Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Back to the Klondike"

You know how the sequel's never quite as good as the original?  Sure, it might still be okay, but there's just not going to be the same spark of originality in…hmm?  Oh, no, I'm not talking about "Back to the Klondike;" it's great.  I refer, of course, to this blog entry.  But, let us give it a go nonetheless.

I had never previously read Barks' Scrooge stories (or any artist's ANYTHING stories) in chronological order.  I really don't think I'm going to want to write about every one of them, but it really is kind of fascinating to see how the character and the narratives surrounding him evolved in the early going.  

On facebook, Thad Komorowski (frequent Gemstone letters-page habitué, among other things) disputed my claim in the previous entry that "you get the really, really palpable sense that Barks was very conscious that he was responsible here for the start of a whole new line," and after reflection, I think he has a point.  "Only a Poor Old Man" is pretty atypical in the context of most of Barks' Scrooge stories.  The plot is relatively sedentary, and there's a lot more overt attention given to character than in most later efforts.  Surely on some level he must have known that he would be called upon to write more about the character: whether or not he'd've been cocky enough to admit it, he can hardly have failed to realize that he was miles above his fellow Disney artists, and given that even subpar material was enough to keep many a line chugging merrily along for years…well.  Still, when you think about it, "Poor Old Man" really does read well as a kind of one-and-done thing.  It's self-contained in a way that doesn't really suggest ways future stories.

On the other hand, when you think about it in these terms, it becomes really, really obvious that "Back to the Klondike" is very much a transitional story.  On the one hand, it feels something like a companion piece to "Poor Old Man:" both are concerned with Scrooge's history and what makes him tick in ways that Barks would only very intermittently explore, and never in any great depth, in stories to come.  

On the other hand, "Klondike" clearly suggests a formula for stories that "Man" didn't do.  In later efforts--by Barks and others--Scrooge's tendency to abruptly dragoon his nephews to go off to far-flung places would become such a standard trope that the joke would be their blasé attitude to this happening yet again--a necessary development, no doubt, so as to justify these sorts of plots.  But here, we see an initial recognition on Barks' part that this whole notion that Scrooge could just do this was kind of weird, and thus the joke is the left-field nature of Scrooge's sudden, apparently arbitrary request.

Another thing this story has in common with "Man" is that Scrooge's mental processes remain in large part opaque.  Sure, there's the whole "he's a swell guy after all!" ending, but exactly how he thinks about Goldie--and how she stacks up in his mental priority list against his money--both remain somewhat at least a little obscure.  As we'll see later on, there's a good reason for his moments of rapaciousness here, but to what extent is he actually making this trip to collect a debt, and to what extent is that just a flimsy excuse?  I certainly think he's convinced himself to a very large extent that it's entirely the latter.  Still, I think the ambiguity is intentional and well-done. 

Now, it has to be admitted: "Back to the Klondike" is substantially less thematically dense than its predecessor.  That's not a bad thing!  It's very difficult for me to imagine how the series could possibly have been sustainable if every story had to be as much of a character study as the debut was.

(Well, I thought it was less dense when I started writing, but now that this entry has turned out to be substantially longer than that last one, I'm not sure.  You be the judge.)

This is amusing: the fact that here Scrooge evidently doesn't even know how much money he has contradicts the "every bit means something" business right out of the gate.  Another thing: ever noticed how, when fetishizing specific bits of money, it's always coins, and never paper money?  "Every coin has a story," Scrooge says in "Poor Old Man."  Which, practically speaking, makes sense: coins have more solidity to them, and if we're being ruthlessly realistic here, we have to recognize that really old bills--especially with a dude swimming in them every day--are going to be reduced to tatters.  If Scrooge's money represents his living to a large degree in the past, the nature of paper money kind of undermines that.  Which could actually be a very interesting symbolic way of representing the different aspects of his character--the way, in spite of living in the past, he is driven to strive onwards--but as far as I know, no one's ever made use of this idea.  If this post inspires you to do so, I want co-author credit, dammit!

