of other characters. Also Rosa kind of has a 'girls are icky' attitude in his comics that I find very silly, but also quite funny.

This is excessive, certainly, too many characters with too little to do, but I would have been quite happy to see a (slightly!) condensed version of this chapter take its place in the original saga, for the Barksian completeness' sake.

... though the Pennywise omission will never be explained... I choose to believe that the note she has is actually a really embarrassingly sappy love letter he wrote to Goldie after the events of "Back to the Klondike" anyway.

Apologies for rambling! I love the series, My Life and Times Companion book is so worn from reading that I can't imagine it will stay in shape much longer. These are some of my absolute favorite comics of all time.

December 17, 2011 at 12:18 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

As always, your comments are cogent. Please explain, though: "Pennywise omission?"

December 17, 2011 at 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off: Thank you. :)

And second:

This story contains one Miss Penny Wise, who has (quote Scrooge), "an old note of mine that could ruin me!"

This note is never explained in the Life and Times, and the contents are not revealed in the story itself. It's a very silly, throwaway comment in a gag story that was not great to begin with, and when Rosa was confronted with this detail in 1994 on DCML, his comments were here:

In other words, I refuse to believe that $crooge McDuck owes every cent he ever earned to some unknown little old lady! This will be one of the Barks "facts" that I will ignore, gladly, as I gladly ignore the wrongheaded idea of the "Magic Hourglass". If any Barks fans wish NOT to ignore Miss Penny Wise, they can feel free to imagine she gained ownership of all that $crooge McDuck has sometime AFTER the events in my "Life and Times" series.

Apologies for the mistype as well. Along with The Magic Hourglass and this gag story, these are to my knowledge the only Barksian facts he simply ignored on the grounds that they were, in his eyes, stupid.

December 17, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Ah yes, I'd forgotten all about that. Thanks. As far as ignored Barksian "facts" though, let's not forget that, according to "September Scrimmage," Scrooge went to college(!), where he played American football(!!). I'd have loved to see Rosa try to do something with THAT idea!

December 17, 2011 at 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I had no idea! I never saw it when I went to do my own research.

There are a few Rosa stories never written that I recall... but boy oh boy, this would have been fascinating! I would give my left eye to see Rosa return for some of the stories I know he had planned, but never wrote... and that one!

December 17, 2011 at 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Note that this whole "coconuts in the south seas" thing appears to refer to a chapter that never ended up getting written"": while Don Rosa never showed Scrooge trading cocnuts, this is a Barksian reference.

In fact, in the ten-pager "The Floating Island" (first published in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #226, July 1959) Scrooge says "I saw all of those islands close-up when I traded coconuts in the 'eighties!"

January 7, 2015 at 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You'll recall "Pizen Bluff" as a place that appeared in several Barks stories": are you sure about this? I only recall Barks using Pizen Bluff once, in U$ 26. He did, however, use a "Pizen Spring" in WDC&S 102 and a "Pizen Valley" in WDC&S 207.

February 27, 2015 at 5:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, this is the point where I most diverge with you so far. I think this is a great send up of the idea of the Magnificent Seven, or really the whole western posse. Why does there need to be a point behind having these historical figures do this? Why can't it just be fun? Barnum leading a group of show-offs and braggarts who are nevertheless somewhat competent sounds like a very Terry Gilliam thing to do, and I love it.

The one thing I really agree with is that Oakley is poorly used. My guess is, in order to avoid depicting what would have been a much more violent showdown in real life, Rosa had to stick to slapstick, as in that great page where Pothole embellishes a false fight. He didn't want to depict Oakley as a buffoon, so he mostly left her out.

September 16, 2017 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I'm sad to say that while reading the Fantagraphics edition of this story I discover a fatal error (and an odd one conisdering Rosa himself guided this edition) - the names of The Dalton brothers get swich.

While the name of Bob is consinstant, the one in white is first refrence as Emmet while the mustache one called Gratton, bur latter in the book Bob calls the mustash one Emmet while he say "I better warn Gratton".

Ummm.... Is this some bizzar homage to Lucky Luke series where the names of his (fictional) Dalton brothers Jack and William got swhich around all the time?

October 11, 2022 at 3:49 PM  

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