Friday, October 5, 2012

Master McDucato, Chapter V: "The Cave of the Winds"

Here's where it gets weird.  Weirder?  Weirdest?  I dunno.

Although, I should immediately note, and as you may have guessed, this guy talking like a cowboy is an additional bit of weirdness that I added in myself.  I am solely to blame here.

Why did I do this?

Well, obviously enough, "I thought it was funny" was my reason.  And it was more fun to write than if this were just some generic dude.  And this guy seemed like an ideal choice, since, surprisingly, he's never identified as an actual historical figure.  It's not inconceivable that we're supposed to be able to infer his identity; there's an instance in the final chapter where this is indisputably the case.  But…I dunno.  We're not given much to go on, are we?  If this IS supposed to be someone, and you know who, I would be interested to hear from you.

Then there's this, which I like very much: Scrooge's incredibly forced attempt to use this encounter to segue into the "famous people" thing, which proves abortive because of Donald's annoyance with the whole idea--which may well match that of the reader.  Why is he so annoyed now, when he seemed more or less okay with this nonsense earlier?  Dunno.  Possibly because Martina and Carpi themselves were getting annoyed.

Here's a hint as to when this is happening, if we care about that: according to Italian Wikipedia, as near as I can make out, Faggiola was driven out of Pisa in 1316.  So…there you go.  It's actually really hard to imagine substantial chunks of time passing in the gaps between chapters here, but if we want to try to make some sort of chronology out of this--which is, of course, a big joke in the end--we can look at things like this.  Of course, this particular historical tidbit has nothing to do with anything, and the story makes no effort to contextualize it at all.  It just kind of sits there.

Anyway.  Let's cut to the chase, shall we?

Whee!  Among other reasons, this part stands out because it's the only supernatural thing that happens in the whole goldarn story.

You know…yeah, okay.  This "time shift" business really does look to me like an act of desperation on someone's part; a last-ditch effort to shake things up.  It DOES amuse me for the sheer chutzpah it evinces, but on a narrative level, I'm not so sure: sure, the characters are in all ways that matter the same before and after the shift.  But I find it becomes more difficult to really identify with their plight, to the extent that we do, when the story as much as admits that it's not a real thing; that it's purely a textual construct.  Bah, I say.

(Note that in the German, Scrooge's character also shifts from "Master" to "Sir" McDucato--I eliminated this just because I use these titles so infrequently it seemed a bit superfluous.)

Was there an actual inscription in the Italian version?  Presumably, although it seems like it would take a pretty sizable act of incompetence to inadvertently cut it out, as must have happened here.

Poliziano!  Delightfully enough, the Italian Wikipedia page for the man has an "in popular culture" section that mentions this very story.  Now, about this Gemma character: I am not at all convinced that she is a real person.  Google searches don't seem to turn up anything relevant aside from the aforementioned Wikipedia page.  Also, I'm not sure whether she's meant to be his daughter or niece: the German version of the story definitely identifies her as his daughter ("tochter"); then again, the Wikipedia page identifies her as his niece.  Niece would actually make more sense, since right now it's 1472 (that will be unambiguously stated in the next chapter), meaning that he would have been all of eighteen years old--a bit young for him to be having an adult daughter; also, he never married and was probably gay, which would make the whole thing rather unlikely anyway.  On the other hand, although obviously people actually have nieces, it's just such a standard Disney trope that it's hard not to imagine that that's an embellishment.  Is this important?  VITALLY SO.  I just went with what the German said, on the basis that given all the other incongruities, this fits right in.

Here we certainly have a standard Carpi-style image.  You might kinda think that, given that he's talking about how his city kicked Scroogio's and Naldo's city's ass, they might have some sort of negative reaction to this.  But…not really.  And yes, that guy on the bottom left is showing more crack than I ever hoped to see in a Disney comic.  What can you do?

(For the record, I'm unable to find any evidence that Siena's Palio races actually have anything to do with this battle--but we're used to things like that by now.)

Apparently, in actual history, the guy didn't just yank the flag away; he cut off the standard-bearer's hand.  Fun!

For what it's worth, this whole business with Naldo going crazy for Gemma is, if not hugely original, still pretty amusing, and Scroogio's pose in the bottom panel is funny to me.

And there's this interesting thing, where, again, it seems as though Donald is able to control Naldo's destiny to a certain extent.

As we will see, Scrooge's "solution" actually makes no sense and would never work.  But that is a story for another day.  The day after today, to be specific.  Download Chapter VI now, dammit!

<-Chapter IV Chapter VI->

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Anonymous Elaine said...

So far, the story doesn't have much to recommend it aside from the fun metatextual stuff. (WHAT ARE THESE INDUCKS RATERS THINKING?) However, I intend to long remember "Pope rules! Holy Roman Empire drools!" as the key to the Guelph/Ghibelline divide (not that I think I'll ever have occasion to show off my command of historical arcana by quoting this...but one can dream).

October 5, 2012 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

My hope is that someone already familiar with the story will show up and either offer a spirited defense, or at least provide some contextual information that would help to make a bit of sense of it. C'mon, people! I know you're out there; I can hear you breathing!

October 5, 2012 at 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I'm going to wait till the whole series is done, go through it all at once, then go through your posts on each chapter.
Won't hear a peep from me till then

But thanks again for doing this from me and the readers of your blog (even if they haven't commented yet)

October 6, 2012 at 3:46 AM  
Blogger Napoleon said...

