Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"War and Peace"

Listen, I have just one word for you people:

Okay, make that two words:

(Okay okay, three if you count "and."  SHUT UP.)

(In addition to everything else, the Literature Classics editors actually did a decent job of putting together an English-language title--something that's not at all guaranteed with these things.)

FUCK.  I really can't get over how good Carpi could be.  I am seriously considering trying to learn just enough Italian to limp through this with the help of google translate.  I'm not sure I've EVER seen Disney art quite this good (I'll grant you, Donald's thought balloon there adds a perhaps unnecessarily sour note to the proceedings, but that's not reflected in the story itself).

Now, I HAVE read War and Peace, but that was when I was a college sophomore, more years ago than I care to think about.  I remember liking it but finding the "war" parts to be a bit tedious; the main point, though, is that I remember virtually nothing about it, so I'm just going to go through this story as a Disney story, without any reference to the source material.  I think that'll be fine.

Well, the story starts with Scrooge, annoyed with always being stuck with the bills for his dissolute nephew's carousing, determines that he should marry this here Helena Kuraghin (is her character model based on someone in particular?  It's quite distinctive).  With Carpi at his best, you just get all these great background details--there's a similarity to Rosa in that regard, though obviously their styles could not be more different.  My favorite here is the angry band--note that in their ferocity, they've straight-up flung a balalaika into the air.

Also worthy of note: the script is pretty good here.  It really is.  Yeah, it can be a bit stiff, but you also get great lines like Helena's in the bottom right panel there.  I assume--anyone who knows and who cares to can confirm or deny--that this is all a fairly direct translation from the Italian, but that's what I assumed about those other volumes in the series that have really awful scripts.  Is Carpi simply a better writer than most of his peers?  It would not surprise me.

Now, this whole Helena business--which takes place before the main story really gets going--is sort of typical in a lot of ways, and yeah, it's hard to deny that it's a bit on the sexist side.  But in that regard, I feel a bit like I do about the Ducktales episode "Metal Attraction:" yes, it's undeniably problematic; I can see that, but it's executed with so much energy and panache that I can't help kinda loving it anyway.  Dig Donald's pose in the upper right and his wish for violence against the serenading violin.

Anyway, that ends when he alienates her by insulting her cooking, and we get this: I like how Donald has the upper hand; as you can see, the plan is to protect Scrooge's wealth by disguising it as cannonballs (one guess as to what goes wrong with this scheme).

Actually, this is not a particularly Beagle-oriented story, even though they do appear with designs on his wealth.  I'm mainly just including this image because: behold!  A rare example of Disney characters failing to be taken in by disguises!  And these are actually pretty good disguises, comparatively speaking.  Ain't no justice.

There's a bit of duckless material, as Czar Alexander meets with Napoleon.  See?  "Emperor of Light Opera."  That's a pretty good insult, of a level of sophistication you really would not expect.

Then, toy cannon battle, which seems to me to be another detail of the sort that other artists just wouldn't think to include.  It's just fun to look at, which is important for a visual medium.

So anyway, this means war.  Donald is supposed to be taking the special cannonballs to safety.  But he isn't.  Check out ol' Gladstone Bolkonski, there.  Enjoy him now, because this is his first and last appearance in the story.  I do not think that cameos like this are a particularly good idea.  They're really just distracting, and they work against the story's having a self-contained, coherent structure.

But once again, dig all the great detail here.

Meanwhile, we have this bucolic scene.  Sometimes I think Carpi would've been as suited to illustrate faerie tales as he was to do duck comics.  Just look at that tree/house hybrid.

Donald's on his way to try to intercept the special cannonballs headed for the front when he stops here.  The business with his horse finding love too is just another great detail.  Donald meeting his love interest by rocketing in like this may be familiar from "Sandoduck."

Simply beautiful.  What else is there to say?

But now…it's off to the WAR:

"Holy shit," is the phrase that I uttered quite involuntarily when I first turned the page and saw this.  No, your eyes do not deceive you: it's a double-page spread.  If I think back on the thousands of Disney comics I've read, I can't absolutely swear that I've never seen this done before, but even if I have, it's certainly vanishingly rare.  Of course, most stories probably don't really call for such a thing--but for this, based on one of the epic-est entries in the Western canon, it seems reasonable.  And holy god is it ever awesome.

(Someone may point out at this point that Boom's Darkwing Duck featured a number of double-page spreads.  Undeniably true, but those comics are really a different sort of thing than what we generally think of when we think of Disney comics, aren't they?  Besides, this is cooler.)

…oh, and then he does it again, possibly even better.  Not only can't Carpi stop, but I would go so far as to say he won't stop.  

