Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: Towards an Epilogue-ish Thing

Man, I keep trying to write a definitive epilogue, and it keeps not quite working. Let's consider this a work in progress, shall we? For now, a few thoughts on an important and, I think, oft-missed aspect of Rosa's work.

In comments, Elaine said something that sort of clarified my thoughts on the subject of this whole series. She wrote:

My godson, a huge Scrooge fan (thanks to me!), has always believed that the boys' parents had to undertake a diplomatic mission to an alien race in outer space (for which they were for some reason uniquely qualified), but when I suggested that to Rosa, he rejected it as being too much a "silly superhero" plot!

My immediate reaction to this was, really? The guy who wrote a story (and a very good story, I might add) called "Attack of the Hideous Space Varmints" is dismissing plot ideas on the basis that they're too "silly?" And The guy who wrote a sequel to Barks' "Super Snooper" is dismissing plot ideas on the basis that they're too superhero-y? Where's the logic here?

But on reflection, it's actually pretty simple: space varmints may be okay for a regular story, but when we're talking about these serious, canonical family matters--then, we have to get serious. No such silliness will be permitted.

There are these two impulses in Rosa's work, which are rarely in harmony: on the one hand, the impulse to just write regular, fun duck stories; on the other, the impulse to ruthlessly quantify the duckiverse in a consistent, coherent way. That's why it's often difficult to imagine that his modern-day Scrooge is the same character that had all those L&T adventures. Occasionally, as in "Last Sled to Dawson," he manages to more or less bring these two tendencies into balance, but usually, a story's basically one or the other. Granted, it's hard, when you think about it, to conceive of all Barks stories taking place in the same world either, but that's not a self-conscious thing: Barks was never trying to create a single, unified setting, so he needs make no excuses.

This is why I find it somewhat difficult to really place the L&T in the context of Rosa's other works. I've carped a lot in this series about the contradiction between Scrooge-the-Jerk and Scrooge-the-Paragon, but it's not so surprising if you consider his corpus in these terms: he's trying to include both aspects of his work in the same stories, with sometimes-confounding results.

This isn't exactly by way of criticism; Rosa's work would be a lot less interesting (if it could even exist at all) without its internal tension. I do think, however, that the history-type stories often do suffer from all this weight they're trying to shoulder--they sometimes seem to sort of forget that they're supposed to be Disney comics, you might say. Don't get me wrong; the L&T is impressive as hell, and I love "A Letter from Home" as how indeed can one not. But in general, my favorite stories tend to be those that are more classically-oriented, with maybe just a nod or two in the direction of the family stuff. Stories like "Last Sled to Dawson," "Return to Xanadu," and like that. I'm not trying to claim that this bifurcation is something that Rosa was likely consciously struggling with; I think it was just a natural result of what he was trying to do. It would certainly have been fascinating to see how he dealt with it in future efforts.

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Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo writes:

“But on reflection, it's actually pretty simple: space varmints may be okay for a regular story, but when we're talking about these serious, canonical family matters--then, we have to get serious. No such silliness will be permitted.”

I’d say you hit it exactly on the head!

December 29, 2011 at 4:40 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Another aspect of this whole thing that should be pointed out – and this is as good a spot for it as anywhere – is that Barks (implicitly) and Rosa (much more explicitly) seems be to saying that there was once a time for “Larger Than Life, Self-Made Men” – and, by the post WWII period, that time had surely passed.

Consider this excerpt from my DVD review of the “The Most Dangerous Game" (1932), which I hope to post on my Blog someday, on the film’s producer Merian C. Cooper – who was also responsible for the original “King Kong” and (with the great John Ford) films like John Wayne’s “Fort Apache”:

“In real life, Cooper fought against Poncho Villa, was captured by Germans in WWI, and flew against the Soviets on behalf of Poland! (Joe’s Note: To him, Count Zaroff [ of “The Most Dangerous Game” ] and King Kong must have seemed like a walk in the park!) ”

Sure sounds as if you could tell some “Life and Times” stories about HIM. Yet, could he have existed in the Post War world? Much less our modern one? I sure doubt it.

And that, more than anything else, has always been the point of “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck to me.

Say, how did Rosa (film buff that he is) omit any possible meeting between Scrooge and Merian C. Cooper, anyway!

December 29, 2011 at 4:58 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


You have a great idea regarding Scrooge meeting Merian Cooper. One problem, though: before he got involved with movie production, Cooper's exploits were primarily war-related (Pancho Villa, fighting in the White Russian armies, etc.). I rather doubt that Rosa wanted to "go there."


I, too, have a general preference for stories in which Rosa uses the "Clan McDuck" material as a supplement to the main action. It is easier for me to bring specific scenes and moments to mind from such tales as "Son of the Sun" and "Return to Xanadu" than it is to focus on similar moments in any particular chapter of LATOSM.


