Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"The Isle of Can't-Be-Can"

Bah.  I would be posting more, but for things.  And stuff.  I WOULD be saying something about the new Gottfredson book, but I fucking DON'T HAVE IT yet.  And when I asked the Fantagraphics people what the deal was, they told me it had been BACK-ORDERED--even though I preordered the thing in April.  I know this is the kind of thing for which the phrase "first-world problems" was invented, but still...shit the what, people?

So anyway, that's forthcoming, if they ever get their act together.  In the meantime, by popular demand (for a somewhat idiosyncratic definition of "popular"), let's say a few words about "The Isle of Can't-Be-Can" (which goes by the uninspired "Donald and the Uninhabitable Island" in the Italian), as drawn by Cavazzano and written by some dude named Giorgio Figus, whose work has not otherwise appeared in the US.

Now, as you can see, the basic premise is that Donald and Gyro have to go to this island the inhabitants of which were driven off by something mysterious.  The story itself has decided ups and downs, which we will get to...NOW.

Up One: Dave Gerstein's script; I'm not going to do a lot of babbling about it, but suffice it to say that it's of the usual quality--and even more than usual, it's chock-a-block with pop culture references (oh man, don't you just LOVE it when things are chock-a-block with other things?).  I like these a lot, but let's face it: it would not be hugely fascinating for me to spend a lot of time enumerating them here.

Up Two: The way the initial mystery is established, with a genuine sense of foreboding.

Since we were talking about Gyro of late, it would also be meet to note the way it contrasts the two characters--logical versus superstitious.  Let's not get carried away, though--the story doesn't really push this theme all that hard.

"All that junk"--oh, Gerstein.  Also, you have to like that silhouetted image.  You really do get a strong sense of atmosphere from all this.

Up Three: then, nightmare monsters visit Donald, and, while they ARE jokey, the extent to which they're actually genuinely alarming is impressive.  I don't always like Cavazzano's artwork, but he deserves credit here.

…and for this shadow monster especially.  That's the kind of shit that could give little kids nightmares.  Also appreciated: the flashback to Young Donald.

So on the one hand, the fact that we only see Donald's childhood nightmares in action is meant to contrast the two characters.  On the other hand, given that, as we can see, Gyro does have nightmares, the fact that we never get to meet them makes the story feel sort of unbalanced.  On the third hand, the story would probably drag a bit if it were just set piece after set piece of nightmares.  I don't know--I don't think I have an answer here.  But something feels a bit off.  Full credit for that crazy machine-nightmare, though.

Down One: this explanation.  I suppose, given that this is a Disney comic, it had to be some pat thing like this; you certainly couldn't expect the mystery to be just left mysterious, and it's unlikely that it would be anything genuinely sinister.  But when you just lazily wave the story away like this by going "oh, it was SPACE MAGIC all along," it can't really be all that edifying.  Also, it has to be noted that Donald and Gyro don't actually do anything to solve the mystery; they just run into the guy, tell him this is a bad idea, he leaves, and that's that.

Down Two: this ending.  See, I feel like it's fair for Scrooge to get pissed off at Donald over things that aren't exactly his fault.  Like, he may have encouraged Scrooge to dig up a pyramid or go in search of an undiscovered island or buy a bunch of miniature land deeds (THESE ARE BARKS REFERENCES), but that doesn't mean it's his fault when they don't pan out--in spite of which I think it's fair and true-to-character for Scrooge to be pissed off at him.  But here…fuckin' eh, man.  Donald and Gyro do exactly what they were asked to do, to the letter, and then Scrooge is enraged because they didn't do this really non-intuitive thing that he talks about like it was completely obvious?  That just makes him seem kind of psychotic.  It really feels here like ol' Figus was determined to run this stock ending--Scrooge chases hapless nephew off--and could only come up with this really, really forced way to make that work.  There's unfair and then there's unfair, and for me, this falls on the wrong side of that equation.

What to the evs, though (as the kids may possibly be saying).  There's still enough good stuff here for the story to be at least worth checking out.  I haven't really given much attention to stories from Gemstone's digests on this blog, but given that, as you can see, I was able to solve the scanning difficulties, more or less, perhaps I should do more.  SUGGESTIONS WELCOME.

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Anonymous Michiel de Groot said...

Funny you should mention that: I read this comic as a small kid, and that black monster gave me nightmares for weeks. It was released in a "Donald Duck Pocket" (with a bunch of mostly Italian stories) here in the Netherlands, and for a good while I was scared to even open the book.

July 31, 2013 at 4:25 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo writes: “But when you just lazily wave the story away like this by going ‘oh, it was SPACE MAGIC all along,’ it can't really be all that edifying.”

Aw, Geo… Does this mean you also don’t like the classic STAR TREK episode “Shore Leave”?

Remember, what’s “SPACE MAGIC” to you is probably just a “can o’ corn” to… THEM!

…Or, what this Blog would be to a kid buying WDC&S # 1 new off the newsstand!

July 31, 2013 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I love Giorgio Cavazzano art. I'm still angry at myself that I coudn't make it the day he was visiting in Poland (and making drawing for fans as well!)