I want to make note of something which is obvious to anyone who looks, but which seems to generally go unremarked.  You see things like the above (definitely a funny joke!), and you realize, man--Don Rosa's portrayal of Donald in long adventure stories is completely non-Barksian.  Not that that's any kind of sin--interpretations vary and wouldn't it be boring if they didn't--but given that he was explicitly trying to build on the Barks aesthetic, it's kind of bizarre.  Donald does not come in for any special abuse in Barks' adventure stories--certainly no more than Scrooge himself does.  And as we see, he can be assertive and clash with Scrooge and sometimes even get his way.  I can only think that Rosa conflated the ten-pager Donald--who is subject to a lot more comic mayhem--with the adventure Donald.  So I guess in that sense it's Barksian, but transposing these two versions of the character really creates a completely different dynamic, not always to the stories' benefits.

Of course, how could we talk about this story without making note of the four-ish pages that Western, in their infinite wisdom, cut?  But I have to tell you something: I actually really do not blame them for excising this stuff.  Obviously, it would have been a huge shame if it had been lost, but really now: Western was very clear about the fact that they were publishing comics for children.  If occasionally someone was able to transcend that, bully for them, but they certainly weren't in the business of publishing l'art pour l'art, and it is wholly understandable that this Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down stuff was not going to fly.

Seriously, now: I feel as though it doesn't really strike us as such because it's so familiar, but this shit is kinky.  It is no coincidence that it was the inspiration for Rosa's last story, which in some countries has been retitled "Scrooge Gets Laid," or at least that's a rumor I'm trying to start.  For all that publishers can be really conservative, it's notable the things you can get away with these days that you couldn't back then.  The censorship of "Trick or Treat" was nothing but a petty editorial assertion of power, but this--eh, I'm okay with it, given that the full story is now widely available.  Besides, if the cut hadn't been made, we would not have a dopey but funny short in which Donald tricks Scrooge into converting his money to fish.  And I don't know about you, but I sure don't want to live in that world.

I'm actually a little ambivalent about these depictions of young Scrooge as this violent badass.  On the one hand, they're certainly interesting, as they show him in a light that we really don't see anywhere else in Barks.  And that's undeniably a nice-looking image up there.  On the other hand, it seems pretty clear to me that Barks was still developing the character, deciding which roads to take, when he drew this, and to me, it honestly looks a little bit jarring.  I cannot honestly argue very strongly against anyone who believe that, yes, this background is what informs the character's later exploits, but I dunno…maybe my perception is partially colored by the fact that I've never been a huge fan of the more over-the-top violence that Rosa's Young Scrooge inflicts.  Well, never mind.

One thing I do like is how Barks consistently keeps this romantic tension totally under the surface, to the extent that one isn't entirely sure there's anything there at all.  Of course, this may in part have just been down to concerns about the sort of material he was allowed to include in a story (and whaddaya know, look what happened, even as it stands!), but the lack of sentimentality perfectly fits the character.  I would posit--maybe possibly--that the central problem Scrooge runs into here is that his psyche is attuned in such a way that his relationship with the past is mediated entirely by money--stuff.  Every coin has its own story etc.  But then here we have Goldie, this total anomaly.  He sort of tries to fit her into this schema by forcing her to dig for gold--ie, making her instrumental in the acquisition of money--but, obviously, this does not work, because she's an actual person who doesn't just blankly reflect his history.  She has, like, agency and stuff.  And as we see…well, I'll return to this topic anon.

Why did Barks reduce the going rate for Donald's and HDL's services for just this one story?  It is a mystery!  But he changed it back immediately after, indicating that he really was concerned with consistency.  I don't know whether my previous hypothesis--that he may have gone with that particular thirty-cents-an-hour figure because it was cheap but not too cheap--has any validity, but it so, well, here's a small bit of evidence.  Maybe.

And I must just say--the above is definitely one of the grossest images ever seen in a Barks story.  Yeah.  Perfect mosquito rugs!  Pretty perfect all right.  For sale on Etsy!  That "CRUSH!"  Gah.

