Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"The Bleep-Bleep 15"

I have a very important question for you: why the hell has "The Bleep-Bleep 15" only ever been published outside of Italy once--in the edition I read?  When all the stories surrounding it have been widely published everywhere?  WHY?!?!?  TELL ME!!!  This goes deep, people.  VERY deep.  If you look on inducks, you'll see that even the Italian publication history is suspicious: it was first printed in 1960, reprinted in 1964, and then not published again until 1994, even though the surrounding stories were mostly reprinted in the early eighties (the case is the same for the story Dave Gerstein mentioned in comments last time that's never been printed outside of Italy).  Is there some sort of censorship involved here?  According to the accompanying essay, one of the stories we'll be looking at a bit later was explicitly suppressed for a while--but there the reasons are obvious, if (inevitably) uncompelling; here I just don't know.  VERY, VERY SUSPICIOUS.

This state of affairs is especially unfortunate because "The Bleep-Bleep 15" is fucking delightful--one of the best stories we'll be looking at, if not the best.  It feels very much like a Bill-Walsh-era Gottfredson story, in a good way.

It is, of course, the fourth Atomo Bleep-Bleep story.  The idea here is that, just on a lark, Atomo invents this little mini-satellite thing (which is ultimately named after him; hence, the title) that attaches to things in the air and prevents them from falling.  Eventually, people find out and start going crazy about this; everyone wants the technology for themselves.  Atomo is kidnapped by Pete and company to manufacture for them larger versions of the device (though not, apparently, for any world-conquering reasons--he just wants to sell them to governments and get rich), and when Mickey figures out what happens, it's necessary to rescue him.  

There's a certain thematic commonality with Gottfredson's original "Sky Island," in which Mickey's like, hey, give us your technology; we're responsible!; and Einmug's like, nope, don't trust ya.  We can see that the good doctor was quite justified in his distrust.

(Apologies for those craptastic-looking text balloons--the digest is such that if I wanted to get good-looking ones without shadows wrecking things, I'd need to pretty much break its spine.  If I were doing a translation project, I suppose I'd have to get an extra copy of the book and cut the pages out with an exacto knife to scan them optimally.)

Sound like a simple plot, and it is, in outline.  For the most part, it moves at a rather stately pace, with lots of great individual moments.  I really like how feisty Mickey is here, harkening back to the really old-school stories.  F'rinstance, this bit where he uses the device plays a trick on Goofy:

That shit is old-school.

Or stuff like this.  The idea here is that Pete forces Atomo to work for him by deploying this Japanese henchman here, Kamura, to constantly survey Mickey and kill him if Atomo disobeys.  Which, ultimately, leads to a fun fight scene involving the above.  I actually laughed out loud at the bottom left panel there.

According to the introduction I read, when this story was reprinted to coincide with the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, it was revised (by Scarpa himself with Giorgio Cavazzano) to create a "more Japanese ambiance," although I have literally no idea of what that could possibly entail.

We also have Pete being classically murderous.  Trudy does not appear in this story, but at one point (unless this is just an embellishment by the French translator, which I doubt), he does mention her by name, indicating that Scarpa already thought of her as a regular.  Also, we see here and in the next story that Atomo is rapidly becoming some sort of invincible superhero.  Not only can he not be hurt by anything less than an atom smasher…

…but he's also some kind of crazy martial arts master.

The way Mickey and Atomo ultimately figure out what's what and thereby overcome Pete is also clever, albeit a bit overly convenient (I won't spoil it).  I don't think I can quite convey how fun the whole thing is here, but believe me, the answer is very.  I recommend that all countries get on the ball with it, and that it be printed in the US just as soon as there's a publisher (aaaaany day now…).



Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Regular Geo writes:

“Or stuff like this. The idea here is that Pete forces Atomo to work for him by deploying this Japanese henchman here, Kamura, to constantly survey Mickey and kill him if Atomo disobeys. Which, ultimately, leads to a fun fight scene involving the above. I actually laughed out loud at the bottom left panel there.”

I think we can check this off as ONE reason it hasn’t appeared in the US.

And, possibly consider its “original proximity” to WW II (as close as Y2K is to us now?), and there may have been a general reluctance to use it overall.

March 27, 2013 at 4:05 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, probably. But I don't find it especially problematic; the story doesn't really push his ethnicity that hard, and certainly not in what I would consider an offensive way--though one's mileage may vary, surely.

