Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Chapter Eight: "King of the Klondike"

Well, here we are--money is about to be made. Some of the previous entries, entertaining though they are, could really be said to be basically just making time--but this one, obviously, is pivotal.

...though for such an important story, it starts off somewhat wobblily, with this bit where Scrooge meets Wyatt Earp ('cause why not?) who gets offended when some other dude wants to pick a fight with Scrooge instead of him. Yeah, there needs to be a way for Scrooge to be broke so he's forced to borrow money from Soapy Slick (from Barks' "North of the Yukon," o'course), but this feels needlessly baroque.

Of course, Rosa makes sure to stick Goldie in here somewhere. It's interesting to see her dressed casually and not elaborately coifed (she gets somewhat disheveled in the next installment, but she never quite looks like this again). Obviously, she can't play much of a role here, inasmuch as the story, naturally, climaxes (spoiler alert!) with Scrooge finding the goose-egg nugget, and the stuff in "Back to the Klondike" takes place after that. Nonetheless, it feels like a real lacuna in the text (that was later filled, obviously, and then some) to not have her more involved. I guess the assumption would be that what Barks depicts is what happens and that's about that, but if this is supposed to be in any sense a stand-alone text, that's an important part of the story to be missing--"what's the POINT of this important-looking character who shows up and serves no meaningful purpose?" the initiate might wonder. The other bonus installments of the story may be just that, but VIIIb and VIIIc really do feel essential.

This here's Casey Coot, Grandma Duck's brother and Scrooge's sister's future uncle-in-law. Apparently, there was a previous version of the story in which his family appeared and played an important role. I suppose it's probably true that this would've taken away from the main action, but I still sure woulda loved to see it.

So here's my problem with the story: the idea is that Scrooge has to get down and dirty and work himself half to death to make his fortune. But...the story doesn't really do much to depict this. Instead, we get a lot of him casually and seemingly effortlessly engaging in superheroics like the above. The effort isn't as apparent as, I feel, it should be. If he's some invincible demigod, it's not that impressive when he does larger-than-life things.

I'm impressed, however, by the extent to which Rosa is willing to depict him quashing his nobler instincts like this. It really lends credence to the idea that his path is far from unambiguously a positive one.

At any rate, he eventually gets captured by Soapy and these other thugs, and I am just endlessly taken aback by the sheer emotional brutality on display here. If there's anything else remotely comparable to this in Disney comics, I'd sure like you to tell me what it is. I suppose you could argue about whether this is tonally appropriate, but it works for me--you wouldn't want to see something like it every day, but at this point in the story, it feels earned.

Now, as for the next part, Rosa spends a lot of time in his commentary laboriously explaining the whole riverboat-destruction sequence, trying to make it clear that Scrooge isn't meant to be turning into some sorta Rob-Liefield-esque freak. I do think he muddied the waters a little bit by including this image,

which, there's no getting around it, is pretty damned ridiculous-looking.

However, as far as the actual action here,

I think it's quite clear what's going on: that it's an effort to add some mythology to the story; it's not one hundred percent clear what's happening because the line between reality and legend is blurred by time and retelling. Still, I can understand the confusion, and here's why: we've talked in comments about one objection to this whole series--possibly the objection that we all sort of vaguely remember Barks himself maybe having--being that it attempts to nail down the character of Scrooge; make his story "realistic" in a way that was never intended. We can argue all night about whether this is a wrongheaded move or not, but it's certainly what the story's doing. And now, to suddenly decide, after all this time, oh no, we're going to have some mythologizing after all...well, it's a little bit jarring, is all. A perhaps overly abrupt paradigm shift.

Still, I personally have no problem with this sequence. I do think it works in spite of everything. I've complained in the past about Scrooge being too over-the-top awesome in these stories, but jeez, people, his nemesis just chained him up, stole his claim, and mockingly broke the news of his mother's death--if that's not grounds for some truly epic breakage, I don't know what is.

I do, however, think that this would have somewhat greater impact if we'd seen a little more of Downy--obviously, Scrooge's family members are peripheral characters, but even given that limitation, Fergus gets way more page-time/personality than she does. Also, the fact that Scrooge apparently instantly gets over this to the extent that he doesn't even consider the possibility of packing up and going home is a little odd. You'd think there'd at least be a panel or two of him agonizing over what to do.