It's certainly worth noting that this is unique in the whole of the Barksiverse.  Sure, we see some comedy-infatuations (in "Trick or Treat," eg), and there's Donald's generally reductive, cartoony relationship with Daisy, but attraction that's supposed to actually point to something real--that is what's new.  Did I say "unique?"  I tell a lie, of course; there's also "Old California," though in that story the romance was between one-shot secondary characters.

Of course, the obvious thing this does is emphasize the general maleness (or maybe I should say "boyishness") of Barks' world.  Things like romance are not to be seriously considered, and even finding a decent female character of any sort is difficult.  So, of course, this stands out (like the sadly under-appreciated Ducky Bird in "Mystery of the Ghost Town Railroad").  Probably he felt liberated to do a love story of sorts like this because Scrooge was still a relatively new and undefined character.  This is such an obvious observation that I'm sure I've made it before, and if not no doubt Geoffrey Blum or someone has, but Scrooge is actually positioned as a character with a past, whose mental make-up is the result of actual forces, whereas Donald & Co are timeless; they've always been what they are and there's not even the bare implication that they'll ever be anything else.  Therefore, it wasn't totally infeasible to do something like this.  Similar thing with Panchita and Rolando in that other story.

But, of course, feasible or not, Scrooge sure isn't good at it--and nor, obviously, is Goldie, although I feel that an unavoidable problem here is that we really don't get enough of a grasp on her to really understand where she's coming from.  Look at them there--they look ridiculous, septuagenarians acting like nervous high school kids on their way to their first prom!  But, of course, that's the point.  Or at least, you can argue that it's the point and have more of a case than you could with a lot of cartoony romance things like this.  As I noted earlier: Scrooge doesn't know how to deal with this.  He's starting from square one here.  If he's acting far younger than his age, it's because, for all intents and purposes, he is, when it comes to romance.  He doesn't have anything to build on, because his entire life has revolved around money, so he's reduced to this absurdly awkward, gawky behavior.  It is clearly uncomfortable as hell for him, which is why it's such a relief to just be able to explode in anger, even if, objectively, the justification for that anger is pretty weak.  I like Donald widely grinning in the background there.  As immature as he often is about affaires de coeurs, he's definitely got one over on his uncle in that regard.

I also very much appreciate that Barks' refusal to romanticize extend to Goldie herself.  She's bony--sort of alarmingly so, actually.  She's a person, and she's aged like a person.  I think the Rosa argument--that the reason she's so much more, ah, filled out in his stories is that she's been leading a more comfortable life--is perfectly reasonable as far as it goes, but…well, Rosa is undeniably more conventional in this regard.  I really don't mean this as crassly as it may sound, but he wants his hero to have a hot girlfriend.  This is not a concern that Barks has.

I also appreciate the ending.  Maybe I'd like it even better if the nature of Scrooge's actions weren't spelt out quite so obviously--that final line has always seemed a little awkward and abrupt to me--but I like the fact that after all is said and done, our heroes just…leave.  Of course, the notion of introducing Goldie as a regular would never have flown, and for that we can be grateful, as it would have totally destroyed the characters' dynamic--not that Barks would ever have been comfortable with doing something like that anyway.  Still, as much as I enjoy Rosa's interpretations (I really do, dammit!), I think that, regardless of whether or not it had to be this way, the emotional logic really works.  Scrooge and Goldie may or may not have had a brief thing fifty-odd years ago…and that was fifty-odd years ago.  So he comes back, makes restitution for what he perceives (probably fairly dimly) as wrong that he did to her in the past, and…that's that.  Is the fact that it doesn't go any further than that on some level tragic?  Well, yeah, probably, but only to the extent that there's a tragic element to his character in general.  Maybe if his mindset weren't so totally money-centered, things could be different.  Still, these things happen, you know?  It's not the end of the world, and I think that we can read him as having achieved peace here in the way and to the extent that he can.



Anonymous Elaine said...

