Sunday, April 8, 2012

"The Easter Eggs-port"

Rodolfo Cimino, a prolific Italian Disney writer, passed away on March 31, at the age of eighty-four.  His last story that inducks lists came out just a few weeks before, so he was working right up to the end, which seems like a noble way to go--you don't want to be doing hard labor all your life, but for something not physically taxing like duck scripts, by all means--I'd go for that.  

Cimino had only come to my attention recently, when commenter Elaine hooked me up with some of his work in French (and thanks again for that).  He wrote some very interesting stuff--interesting in ways that you wouldn't have any reason to anticipate if you were only familiar with the three stories of his that Gemstone published.  I actually want to share a few of his stories here, but given that one of those Gemstone offerings is sort-of-almost-though-not-really Easter-themed, starting here and now seemed like good synchronicity.

Well, let's get right into it.  It should be noted that this 1965 entry is one of Those stories--it may not have been written by Romano Scarpa, but there's plenty of stuff that's highly reminiscent of his more eccentric plot twists.  All due credit should go to Dave Gerstein's English script--it's good enough that it makes the goofiness go down more easily than it might.  I can just imagine how terrible this thing would be if it had a script on par with the worst of those Literature Classics.

As far as this alarming news goes, or at least the part where Scrooge loses his gold mine, let me just say this, playing my expected bomb-throwing role: good.  Presumably Porto Gordo is not a rich country; the last thing they need is some fuckass foreign tycoon sucking away all their natural resources.  Granted, given that we're talking about a "corrupt army big cheese" the people aren't likely to see much if any benefit from that gold, but am I really to think that the new situation is actually worse for them?  I feel like there should be a solution other than "Scrooge gets the gold" or "the corrupt régime gets it."

Far be it from me to tell you how to run your corrupt régime, but I can't help but think that alienating potential trading partners like this is not really your best interests, if you want to have any staying power--this may not be relevant if you're actually a cartoon supervillain like in North Korea, but otherwise, this one could probably use some rethinking.  If I were Scrooge here, I'd just say, okay, fine--but you know that I'm incredibly wealthy, right?  And that I own a whole bunch of newspapers and TV networks?  And that telling the world what you're doing and making your entire goddamn country into a global pariah would be substantially easier for me than falling off a log?  For a global tycoon, Scrooge seems surprisingly inclined to take things lying down.

Here's the nub of the matter.  I like the way it's presented in such a matter-of-fact way, as though it's a thing that makes sense.  I'm trying to imagine what evolutionary advantage might have caused Porto Gordan hens to develop in this way.  Maybe their food supply was tainted with lead for some reason, and the few of them that had the unusual ability to pass it safely into their eggs were the only ones who didn't get poisoned and thus were able to pass on their genes.  But…it couldn't be good for the  chicks to hatch out of lead-contaminated eggs.  Hmm.  I think this line of inquiry may ultimately prove fruitless.

Here's a good place to note that this is some pretty off-model art here.  The ducks' necks are disturbingly long and thin, and just look at the nephews' expressions there, fercrissake.  The whole thing frequently looks like a cheap, unlicensed, Taiwanese knock-off of a duck comic.  The art is credited to Romano Scarpa (pencils) and Giorgio Cavazzano (ink).  Someone has to explain to me the distinction here, but I think that the former is more instrumental than the latter in the comic's look.  An' this sure ain't Scarpa's greatest artistic triumph, I'll tell you that much. 

Still, if you can get pas the fact that it's based on this bizarre mutant-chicken concept, the general idea here is clever-ish.

David, you magnificent bastard.

It's not so uncommon to see pop culture references in Disney comics, but it is uncommon to see such an extended riff on a specific song.  I think a lot of people are embarrassed to admit they like Duran Duran, but not me: they were a great pop band.  Well, for their first three albums, anyway.  Then they got decidedly wobbly.  Though their theme from A View to a Kill is still pretty awesome.  Look, this is neither here nor there.  I just wanted to make note of it: I don't generally expect my respective loves of Disney comics and eighties pop music to intersect like this, so it's an odd (but cool!) feeling when they do.  There's a fine line drawing my senses together, and I think it's about to break.

UPDATE: If you were wondering what the fuck I was talking about in the above paragraph, it's probably because I stuck the wrong image there.  Fixed.

Gotta note that the Beagles are even more malformed than the ducks, though.  They seem to be hard for a lot of artists to get right; there are a number of Battista Carpi stories, for instance, that I like, art included, but that have some really fubar'd looking Beagles.  I suppose that sort of ovoid shape is more difficult than a plain ol' duck is.

…anyway, they figure out what's going on, and here's the plan.  And not a bad one either, I must say.  Sometimes, for no particular reason, I try to read Disney comics in the most credulous way possible, so when the bad guys concoct their plans, I think, oh man, this is foolproof!  No way Scrooge/Donald/Mickey is getting out of this one!  That's what I've got going on here.

