Thursday, November 15, 2012

"The Talking Dog"

Would you believe this is the first time I've written about a Branca story?  Yeah, surprised me too, but while applying labels, I realized that I had not previously created one for the man, and that therefore it must be true.  And here I am, totally disregarding Branca's art itself.  Looks like sometimes you just can't win.

Anyway, in this 1982 story, Donald uses a walkie-talkie set to play tricks on HDL, who turn the tables by using this same set to make their uncle think a dog is talking, and to cause mayhem when he tries to take it to a talent agent.

Not gonna lie to you: this is a pretty unremarkable story.  There wouldn't be much to say about it.


(You already know what's coming, don't you, you clever bugger?)

Except that this is the single solitary European story that Western, in its death spasms, inexplicably chose to publish (correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I'm wrong).  It appears in their final issue of WDC, from 1984.  That's an interesting factoid, but it still wouldn't leave much to say about the story itself, if not for the fact that, four years later, Gladstone took a whack at publishing it themselves, with an all-new localization.  Was it just random chance that they did an already-published story, or did they take a look at the older version and think, pft--we could do a way better version than that?  Hard to say, but the upshot is, we've got ourselves a possibly-unique opportunity to compare and contrast two different English versions of a story.

Truth is, the Western version stands up pretty well.  Geoffrey Blum's version for Gladstone is clearly superior, on balance, but it's not as much of a rout as I thought it might be before I had compared the two.  I suppose there's no particular rational reason why Western should have sucked at localizations, but one kind of unconsciously expects that this English script would be on the same level as their original stories of the time.  Which is not high.

In the following paired images, the first one will always be from the Western version.

Interesting the way Western makes the story their own, sort of, with that standard, pointlessly squiggly title font.  To be clear, "The Talking Dog" is the original Danish title of the story.  Yeah, it's a little generic, but I have to say, I kind of prefer it to the retitling that Gladstone gave it--it just seems like pointless wordplay for the sake of it.  How does "dogged resistance" as a concept have anything at all to do with the story?  Or is "resistance" meant, somewhat abstrusely, to refer to resistors?  Like the ones in the walkie talkie?  Bah.  I don't care for it in any case.  Inducks reveals that it was published in French under the title "La voix de son maître" ("His Master's Voice"), which I like considerably better; it's a clever reference, and one that actually relates much more clearly to the story than the Gladstone version.  Later, Hachette would reverse that, reprinting it as "La voix de son chien" ("His Dog's Voice"), which seems to me to be a bridge too far.

I also have to take a bit of an issue with Donald's line there in the Gladstone version: seems to me like "I always knew I was an electronics genius" would sound more natural.  And he's not really building it from scratch if he's using a kit he bought, which presumably comes with directions, is he? As I see it, "from scratch" would entail scavenging parts from a junkyard or something.

You can see that the Gladstone version is somewhat less wordy than the Western.  As you know if you've read my efforts at English localization, I'm in no way opposed to wordiness, but I have to admit that the later version does read a bit better in that regard.  Note that "heh" in the upper left panel--that's a typical vocal tic in a lot of Western stories.  Can't say I'm a huge fan; I'm glad to see it go.  And, of course, Blum makes the movie they want to see more specific.  Is "Buck Trueshot" a name used in some Barks story somewhere?  There's a "Trigger Trueshot" mentioned in "Sheriff of Bullet Valley," I know that much.

You see this a few times in the story: Blum takes fairly generic lines and makes them more interesting by adding extended, concrete imagery, like this business here about baboons.

Note also the way the colorist of the original neglected to color in Donald's tongue in the upper right panel.  You wouldn't necessarily notice this when casually reading the story, but once you do, it becomes quite disturbing: this strange white flap emerging from his mouth.

I'll concede that the newer version here is probably "better," but I have to say, "enough of such nonsense!" is really funny to me, and I'm sorry to see it go.

The dog is "Rollo" in the old version; "Joker" in the new one (though his new name isn't in the above panels).  I suppose one's preference here is pretty much a toss-up, though if pressed, I'd give the nod to the original, just because it sounds more like a real dog name.

Blum sticks an illusion to Bolivar up in there, which on the one hand is kind of cool, but on the other doesn't necessarily work all that well: there are plenty of stories where Bolivar's absent and we think nothing of it; mentioning him just makes us wonder: so…where is he?  And this would be quite confusing to a newbie, who would wonder, why this allusion to a seemingly nonexistent Duck Family dog?  Hmm.

