Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Hobblin' Goblins"

'Course, even if her behavior was that of a philistine, we do, I suppose, owe our thanks to Barks' editor Alice Cobb in one sense: if she hadn't chopped out nine pages of "Trick or Treat," he would not have had to scramble to put together a back-up feature, and "Hobblin' Goblins" would never have seen the light of day.  I can only imagine how irritating it must have been for him suddenly to have to create a whole new story when he thought he was done with this particular assignment.

Of course, Barks was never one to half-ass things (well, okay, maybe a bit in some of his later work…), so the story isn't an embarrassment.  But it's definitely eccentric in ways that it probably wouldn't be if he had been a little more invested in it.

Obese Gyro!  Well, okay, maybe not exactly "obese," but certainly not svelte.  Actually, this is only the character's third appearance (Barks didn't start doing his Gyro four-pagers 'til 1956), and he clearly hadn't quite nailed down the character yet.  Still, in retrospect it's rather jarring to look back at this early design.  

Here's a questionable but not wholly untenable thought: Gyro's first two appearances were in ten-pagers in May and June of 1952.  His fourth appearance wasn't until May of 1953; at that point, the character caught on and other writers, both in the US and Italy, started using him.  It's certainly not impossible that, if Barks hadn't been required to dust him off for this story, in November of 1952, it wouldn't have occurred to him to use the character again, and he would never have been anything more than an odd obscurity.  Well, probably not, but it's interesting to think about.  The vagaries of fate can be funny like that.

And if his early appearance is jarring…looking back, Gyro confidently asserting that "all trouble are caused by goblins" is one of the most hilariously incongruous things in Disney comics.  'Course, he would go on to become a beatnik and learn about the power of voodoo, but even in that context, this really stands out.

Science, ladies and gentlemen!  Interesting to note that, even though he don't see any concrete evidence of "goblins" in the story, neither does it specifically debunk Gyro's notion.  And since he's a genius and all, I think we can just go ahead and declare his theory at least provisionally true.  Where are the Mythbusters when you need them?

I always find it funny when HDL get all GROSS on us.  Do little boys really have this sort of attitude towards girls?  I remember when I was small displaying some degree of behavior along these lines, but it was more out of a culturally-ingrained sense that this was how it was supposed to be than anything I felt in any visceral sense.

One is not wholly convinced that the "goblin foiler" is actually anything more than a glorified magic 8-ball.

Grandma's farm is five miles away from Duckburg.  Take note of this when making your maps, obsessives!

Here's another funny/bizarre bit: Donald's apparent belief that the kids will be unable to resist their overwhelming urge to make the pumpkins into jack o'lanterns.  From his dialogue, you get the impression that this is an ongoing problem; that he keeps buying pumpkins with big plans for them, only GODDAMNIT, you just had to make another jack o'lantern?!?  I'm SICK of this!

Then there's this bit of strangeness.  Wildly unlikely series of happenstance like this that don't involve Gladstone always feel a bit strange.  Even if we do want to posit that goblins are responsible, this is the sort of thing that probably wouldn't have made it through if Barks hadn't been in a rush, though I suppose it's amusing enough in its goofiness.

Hard to feel too sympathetic about HDL's plight, given that, even if they didn't intentionally carve jack o'lanterns, they were still trying to flee Donald and his perfectly reasonable request.  

Are little girls any more intrinsically into such things than boys are intrinsically opposed to it?  I think you can make a very strong argument that it's all cultural.  Regardless, though, this seems like a pretty paranoid extrapolation from the alleged male aversion here.  Girls are terrifyingly alien in this context.

And then there's the ending, in which HDL are off to beat Gyro with sticks.  Granted, his machine was pretty half-assed, but I can't help finding this behavior somewhat disturbing.  The kids are not normally prone to violence of this sort.  Another symptom of the somewhat slapdash nature of this story, I feel.

I realize looking back that this is only a very marginally Halloween-y story, but what the hell.  It may be minor, but it's still pretty fun, both in spite and because of its eccentricities.  Check back tomorrow for our Mystery Halloween Climax.



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I don't get the "Girls are eaky" joke as well (I hated when Rosa did it as well) When I was a kid I was all about wanting to KISS girls(the older the better) so I find this behavior odd...

As for the ending - Ow no, no, no... The boys don't want to bit the crap out of Gyro, they just want to smash all of his inventions including the Little Helper as their revange. Of course if Gyro would try to stop them in any way they would be force to break his legs.. but that's his own damn folt for standing in their way!

October 31, 2012 at 7:02 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Given that this was a last-minute assignment that he probably resented having to do, I think that Barks did pretty doggoned well here. Some great, expressive art for the boys, plus a scoche of atypical weirdness (the supposed role of goblins, the slapstick pumpkin gag).

Of course, HD&L had something of an "attitude on" when it came to Webby on DUCKTALES, but it never got to the "ew, girls are icky!" stage. They were more apt to resent her trying to tag along, and even that got gradually downplayed as time went on. Maybe the newly co-ed Junior Woodchucks instituted some sensitivity training to help with the terrible strain of the transition??

October 31, 2012 at 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Pan, really, the only thing worse than the thought that the boys are intending to beat the crap out of Gyro is the thought that they are planning to smash Little Helper. And now I'm fated to think of that whenever I re-read this story! Sheesh! It's a good thing this story has never been on my favorites list :-) partly because of the whole dancing-with-girls-is-the-worst-fate-imaginable thing...though I do actually like the silliness of the accidental jack-o'-lantern carving.

November 2, 2012 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger Chris77 said...

Any Dutch version I had always reads 'evil spirits' instead of goblins. It seems to be about invisible negative entities that cause small accidents, just the natural flow of people not going well. In the older days more people believed in the supernatural as for example Jesus cast out evil spirits in the New Testament. Barks looks like he did believe in these which sometimes shows in his comics. Maybe the word goblin was more appropriate in the 50s? At least there is an element of paganism and folktales mixed which Barks did occationally. I love this about Gyro that in the earlier days he was also a bit of believing in the spiritual combined with a sharp mind. Moral of the story, human made technology never fools these spirits

January 28, 2021 at 4:50 PM  

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