Sunday, October 7, 2012

Master McDucato, Chapter VII: "Dawn of the New World"

As our final installment opens, we see that Charles VIII of France has occupied Florence.  Reading up on the man, it's kind of hilariously pathetic how useless he was as a king: his main thing was these Italian wars, which accomplished nothing and got France big into debt, and then he died at the age of twenty-seven after whacking his head on a lintel (I'll bet that's why this story's never been published in France--they don't want to be reminded of the guy).  You may note that the individual we see in this story sure doesn't look like he's in his twenties, but, well, never mind.

Yes!  It's the very exchange to which there was an allusion that I cut out in the French version of "Dr. Faustus!"  Well, if you were mourning that omission, now you get to enjoy it in all its glory!  Seriously, Italian people, is this event some sort of major cultural touchstone to you, or what?  I mean, it's appeared in two Disney stories…  

Interestingly enough (or not), this guy is not identified in the German as Piero Capponi (again, I ask: if you're Italian, do you just automatically know him?).  I include his name in my version, but I never, ever would have known who he was supposed to be if I hadn't read that there "Faustus."  I probably would've thought that all this talk about trumpets and bells was some sort of idiomatic German thing that wasn't coming across.

And the story just mentions Savonarola here without then ever bringing the guy in or doing anything further with this.  More evidence that Carpi and Martina had a quota to meet, and even just mentioning a historical personage was enough to "count."

Another thing: I complained, of Rosa's "Prisoner of White Agony Creek," that the long, duck-free segment with a bunch of historical figures shoehorned in broke the story's momentum a little.  Looks like Rosa did not himself pioneer that particular technique.

…an' if you think Donald's line in the first panel there is kind of nonsensical, perhaps YOU would like to come up with a line that expresses the idea of "contemptuous hilarity at the mention of Benvenuto Cellini" while still making sense.

More ridiculousness--Scrooge's high opinion of his own cleverness/deviousness at avoiding having to read brief character blurbs out of the book is just beneath contempt.

Gawd, don't even get me started about the problems with this New-World-exploration stuff.  There's just nothing about it that accords with any kind of historical record.  Never mind that it's VERY doubtful that anyone was actually under the impression that Columbus had gone to India at this point; what's absolutely certain is that he did not come back with potatoes.  And even if he had, the idea that they would instantly have become available any old place…yeah, pull the other one.

However, this DOES lead to the most surreal "inappropriate reaction" bit in the whole dern story.  I mean, look okay, Scrooge is sometimes an asshole; got it--but when you find yourself exploding in rage at the very notion that someone would import a vegetable that you don't like, you've clearly long since moved from "generic assholishness" to "genuine mental illness."

…and this part is only marginally less ridiculous.  Note that "visiting the new world" becoming Scroogio's consuming obsession was triggered by some guy's off-hand mention of gold nuggets being there.  There was never any indication that they'd be super-easy to find or way more common than they are in Europe.  The whole thing is on very shaky narrative ground.

…but off we go to Spain, and as we go, we experience our final dang ol' anecdote.  Note that this one is unique inasmuch as it's precipitated by nothing; all the other ones are being told to them by someone to explain something about where they are.  Here--nothin'.  Unless those cities in the background are meant to be Empoli and San Miniato.  Hard to say, really.

I suppose at least in part, this bit was included so Gyro and Gladstone could be worked in, albeit in a wildly out-of-character way.  

I must say, though, from this climax, it seems like this was the most good-natured war ever, which is rather nice.  Now, this flying donkey business is a real thing, and apparently it's quite a popular tradition; there's even some sort of hockey team named after it:

Why is "Flying Donkey" in English?  I could not tell you.  This place more or less confirms the story, though it doesn't seem to be all that well-known; wikipedia does not mention it.  Also, if this "Eugenio Machiavelli" character--an ancestor of Niccolò, I assume?--was a real person, he sure doesn't seem to exist on the internet.

Anyway.  That's that.  Now, some more sea-voyage stuff, featuring Pete!  Is his partner there actually perennial Paul-Murry-Pete-partner (coincidentally, The Paul Murry Pete Partners is the name of my new band)  Scuttle?  Extremely unlikely, but hey--let's just roll with it (actually, if anything, he looks more like an older version of Yardarm from the Ducktales episode "Pearl of Wisdom," but we're going old-school).  Strange fact I discovered on inducks: Scuttle is by far more widely published in France than anywhere else.  No idea why, but he's appeared there three hundred fifty-seven times, whereas in second-place Brazil, he's only appeared two hundred forty-three.  The French are gripped with a mad, insatiable, Scuttle-mania!  And I ask you: who can blame them?