Barks certainly does a great job of keeping the reader guessing until the end whether Scrooge is motivated more by the IOU or by romantic attachment. In addition to the sections you cite, I like also the panels where he's been told it's Goldie on the claim, and he alternates between wistfulness and rapaciousness, with Donald seeing through the pretense of his only caring about the money in the fact that he's combing his whiskers! I agree that it's plausible that Scrooge is trying to convince not only Donald and the boys but also himself that he only cares about the money.

It's also interesting how Barks alternates between which of the two (Scrooge and Goldie) holds the moral high ground. Scrooge definitely has it initially, when she drugs and robs him. Though she still gets his admiration, not just because she's sexy, but because she's "a LIVE one"--as when she throws the nugget at him and beans him. Scrooge sees himself as still having the moral high ground when he's forcing her to work his claim, even with all the sadistic overtones to the "stern headmaster disciplining the naughty child" voice. Does Barks see him as having the moral high ground then? Would he have held the moral high ground if he had forced her to work his claim and then split the proceeds with her fairly? It's not clear to me what Barks thinks about this. But as it is, Scrooge forfeits the high ground by paying her so little, and she gains it by refusing the insultingly low pay. She demands respect here. Then there's the whole question about whether she or Scrooge is in fact "claim-jumping" in the present...turns out (since he didn't keep up the taxes) that he is! And she definitely takes the moral high ground when she says she's given the proceeds of her decades of hard work to the orphans of mining disasters. At that point, if Scrooge ended by beggaring her it would really make him a completely unsympathetic character. So his final act of granting her his gold cache--and doing it in such a way that she can believe she won it--both settles the question of whether he cares more for the IOU or for Goldie and redeems him in the reader's eyes. I do think it is key that he gives her the money in such a way that she can feel she earned it. That's both making up for the fact that he paid her insufficiently for the month's work on his claim and showing her the respect of recognizing that she wouldn't want to be beholden to him. You could argue that he does it that way only to hide from Donald and the boys what he is doing...but I'd rather believe that he's also learned that he owes her respect as well as money.

That said, I have to say that the whole month of involuntary servitude still makes no sense to me. Why can’t she just walk away? Does he keep her tied up at night? I have no problem imagining how they could both sleep on the claim without having sex, but I do have a problem imagining what prevents her from escaping. Does she stay because she thinks he will split the proceeds with her? Or does she stay because she’s attracted to him? That’s just not believable to me, given the whole sadistic headmaster shtick. I have a similar problem with the film “Beauty and the Beast,” where we’re supposed to believe that Belle falls in love with the Beast *while he is still holding her captive*. He gives her a library, and I want her to say, “That’s lovely, Beast, but I’d really prefer MY FREEDOM!”

April 30, 2014 at 12:48 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I woudn't blame Rosa for changeing Donald/Scrooge dynamic from early Bakrs stories (making Donald Scrooge's doormat) since that was the way the character evolve in Disney comics in general so it would be odd if a modern story had moment when Donald kicks Scrooge with zero reaction on Scrooge's part.

I Polish edition of "Hall of Fame" there is Don Rosa commentary (one page article) for "Last sled to Dawson" where he recalls how after years of loving Barks Scrooge he seen the deledet flash-back sequence from "Back to Klondike" for the very first time and how seeing his hero in his "glory days" made him "Want more" which was one of main inspirations for "Life and Time".

It's great how those two stories not only make a teryffic job of making Scrooge an wonderfull, 3dimentional character but also add's some "mythology" around him.

April 30, 2014 at 7:04 AM  
Anonymous Swamp Adder said...

I seem to recall someone on the Disney Comics Forum pointing out that the final bit of HDL’s dialog — "Good old Unca Scrooge!" — doesn’t look like Barks’ handwriting, and may have been crammed in by an editor for unknown reasons. Myself — and I may be completely crazy here — I think the lettering in panels 3 & 7 on page 30 also looks unBarksian. But who knows.

April 30, 2014 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I'm 90% sute Barks stated somewher that the final line was added by the editor to make the story more clear for the kids...

April 30, 2014 at 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

Nice review, GeoX, and great comments about the morality in this story, Elaine!