Things continue to be agreeably weird as the ducks capture the Beagles' falcon and subject him to an interrogation.  I don't think you should kill birds in fits of rage anyway, but if we are to take it--and we are--that they're basically as intelligent as the "human" characters, then Scrooge here seems to be planning on nothing less than cold-blooded murder.  Brutal stuff.

…okay, here you just have to laugh.  I should note that one thing that's not a Cimino-absurdity is the idea that the Helper can understand birds.  That's established Barksian fact, baby!

The Beagles making this huge-ass hawk-shaped helicopter is a nice grandiose touch, reminiscent of yer Paul Bunyan machines and yer giant, shark-shaped pirate ships (though this story originally came out before that last one made its appearance).

Yes, Gyro used a potion to turn the hens murderous.  Hey, whatever works, I suppose, although solving the problem with Gyro-magic like this seems a bit more deus-ex-machiny than I'd like.

AND SO.  I must say, this régime must've been pretty half-assed to fall so easily.  I don't know that it was "taking credit" for the hens per se, but…

Oh well.  In spite of its problems, this story is quite a fun piece of work; certainly the best of the three Cimino stories to see US publication.  It was printed in US376, near the end of Gemstone's run; one of the others, the contemporaneous "Last Hero of Banania," had appeared three issues prior (the other is a fairly unexceptional, later thing called "The Bronze Gate" that appeared in Donald Duck Adventures 16).  Perhaps this indicates that if the line had continued, we would have seen more like this, which would have been no bad thing.

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Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo writes: “David, you magnificent bastard.”

Yep! He’s all that an’ a bag o’ quips!

This is what I mean when I continue to say that these stories need dialogue from persons who KNOW the stuff, and actually give a shit about making it read better than they found it! Compare stuff like this with the earliest Boom! issues for the best examples of what I mean!

I don’t call him “The Incomparable David Gerstein” for nuthin’!

“‘Enery the Eighth”, I am… I am!

April 8, 2012 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

Well, this looks like a Junior Woodchucks script to me...all taht's missing is an environmental message.

Now I'm going to go read "The Bronze Gate" - because it turns out I have that issue. I like how that works out. ;)

April 9, 2012 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Scarpa's artwork, as you note several times, got really off-putting at around this time. Perhaps Cavazzano shares some of the credit, or blame. But those inflated lower torsos -- a real turn-off.


April 9, 2012 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

Well, I read "The Bronze Gate". Here are the highlights:

1) Scrooge has a butler named Quackmore and a robot on staff - not once does he say "Hey, you've got the same name as my brother-in-law!"

2) A robot? it seems like these are semi-recurring characters.

3)We have present-day Scrooge going at it solo this time. That does not happen often enough, in my opinion.

4) the rock maze does not look particularly challenging - he could just cheat by hopping up to the top of the walls and walk along the ledges.

5) the business of having to ram your head against the doors to enter reminded me of how Al Bundy used to bet he could run his head through a brick wall in High School. Scrooge is really taking after Donald, here.

6) the English script is uncredited - all the quotations from Oscar Wilde and others would suggest Geoffrey Blum, but he tended to hide those things better.

7) I think we're missing a sequence where the nephews reveal this was all a colossal prank on Scrooge for making them clean his library and the villagers were Junior Woodchucks in disguise.

8)so what if the treasure (ordinary fleece) turned out to be lame - show it!

Grade: B- (I didn't hate it) :)

April 11, 2012 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Not sure about the robot, but I know Quackmore has been a recurring character in Italian stories since way back.

Don't know about the English script, but I don't think Geoffrey Blum ever did localization work for Gemstone. Dave could presumably enlighten us as to who did this one, if he chose to.

April 11, 2012 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Hey, since when did I know the answer to every Gemstone mystery? Snort! (Translation—I'll ask around and see, but I don't know yet. All I know is that it wasn't Geoff, and wasn't me.)

April 12, 2012 at 6:34 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I guess I just assumed that, as the all-mighty King of Gemstone, you were omniscient.

April 12, 2012 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Er—thanks (?). As Archival Editor, I sorta came under Editor-in-Chief John Clark, without whom I couldn't have done darn near nuthin'.
I might be King of the Bungaloos, but not of Gemstone. (Though rumor has it, Geoff, that you're the Duke of Dipp...)

April 12, 2012 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Nobody can stop me from taking that as a compliment!

April 13, 2012 at 1:14 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"The Beagles making this huge-ass hawk-shaped helicopter is a nice grandiose touch, reminiscent of yer Paul Bunyan machines and yer giant, shark-shaped pirate ships (though this story originally came out before that last one made its appearance).": What it's especially reminiscent of to me is McSwine's own "helicomonster" in Barks's later Cattle King. It's just a coincidence, of course…

February 8, 2016 at 5:48 AM  
Anonymous Bird of Paradise said...

Just put a crown on a ordinary bird and he can make the hawk sing and the helicopter made to look like a Giant Hawk something right out of Scooby Doo

November 22, 2017 at 1:39 AM  

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