Unsurprisingly, but still somewhat disappointingly, we are given absolutely no indication of what Pete's smuggling activities actually entail.  Insert snide comment about MBAs here.

Seriously, I know I've said it before, but whatta dick.  That shit-eating grin there is just the worst.  Can't we at least try to avoid having our heroes violate their fundamental natures left and right?

…but then, abruptly, we swerve into implausible generosity.  This whole thing, I just don't know…

I suppose this is meant to be some sort of great epiphany about Scroogio's psychology, but it does not come across as hugely plausible.  I mean, I guess it's sort of interesting, but the idea that he was actually  lugging this thing around for reasons other than a love of money is pretty hard to buy.

On the other hand, warning his nephew to shut up because he'd rather drown than be taken back in by Pete & Co and lose his florins?  Wholly in-character.

This whole hyper-confidence on Scroogio's part about how easily he'll be able to get rich in America surely plays on the American-dream theme, and this is not the only story that's ended with Old-World characters emigrating to the New: Ducktargnan used it, and "War and Peace" indicates the possibility.  No point in complaining that the only characteristically American name at this point would have to be a Native-American name; that's surely the joke, and not a bad one either.  Is this playing on the Scots-are-misers business?  

Well, the conclusion's not bad for what it is, anyway.  I kind of like it.

But then we return to this, and a somewhat predictable denouement.  In the German version, Donald was unambiguously taking the blame here; he forgot to load a tape.  Eh…maybe, but I think it's at least as likely that Scrooge, cheap bastard that he is, forgot to buy one in the first place, and it was just assumed to be there by everyone.

Last-second Fethry cameo! 

In the German, the kid just has a big question mark in his speech bubble, but when you think about it, all the narrative problems here are instantly solved if you assume the whole thing was a dream.  Consider: this kid is sitting in his history class, bored out of his mind.  Finally, he dozes off, and finds himself roaming the streets of his hometown, where, in a surprising turn of events that seems completely normal to him, he meets his favorite comic-book characters, who proceed to tell him a rambling, frequently pointless story about Tuscany.  Thought of like this, all the historical inaccuracies are the kid's own, and the weird lapses in character seem perfectly normal because, hey, dream logic.  And then the two of them fly away!  Whoosh!

So, well…there you have it.  It's hard to know what to say; as I've shown, there's a quite large extent to which this whole story just defies analysis.  But I hope you've enjoyed this little trawl through Tuscan history and extreme Disney weirdness.  At such time as I tackle another translation project (probably not for some time--this stuff is more consuming than is maybe wholly healthy for me), it'll probably be something at least somewhat less out there (okay, so it would be hard for it to be otherwise if I tried).  But for now, I do take a perverse pleasure in inflicting providing a story like this to an English-speaking audience.

<-Chapter VI

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Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Boy that GeoX! He sure know how to write entertaining reviews! :)

Unlike most stories on this blog I didn't read this series but this is still made me laugh out loud at some moments especially coments abut Scrooge's "mental illnes" in this story... Still the idea that Scrooge would bring a barrel of money on his jurney appears to be oddly in character...

I so hope you one day review
"Swimming Swindlers" ( , the part when HD&L almost die freak me out as a child) Rosa's "A Little something speciall", "Last lord of El Dorado" (which is my personal favoirte of his treasure hunt stories) and especially the second "Three Caballeros" story which I honestly find not as good as the first one and I hate that Panchito and Jose spent entire story as a unity rather then characters with diftent personalities

October 7, 2012 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

(seriously if I didn't read this story beafore It would be hard for me to point out their character diffrence in this one)

October 7, 2012 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Napoleon said...

Man, it's maddening to see Fethry the Troubadour (or Minnesinger or whatever) in the very last panel. Way to give the reader a glimpse of a much more interesting and less bullshit-laden way of recounting these adventures, guys.

Seriously, I know I would've so preferred a travelling musician narrating the story and being the framing device. Would've made a lot more sense.

In fact, picture this: Fethry, a travelling entertainer, sings the story of these adventures to a bored Italian prince (cameo opportunities!) who could still interrupt the narrative for complaints & laughs. The inconsistencies would be easier to explain away as poetic fancies, the whole scenario would be much less of a slap in the face of common sense, and we could have been spared this diabolically irritating boy character. And if we must have somebody give SOME historical factoids or 'correct' the ballad so that this can be properly educational, the job could befall upon the prince's know-it-all librarian/tutor/court philosopher, preferably 'played' by Ludwig von Drake. I can't guarantee that these changes that I just pulled out of my posterior would make the actual adventures any more logical, but they sure would make the plot holes more excusable and render the frame story less jarring and mystifying. (Of course, an actual ballad would be a much greater bitch to translate.) Anyway, what a dick move to conjure up all this could-have-been stuff in the last panel.

