Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Pluto the Racer"

(This being part six of a nine-part series covering the stories in Volume Three of Fantagraphics' Floyd Gottfredson Library.)

Dog racing!  Not actually fun and games for kids of all ages in real life!  There are greyhound rescue charities for a reason, and that reason is that otherwise, dogs past their prime are mistreated and killed.  We actually have a fictional example of this baked into our popular culture, as the Simpsons' dog Santa's Little Helper is a refugee from a racetrack.  If you ask me, dog and horse racing--both of which result in an awful lot of injury and death--should both be banned.  Boxing may be horrifically barbaric in its own right, but at least there it's a matter of human agency and choice (we're not going to get into a whole long discussion of what "choice" actually means--this is just a humble bumbling Disney blog).

Fortunately, this story doesn't have anything much to do with real-world-type dog racing, and I like it a lot.

It's this very simple melodrama sort of thing where the kindly old man needs to win the big race or else he loses his house, but it works, is the thing.  I've read this story on more than one occasion; I know full well that everything's going to turn out well--but I still can't help but feel very concerned about the whole thing every time.  WHAT IF THIS TIME IT'S DIFFERENT?!?

There are also great touches like the dog names here.  "Ruff on Katz" is the obvious favorite.

In their respective "what a life"s, we can see a difference between Donald and Mickey: not that this is going to be uniformly applicable, but in general, Donald is a more individual character, whose struggles are his own--whereas Mickey is more a part of an actual society.  It would just be weird if Donald regularly did freelance work for a police department the way Mickey does.

Oh, Dippy--you really are a jackass, aren't you?  We can read Mickey's final reaction here in multiple ways.  If we want to be charitable, we can read it as something like an indulgent "oh, that Dippy--just doin' what he does!"  I prefer to see it as "god is that Dippy ever a callous idiot!  Oh well, what do you expect?"  You can, however, see him transitioning somewhat into a more positive role in the stories of this time.

The gambling and attempted race-fixing aspect of the story is interesting.  I daresay you probably wouldn't see this sort of thing in a contemporary story.  But never mind me--I'm interested in what you, the common clay of the new west, think about this.  I believe we have a caller on the line?  Take it away, "name and address withheld" from the MM240 letters column:

Recently I purchased a comic book called "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse at the neighborhood 7-11.  I didn't think of read it first--I just bought it.  To my shock the contents were very upsetting.  The written material was pure trash.  After reading the first 3 pages--I forbid my daughter to keep this "bad tastfull written "supposedly comic book."  It goes on about betting, cheating, using drugs, un proper grammer etc.  I'm still shocked at the contents of the magazine espicialy with "Walt Disney Characters."

Well, you can't please everyone!  But really, never mind "un proper grammer;" the really shocking thing here is that this individual was able to buy a Disney comic from a 7-11.  Whoa.

Seriously, just try to imagine what it must be like to live in this person's head.  If Mickey Mouse comics, of all things, reduce you to agrammatical fulminations, how could you possibly get by in the world without being perpetually in the midst of an endless, outrage-induced nervous breakdown?

Also, he or she has apparently reproduced.  BE AFRAID.

Thing is, this isn't the only letter from a maniac to ever be published in a Disney comic.  It's easy (and fun!) to mock Disney's arbitrary censorship policy, but when you have people like this in the audience expressing their opinions, it's easy to see why they can be a bit gun-shy.

It has often been said--I may have said it myself on occasion!--that Goofy isn't stupid so much as he is an inhabitant of his own world with its own fractured logic.  And this is frequently the case--but it's hard to deny that sometimes he's just fuckin' stupid and no two ways about it.

What's more, there is something decidedly indecent about the enthusiasm with which he's pounding on Mickey here.  Give 'im what for, Pluto!

You can tell Gottfredson's really getting into the swing of things here.  More two-fisted local drama next time, with "Editor-in-Grief!"



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

HA! Another fantastic revie which makes me wan't to go and but those Fantagraphics' Floyd Gottfredson books.

I will eventually... ;)

I wish you would review or comment my Duck Fan-Fictio one day :

A review by you would be a treat - eve if you would totaly rip this a part ;)

August 24, 2012 at 5:41 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Ah, what fond memories your reprinting of the famous anonymous letter from MM 240 brings back! I suspect that the person ASSUMED that this was a comic starring the white-bread, bland "corporate symbol" Mickey, and was knocked mentally askew when presented with Gottfredson's 30's take on the character.


August 24, 2012 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

That letter-writer has / had a future in politics! Does the nonsensical outrage thing to perfection!

I’m amazed Gladstone PRINTED it, opening themselves up for future censorship and lasting interference!

August 24, 2012 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah--alas, this isn't really so stylistically different from the kind of things you see in letters-to-the-editor in small-town newspapers or (god help you) Yahoo comments sections.

I think they printed it mainly so they could also print Byron Erickson's lengthy rebuttal. Whether this was actually a good idea is open to question; while I certainly don't disagree with anything he says, I can't help feeling he's unnecessarily belaboring some fairly obvious points. Still, if it was felt that there might be problems with censors in the future (I'm just speculating here), this could be seen as a preemptive defense.

August 24, 2012 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...


Well, they don’t call it “Yahoo”, fer nuthin!

And, if running the letter WAS a “preemptive defense” on Erickson’s part… Well, let’s just say it didn’t work too well!

If, as a licensee, I got a letter form a crank… one that might bring increased scrutiny from the licensor… I’d just read, toss, and go on whistling – feeling lucky that *I* was the one who intercepted it before it could do great harm!

Didn’t the more general scrutiny begin not long after? Perhaps you’ve isolated the moment where it began! …And persists, to one degree or another, to this day.

August 24, 2012 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


"Yeah--alas, this isn't really so stylistically different from the kind of things you see in letters-to-the-editor in small-town newspapers or (god help you) Yahoo comments sections."

YouTube comments have got both of these beat.


August 24, 2012 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

What fascinates me in YouTube comments is the incredible amount of racism! Employed half-jokingly by some in a deliberate effort to set others off, but racism just the same.

It's like an avalanche. (Speaking of which—sorry to vanish on everyone here. I'd love to write more about Gottfredson and Faustus, too, but I'm under the gun with a ton of research work. Back soon, I hope!)

August 25, 2012 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


"What fascinates me in YouTube comments is the incredible amount of racism! Employed half-jokingly by some in a deliberate effort to set others off, but racism just the same."

You're right. I was looking recently at a video of an Indian rocket exploding just after leaving the launch pad. A lot of the comments were on the order of "Didn't use enough curry!" or making jokes about calling a tech help line and getting a garbled answer. It's crazy at times.


August 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Trying to argue with white supremacists on the internet: something that I have foolishly done on youtube and elsewhere, and that I do NOT recommend. Those people know that you find them morally horrifying and use that against you, and you can't shame them because they are shameless. It is, however, rather edifying that every white supremacist ever is living refutation of the idea that the "white race" is naturally superior to anyone else.

Boy, how'd we get onto THIS topic?

August 25, 2012 at 6:46 PM  

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