Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Pawns of the Loup Garou"

This isn't strictly speaking a Halloween story, but it feels appropriately seasonal, does it not?  I say yes, you say no, but you may change your mind.

Now, as you are doubtless aware, this is one of Barks' script-only exercises--the first one, if you don't count "King Scrooge the First."  I can't lie: it's never really been a favorite of mine.  It feels kind of sketchy and disjointed, like Barks wasn't exactly putting his all into it.  However, it does have a thing or two to recommend it.

As you are doubtless further aware, this, like all of Barks' script-only stories, was later redrawn by Daan Jippes.  I am on record as believing that his version of "A Day in a Duck's Life" does the unthinkable, making one of Barks' weakest efforts actually enjoyable, if not exactly "good" per se.  So I'm certainly not totally opposed to this project.  But here…man.  The original art for "Pawns of the Loup Garou," by Tony Strobl, actually is one of T-Strob's stronger efforts.  Sure, there's a certain amount of characteristic Strobl stiffness, but I really have no problem with it.  There are bits here and there that Jippes improves, sure, but there are also some parts that I like better in Strobl, and on the whole, the new version really struggles to justify its existence.  It may be that Jippes himself wasn't always certain why he was doing this; there are more than a few parts where he pretty much just exactly copies Strobl without even trying to improve things in any way:

There's nothing wrong with Jippes, particularly, but it just seems unfair to try to completely write Strobl out of the picture like this.  It's pretty hard to justify retaining lousy Kay Wright art purely for historical value, but Strobl at his best was pretty good, dammit.  Redrawing his stuff seems to be saying, sorry--we Europeans own Barks' legacy now, and we have no use for the likes of you.  I'm about the furthest thing from a nationalist you can get, but man…respect, people!  Have some!

Here are the openings.  As you can see, Gladstone did that dumb thing they occasionally did where they changed the marquee character.  At least the Jippes version fixes that.  On the other hand…I don't know whether Jippes did this, or whether Gemstone's to blame, but people--"Voyageurs" was not a typo!  "Voyageurs."  Come on, man!

Anyway, the idea here is that Donald has a job as a pilot and he has to deliver a package to northern Canada.  A good set-up for a horror story, no doubt, although this is only intermittently that.

…and Scrooge gets all curious and sneaks on the plane.  It's prickish in a kind of uncharacteristic way, which is one thing that I'm not a big fan.

The other thing is, we all want there to be a single, definitive version of this or any Barks story, but that's really not possible, because anyone who's drawing it is just interpreting Barks' writing; there's no way to get at an absolute, platonic ideal.  It's one reason that I find arguments that writing is "more important" than art so misguided: the latter is an extension of the former and can affect it in unexpected ways.  So: would you prefer that Donald be enraged when he finds HDL on board the plane (as Jippes would have it), or merely bemused (Strobl's interpretation)?  Personally, I'm inclined to go with Strobl here.  Jippes sometimes goes overboard, for my money, with the emotions.  And the way he draws the kids--the thing is, he's able to draw more in the way of extreme expressiveness, and I feel like he has this idea that because he can, he should; that it's always the best way to go.  I don't agree!  To me, his versions of HDL there just look dumb.  TRYING TOO HARD.

…not to say, however, that Jippes does nothing that improves the story.  His version of the above is clearly substantially more spooky and atmospheric.  I feel like what he does here is kind of what the whole story is trying, but more often than not failing, to do.

Of course, the big difference between the two stories is Miss Minemore here, and it's another great example of how the art can make a much bigger difference than you'd think.  I suppose which version you like better is up to personal preference, but to me, Strobl's version, though certainly concerned about what's going on, still basically has it together, whereas Jippes' looks like she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown throughout.  I much prefer the former, I have to say--and frankly, I think if Barks had drawn the story himself, she would look a lot more like that.  Hmph.

One highlight of either version of the story is Donald's dedication to the job at hand.  He's really determined to do what he's been assigned, and if that involves kicking the ass of a terrifying wolf creature, so be it.  In this instance, Jippes wins out: extremity of emotion and regular motion is appropriate here, and Donald's wolf-bashing activities look weirdly low-impact in Strobl's rendtion.

The real question: why the heck don't we ever get to meet this "Count Drakula?"  It just seems like such an odd lacuna to just mention the guy and then not feature him or resolve this conflict in any way.

I'm irritated by the ending, in which, in spite of having dragooned his way into the story and then been basically useless all the way through, Scrooge is still able to cash out and everyone else is all jolly about it.  I suppose it would've been possible to depict Donald and the kids as being less jovial here, but neither artist did.