…and here we go. This is more or less where the Scrooge that we know and love/hate is born. A suitably dramatic conclusion. And…a pretty good installment, in spite of my complaining.

But we ain't done with the Yukon yet, not by a long shot. Tomorrow, the series gets a li'l bit racy in "Prisoner of White Agony Creek." Won't somebody think of the children?!? God, I hope not.

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Blogger Chris Barat said...


I'd prefer to think of Scrooge's "Samson act" as tongue in cheek exaggeration, but you're right; he would certainly be JUSTIFIED in "acquiring the strength of thousands" just for a moment here, in order to exact revenge.

(I highly doubt that even Soapy Slick would openly advertise that he was a crook, though!)


December 18, 2011 at 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I definitely agree about the emotional beats of the series... I really am not sure why he didn't decide to go home. Feels like a plot hole to me! If only Rosa had been given an extra ten pages for Chapter 1... a couple more pages of Scrooge's home life, and that prologue for the McDucks? What could have been!

I was the Anon guy who linked you the missing/early draft pages pages, and you can actually see a draft of the alternate King of the Klondike there. The 'supporting cast' sequence is about nine pages. Very curious what you think of the whole thing.

Blame my lack of education for not really knowing much about literary criticism, but the death of the author theory is one I am interested to see if you subscribe to. I always interpreted the riverboat sequence as an actual feat of grief-fueled rage, not the legend that Rosa prefers it to be. It's too jarring to see a sequence as other people interpret it, rather than a biography of Scrooge. Doesn't make much sense to me.

I know this is nitpicky, but absolutely cringe at the liberties taken by the coloring. The gradients make the whole chapter feel so washed out and digital, rather than the lush, Disney style colors I enjoy so much. The 'greying' of background details makes Rosa's artwork appear so much simpler than it really is. I hope the Scandinavian editions aren't like that!

December 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

“Won't somebody think of the children?!? God, I hope not.”

Geo: If at all possible, try not to give an impression that will result in the prevention or modifying of ALL future printings of this story! Ya know things like that DO happen – justified or (much more often) not.

December 18, 2011 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 18, 2011 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Yeah, if enough people complain, pretty soon all reprints of the Duck comics will be altered to correct the fact that they never wear any pants.

December 18, 2011 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I hear you, Joe--but seriously, all I'm going to be doing is pointing out things that are *right there in the story* for everyone to see, and none too subtly so, either. I find this idea that you can print things but you can't *talk* about these things or else someone in charge might notice a little on the perverse side.

December 18, 2011 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Perhaps so, Geo. But nevertheless, there is NO logic to the way the process works. It can change from day to day, and from person to person, so I tend to tread lightly, lest we ALL suffer the consequences.

“Christopher” may make light of this (above) but it *IS* how this strange game works. On that, you can trust me.

December 18, 2011 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

In all seriousness, could you point me to an actual *example* of a story being censored after someone pointed out stuff about it online? 'Cause I've heard David take that line too, but I sure haven't seen any examples of it. I'm not saying I don't believe this, but I'd like to see something concrete to go on before I take it as given.

December 18, 2011 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Joe, I know that you're right. That is how it works. I do trust you on that.

I know that a recent edition of "Luck of the North" had the line "We've been gypped!" changed to "We've been rooked!" because someone complained that the word was an insult to gypsies.

Also, regarding my earlier comment, an element of urban myth has crept into that:

December 18, 2011 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo and Christopher: I really didn’t want this topic to become predominant, but it does and has happened. I’ll let Christopher’s example (which I claim no first-hand knowledge of – but it is SO in-line with other examples) speak for itself.

When you say you’ve seen no such examples, I’m sure that’s true. For the sake of argument, let’s assume Christopher’s example to be true (…And for the record, I certainly believe it!). Did you see that one occur – and know the reason why? I’d guess not. Lots of things “just go on” without public knowledge. That’s one, and others happen too. And, I’m far from privy to it – even being on the extreme freelance periphery of things. The less publicity of this sort, one would assume, the better for all involved. But, it’s happened at least since the ‘70s name change of “Black Pete”. And it will continue happening and evolving as attitudes do.