P.S. Still hoping to see review of "A Little Something Special" or "'Cheating Swimmers"... ;) Or "The Adventures of Gyro" maybe :P

August 1, 2013 at 2:29 AM  
Anonymous Duckfan said...

It might be interesting to do "Hobblin' Goblins" or that Gyro short with the medicine man now.

August 1, 2013 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Abraham Lincoln said...

I likewise am not always a Cavazzano fan, but this story does actually look interesting to me, and the art, if not my favorite style, is well-utilized. As for that shadow monster- if you combine that with the Phantom Blot- Voila! The Blot from Epic Mickey! The general facial expression has a lot of resemblance.

August 1, 2013 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Our good old Geox already did review "The Hobbgoblin Goblins" :

August 1, 2013 at 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Suggestions for stories from the pocket books: Merman Donald from DDA 21. Unusually for me, I really like Fecchi's art here--the page where Donald finds the treasure, the use of layered panels in the page layouts. (Plus he shows Helper enjoying a battery at the party at the end.) Fine story, too.

There are two stories in MMA 2 I like: The River of Time, which shares with the Caballeros stories (Rosa's and Barosso's) the distinction of being a standard-character comic book story which serves as a sequel to an animated feature/short; and Antarctic Antics, which makes my inner eight-year-old very happy. You could review that one in tandem with Kari Korhonen's The Coldest Warm Place, which also features talking penguins who live in caves under the ice. I have that in German, but it has been published in French, too.

August 1, 2013 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


I think that ANY reviews of Gemstone digest stories would be most welcome, but (if you haven't reviewed them already) I'd love to hear your impression of the two Duck stories that appeared in the first issue of DDA. Those really caught my attention and suggested the full potential of the pocket book format to bring us stories that wouldn't fit the standard comics format. Plus, I really liked Fecchi's artwork, especially as it appeared in "The Deep."


August 2, 2013 at 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Sglaili said...

«Gyro does have nightmares, the fact that we never get to meet them makes the story feel sort of unbalanced»

Yes, in some way it feel unbalanced, but I think it’s on purpose: Donald fights the monsters because he “knows” and “remembers” them (and the fears that they represent: wild, dark…), so he is able to handle the situation. Could the more logical Gyro do this? I have some doubt (during their dialogues he is amazed by the other “child imagination”).

P.s. What do you think about the scene after the confrontation with the third monster? I like it for the quiet-after-the-storm feeling, Cavazzano was good at this.

August 2, 2013 at 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Sglaili, you make a good point. I do indeed know several nerdy science/math/engineering-type guys who have few emotional memories from childhood and little or no memory of childhood dreams.

As for Cavazzano’s art…for me it depends on the subject matter. I don’t so much like Scrooge in C’s mature style, but his HDL-as-JWs make me very happy. See the cover of Journal de Mickey 2331, a version of which (says Inducks) was shown in an exhibition of C’s art. One of the few comics I’ve ever bought for the cover art alone.

August 4, 2013 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Stories from Gemstone's digests?

Hmm, tough call. Due to an initial requirement (later dropped) that Gemstone publish digests at a breathless pace and 200+ page count, Gemstone had to order a huge number of digest format stories right at the start of its license period, often without reading them in English first.
Many proved only middling, but still we had to publish them before we could order anything else.
That said, I'm thrilled we got the Donald and Fethry "TNT" stories into print; and there were plenty of other stories we had fun with, including "The Black Orb," "Pirates of the Vacuum," "Kappa! Kappa! Kappa!," "Just Be Nice," "Inside Donald Duck," "The Bathtub at the End of the Universe," and "Weird Science" (the ultimate time travel conundrum story...)
At the very end, we began getting into earlier Scarpa and Cavazzano material, which would have continued had the digests gone on. Needless to say, I was sorry to lose them.

August 6, 2013 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Thanks for the ideas, foax. I have a few of my own, too.

August 7, 2013 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I think that the "space magic" is a tribute to sci-fi, since the story, although set on earth, is heavily inspired to Sheckley's "Ghost V" sci-fi tale.

About Scrooge's unfair behaviour... this is an usual ending in italian stories, a tradition started by our pretty sadistic Guido Martina :D

May 2, 2014 at 3:29 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Heh--as you'll know if you've read much of this blog, I have certain strong opinions about ol' Martina. :p Though even he had his more merciful moments; eg, "Captain Fracas."

May 2, 2014 at 4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I despise the comics where Scrooge blames Donald for things that aren't his fault especially when it was SCROOGE'S friggin job to EXPLAIN the situation better if he didn't want them scaring off his partner!

Donald needs to punch Scrooge in the kisser. Animated!Donald and Carl Barks' Donald would've never allowed the old miser to treat him this way. Fight back, Donald! These newer comic writers need to stop making Donald into some pansy. DONALD was the original mighty/angry duck, not Scrooge! It's unfair to give Scrooge traits that originally belonged to Donald.

March 10, 2019 at 2:39 PM  

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