So but the cannonballs have been seized by the French.  How do get them back?

Well, she might help.  Good for Carpi: this is the first time in one of his stories I've ever seen Daisy take so active a role.  Fetching disguise, too.

So here's my thought: if you read Tolstoy or other nineteenth-century Russian novelists, you'll know that they tend to include large chunks of dialogue in French, as the language was à la mode among the Russian aristocracy.  English translators handle this in various ways: sometimes they just go ahead and translate it along with the Russian, perhaps putting it in Italics to distinguish it.  Sometimes they relegate the translations to footnotes.  And sometimes, when they're feeling really ballsy and hate their readers, they just straight-up leave it in the original, and if you don't read French, screw you.  Anyway, my only point is, it would be pretty funny in a perverse way if this comic did that too.

"Girl duck."  Well, I admitted that the translation wasn't perfect, didn't I?  "Waggon," however, is a variant British spelling, which for some reason I did not know.

So the idea is that they recover the cannonballs by quickly moving them from the enemies wagons to theirs while distracting the French troops with food.  This is fine, and it seems like we're basically done here, but…

(The idea being that the Russian army desperately needs cannonballs and Scrooge's special ones are the only ones to be had.)

Yes, it's a duck story that ends with Scrooge losing all his money.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  A nice touch the way his glasses crack when he's acceding to the inevitable.  But I don't think he's pretending, Donald.  Even if he recognizes the necessity, he still loves his cash.  Really, now.

(And shouldn't that be "motherland?"  Mother Russia?  Hello?)

How's that for romantic?  I'd be lying, however, if I said I understood Scrooge sneaking around in silhouette like that.  I thought he was going to America?  This may well be a specific Tolstoy reference that is going over my head.

That's about that.  I find it amazing that such an auteur as Scarpi is basically unknown in the US.  I mean, I'm actually not sure how many really great stories he did--I've been unimpressed with various of his art-only efforts, and I read this and this which were good-not-great--but when he was On, mon dieu.  The fact that he's basically unknown in the US is some sorta crime against art.  The hypothetical new Disney publisher really needs to get on that shit.



Blogger Chris Barat said...


I've never read WAR AND PEACE, so can't comment on the in-jokes and references to Tolstoy. I did notice that reference to (Michel) Platini the 1970s and 1980s French soccer star, however. That's the sort of "out-of-place pop-culture reference" that I occasionally saw in those GOOFY costume tales.

Gotta say, Carpi's artwork is really beautiful here; he does an especially good job with the female characters. I wonder why he chose to render Napoleon and the Tsar as humans, though.

This would have been great to have seen in a Gemstone digest, don't you think?


May 9, 2012 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Absolutely--Gemstone's digests would've been perfect for this and other older stories.

May 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

...and unsurprisingly, I totally missed the soccer reference. Good catch.

May 9, 2012 at 1:42 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Oh yes, "Messer Papero" indeed is a story worth to learn *ANY* language for! :D

I must admit I don't know much about writing talents at Mondadori and Disney Italy. For the past circa 25 years, I've been mostly caring for visual aspects, such as the inker's drawing style (which always made me favor Cavazzano, Carpi, and Massimo De Vita over anybody else) and the coloring (as much as a good thing as it is that Carpi's "War and Peace" is finally seeing a release in the modern world language, I somehow feel the digests have lost something in either coloring and/or color printing quality since about the mid-90s, a malady that also these recent "Disney's Literature Classics" are suffering from, whereas I don't mean the fact that back in the olden days, the CMYK printing plates were often misaligned, resulting in more than obvious color fringing...and I'm also pretty sure it ain't the patina of yellowed pages either...for now, I'm left wondering if it was the at times rather psychedelic color sense back then, with red, pink, and yellow skies for example, or the lower DPI for C, M, and any case, colors looked jucier and much more saturated, for instance the bills were often much closer to red than they are today, and the whole color scheme used to look much more like a cross between glorious Technicolor and, especially with "War and Peace" (being even *SHADED*, as pretty much the only story ever in an Egmont Disney digest publication up until at least the late 90s!), silk paintings and Russian-Orthodox icon art, which of course all befits a classic epic such as this...)

ANYWAYS! I guess most Duck artists put more efforts into stories they've also written themselves (as rare as that is!), because those are often the ones close to their hearts.

I think I myself have been wondering at times who Helena was based upon...and the only conclusion that came to me was that her eyes and body language kinda remind me of Fethry's. Go figure! 0.o I mean, imagine "War and Peace" being rehearsed at the Duckburg Theater, with Donald and Scrooge and Daisy and everyone as the actors, and then they needed somebody for this one role of Helena, and suddenly Fethry stepped forward, or maybe everybody next to him just made a step backwards...