December 18, 2011 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That's really all this is? "Gypped" became "hosed" and something about Black Pete; therefore, writing honestly about any at all risque story will invoke the wrath of the powers that be? That really doesn't sound at all paranoid to you? To quote Monday Night Football, c'mon, man!

This is hardly the first time I've written about sex in Disney comics, so why is this suddenly such a concern? Tomorrow, the chips are going to fall where they may. It ain't gonna be anything that hasn't already been read and noted by hundreds of thousands of people and that Rosa himself hasn't publicly acknowledged. Compared to that, this blog is almost literally nothing.

December 18, 2011 at 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not just publicly, it's in the freaking 'making of' that accompanies every single version of this story.

December 18, 2011 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

“That's really all this is? "Gypped" became "hosed" and something about Black Pete”

Clearly, you misunderstand us, if you take away from our comments that those two examples are “all” there is. Guns, ethnicities, even characters behaving in a less than positive manner… the list goes on and one. “War of the Wendigo’. A Beagle ridiculously holding up Scrooge with a finger in the ‘80s. Mickey in prison. Most recently “Muddy Dick” the whale (Think about it -- there’s more than one problem someone had with that!) . The alterations of casual turns of phrase. The list would seem to be longer than you know. But, it’s your Blog – and lots of what I enjoy about it is that “spit in your eye” attitude. So, blow our doors off, Geo! …Or was it “knock our [ fraggin’] socks off!”

December 19, 2011 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

That should be "on and on" -- not "on and one". (Oops!)

December 19, 2011 at 8:00 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Okay, but did "War of the Wendigo's" difficult release history have anything to do with random civilians talking about it? Or was it just Disney freaking out at the concept itself? That seems to be the point here. If you can't even describe the basic plot of a story without setting off alarm bells in a certain kind of person's head (which I think it's fair to assume is what happened with "Wendigo"), I don't think there's much you can do about it.

December 19, 2011 at 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the idea is that Scrooge has to get down and dirty and work himself half to death to make his fortune. But...the story doesn't really do much to depict this."

What about the panels that show him cutting trees and building the cabin? Well, if those aren't enough, at least 8B devotes some time explicitly to demonstrating the hard life of a sourdough.

I personally love the riverboat destruction and the way it's handled, too. I didn't see it as a paradigm shift because this series is a modern epic like The Iliad and The Kalevala: taking the myriad characters and stories about the mythology of your culture and putting them into one big story. Super hero comics are often compared to the ancient Greek myths, but the Duck comics work the same way (except the material is a million times better). Making one story out of related myths doesn't de-mythologize the story -- it emphasizes it by putting it all in the spotlight. Life and Times is our culture's Odyssey, Orlando Furioso, or Paradise Lost -- putting the legends into coherent narrative form doesn't mean the legendary aspect will or should be eliminated entirely.

Besides, leaving things to the reader's imagination is a commonplace writing technique that's been used by non-comic book writers for projects completely different from this for centuries, and it's no more jarring or inappropriate here than it is in Jane Austen, The Chronicles of Narnia, or Harry Potter.

February 19, 2016 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger birkoo said...

yeah, scrooge's moms non personality and us not given a follow up to his awesome boat demolition, contemplating how things are different now, really highlight how rosa was shackled by his editors, in both how much space he had to work with, and how much interaction he was allowed to show with the rather interesting mcduck clan.

its not for nothing that the tale where the editors actually allowed scrooge to actually meets his sister again after so long, and showing how their relationship had changed and the two coming to grips with past and present was probably Rosa's best tale. and in my opinion, it was the true finale to his work(prisoner is great too, but it didnt really serve as such a great ending as letter did).

July 6, 2017 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

"Ridiculous-looking?" Are you out of your MIND? That panel is absolutely terrifying. The look in Scrooge's eyes would give Chernabog from FANTASIA instant PTSD.

January 24, 2022 at 3:10 PM  

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