Elaine wrote:
"Why can’t she just walk away?"
We could think maybe she would not be able to make it back to Dawson alone. There was no need to answer this question because as you can see from the panels, Scrooge is keeping an eye on her all the time. Of course a story like this just screams for some reading in between the lines, but still comic book characters only sleep when the story calls for it.

I don't really understand the "the only LIVE one I ever knew!" line. According to http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GetTheeToANunnery it's a euphemism for the sexual act and doesn't make any other sense in the context. What do others think?

Concerning the abuse of characters in Barks and Rosa stories, in Barks's case I don't think it's always abuse, rather an illustration to the discussion in the dialogue, making the total more energetic, exiting and dynamic. You can see what's happening without reading the words. In Rosa's stories Scrooge just hits Donald to punish him, which really hurts.

GeoX wrote:
"I'm actually a little ambivalent about these depictions of young Scrooge as this violent badass."
Contrasting with Rosa's superhero Scrooge, Barks's Scrooge is telling the story here and it sound like a very big story to me. It fits nice with "Scrooge's mental processes remain[ing] in large part opaque", like you wrote.
Rosa tries to mythologize in the Klondike chapter, but it doesn't make any sense in the context, unless he wants us to see the Lo$ as "fictional fiction" :P.

http://www.seriesam.com/barks/detc_ccus_os0456-02.html says:
"In panel 8 of original page 32 (the story's last panel), the lettering of the words "Good old Unca Scrooge!" obviously is added by the editor. Since the balloon had to be enlarged (which is roughly done), it's unlikely that the words were substituted for something else. This means that the original last line of the story was just the first line: "Well, whaddaya know!" Maybe the editors felt this line was not clear enough, especially after having cut out an important part from the story?"

If the editor made this change himself, he made a good imitation of Barks's handwriting. Anyway, it sure looks as an addition.

April 30, 2014 at 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't had nearly so much access to Barks' stories as I have with Rosa's, and what access I have had has been geared more towards the 60s era stuff. But Donald's treatment in other, non-Barks Scrooge stories reminds me of the problem they had with writing Sam in Cheers: A streetwise, cool, levelheaded man who wasn't at all dumb, but wasn't learned in the least. The differing strengths of him and Diane made things compelling, because you didn't quite know who'd end up on top, and the comedy could go in varying directions.

Unfortunately, that's hard to write, so Sam was played dumber in later shows (largely after the first season, if anyone cares) for a more conventional dynamic. Donald suffered the same way, with Rosa at the least giving him more the 'long-suffering' schtick rather than being browbeaten. I'm reminded of Escape from Forbidden Valley, one of the better characterized Donald stories from Rosa, where the nephews all but state why Donald is so heavily involved in Scrooge's affairs. He's aware of what he has, and what Scrooge does not. And for family, as seen in every 'Donald gets a job' story I've ever read from Barks, he's willing to go through torment for it.

Personally, I prefer the Barksian dynamic myself, and would emulate it in any adventure duo I worked on.

I will confess to enjoying the 'larger than life' parts of Scrooge's youth, which play in to the theme you've discussed on this blog before. That the adventure, the discovery of the world, is over. No new lands are left, and the people who forged them are never to be seen again. There's a mythologizing that goes on not just of exploration, but of the characters who did the exploring. Just my two cents of defense. An enjoyable review, Geo, as always.

April 30, 2014 at 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I just picked up the Carl Barks: Conversations book to see whether he talks about the last line of Klondike there, and the answer is no. The exchange about the month on the claim is interesting, though. After a discussion of how the editors cut the barroom brawl scene due to excess violence, Barrier asks (p. 76), "Might Western's editors have been concerned about Scrooge and Goldie being alone on Scrooge's claim for a month?" Barks replies, "Yeah, that was it. [meaning, that was what the editors objected to] That was kidnaping (sic). He picked her up and carried her out to his claim and made her go to work. It didn't look very much like kidnaping (sic), yet it was." Two things of interest here: (1) Barks apparently didn't get that Barrier was asking about the possibility of sex on the claim; and (2) Barks thinks that "it didn't look very much like kidnapping." What did he think it looked like, I wonder? Romance? Fair business practice, when one has been robbed?