As for Helena's monologue while clinging to that curtain, I can only attest for my German copy here where she's whimpering, "You have dared guff at my most loveliest soprano voice? You shall pay for that!" But yeah, I can guarantee you that the literary quality of the lines in the story is also pretty high in German, and they're staying in mostly contemporary vernacular even where they go into kinda absurd territory for the sake of gags. The only character who uses modern language is Donald's horse.

In any case, the certain diplomatic insults between two certain monarchs you're mentioning are pretty much identical, and yes, it gives the whole story an enormous aura of authenticity and depth that you could imagine the actual historical personage talk just like this.

Regarding the superb language and the Beagles, the German version even has one very special delight enjoyed by fans of the story in my language. When Erika Fuchs translated Barks's "Beagle Boys" back in the 50s, she gave them the name of "Panzerknacker", which is German for "Safecrackers", and a slang word for bandits, burglars, robbers in general. However here, the translator fancied naming them "Kopekenknacker", literally meaning "Kopeke crackers"! You can see why robbers would crack a safe in order to lay their hands on the money inside such as Kopekes, but why in the world "CRACK MONEY COINS into pieces" or "break into them", as this name of theirs in "War and Peace" would suggest? XD

May 9, 2012 at 2:00 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Platini? You mean Plato, the English name of Prince McDukzukov's servant? In German, his name was just Fyodor.

As for Prince Scrooge haunting the battlefield, I can pretty much imagine Tolstoy towards the end of his novel reminiscing about some "Spirit of 1812" to be felt at the original sites, at special times...and then Carpi went and turned this "Spirit" into Prince Scrooge desperately fossicking for his golden cannon balls! XD

And since you've been raving so much about the greatness of Carpi's historical and world literature parodies (a point where you and I agree so much!), here's another great one: (And yes, this time I didn't make a mistake and it's really by Carpi!) Not a parody per se, it really was an anniversary story for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. But I have it on good authority that it has even an early parody of Berlusconi, from when he was still only a TV producer/entrepreneur, as one of Scrooge and Donald's rivals on a treasure hunt for what the story's German title dubs, "The Mystery of Paris" as deposited by le grand ingenieur Monsieur Gustave Eiffel himself a little over a hundred years ago. Unfortunately, only published in Italian, German, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

May 9, 2012 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

As always, thanks for the insight. Re "Platini," Chris was referring to the dialogue on the page with Gladstone.

May 9, 2012 at 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Louis said...

A very good story and one of the most beautiful Italian parodies!

I think that, during the conference, Napoleon and the Tsar make references (“ballistic experiments” and “star wars”) about “1980s cold war”-era.

Barat, IMHO Carpi’s choice to render Napoleon and Alexander I as humans was due to keep a little grip to historical elements. A sort of “warning”, like saying “look reader, they are not comics characters, but true protagonists of History”: the parodies have also the function to make the reader curious about the book/movie/historical event that works like a “base” for the story.

Geox, I have to confess I don’t understand the “light opera” pun, perhaps “light” it’s a reference to Napoleon’s stature…?

May 9, 2012 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Oh yes, important real people in history are often rendered as fully human in the Italian Duck and Mouse stories, and often shown with a kind of gravitas and dignity surrounding them, to make them different from all those "simple funny animal" characters. Didn't Barks already do it like this a few times?

Other examples beside "War and Peace" include the Micky Mouse series, "Once upon a time in America" which told the history of the British colony via independence up until circa the Civil War, and, of course, "Messer Papero", where Dante is fully human during his cameo.

May 9, 2012 at 6:07 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Louis: As for the light opera, see:

May 9, 2012 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Sorry your posts aren't immediately going through, TalosSMD. For whatever reason blogger keeps thinking they're spam and I have to manually tell it otherwise.

As far as light opera goes, yeah, it's not a pun; just an insult based on the perceived triviality and frivolity of French culture.

May 9, 2012 at 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I love the battle of the toy cannons, and the tree/cottage, and the "before" and "after" hussar in the left margin of the second double-page spread (which somehow reminds me of one of the famous MAD magazine cartoonists, whose name I can't think of). I also like the "emperor of light opera" insult (probably more accessible to British readers than it would be to American ones--I'll leave it to you to explain it, GeoX). And the ironic/sardonic comments in the boxes: the "serenity" description of the summit talks, and the comment about the "gratingly romantic" background music in the Donald-and-Daisy romance panel.

By the way, Donald/Zampata's horse in Rota's second Zampata story (I haven't read the first one yet) also takes off and throws Zampata whenever he sees an attractive mare.

May 9, 2012 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Probably Don Martin?

