Saturday, March 23, 2013

"The Chirikawa Necklace"

What I want to do now is talk about some of these early-sixties Scarpa MM stories that were never published in the US.  Oh, they would've been: Gemstone's plan, unless I'm mistaken, was to publish one in every other issue of Mickey Mouse Adventures.  But alas, this plan was for naught, more or less.  "Mickey Mouse in the Delta Dimension" appeared in MM11, but that was as far as it went.  Scarpa's follow-up was all set to run in MM13, but then the MMA series was discontinued.  You can even see what would have been the cover of that issue:

Ultimately, it was printed in two parts in WDC, so all was not lost, but that was as far as it went--there are a good half dozen Mickey adventures Scarpa wrote in this time period--before he mostly stopped writing his own material 'til the seventies, in 1963--that have never been seen by American audiences.  These are all really highly-rated on inducks; not, as we've seen, that that necessarily means anything, but "Delta Dimension" was a classic for sure, and I was just consumed with curiosity to see what else the man had been up to.  Most of these had been published in France--and most of those in 1998, when Hachette decided, for Mickey's seventieth anniversary, to celebrate by printing a vintage Scarpa story in each issue of Mickey Parade (the French digest) for the year (good call, guys!), so I ultimately collected a LOT of them, and now I'm itching to talk about them--to at least provide some idea of what we missed out on.  I'm not envisioning that these will be hugely in-depth entries; just a general overview with whatever highlights and lowlights seem salient.

To be clear, I am NOT translating these; that would be incredibly time-consuming and--more to the point--I don't want to step on any toes by doing stories that would be likely to be printed officially were there a US publisher (even as that hope appears more and more threadbare by the day).  Won't say I'm not sorely tempted, though--my localizations would be GREAT!  I can handle things! I'm smart!  Not like everybody says!  Well, maybe if no one else steps up to the plate in the next decade or something…anyway, that said, I AM translating the panels I'm putting up here, which seems much more elegant than my previous strategy of just sticking Italicized translations underneath.

"The Chirikawa Necklace" was sort of built up into the most awesome thing EVER in my mind because I had a hell of a time tracking down a copy of it (I could've gotten one from 1984, but I wanted one that does not engage in the time-honored tradition of alternating between color and black-and-white pages).  Also, I'd swear (though I can't find it now) that one of those crazy-ass Alberto Becattini essays that Gladstone published refers to it as the most awesome Scarpa Mickey story EVER, not that I should be trusting anything Becattini says.

With this in mind, it's probably unfair to call this story a "disappointment."  It may not be quite as great as I'd hoped, but it does some interesting stuff, and the central mystery is compelling, even if it doesn't resolve in a wholly satisfactory manner.

So the idea as we start is that Mickey starts experiencing spells of VERTIGO for no discernible reason.  Ver-ti-go…

If you think this plot point was inspired by Hitchcock's movie, well, you're probably right, although the stories don't intersect beyond that.  It is determined that Mickey needs rest, so he goes out to stay at his Aunt Topolinda's farm (Topolinda, whose first appearance this is, would go on to become a minor recurring character--though Scarpa himself, oddly enough, never used her again).  But why is Topolinda so secretive about the necklace she's wearing in an old portrait?  How does this relate to Mickey's vertigo?  And what do both vertigo and necklace have to do with the current crime spree, in which an overwhelming number of seemingly random, every-day items are being stolen?  WHAT?!?  Well, I'm going to do my best not to spoil this, but be advised that there ARE, unavoidably, semi-spoilers in what follows, so take heed.

The story is actually probably most notable for marking the debut of Trudy Van Tubb, Pete's gun moll.  You don't get a hugely clearly idea here of what exactly their relationship is like, what makes it run, but for my money, she's Scarpa's most successful recurring character, filling a clear niche, providing a way to deepen Pete's character, and not being problematic in the way that Brigitta is (in spite of what you might infer from the above).  So that's all good.

She's not introduced in quite the same disorienting "oh, yes, she's always been there" way that Brigitta was; when Mickey hears that Pete has a visitor in jail, he wonders who would possibly want to visit Pete, and doesn't seem to know her once he sees her, suggesting that she's a newcomer.  As we'll see below, however, that assumption is problematic.

And yes, it should also be noted that this here is the third appearance of Atomo Bleep-Bleep, the giant, intelligent atom who had previously been in "Delta Dimension" and "Sacred Spring."  Scarpa was apparently really taken with the character for a brief period, using him in six stories in a row.  I like him too, although practically speaking, I'm not sure Scarpa ever adequately answered the question of what niche he fills that wasn't already filled by Eega Beeva.  Enthusiastic alien-ish character that can chip in with convenient super-powers/inventions as necessary?  Check.  Atomo is more child-like, but I'm not sure that's quite enough.  It would be interesting if the two actually met one of these days.

At any rate, at the end of "Delta Dimension," Atomo returned to said dimension to live with his mentor/father figure, Dr. Einmug, from Gottfredson's "Sky Island.  At the beginning of "Sacred Spring," he reappears, supposedly on vacation.  But he does not leave again at the end of that story, and in all the ones that follow, he's just living with Mickey, apparently having greatly extended this vacation.

(And yes, he's is meant to be blue, not green.  Doing it this way isn't a French convention or anything; he's blue in all the other French stories I have.  Presumably, a colorist unfamiliar with his history thought, with justification, that he looked like a "little green man from Mars" type.  Additionally, while his usual French name is "Atominus Bip-Bip," here it's instead "Bi-Bop."  Hmm.