I guess I don't have anything profound to say here.  Neither artist's take on the story is perfect (if there could be such a thing), but I still pretty strongly prefer Strobl.  Seventy-three years from now, when Fantagraphics gets around to printing the script-only stories, I wish that, at least in this instance, they would defer to Western history when they choose which one to use.  Or at least, I wish it weren't such a totally foregone conclusion that they'd go with Jippes.  But alas!  Sorry, Tony.  I still like you, at least. *Glares around defensively*

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Anonymous Elaine said...

I am completely with you on this one, GeoX. Jippes does make the spooky parts significantly spookier, but that improvement is offset by missteps, such as the bizarre appearance of the nephews when Donald discovers them. I am most bothered by Jippes' depiction of Miss Minemore. I feel she is one of Barks's better female creations: she acts independently and courageously, even with the wolf at the door, and she gets the job done. I resent having her depicted as a Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. If she were that freaked out all the time, would she be able to complete the statue and use it to subdue the wolf when he breaks in? Not bloody likely. Jippes may have been trying to make the monster more scary by showing her fear, but he just made her look like a basketcase, which she manifestly is not.

October 29, 2013 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger Susan D-L said...

I generally prefer the Strobl (and even Wright) versions out of nostalgia--they're the ones I read when I was a little kid in bed with a cold--but I agree that as exemplary as Jippes can be as an artist, there's a hysterical aspect to his style that gets wearing after a story or two.

P.S. in re: "As you can see, Gladstone did that dumb thing they occasionally did where they changed the marquee character."

We production and editorial monkeys weren't thrilled with that, either.

You can chalk that up to Boss Man Bruce H. He maintained that U$ was the main reason people bought the comics, so his name had to get shoehorned in as often as possible.

With his hair-trigger temper and legendary screaming ability, one had to pick battles carefully. This was one of those 'Let the Wookiee win" cases.

October 29, 2013 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Hey, thanks for commenting, Ms. D-L! Sounds like a colorful time at Gladstone.

For my money, the strangest rebranding of all was that time when they decided that that one Barks/Lockman Grandma Duck effort was actually a Ducktales story, even though Grandma isn't a Ducktales character. I suppose it must just've been done out of a desperate need to fill a few extra pages in a Ducktales comic, but still--pretty bizarre.

October 30, 2013 at 12:06 AM  
Anonymous Debbie said...

I would hope that in compiling a historical library of Barks' work, the editors would go with Strobl's version, too. Not to slight Daan Jippes, but Tony Strobl is a sentimental favorite of mine, as many of the earliest Donald Duck comics I read were reprints of either Strobl's or Barks' work.

October 30, 2013 at 1:38 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


I still regard the Strobl-drawn version of this story as the "official" version. Same goes for "King Scrooge the First." Though his style had become rather sedate by this time, Strobl obviously deserved better than being lumped in with the likes of Kay Wright as a "substandard" artist.

I think Count Drakula (I'd pronounce it "Drake-ula" for obvious reasons) was the guy who ran on the scene right after the Ducks' plane landed. Miss M. said that "he tried to make connections with your plane" and Donald confirmed the fact. It does seem unusual for a character to be identified so many pages after his physical appearance, especially since that was his ONLY such appearance in the story.

Note Scrooge's reference to his cane as a sort of version of a Swiss Army knife. To the best of my knowledge, the cane wouldn't acquire such extra "abilities" again until it was turned into a laser in DUCKTALES' "The Masked Mallard".


October 30, 2013 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

From a purely personal perspective, I associate this story more with Thanksgiving than Halloween, but only because I bought the original, new off the newsstand, on Thanksgiving weekend 1967.

I’m a big supporter of Daan Jippes redrawing most of the “Barks-scripted stories”, but not in this case. Strobl did it just about as perfectly as it could have been done in the Silver Age (looking not ALL THAT DIFFERENT from 1967 Barks), while Jippes looks as if he just took the poses and layouts and made them more… “extreme”, to conform with today’s “Extreme Facade Trumps Substantial Content” pop culture tastes.

Let’s not forget that, in the Silver Age, all comic book art was more “sedate” than it is today. Even taking the greats like Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino into consideration. Same for TV shows, movies, etc. It’s a shame when we (or certain publishers) can’t appreciate something for “what it was”, rather than what current standards say it ought to be.