May 9, 2012 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Geox: Hmmm...I guess it's because I'm not registered with this weird blog thing. One fine day, I just foller'd a link from Papersera to your very interesting blog, and here I am!

As for the MAD Magazine artist, there could be several candidates. I'd suppose either Sergio Aragones (he did a lot of "puerile" wordless miniature scribbles in-between the panels of other people's stories, a bit like graffiti) or Will Elder who did more convential comic stories (if "conventional" is the right word for MAD), but with lots of hidden background gags.

My money's on Will Elder. Why, you're asking? Well, for one, Geox, you've been noticing the similarity in background gags between Carpi at his best and Don Rosa, right? Well, Wikipedia says that Don Rosa's many background gags are due to the fact that he's a fan of Will Elder's early MAD stuff.

And there's yet another parallel: Guess who was another big Will Elder and MAD Magazine fan, who used to work for Harvey Kurtzman's next magazine HELP, and who would later have lots of surreal little elements such as that toy gun fight in his films? Terry Gilliam! That toy gun fight could be right out of something like his 1983 short, "The Crimson Permanent Insurance", his animated short, "The Christmas Card", or one of his feature films such as "Time Bandits" (1981), "Brazil" (1985), or "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998)!

Don Rosa, Carpi, Terry Gilliam: To some degree, the later work of all three related to that one MAD cartoonist Will Elder. You can check out one of Will Elder's most popular works for early MAD Magazine here: (I myself only got this one from having seen the beginning of "Back To The Future, Part III" :P)

May 9, 2012 at 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Louis said...

Thanks to all for your explanation and sorry for the delay. Excuse if I a little terse in this message, but there’s some problem with connection. I hope soon to be able to give a more useful comment than stupid questions

May 11, 2012 at 5:18 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Say Geox, I'm toying with an idea here. I could do a txt-based preliminary translation of "Messer Papero" here, pretty similar ins style to how you're always translating the French here (by identitfying speaker and panel), send you this txt, you'll copy-edit that (as I feel far from competent enough with my English to make especially Donald and Scrooge talk the way they usually do in English), send it back to me, and then I could put the corrected lines into the speechbubbles of my German scan here.

If that works out, we could afterwards do the same with "Zio Paperone e il centenario (+ uno) bullonario".

May 11, 2012 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That sounds magnificent, if you're really willing to put that much time into such a project.

May 11, 2012 at 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog post.

There's a double-page spread in too but yes that's pretty rare.

BTW hope you'll have some time to look at the Scrooge (far-west) and Witch Hazel Bottaro stories that I sent you!

May 12, 2012 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Will do!

And really, some random Western Bambi/Snow White spin-off does it? Will wonders never cease!

May 12, 2012 at 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Louis said...

About cameos in Carpi’s stories there are some in this story ( and in its sequel ( In these stories Carpi draws about a struggle between Donald Duck and Scrooge with numerous references to the American War of Independence (Guido Martina’s script). In the first story, for example, we see Goofy that takes the role of a minuteman, in the second, Mickey’s best friend is drawn with Washington during the crossing of the Delaware in a scene that takes inspiration from Emanuel Leutze’s painting (,_MMA-NYC,_1851.jpg)

May 12, 2012 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Wow--that was quite speedy. Just click "view my complete profile" in the upper right to find my email.

May 12, 2012 at 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Louis said...

Geox, I think that’s an overlapping in comments: Are you speaking to TlatoSMD or Anonymous, right?
However, if I’m wrong about that, there is no problem to send you the Washington-Goofy image.

May 13, 2012 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

No, we're good. But thank you!

May 13, 2012 at 6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

should perhaps be mentioned, just to make it more clear, despite nearly 4 years having gone by since the posting of the article- the final panel seems to solely be a joke about how despite his "acceptance" of what happened, Scrooge returns at night to the battle fields, hoping to find stray cannonballs that might actually be his gold. Hence the presence of his faithful butler winking at the audience and pointing at him.

January 22, 2016 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

Yes, in the Italian version it is clear that Scrooge goes out at night to get back his gold from the battlefield.

[GeoX said: "Emperor of Light Opera." That's a pretty good insult…]
Yes, but it is not an idea of Carpi. It is a common way of saying in Italian: "X da operetta", literally "X of Light Opera", means that X looks more a parody of an X than an X itself (even if it is an X for sure).
An equivalent expression is "X da quattro soldi", that should correspond to "a two-bit X" (but literally it is "a FOUR-bit X").

Do you really see relations with MAD stuff on the big scene by Carpi? The influence from French things such as Asterix seems far more reasonable to me.

July 18, 2016 at 6:17 AM  

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