Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Master McDucato, Chapter III: "The Phoney Florins"

Here's where shit starts to get real, and other meaningless clichés.

NOTE ACTUAL LINE FROM PETRARCH.  Note also that if we assume this is taking place absolutely as late as it could be, which is 1314 (assuming, implausibly, that they spent an entire year doing Scroogio's "Tower Museum" thing, and ignoring the fact that the whole Dante business still doesn't make chronological sense), Petrarch would be all of ten years old here.  Oh well!

As you may have noted, this counterfeiting thing doesn't actually make a lick of sense.  Adamo is a resident of Dante's Hell; it is not so easy to find any non-Dante-related information about him.  In that version, he just engaged in straightforward counterfeiting stuff, but here the idea, apparently, is that he's meant to forge really cheap fakes, which will somehow destroy the economy in spite of being really obvious; plus, everyone will see how fake they are and be ashamed.  And for some reason, you need a master craftsman to do this.  Note that none of this is embellishment on my part; this is just how it goes down in the German.

…and then everyone realizes from the fact that they're so shitty that only a really great forger could have made them.  Guh.  Actually, it's difficult to see how this brilliant scheme could possible not have "backfired."  Still, looks like he gets off easy here; the real Adamo was burned at the stake.  So there's that.

Also, note super-obscure movie reference.  Or don't, what with it being super-obscure.

Now we get to the really fun part: the "name famous dead people at random" bit!  I sure hope you like it, 'cause you'll be seeing versions of it in every chapter from here on out!  I am picturing Martina and Carpi being chewed out by their editor (Marco Rota!) for not meeting the quota of historical figures in the first two chapters, and thus including these bits to cover their asses.  They're pretty useless, though: what the hell are you possibly going to get out of this fragmentary, contextless list of names?  I will say that this IS the first Disney comic I've ever read where I instinctively worry that there's going to be a test at the end.  So, uh, there's that.  I guess.

And look!  We also get our "heroes" acting like the world's biggest dickheads for no discernible reason!  Things like this are simply bizarre.  They DO tend to confirm my opinions about Guido Martina, however.

If nothing else, though, there's some good visually dynamism to Scroogio and Naldo butting heads like this…

…and it also leads into the OTHER interesting metatextual thing here, which is the implication that Donald somehow has some actual agency in this story (and that's a great picture of him looking indignant there).

This is not a theme that the story hits all that hard; there's really just one other part where we see this in action, but I find it super-interesting.  The fact that the picture of them shouting at each other here is quite similar to the one of them doing so within the story is surely not coincidental.

I find Scroogio's utter shamelessness here quite funny: he's worrying about how they'll get rid of the horse, but then when it turns out these guys want to buy, he starts playing hard-sell at the drop of a hat.

This tavern name reflects my opinion of the probable state of our intrepid writers at this point (it just had some generic name like "guest house" in the German).

…and then, for some reason, the innkeeper displays reflexive hostility as soon as they try to order.  Is that any way to build up a clientele?

Welp, naturally, this leads to being kicked out of Arezzo, so next time, it's on to Livorno.  There are pirates in this next one, meaning that if you like things with pirates in them--that is, you reflexively like anything with pirates, regardless of its other qualities--you will, by definition, like this one.  What a great sentence that was.

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Blogger Napoleon said...

OK, so Dante gets to be all human and stuff while Petrarch has to make do with a dog-nose. Guess he isn't legendary enough for these guys. You'd think the Father of Humanism would merit a HUMAN depiction if we are handing them out to poets in these comics. I'm just sick of this agenda of disrespect that has for so long infested pictorial representations of Petrarch in children's comics. Grr!

But in all seriousness, I must give kudos to the translation/adaptation/interpretation. It works very well for me, and these commentaries make fun and interesting complementary reading. I sometimes find deliberate pop culture references somewhat jarring in stories like these, but since this is already an insanely reference-y tale, I welcome the likes of the banana stand line on page 15.

Also, thanks for making me enjoy, if only for a while, this otherwise pretty unpalatable and most contrived framing nonsense with Donald being Scrooge's walking dictaphone and with this weird random ragazzo loitering near public squares and enlightening unsuspecting tourists about the invention of staff notation. These narratively unnecessary episodes do get on my nerves, but I had a very hearty laugh at the "golly, that would be swell" line on page 7 of this chapter. The boy's expression complements his speech bubble just perfectly. I trust this irony is absent in the original (well, German, but anyway) as it would be counter-productive to what I see must be the entire point of this character. Yeah, I don't like him or this framing, and I do like it when the translation goes against it and ridicules it. It's completely justified here (and not overused).

Also, observation: I seem to notice that when depicting actual monuments in the cities, Carpi adopts a more rigid and inflexible drawing style than I've come to expect from him. I wonder if others get the same impression here. Famous buildings seem more two-dimensional than usual to me. Perhaps the artist is showing reverence to these landmarks by being extra faithful to them. To me, the result is a slight, though not unpleasant mismatch - looks as though these cartoon characters have been inserted in separate drawings. The large panels are always a treat, however.

October 7, 2012 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Really insightful stuff, and thanks for your kind words. The German script seemed fairly bare-bones to me--similar in that regard to a lot of stories I've read in French. People at various times have informed me that stories I've written about based on their French versions are substantially better in the original Italian, so it's possible that something similar applies to the German.

October 7, 2012 at 10:10 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Ah yes, here we have the first "name-dropping contest" which would've benefited a lot if we could've included these celebtrities in some small anecdotes or seen them pictured in an imaginary cloud. AFAIK, the artists get pretty strict guidelines in the scripts, so Carpi was doing the best he could here, giving us more of a creative "Marvel way of doing things" by varying angles, views, framings, field sizes, BGs, and overall panel designs for every panel that consists of nothing more but name-dropping.

And bizarre overacting and dickishness strike again, for the sake of being incredibly funny in a toonish way for Italians! It's meant to be funny because of Scroogio changing his mind so radically as soon as he learns the "Honorary Award" is in fact a Golden Lance.

And of *COURSE* Naldo and Scroogio are very much alike Donald and Scrooge, after all they're nothing but projections of their characters into the past. Italian Disney stories taking place in the past or adapting world literature always work like the Duckburg Theater is staging a play and the roles are cast by character trait similarity to the Duckburg achetypes we know, often more so in occupation or any other "outward" traits rather than psychology, and quite often with giant leaps stretching the original characters a lot to make them fit our Duckburg residents. Add to that the fact that the story is written by Scrooge and sometimes commented on by Donald.

As for the rather mad chef/waiter/Cook/barkeeper, my guess is that Scroogio and Naldo don't look that rich as to order "your finest meat and drink", plus the next few panels show us that the Arrezines are still suffering from the trauma of the phoney Fiorines, which is why they are traditionally more vigilant and alert about money.

But it's rather odd for Petrarch to be given only a dog nose, indeed.

My guess for Donald and Scrooge strolling around Florence for real is that another reason for the story was to take the city's marvelous contemporary architecture as a backdrop and cue for stories to do with the time. Of course, the reason for how they end up there just because Scrooge wants to write a book is ridiculous, but not so much for Italian levels. And yes @Napoleon, the boy's irony is absent from his German text.

February 2, 2014 at 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That why'd-you-stop-the-tape exchange really *is* funny. Shame it couldn't be used in a story that... actually told a story.

February 25, 2016 at 11:31 AM  

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