...and on the subject of barroom violence: Didn't Rosa say somewhere that, since this is Scrooge's own retelling, it's possible he's exaggerating his youthful prowess?

April 30, 2014 at 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Uncle Papasu, thanks for the link on the changing of the last line! I like ending it with "Well, whaddaya know!" much better.

Cartoon characters may only sleep at need, but the highly anthropomorphized ducks would definitely have to sleep many nights over the period of a month. And it's hard for me to see how she couldn't walk out of there alone, when (1) Scrooge was able to *carry* her there, so it can't be too horribly difficult a journey (as indeed, it is not in Back to the Klondike, aside from the bear), and (2) she knows the way because she was awake while being carried there.

April 30, 2014 at 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

ReviewOrDie, I really appreciate your comments on Rosa's Donald being long-suffering rather than browbeaten--that he puts up with Scrooge's ill-use because he knows what he has that Scrooge does not.

April 30, 2014 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Responding to various things...

@Pan Miliuś

I woudn't blame Rosa for changeing Donald/Scrooge dynamic from early Bakrs stories (making Donald Scrooge's doormat) since that was the way the character evolve in Disney comics in general so it would be odd if a modern story had moment when Donald kicks Scrooge with zero reaction on Scrooge's part.

Not so sure about this. In any case, Rosa's always prided himself on being a Barksian purist, so whatever else may have happened in the intervening years doesn't seem relevant to what Rosa does.

@Swamp Adder

Thanks, that's interesting. I do think it would be better without "Good Ol' Unca Scrooge," though still a bit abrupt. Maybe I shouldn't complain; I don't exactly know what I really want. Anyway, it's not a big deal.

@Unca Paspasu

Concerning the abuse of characters in Barks and Rosa stories, in Barks's case I don't think it's always abuse, rather an illustration to the discussion in the dialogue, making the total more energetic, exiting and dynamic. You can see what's happening without reading the words. In Rosa's stories Scrooge just hits Donald to punish him, which really hurts.

Ouch--this is a very telling and, I think, painfully accurate point. Thanks.


I'm reminded of Escape from Forbidden Valley, one of the better characterized Donald stories from Rosa, where the nephews all but state why Donald is so heavily involved in Scrooge's affairs. He's aware of what he has, and what Scrooge does not.

This is a point, but there's a fair bit of telling-not-showing in that regard which I think works to the story's detriment. Unless I'm forgetting something, that story features the most egregious Donald abuse in the whole Rosa canon (though not by Scrooge). It always felt to me as though that exchange between Scrooge and HDL was meant to somewhat mitigate that fact, and that it didn't totally work.


I do think it is key that he gives her the money in such a way that she can feel she earned it. That's both making up for the fact that he paid her insufficiently for the month's work on his claim and showing her the respect of recognizing that she wouldn't want to be beholden to him.

Indeed. I wish I'd thought to make that point.

Re Barks' exchange with Michael Barrier, yeah, Barks' comment seems a bit naive, though in a way that's in-line with other things I've heard him quoted as saying. One really does wonder sometimes how much of what he did in comics was consciously planned and how much just happened. He seems to have been an interesting mixture of canniness and ingenuousness. But when were people ever simple?

May 1, 2014 at 12:47 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

Elaine wrote: "(1) Scrooge was able to *carry* her there, so it can't be too horribly difficult a journey (as indeed, it is not in Back to the Klondike, aside from the bear), and (2) she knows the way because she was awake while being carried there. "

The first argument isn't true: he only carries her down the stairs. The second doesn't convince me, because, if the route is a bit difficult, it may not be enough to see it once. Scrooge tells Goldie: "The claim jumpers that have tried to find it are piled so high around there I have trouble finding it myself!"
Still, it's less than a day walk and Goldie found the claim back in later years.
My main point is, this is a off-panel problem for which of-panel solutions can be found.