Strobl’s nephews LOOK COLD, shivering in the plane – as one would look when one is actually cold, and not “taking-wildly” for the camera.

Chris beat me to the punch on Count Drakula. He was the “scared guy who made off with Don’s plane”. Kinda interesting that Barks left that for the readers to infer, instead of hitting us over the head with it.

I thought Tony Strobl’s “Pawns of the Loup Garou” was an outstanding effort in 1967, and remains so today. No one’s redrawing Kibry’s Fantastic Four, or Infantino’s Flash. Same should apply to Strobl’s “Loup Garou”.

October 30, 2013 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I like the nervous version of Miss Minemore much more since it's appear more dramatic

I honestly don't like Strobls art that much

I find it pointles to bring Count Drakula at all if your not gona show him... I don't think this was ment to be Barks final version of the script

October 30, 2013 at 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I understand it, Barks storyboarded the scripts - rough pencils, with hand lettering. I've seen such panels before for some Junior Woodchuck stories. Personally, I see no reason why we should publish Strobl or Jippes if we have those on hand (or why they were redrawn at all).

I think Jippes artwork is hurt by the awful lettering, personally. Enormous balloons with distracting placement of the words and the balloons themselves... yikes. I'm really stunned by how clunky that is, because it distracts from the art in the worst way. Heck, Jippes version even has a Scrooge line coming from DONALD'S mouth!

Still, if I was going to say which one was more like Barks... Strobl, by a long shot, hits the Barks style of art more effectively. Simpler lines, less hatching, smaller 'takes' (Barks put a pretty big note on his model sheets to avoid big reactions as often as possible, as they didn't work the way they do in animation). Where he misses the mark, I think, is a lack of the little touches and some general artistic inadequacies.

Scrooge sneaking on the plane, for example. His hat in the first panel is totally askew, and he appears to have sprained his ankle. In the sixth panel gold looks like spaghetti, and there's a bit too much in the way of straight lines throughout (look at the way Scrooge's coat hangs off him in panel five, or Donald's arm in the opening splash). If he'd been a little more studious in his facial expressions... ah, well.

Jippes actually reminds me more of Rosa, especially in that splash panel with Scrooge. Something about the beak and proportions of the face. I actually think he's much better on a technical level, but like you said, his restraint is... lacking.

They're both good efforts, but if you want an I-can't-believe-it's-not-Barks, you're better off with Strobl, faults and all.

Also, apparently I'm about five years old, because when I saw the fight scene with Donald in Jippes version... well, I'm pretty sure Donld ain't aiming for the solar plexus.

October 30, 2013 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Personally, I see no reason why we should publish Strobl or Jippes if we have those on hand (or why they were redrawn at all).

They were redrawn because many of the originals were ugly as sin--have you seen Kay Wright's work? It ain't pretty.

I guess if one were printing these things for purely academic reasons, we could include only what Barks himself did. But he wrote the stories with the expectation that someone else would draw them, and even lousy art is more fun to read than rough, bare-bones line drawings, for my money at least. Besides, the script-only things will likely take up two volumes--good luck selling those as nothing but black-and-white sketches.

October 30, 2013 at 10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I remember seeing, his 'scripts' were actually penciled storyboards. It's why the staging is virtually identical in both Strobl and Jippes' versions, rather than their own interpretations.

I'm having trouble finding it, but for a number of Junior Woodchuck stories you could see some excellent pencils that looked better than what other artists did with it. For a Carl Barks library, I personally would rather have his work than Strobl or Jippes.

October 30, 2013 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I would have to see these sketches to have an informed opinion (obviously), but I'm skeptical. Anyone more knowledgable than me want to chime in?

October 31, 2013 at 12:49 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Barks’ original sketches can be found as part of the original hardcover Carl Barks Library from Another Rainbow. Barks’ sketches are produced full size (so that we can take in all the detail) and the published versions (Strobl – Good. Kay Wright – Not Good) follow in smaller size, for comparison. That’s probably the way ANY archival publisher should handle this matter. Put ‘em both side-by-side!

The roughs are excellent, in their own right, as I’d imagine Barks wanted a precise guide to what these stories should look like, even if he were not drawing them himself.

But, the greater point remains that, unlike Kay Wright (artist of the infamous “Bird Bothered Hero” – Look up Geo’s Blog entry on THIS “classic”, folks!), who should never have been allowed within MILES of anything Carl Barks created, Tony Strobl still did a nice, serviceable job in translating these sketches to final form.

October 31, 2013 at 8:12 AM  

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