Monday, October 1, 2012

Master McDucato, Chapter I: "Exile"

I think it's time to blow this scene…get everybody and their stuff together…

Right!  Our epic journey begins NOW!  

Specifically, it begins with Ye Olde Framinge Device.  I have found that the interplay between the frame and the main story is actually, on the whole, the most interesting thing here.  It frequently interests, confuses, and baffles.  For the time being, note well that Scrooge's swell plan to get richer is to compose a long, rambling historical narrative about Tuscan history.  That is indicative of, let's say, a certain amount of authorial contrivance.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, if the results are rich enough.  In the present case? Well, we'll see.

Well, we get some full-page splash panels from Carpi, some of which are quite good, albeit not on the level of his best work.  In the German version, the idea is that Naldo is working for nothing, which seems to me pretty nonsensical, and certainly a violation of some sort of rule.  Is "shillings" the right word to use for low-value currency?  I doubt it.  The internet was less helpful than you might hope in finding words for Medieval Italian small change.  For reference, a florin would apparently be worth about two hundred dollars.

Then, we get Adventures with Dante.  You had better become accustomed to segues into short, seemingly pointless anecdotes, 'cause you're gonna get a lot of them.  In this particular instance, it looks very much as though the story is setting up ol' Scroogio as the Virgil to Dante's, um, Dante, but…then it doesn't, really.  It is possible that you may not find this wholly satisfying.  BUT HEY!  DANTE!  I read the entire dern Comedy in college; it's not really my thing, but if you're a huge fan, then maybe you'll just be tickled pink to see the guy.

If there's one thing I've learned from translating this story, it's that the Guelphs supported the Pope, whereas the Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman Emperor.  I may not know much, but I know that.  Now, if you're new to this story, your first instinct will probably be to think, okay; I should keep track of the distinction between the two parties and remember which one Dante is a part of.  It will surely be important later.  I'm here to tell you: it totally won't be.  None of these historical tidbits ever pay off later on.  They're valuable, to the extent that they are, for themselves, and that's it.  In this particular case, the story seems to be vaguely trying to satirize politics by making out the differences between the two to be as meaningless as possible.

Ah, yes: weirdly inappropriate, exaggerated reactions.  These aren't super-common in the story, but we'll see a few more of them, and they, among other things, really suggest to me that Guido Martina, in spite of having written eight zillion duck stories, had a somewhat shaky grasp on the characters (I know that Carpi knew better, having read more than a few of the stories he wrote on his own).

Right.  So…why was Dante hobnobbing with the Holy Roman Emperor if he was a Guelph?  Well…this is just the first of many historical obscurities in the story: presumably, the particular emperor in question is Henry VII, whom Dante admired and who tried to defuse the Guelphs/Ghibellines dispute.  But…Dante's final exile from Florence was in 1302.  Henry VII didn't become emperor until 1308 (and if this is the most boring paragraph you've ever read on this blog, you have my apologies).  

So…ya got me, pardner.  Ya really do.  Of course, the one obvious response to any complaints about historical accuracy is that, hey, Scrooge is the one telling the story, and his grasp of this history is none too great, so what do you expect.  But we see here an important clue that this isn't the case.  DO YOU SEE IT TOO?  ARE YOU AS SMART AS SLYLOCK FOX?

Well, actually, you'd need a bit of historical knowledge here: as far as I can tell, "Bargello" was not the name of an actual, specific person; it was just a generic title for a police captain.  And since the kid seems also to be under this misapprehension, we can deduce that whatever this is, it's not Scrooge's fuck-up.  Of course, the kid's just a kid; he could also be wrong…

…honestly, you could drive yourself crazy thinking about this (and I just about have!).  It's fun to think in terms of complicated metatextual strategies, but when you come right down to it, you realize it's almost certainly the case that Carpi and Martina weren't considering this too closely; they just took a general late-Medieval setting without worrying too much about specific historical discontinuities, and all factual mistakes are just down to plain ol' sloppiness.  I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

You do have to admit, that picture of the city in the background is not half bad.  And there's Tillino the donkey, who isn't named 'til the next chapter.

So…that's the set-up.  Now, it's time to wander around Tuscany.  Download Chapter II and see for yourself.

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Anonymous Elaine said...

OK, this may not be one of the funniest duck stories ever, but this post *is* one of the funniest blog posts ever! Enjoying the journey!

Is Dante the only person in the story who's not a duck, dognose or pigface?

October 2, 2012 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Wow--you know, that somehow never occurred to me, but looking through the whole story, I think it may be quite correct that Dante is the single solitary "normal" person in the whole thing. Does it mean anything? It's an open question. As I was working on this, it occurred to me to wonder if this whole thing was written as some sort of tribute to Dante, but there didn't seem to be anything particularly notable about 1982, when it was published, that would warrant such a thing.