March 27, 2013 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

It’s a funny thing about WW II stuff…

I just had this discussion with the instructor of an Adult-Ed film class I’ve been taking, who grew up when-and-where I did… ‘60s New York.

In 2008, there was suddenly lots of WW II era stuff released to DVD, for Looney Tunes, Popeye, and The Three Stooges… almost all at once, in fact.

Some of it, I was actually seeing for the first time, and the rest, I first saw in the eighties (when home video began), or on Cartoon Network, when it didn’t suck. I began to wonder why someone like me – who spent way too much time watching this stuff – didn’t see these back then, when I saw damned near everything else.

We both agreed that most (nearly all) of this stuff did not play in rotation in the ‘60s (when we were kids) on WPIX 11 and WNEW (now FOX-5) – and we arrived at the conclusion that we were still too close in time to WW II for most of this stuff to be run.

A lot of it’s not a big deal now. Who hasn’t seen “Hare Meets Herr”, and “Daffy the Commando” – but ya didn’t seem ‘em in my childhood! That said, “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” and the like (including a Donald Duck, from the Army WW II period – the title of which eludes me right now) seem to occupy a different level. Rightly so, I’d say.

That same thinking could have been at work at the time this story was not-often printed in various countries – and then, maybe later, the story just fell into obscurity and was forgotten. We’ll never know, of course…

March 27, 2013 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Are you talking about Der Fuehrer's Face? BB Nips the Nips would seem to be a lot more problematic than THAT. As for this story, the Japanese character doesn't seem to be problematic AT ALL. Maybe this one simply slipped through the cracks...


March 27, 2013 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

No on forgets “Der Fuhrer’s Face”! It was “Commando Duck” (1944) that I was thinking of. Check THAT ONE out, in comparison! And I probably didn’t recall the title because I was thinking of the more innocuous “Daffy the Commando”.

Now, on the other hand (though, I still feel the “Japanese WW II thing” is a valid possibility), I suppose a story CAN simply slip into obscurity on its own.

Take the “Pirate Gold” 1962 sequel I called “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold Again”. Why did it languish for so long, when Gladstone Series I could have printed it in the mid-to-late eighties? Somewhere after their 1986 printing of the original “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold”, and around the time they were starting to give us Scarpa stories.

Yet, we didn't see it here until 2011!

A sequel to one of the most famous Duck stories of all should have been a natural for Gladstone I – and you would have had Geoffrey Blum script it, instead of me!

March 27, 2013 at 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Ah, but I'm glad you scripted Pirate Gold Again, Joe--you have a lighter touch than Blum. His scripts are rich in literary and classic-comics references, but they are heavier on the page. Yours are funnier, and more buoyant.

Somebody really should do an academic study of Disney comics focusing on how/why stories do or don't get reprinted in other countries/time periods. Is there any comparable international data base of commercial narrative sharing? Well, there's data on movies, I guess, but there are different issues operating there.

March 28, 2013 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Thank you so much, Elaine! You’ve made my day!

Interesting idea on having a study of printing / reprinting patterns over the years.

Your kind comments on scripting bring another notion to mind…

DC Comics once did a feature where they had a penciled drawing of Green Arrow (I think, it was Green Arrow) and had several different inkers ink it – to show how different it would look.

Imagine there’s a foreign Disney comics story, and different persons take a shot at scripting it. Geoffrey Blum, Garry Leach, John Clark, Bob Foster, Annette Roman (whose dialogue I liked, but whom I know nothing about), David Gerstein, Jonathan Gray, myself, Thad Komorowski, Chris Barat, Geo X – and anyone who would like to try.

Wouldn’t it be fun to read what emerges? Some of us would be “further out there” and some of us less so. I’d especially like to see how each of us diverges from all but the most basic main plot points! (I always throw-in stuff of my own, that was not in the original script!) I’m certain your comparison between Blum and me would be born out – and I’d love to see how.

March 28, 2013 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Scarpa's Asian characters are remarkably unstereotypical for the era. Think, for instance, of Jubal Pomp's techie in "The Secret of Success" (our version in UNCLE SCROOGE 338).
There is often a match between the characters and hi-tech/martial arts themes, but grotesque features and bumpkin-like behavior are happily absent. It's better than fair for its day.

March 28, 2013 at 4:16 PM  

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