Elaine also wrote: "(1) Barks apparently didn't get that Barrier was asking about the possibility of sex on the claim; and (2) Barks thinks that "it didn't look very much like kidnapping." What did he think it looked like, I wonder? Romance? Fair business practice, when one has been robbed?"

The first point comforts me. Concerning the kidnapping, in the rough, lawless setting this looked like home-cooked justice. "When I was young we knew how to deal with crooks!" It only becomes the criminal act of kidnapping when you take it out of its context.

There is one more issue I'd like to address. Almost the whole story is drawn with regularly formed panels, which is quite irregular for Barks. The only exception is when Scrooge and Goldie meet, as we can see above. This is definitely the focal and turning point in the story. Scrooge quickly regains himself and the panels become regular again.

May 1, 2014 at 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geo, reading through the Forbidden Valley story, I'd say Donald comes off pretty light, less emotional, more comedic and physical kinds of shtick. Really, the big difference between what I see when I look at Donald's physical comedy in Rosa's work is that the artwork displays the results more permanently, so it comes across less cartoony.

But of course, my tendency is to look at the Barks/Rosa stories as one continuous thing, not as a vacuum for each story. Taken across the whole of those stories, it adds a dimension to their dynamic that I really like. It serves to add some self-awareness to Donald and the nephews, and a bit to Scrooge. More like the characterization of Donald in Only a Poor Old Man, but taken more as subtext throughout the body of work rather than something present in the story as clearly as Only a Poor Old Man.

And... well, personally, I look at it a bit like The Quest for Kalevala, which had a very 'talky' part about Scrooge's desires and underlying motivations at its climax. It affected the way I read other stories, so it was effective to me. I do think Rosa's work is rather talky at times, and he has never been much for subtle, but that works for me because it hits nonetheless. Of course, that's just my opinion! Your reviews did inspire me to pick up a new copy of the Fantagraphics Scrooge volume, which I had given to my young cousin to get in to. It reminded me how fantastically subtle these stories are, and how far reaching the way they characterized this breakout character could be.

May 1, 2014 at 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Uncle Paspasu, I will accept your view of the Month of Involuntary Servitude (MIS) as frontier "home-cooked justice"; that makes sense as to how Barks & Scrooge viewed it (complicated as it is by S & G's mutual attraction!). I still can't see how he keeps her there against her will, though. It may be an off-panel problem, but I myself can come up with no satisfactory off-panel solution. Same thing with bringing her there against her will, if he doesn't carry her most of the way. It's true what you say, he's only shown carrying her inside the ballroom; in the next panel they're climbing and he's not even touching her, let alone pointing a gun at her. So why the hell is she going with him? It doesn't seem like his earlier threat to tear up the Blackjack Ballroom would be enough to keep her in involuntary servitude for a month. It would have made more sense to me for him to have made a deal with her that she would work to pay him back for what she stole. She could have agreed to that because she admired him and found him attractive, especially post-brawl, because she really had a moral streak, as we see later on, and because her pride was challenged by his suggesting that she might not be man enough to do it, and she wanted to prove she could out-dig any sourdough. Then it would have made sense for her to stay and work, and we would have avoided the sadistic-headmaster ickiness. The story could have proceeded with him refusing to split the proceeds of her work with her as she thought was fair, and gone on from there as is. Anyway, that's my fanfic rewrite for the day!

My guess about what was happening during the Barrier interview was that Barks was thinking in the ongoing conversation about the reasons why those pages were censored in terms of the two things he cited, the violence of the barroom brawl and the "kidnapping" aspect of the MIS. The possibility that someone would read sex into the situation probably hadn't come up at the time, given the child readership. Barrier and Barks had already talked about the violence, but not about the kidnapping. So when Barrier mentioned Scrooge and Goldie and the claim, Barks just thought he was referring to the objection Barks already had in his mind, the kidnapping issue, and didn't really hear the question.