December 29, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Chris writes:

“You have a great idea regarding Scrooge meeting Merian Cooper. One problem, though: before he got involved with movie production, Cooper's exploits were primarily war-related (Pancho Villa, fighting in the White Russian armies, etc.). I rather doubt that Rosa wanted to "go there."”.

Well. lessee…

Scrooge DID get involved in one war – in 1966-era Unsteadystan. And was still selling munitions to them (presumably to the peaceful, winning side of the benevolent Prince Char-Ming) as recently as 2007’s UNCLE SCROOGE # 370.

But I fancy Scrooge encountering Cooper more as a FLYER / adventurer, independent of any armed conflict.

Cooper DID have a cameo as one of the attack flyers in KING KONG (according to the Blu-ray), so he could have functioned as a bombastic, competent version of Launchpad in service to some of McDuck’s far-flung enterprises.

During that missing period before Chapter 12, Scrooge could have backed Cooper’s first turn as a Hollywood producer.

And, in addition to Cooper’s early films, didn’t RKO release the Disney cartoons? Scrooge could have met Walt while bankrolling Cooper at an exorbitant rate of interest! “The Robber-Baron of the Back Lot”! …Or, the man who put the “KO” in “RKO”!

RKO also produced “Citizen Kane” bringing the idea of the final chapter of “Life and Times” to an absolutely wonderful place for us and movie buffs like Rosa!

December 29, 2011 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


If you're going to involve Scrooge with RKO, then it seems a shame that he couldn't meet Howard Hughes (maybe reconstituted as Howard Huge in the manner of the TALE SPIN character). But Hughes took over RKO after the events of LATOSM -- in 1948, to be precise -- so it couldn't really fit into LATOSM continuity, could it?

From what I've read of Cooper, he wasn't "bombastic" so much as excitable, always convinced that he was going to come up with an even better idea than the one he had just had. Imagine a combination of Fenton Crackshell and Launchpad. Then, stand back.


December 29, 2011 at 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Yes, I agree with Geo and Joe that when it comes to what happened to the Duck family members, Rosa needs to keep things more historically believable. That's fine with me--to each her/his own approach, and Rosa's gave us a bin-full of riches. Personally, I also enjoy his "classically oriented" stories more than his family history ones, though I am charmed by his achievement in the family history line (rather as I am charmed by the Baker Street Irregulars, as I said earlier).

What my godson was trying to do in his "ambassador to alien race" storyline was to come up with some explanation for (1) how HD&L's parents could be away for such a long time and (2) have no contact with the boys and (3) not be dead and (4) have had a sufficient reason for leaving them. The outer space travel explains 1 & 2, while his idea was that their unique qualification for this ambassadorial role meant that they were possibly saving the world from the hostilities that would arise from a lack of diplomatic contact. (It was in part this "saving the world" aspect that made Rosa see this plot as belonging in the superhero genre.) For my young godson, though, only the goal of saving the world would be (4) important enough to justify deserting your children for years. (He has a point, there.) And as a child of the late 20th century, he didn't think there could be a place on earth where they could get lost for years with no possible contact. Rosa is thinking in mid-20th century terms, where the latter possibility is more imaginable. Of course I don't know how he was thinking about explaining how/why Della & husband had decided to go far away together without the boys (presumably thinking it would be for a short time), how they got lost, how the boys could find out where they've been from the Tralla Lallians without actually finding them and thereafter going back to live with them.

On the subject of stories featuring space travel: I read somewhere Rosa's commentary that he wants to keep historically true to the 1950's setting, which means only a few satellites, no Duckburg space travel (Barks to the contrary notwithstanding). Hideous Space Varmints may have space travel, but not the ducks themselves. So I think this was why he later decided that "The Duck Who Fell to Earth" was mistaken in showing duck space travel. And this was why, when he did the art for Gary Leach's "Rocket Reverie," he added a dream framing device in the first panel (not suggested in the script), to make the space travel story a fantasy.

December 31, 2011 at 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only other thing I could imagine that fits those criteria and remains in the not-realistic-but-still-set-somewhat-in-the-real-world-but-with-cartoon-physics-and-magic-and-dinosaurs world of Rosa is the Bermuda Triangle.

I hit Rosa before I hit Barks, which... is different, I suspect, than many people. But when you take Rosa's work and put it in context with Barks, strictly speaking, it doesn't work and you just have to ignore things. So I honestly don't know what interpretation of Barks he holds. I suspect with that we would have a better answer as to how to place The Life and Times, which is the summation of his love of Barksian facts, placing them in a realistic framework, and keeping away the fantastic.

December 31, 2011 at 1:47 PM  

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