Here, you can see the character being used as a narrative crutch.  Shit, how should I have Mickey be able to access these suppressed memories?  I know!  MAGIC!  Er, I mean, "mnemonic mesons."  That'll hunt.  I've got to say, Scarpa, considering the extent to which this story already relies on reeeealy convenient happenstance, it wouldn't have killed you to come up with a more organic way to make this part work.

And yeah…the flashback involves Baby Pete and Baby Trudy, which is pretty silly, though I'll admit that their junior-grade criminality is kind of cute.  Also, if the two of them were partners in crime (and other places?) from way back, it seems dubious that Mickey wouldn't already be acquainted with Trudy.

Anyway, I'm not going to go any further with this, lest we get needlessly spoil-y.  The crime spree alluded to above ultimately turns out to be very goofy, albeit somewhat creative, in origin--and the connection between the vertigo, the necklace, and said spree, though kind of clever, relies, as noted, on a lot of golly-gee-isn't-that-convenient coincidence.  In spite of everything, though, I do like it more than not; it's not as good as "Delta Dimension" (which, really, is one of Scarpa's all-time best), but it's better than "Sacred Spring" by a long shot.  At any rate, future stories would definitely improve on it.



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Actually Zia Topolinda did appear in one more Scarpa Story - - however Scarpa only did the illustration, which is a sequel to the story above.
Interestingh enough I got to read the sequel first and then the oryginal.

I like this story. Not Scarpas best but still very interesting plot with some fun bits.

I hate how Zio Topolinda is drawn in this one btw -

March 23, 2013 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Don't think I didn't obsessively trawl through inducks before making that comment and wasn't well aware of that--but to me, in this context, "use" implies a level of intentionality that you don't get with an art-only thing.

Point taken, however.

March 23, 2013 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

BTW -> The sequel story I mentioned re-used almost entire flashback that Mickey had about Pete kidnaping him as a baby from this story.

BTW #2 -> In Polish translation Trudy was always referd as "Pete's whife". I was pretty shock after years of thinking they are in "holly matrimony" that not only in all oryginal language version stories she's only his girlfriend but I heard in some she was refrence as his cousin... which makes whole thing much more strange O_o

I wonder if they they ever had a story where Pete and Trudy broke up and she started dating some other guy or vice versa how would the Polish translators would handle this...

March 23, 2013 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

I’m not the one who should be saying this, but I think David G. and Jonathan Grey actually worked on an Americanized version of this that never got published. At least, I seem to recall that from my conversations with them.

If I’m correct, I hope one of them comes forth with some additional detail.

There’s a bit of stuff that was completed / semi-completed that we never got to see, due the changes in publishers, cancelations of lines, etc. More’s the pity.

One, in particular, frustrates me no end because it was the return of the thieving, obsessive coin collector Melvin X. Nickelby, from back in UNCLE SCROOGE # 367 – a character I really enjoyed working with! That script was completed just as the final whistle blew. …Alas.

March 23, 2013 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Seems probable--I would bet money that this was the next one up after "Sacred Spring."

March 23, 2013 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

I believe it WAS.

March 23, 2013 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

That's right. In Walt Disney Treasures 3. And after that was to have come "The Fabulous Kingdom of Shan-Grilla" (description here) in yet another unpublished book...

Sigh. I'm glad we managed to publish what we managed to publish.

March 24, 2013 at 3:39 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Man, you're killing me--as you know, that's the one that's NEVER been published outside of Italy...

March 24, 2013 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...

So, I guess that the squared- off, somewhat crude looking depiction of Li'l Pete and Trudy is supposed to represent the state of Mickey's youthful unconscious? It's rather cleverly done.

I wouldn't be so hard on Becattini's larding-on of the praise for this story. It's nice to be reminded of those days when exposure to Scarpa was new for me!


March 25, 2013 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, young Pete and Trudy are drawn that way throughout.

And no,I don't particularly object to what Becattini says in this case. I don't think him liking a story means I'm automatically going to hate it; it's just that there's no relationship between his opinion and my own.

March 25, 2013 at 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Off-topic: I just read on DCF that you think Scarpa's Robin Hood story is great! I agree, and I hope you review it here when you've made it through the Scarpa Mickeys on your To Do list. Do you have the nifty hardcover French printing?

March 26, 2013 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yup, got the hardcover. Very nice. Wish they'd release more vintage stories like that, but nooooo...the rest is all Double Duck.

As I said, I like the story a lot, dopey ending notwithstanding. I keep thinking "I should translate that!" but then I keep counter-thinking "...but it's such an obvious candidate for an official localization." At any rate, a blog entry at least is surely a thing that should happen.

March 26, 2013 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I wonder... why didn't you like "Sacred Spring"?

May 7, 2014 at 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Just posting here to celebrate the appearance of this story in IDW's Mickey Mouse 8 & 9! Not to mention, the Melvin X. Nickelby story Joe refers to in his comment here, appearing in U$ 11. Perhaps Shan-Grilla will show up one of these months! So great that now there is concrete reason to harbor such hopes.

Anyway, I did enjoy the story, more than I usually enjoy Scarpa. I have to say there's a whole lot of cuteness in this story: baby Mickey, li'l Trudy & Pete, Atomo, and the guinea pigs.... The whole "school for crooks" thing is rather charming, too, in its eccentricity

February 15, 2016 at 10:04 AM  

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