October 2, 2012 at 2:37 PM  
Blogger Kopekobert Dukofjew said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 2, 2012 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Kopekobert Dukofjew said...

There's a story drawn by Massimo De Vita, in which Mickey and Goofy travel back in time and meet Leonardo da Vinci. Like Dante in "Master Ducato", da Vinci is a "normal" person in this story. ( Both Dante and da Vinci are stellar figures of Italian culture, so maybe it's a way of showing that they're special.

Edit: Speaking of stellar figures of Italian culture: In a pastiche of "La strada" (Marconi/Cavazzano, I TL 1866-B), Fellini is "normal" as well. Obviously, it's a common technique.

October 2, 2012 at 4:24 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Gee, because I've been reading the stories of "Master Scroogio" since so early on in my life, it never occured to me that using the fiorin throughout the whole epic as if it was the exclusive currency at the time is prepostereous. I've just went on research to find out what the low-value currency would be for Scroogio to be paying Naldo, and after half an hour, in the Wikipedia article for soldo I came upon the Florentine *DENARO* (plural denari): , obviously related to the French denier: . So I guess having Scroogio pay the ridicilous sum of 40 denari wouldn't be too much out-of-character.

As for what Dante would have to pay Scroogio, there would be the Florentine soldo (the actual equivalent of the British shilling, worth 12 denari, or 1/20 of a lira in the 14th century), or the Florentine scudo

Now, while I admit that Carpi's art does not have quite as many lovely sidegags here as he does in "War and Peace", I must agree with your later assertion that the quality of the scans are very poor. It looks like the person who scanned them tried to take care of the yellowing of the pages by simply boosting the constrast insanely while their monitor was set too dark. The result are not necessarily black shadows, but even worse are the blown out highlights and missing nuances in the mids (albeit this story's art was not shaded as was [i]War and Peace[/i]). On top of that, they tried to care care of the DPI resolution dots by what looks like median blur, which is really not the best way to do this.

Before I sent you the scans, I tried to find a way to retouch them, but the original scanning operator had actually made it to lose too much in the highlights and mids for that to be possible (I *DID* find a way to recover the original b/w inks even from the messed-up German scans though, so if one day we'll find a coloring artist...). Here's a few Italian low-rez scans with about half a decade worth of more fading and yellowing than the German print version (but still a lot better than our messed-up German scans here), to give you an idea what it really looks like:

And, just to compare, here are three of my *OWN* scans from the German edition of "War and Peace" that I've made roughly 12 years ago. The printing quality/signs of wear of these three first pages to the story is a bit worse (some of the printing dyes have rubbed off the pages, especially in the blacks) than with my own copy of "Master Scroogio", but I guess they *STILL* look better and more nuanced than do our German scans here of "Master Scroogio" (be sure to click the magnifying glass on the bottom right of the image for a pop-up, and then again for 'original image' for the original size):

February 2, 2014 at 1:59 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

As for the Dante episode ending in pretty much nothing, my guess is that the whole "Master Scroogio" series is meant to be a pastiche of parodies of various little scenes lifted from Italian Medieval and Renaissance literature, which is why many anecdotes don't seem to amount to much. And having read your review, yes, some of them may have benefited from a few rewrites before Carpi put his drawing pen to the paper, if you're looking at purely the script level here.

What about Scroogio calling somebody "Bob" here? Is that because he seems to be looking at the reader?

Ah yes, weirdly inappropriate, exaggerated reactions. They pretty much come as a tradition of Italian Disney comics, and with the just as exaggerated slapstick, Italian Disney stories may remind one of a grotesque version of Judy and Punch at a level that seems absurd or pointless to somebody used to American Disney comics. But for Italians, who have a much livelier body language to begin with, it's really funny. Body language is another reason why some purist Barksists north of the Alps here can't stomach the "Italian nonsense".

As for the grotesque outlook on Medieval Italian politics, somebody else has already nailed it in another comment later-on, plus Disney usually deals with politics in a similar fashion as they do with history. Also, fun fact: The names of Guelphs and Ghibellines pretty soon became much broader labels for any two hard-rivaling factions in all the Italian city-states, akin to the colored sports teams in the Byzantine Empire also applied to political factions at roughly the same time, a nod to which is made when Naldo compares the Guelphs and the Ghibellines to the fans of rivaling soccer teams.

But ahhh, won't you look at the large closing panel? Clearly, Carpi had the intention to mimic lush, pastoral and picturesque Renaissance art with the "Master Scroogio" series, as a visual manifestation of the series being an homage to Medieval Tuscany and Italian literature of the time. This is the main reason why I keep reading the series well into my adulthood.

February 2, 2014 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, I think if the image quality were better, my opinion of the story really might have improved.

It's silly, but "as you know, Bob" is the name of a trope that you see mainly in old science fiction stories--characters telling each other things that they both obviously already know as a way to provide exposition.

February 2, 2014 at 3:18 PM  

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