Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Jet Witch"

As it happens, Barks really didn't do many Halloween stories.  Sure, he did a fair few that were spooky-like in a non-Halloween-specific sort of way, but as for ones specifically centered around the holiday…well, you've got "Trick or Treat" and "Hobblin' Goblins," along with a couple of one-pagers from the same issue, and then, as near as I can tell, there's just "Jet Witch," from 1961.  Tell me if I'm forgetting something; it's certainly a possibility.  But the basic point remains.  Halloween just doesn't seem to have been that big a deal for him.

What's notable about "Jet Witch" is the contrast between Donald's relationship to the holiday here and in "Trick or Treat."  As you will recall, in the earlier story, his behavior was notably anti-social; he was all about foiling trick or treaters so he could have all the candy for himself.  Whereas here, as you can see, he is throwing himself into Duckburg's civic life.  In either case, he was putting himself in opposition to the spirit of the holiday, but here it's not just an individual thing.  I love how self-important he looks.

Of course, it becomes clear that he doesn't really care about this, particularly--it was more wanting to appear civically engaged than anything else.  But it's still a big change: he certainly didn't care about appearances in "Trick or Treat."

…but seriously, what kid is possibly going to be happy with this "safe and orderly Halloween" business?  Especially given that it doesn't involve trick or treating?  Man, that shit is mad inimical to the spirit of the season.

The follow-up to his previous smash-hit, "The Screaming Cowboy!"  The idea being that, in spite of allegedly being passionate about the Halloween issue, Donald hasn't been following it even a tiny bit and is totally oblivious about what's going on.  No question about it: he's a bit of a buffoon here.

I mean, boy, just consider this contrast: in "Trick or Treat," Donald was gonna battle trick or treaters tooth and nail; here, he surrenders unilaterally the instant he realizes that the holiday is upon him.  Given how terrified he seems to be of potential tricks, it's a bit surprising that he was caught unawares here, or that he didn't realize trick or treating had been cancelled.  

But the real question about this story, which will haunt me to my dying breath, is: what the heck is the deal with this lone trick or treater?  I guess the easy answer is that his family (and no others?) just missed out on the new Halloween policy, but there's just something so striking, to me, about the image.  It feels as though there's going to be some, oh I don't know, explanation for what this lad is doing here, but then…there isn't.  He's just there and gone.  I'll not forget you, single solitary little kid!  You're in my thoughts!

Donald mistaking Gyro for a witch and braining him with an urn certainly provides us with an echo of "Trick or Treat," whether or not this was intended.  At least our Donald displays a little of the ol' spunk.

…though he also runs around like a a headless chicken.  To be fair, if you did somehow fail to get the message as to what was going on, you too might be a little alarmed at this apparent sudden depopulation of the city.

…so he's off to see what's what.  Did Barks intend this?  Probably not.  Did Donald?  Certainly not.  But the fact remains, he's re-injecting the holiday with some of that good, ol'-fashioned anarchic spirit.  Good for him!

…and those kids may CLAIM that it was merely "the most fun [they] ever had until the witch appeared," but they're not fooling anyone, with those wide grins: the "witch" was the highlight of the evening for them.  It would've felt like something was missing if [she] hadn't shown up!  The adults' efforts to contain the holiday and make it "safe" and anodyne met with dismal failure.  So may it ever be!  Happy Halloween, everyone!



Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo writes:

“Of course, it becomes clear that he doesn't really care about this, particularly--it was more wanting to appear civically engaged than anything else.”

And how much of TODAY’S POLITICS is about exactly the same thing?

“I mean, boy, just consider this contrast: in "Trick or Treat," Donald was gonna battle trick or treaters tooth and nail; here, he surrenders unilaterally the instant he realizes that the holiday is upon him.”

Can’t say he didn’t learn his lesson from Witch Hazel, a decade or so ago!

This is Don “getting carried away” in the best tradition of his future brethren in comedic parenting Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. If you like Don in that mode, you’ll enjoy this one!

The lone little guy probably came up to Duckburg from Shacktown, where his poor folks couldn’t afford a Tee-Vee Set or even a newspaper, so he didn’t know what was going on.

October 31, 2013 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...

Geo and Joe,

Even a Shacktown parent would probably have wanted to keep tabs on such a little tyke by chaperoning him or her around the neighborhood!


October 31, 2013 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I actually have some trivia on this one... at least from my perspective :

Here in Poland we don't cellebrate Halloween (we do have a similar death-related holiday)and while Polish kids today are way more familiar with Halloween thanks to TV and such, back then when the story was first poublish here (1998)we didn't had yet any known Polish equlivment of "Trick or Treat" phrase so the kid that comes to Donald house say :

"Cukierek albo życieć!" ("Candy or your life!")

[which is a VERY ODD translation]

While "Halloween" itself is refrence as "Święto Duchów"("The Spirits Festival") for most of the story (the term "Halloween" is used only few times)

Anny way...

October 31, 2013 at 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

It seems to me that this story is more dated than many of the ten-pagers. In the late 1950's and early 1960's some American communities were discussing how to put a lid on Halloween, in order to reduce the general petty vandalism and hooliganism. Part of the whole suburban ethos. Some did try community parties. I don't think a contemporary child would get this story's set-up. The petty vandalism of Halloween has largely disappeared, due to the adult chaperoning of the trick-or-treating kids, which came about because of concerns over the safety of the children around the 1980's. The 1960ish concern over the safety of property has receded. Towns are not debating whether to replace T-or-T'ing with something safer (for homeowners).

I do think that Barks intended the irony that Donald puts anarchy back into the holiday. (Though admittedly, this would be clearer if HDL had said, "The party was fun, but it would have been a bit boring if the witch hadn't shown up! But at least Duckburg's kids....") I like to think that the grown-ups of Duckburg are getting their comeuppance for having tried to sanitize the holiday. Certainly, the central joke is that Donald, having momentarily crusaded for goblin containment, ends up wreaking havoc on a heretofore unimagined scale. The only question about Barks's intent is whether he saw this as reinstating the true Spirit of Halloween. You know how there's a whole genre of "So-and-so Saves Christmas" stories? I think of this one as "Donald (unintentionally) Saves Halloween."

I've always assumed that the lone trick-or-treater moved to Duckburg within the last few days (so he didn't even have a chance to hear about the town plans from his peers).

October 31, 2013 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Dear Geox

Can you review "The Neast Egg" from Uncle Scrooge 364?


November 17, 2013 at 5:54 AM  

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