May 1, 2014 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I feel like maybe the tenor of my comments has been overly harsh on Rosa, so let me note for the record that I think "Quest for Kalevala" is a fantastic story--a ludicrously ambitious conception pulled off with panache. I'm not against Rosa's talkiness entirely; I think it's very effective in that story, for instance. But I think sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. "Escape from Hidden Valley" falls on the wrong side for me.

As much as I like "Kalevala," though, I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of the opening, with Scrooge repeatedly hitting Donald for any slight--and his terrorized reactions don't help anything. That just doesn't look like a healthy dynamic. I agree that part of the problem is that it seems less "cartoony" than it does in Barks. I can easily forgive that in Kalevala because it has so much cool stuff and Donald gets a good hero turn, but there's no getting around the fact that I am simply not a fan of that one aspect of Rosa's work.

My problem with "Escape" is that the abuse inflicted on Donald--being spanked and made to eat a giant bug--feels creepily infantilizing and kind of sadistic. Obviously, perceptions may vary. I actually reread the story recently and didn't have quite as visceral a reaction against it as I had previously, but it still ranks near the bottom of the Rosa oeuvre for me.

May 2, 2014 at 3:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get where you're coming from on how Donald is characterized in Rosa's stories, and that one in particular. As much as I love his comics, they're not flawless, and his treatment of Donald can be a bit frustrating. Personally, Escape from Hidden Valley's Donald characterization fell on the right side for the reasons I've stated. I do absolutely agree the story itself wasn't a great one though.

For what it's worth, I felt your tone came across very clearly. Analytical, honest, and not overly harsh. You've never been shy about pointing out the flaws in things you like on this blog, anyhow, and that's obviously to your credit.

(And this thread is really getting me the itch to read some more of the Carl Barks Donald-centric volumes from Fantagraphics. In fact, I think I'll do precisely that!)

May 2, 2014 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

If I'm getting people to read more Barks stories, my job has been successful!

May 3, 2014 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Unca Paspasu said...

@ Elaine:

Scrooge may not be touching Goldie on-panel, but he is making a pushing movement and from her text it is clear she is going against her will. Even without a gun we know Scrooge, at least in his own retelling, can be very dangerous.

Even if this isn't convincing, there can be other solutions: Don Rosa has Goldie make use of the situation to get to know the secret location of the claim (quite contradictory to Lo$ 8) and steal the nugget and the deed. Still, Scrooge piles tin cans against the cabin door so she can't sneak out. That works alright.

Your rewrite unfortunately cannot work, because in that case there wouldn't be any I.O.U.

May 4, 2014 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I don't think Publisher just added the dialog to the last panel but if annything ask Barks to add it.

Also :

"It is no coincidence that it was the inspiration for Rosa's last story, which in some countries has been retitled "Scrooge Gets Laid," or at least that's a rumor I'm trying to start."

Damit Geox! I was starting a rumor it's named "The secret orgins of Dickie Duck" in some countires ;)

May 4, 2014 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

"at least that's a rumor I'm trying to start..."

That had me laughing far longer than I like to admit.

May 7, 2014 at 3:01 AM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Re Rosa's treatment of Donald, I still think that the worst moment I ever saw was Don lying in the puddle of drool at the start of (I believe) the first Three Caballeros story.


May 12, 2014 at 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Erico said...

Wherever you are, Happy 80th birthday, Donald Duck!

I can't believe Americans aren't celebrating this anniversary in a proper way... It would be great to have at least a special edition issue, but no... I would be happy with just a little short film, even if as a tv spot or something...

Great post by the way, I don't participate much, but I'm always reading.

June 10, 2014 at 12:16 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Chris - that scene I belive is in his SECOND Caballeros story...

June 13, 2014 at 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the beginning of Disney's all-time greatest love story.

"The only live one I ever knew" -- Did that have a different meaning in 1952 than the only meaning I can glean from it today?

February 21, 2016 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Chris77 said...

The ending image reminds me of Don Rosa's story where Scrooge is self proclaimed king of his moneybin mini land where he 'accidentally' burns the certificate in the candle light

May 18, 2019 at 3:47 PM  

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