I agree that there isn't much concentrated story to speak of. But nevertheless I find myself always curious for the next chapter of this opportunistic odyssey and am seldom let down by the results. I'm rather enjoying this mess of a story or stories, wild character mood swings and general insanity included.

It seems obvious that this aims to educate (Italian) children about Italian history and culture. As such, I think it may be successful on a very limited general knowledge level - mostly so that one may be able to remember a particular character from history or literature and perhaps also recall something they did.

There may be a slight nationalistic subtext here as well - the annoying ragazzo of the über-contrived framing segment gets to educate the visiting Scrooge & Donald, and he's obviously taking pride in all this glorious tidbit history. (Seriously, some guy invents staff notation! See, the glories of our history and the deeds of our great men CAN be fun and are good for holding foreigners in awe!) This is of course agreeably tempered by the often irreverent portrayals of historical characters, locales, and events.

Anyhow, Medieval Italian history can appear a surreal mishmash of competing little city-states managed with varying competence. It's a world of improvised alliances, treachery, fear, and bizarre ancient traditions with a faint hint of the emerging Renaissance here and there. It is in this cultural context (or perhaps our general perception of it) that I find this pretty enjoyable. Here, I don't much mind the characters having mood swings, or people being friendly or aggressively unwelcoming for no rational reason. The imagined and contrived past is, as they say, a foreign country.

Also, it's interesting to see Scrooge as an outcast exile, deprived of much of his status and power, even though he still gets to boss Donald around and remains reasonably, if secretly, wealthy.

But yes, most of the stuff I like in this story is metatextual and visual. As for the Inducks rating, my guess is that this story, admittedly of nearly epic length when it comes to Duck comics, might have been an especially big deal in Italy when it came out. As I suggested earlier, some might even take national pride in it. Anyway, Italian Duck fans obviously make up a very sizable public at Inducks, and they might for whatever sentimental reasons give very high ratings to such special stories. Perhaps for them, it is to acknowledge the fact that Italy has fully adopted and adapted the Disney Ducks, that they have become an important part of Italian culture. Or something.

October 7, 2012 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That's some world-class commentin' right there. I like this especially:

Anyhow, Medieval Italian history can appear a surreal mishmash of competing little city-states managed with varying competence. It's a world of improvised alliances, treachery, fear, and bizarre ancient traditions with a faint hint of the emerging Renaissance here and there. It is in this cultural context (or perhaps our general perception of it) that I find this pretty enjoyable. Here, I don't much mind the characters having mood swings, or people being friendly or aggressively unwelcoming for no rational reason. The imagined and contrived past is, as they say, a foreign country.

This may not have been intentional on Carpi's and Martina's part, but it really works quite well, and makes a compelling case for why it's at least somewhat justifiable for the story to be as it is.

October 7, 2012 at 10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an actual inscription in the original version:

The gate already existed in 1472, but not in the present form, which dates from 1604.

October 21, 2012 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Thank you! That's good to know.

October 21, 2012 at 1:28 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Google Translator must've garbled up that one thing of your "cowboy" good where he speaks of Ucuccione "on the warpath", because in your version, the guy is speaking of Uguccione's badness, while in German, he is talking about a rumor from Pisa that Uguccione has recruited a band of Ghibelline merceneries. In the next panel, he's not talking about it as a long-standing fact that Uguccione has long been well-established in Pisa again, but that he's only recently recaptured the city or "bin takin' th' town".

Their names change from "Messer" to "Sir" not only in German, but also in the original Italian from "Messere" to "Ser". It was a wise decision from you to make the shift apparent with I and III stuck to the names, what with how "Sir" is an every-day address in slightly dated or old-fashioned English.

As for the missing Latin inscription, I gather that it was sloppy German editing. I planned on re-inserting it.

I like your habit of quoting vintage pop songs, especially fitting with Donald's "Monkee" business here! ;)

And c'mon people! Just *LOOK* at the grand and marvelous views of splendid architecture and panel compositions in this story! You can blame the script for many-a loophole in the plot, but you certainly can't fault Carpi's lush, breathtaking art! And even if there's not as many sight gags as in his "War and Peace", there's still quite a few... As said before, so many historical figures, combined with Carpi's marvelous art in architecture, historical wardrobe, and whimsical panel and page compositions is why also many Donaldists outside of Italy love the series.

And Napoleon up there totally gets the satirical aspects of the story, what with Medieval Italy being a chaotic patchwork or "rag rug" of Kleinstaaterei just like Germany at the same time.

February 2, 2014 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Natteravn said...

Wow, is that a Gauntlet reference on page 7 ? I'm really enjoying this version of the story, it's a long time since I read it (in Norwegian) but I remember the whole thing felt like this weird, disjointed dream, and you did well on playing up that part, gives it a surreal Python-esque feel, and as others have commented, the art IS actually good here (too bad about the scan quality though)

March 10, 2014 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

All I can say is, this Gauntlet reference is about to die :)

March 11, 2014 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

There appears to be a similar series about the Seven Wonders of the World, see here:

Not by Carpi though, but the arts not bad either.

February 12, 2016 at 8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The really sad thing is: Scrooge's and Donald's arguments and commentary over tropes and writing practices should have made for a GREAT story. What a tragedy that they didn't write a readable story to go along with it.

February 25, 2016 at 11:41 AM  

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