But on the whole, my general feeling after reading this story is at least somewhat impressed. Martina & Carpi display a lot of ambition here. Even if it doesn't quite hold water, I've got to respect them for trying this on such a scale.

It's a fun ride as it is, but it clearly should have gone through a few revisions already at concept stage. Glad to have it, though. And, as I have already stated elsewhere, it was a real pleasure to read, thanks to the effort put into the translation job.

October 9, 2012 at 12:20 PM  
Anonymous TlatoSMD said...

Nothing idiomatic about those trumpets and bells in German, but with how they're saying it, the panel composition, and their body language, it appears to me from the context like it's the respective French and Italian way to "call the troops to arms".

As for the Cellini incident with Donald there, it seems to me like the German translator was struggling with an intranslatable Italian pun made by Donald, so in German Donald only goes, "Wotta guy!"

In March 1493, Columbus had returned from his voyage to America. How can we be sure that people didn't still think of it as India only a year later? Wikipedia has it that people were quick to call America the "West Indies" at first, Francisco López de Gómara wrote his "Historia general de las Indias" about the New World in 1552, and the so-called "West India" Companies were founded more than a hundred years later. I agree that the potato bit is humbug, though. It took until c. 1570 for the first potatoes to arrive in Europe.

Yes, dickish and short-sighted Italian Scrooge strikes again with some slapstick antics. In any case, I still can't stop laughing at your line, "I am filled with uncontrollable rage!" there! XD

I don't see how Gyro is really out of place here, for Italian standards. A clever engineer with a mechanical invention? Give the part to Gyro!

Again, "shit-eating" Scroogio having Naldo do all the work is nothing out of the ordinary for Italian standards. However, his sudden spurt of generosity most certainly *IS*. My guess is that the German translator was really messing something up here. But I agree how it's both funny *AND* in-character for any incarnation of Scrooge to rather drown than lose money! :P

Well, it would be *YOU* to know whether it's a play on the rumors of Scottish, uh...frugality, after all the German text has no reference to his new name being "American" in any way! ;) Same about the reference to the American Dream, as in the German text, Scroogio still believes the fairy tale that the West Indies are a place where gold literally grows in the ground. Then again, that may not be that big a stretch when comparing that to similar patriotic sayings from Disney ex-pat Don Bluth's "An American Tail"... Also, is that a reference to Paul Simon's "look for America"?

Yes, *MANY* Italian Disney stories seem to work by weird "dream logic", such as the two flying away in the end.

I like Napoleon's idea of Fethry as a travelling entertainer and Ludwig as court philosopher critizing the historical accuracy. But still, as said, they were trying to use the beautiful scenery and architecture of Florence as a backdrop to use for many cues here, it's just the reason why they end up there at the start is pretty ridiculous.

February 2, 2014 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

The two flying into the air… I'm not sure, but it may be that the author was not clear about that point: can the anthropomorphic ducks fly ? I know this is weird, but the comic-book incarnation of Daffy Duck is much more anthropomorphic than his animated counterpart, nearly as anthropomorphic as Donald… But he can fly. So the question can be asked.

May 24, 2015 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger Fethry Duck said...

@Achille - it's clearly just a visual gag. They're rocketing off with such fury and energy they're effectively running on air.

July 22, 2015 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"However, this DOES lead to the most surreal "inappropriate reaction" bit in the whole dern story. I mean, look okay, Scrooge is sometimes an asshole; got it--but when you find yourself exploding in rage at the very notion that someone would import a vegetable that you don't like, you've clearly long since moved from "generic assholishness" to "genuine mental illness.""

It's definitely not played that way here, but it could be retconned as being the old Scrooge trope that he hates the very idea of spending unnecessary money (even when he's not the one the money belongs to) and considers the price payed for Colombus's travel to have been a waste since nothing good came of it. I mean, those wide exploration travels were costy things.

February 3, 2016 at 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, don't know how you had the strength or patience to get through this difficult journey. I hope you find a translation project that's fun and suspenseful and a pleasure to read and present and analyze next time.

February 25, 2016 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

My tastes are clearly odder than yours. Still, if you're going through my archives, you will eventually run across some of my other translations, which you may like better.

February 25, 2016 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

The Norwegian translation of this story DOES identify Capponi, so it seems the German translator just left his name out for whatever reason.

February 9, 2018 at 9:00 PM  

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