And yeah, the insult is kind of nonsensical in the earlier version: I don't think the women would necessarily automatically associate that comment with her…whatever you call that (and seriously, is the fact that people do indeed dress like that--maybe somewhat less these days--both barbaric and really, really creepy, or what?  Seriously).

Hokay!  As you can see, there was inflation in the balloon market between '84 and '88.  Why?  Who knows.  Just accept it.  Note that the guy's line in the bottom left panel is the only one in the story that's the same in both versions.  Note also the girl's comment in the lower right, which usefully makes it clearer that she's referring to Donald.  It's somewhat confusing otherwise.

Pretty funny Gladstone reference.  Now, to be sure, "Mr. Bigstar" isn't going to win any prizes as a name, and that marquee there in the old version is pretty weak stuff.  Still, "The UBC Network" doesn't strike me as any too exciting either, and the network star's name (not mentioned in the above), "Numberman," is just kind of groan-inducing.  I don't think anyone's really showering themselves in glory here.  I do think "amazing!" is a bit more natural-sounding than "*gasp!*.

So, there you have it.  It's intriguing to imagine a world in which Western didn't die, but instead was able to inject life into the market by publishing a whole bunch of European fare.  Would they have succeeded, or would the somewhat weaker localizations have lacked the necessary spark?  Hard to say, but on balance, it's surely better that someone new came in to shake things up a bit.  By the early eighties, Western was very much living on borrowed time.  But this story presents an interesting glimpse at what might have been.

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Anonymous Swamp Adder said...

I figured the "from scratch" line was a joke -- Donald's bragging about his brilliance with electronics when he clearly just built it from a kit. Well, I thought it was funny!

November 15, 2012 at 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Fun to compare the two localizations. I agree that Blum's is overall bettter, partly due to its conciseness...and his fox stole panels are way better. And his addition of the "sailor suit" to the girl's comment does make it much clearer (though putting *blush* in a balloon seems a bit strange to me--and if you do do that, someone should make sure the colorist produces a blush). But I also agree that the Bolivar allusion is a mistake, for the reasons you cite. Blum is showing off his Barksian knowledge to the detriment of the current story's logic. (Didn't he diss Rosa for wanting continuity more than Barks did? Isn't this an example of continuity over story integrity?)And though I like the "monkey's uncle" bit as script, I have to say that in the panel in which Donald says that, his words don't quite accord with his expression. Lastly, I don't think it's possible to gasp with a pipe in one's mouth.

November 15, 2012 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Understand, also, that when comparing Western's and Blum's dialogue, we are analyzing an aspect to these stories that Blum pretty much INVENTED!

Outside of Barks and Mark Evanier, Western was never known for the sort of great dialogue we both demand and take for granted today!

Anything at all good to come out of Western - before we'd ever heard of Geoffrey Blum - was indeed a plus!

November 15, 2012 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


The Western dialogue is fine but doesn't quite possess the "personality" of the Blum version. As Joe notes, Geoff deserves primary credit for creating the EXPECTATION of clever, "punched-up" English dialogue in US-published Egmont stories. But I suppose that Erika Fuchs should be considered the TRUE originator of that approach, with her imaginative German translations of Barks stories.


November 15, 2012 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

"Was it just random chance that they did an already-published story, or did they take a look at the older version and think, pft--we could do a way better version than that?"

Random chance. They weren't aware at the time that Whitman had used it earlier—those last Whitman books were extremely hard to locate in those pre-Internet days.

"We've got ourselves a possibly-unique opportunity to compare and contrast two different English versions of a story."

Not quite. There were a couple of other stories that got used twice with different Americanizations each time.

D 8584: "Con Job for a Snob" the first time, "Snobs' Club" the second time. Reused by mistake. IMHO, this time both versions were very good.

D 8702: "No Hurry." Reused by mistake.

D 88267: "A Day in the Life of..." (Uncle Scrooge/Scrooge). Reused by mistake.

D 89243: "It's a Dog's Life." Reused intentionally; original plan to reuse older dialogue evolved into a plan to improve it. I like both versions.

There were other times when a re-reprint was accidentally planned, then caught during production—in time to locate and reuse an extant Americanization without changes.

December 2, 2012 at 2:45 PM  

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