Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Three Good Little Ducks"

And now, “Three Good Little Ducks,” and I will eat my hat if Barks was not being a little bit sarcastic with that title, mimicking that kind of goodie-two-shoes children’s narrative.  The story itself?  Well, it’s my favorite of the five.  I think it’s pretty much a winner in every respect.  Let’s see, shall we?

The classic dilemma.  I want to make note of the way Barks makes this rather talky bit dynamic by having HDL constantly shifting positions on and around the couch.  Seems simple, but it’s not something you’d get from just any ol’ comic artist.  Good stuff.

One reason I like this story is because I find the inadvertent assault on Donald really funny.  The incidents are relatively low-impact, but their obviously-contrived nature cracks me up every time.

…and capping it all off with pulling the garage down is just great.  He looks so overwhelmed, driving a car that's far too big for him.

It’s not just the comedy that I like, though; I’m not saying it’s super-profound or anything, but I think the family dynamic here is extremely well-observed.  Kids DO tend to see things in absolutes like this: they have mortally offended their uncle FOR ALL TIME, so off they go.  It’s actually a bit more childlike than HDL would typically be, but it works, and in spite of the brevity of the story, and despite the fact that you know perfectly well that things’ll be resolved quickly enough, it really brings home their desolation.

Of course, the opaqueness of Donald’s motivations is easy to see through, but that’s neither here nor there.  We see here an aspect of the character that we usually don’t: an adult who, being an adult, is endowed with a sense of perspective: HDL were obviously not as bad as they thought, obviously never in any danger of not getting presents, and their last-minutes bumbling was obviously never going to screw anything up, either.  It’s just that everything looms so large for kids that they weren’t able to see that.  To Donald, however, it’s so obvious as to go unstated.

Sure, the kids screwed up a bit, but fercrissake, they’re kids, and it’s really the most trivial thing in the world.  The ending’s a little sappy, but for my money, it falls on the right side of that equation, and I always like stories that show you Donald as a good parent.  That’s important, I think: sure, the rivalry aspect of their relationship is an evergreen subject for sundry japery, but that can’t be all there is.  In stories like this, we can see that it isn’t.



Anonymous Elaine said...

This has always been my favorite of the Firestone Christmas stories, too. Random question: chaining your car to the wall of the garage--was that a thing?

December 23, 2014 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger Chris Barat said...


Not only does Barks keep the boys in motion vis a vis the sofa, but he subtly makes the poses funnier and funnier. I've lain with my feet on the sofa and my arms and torso on the ground before, but hiding IN the sofa while I converse... and hanging by my legs from an arm while lying out of sight? If those poses had gone on any longer, the boys would probably have ended up standing on their heads on the thing.


December 23, 2014 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Now that you mention it, I realize that that section really deserved more comment. In the first three panels, they become progressively more and more beaten down as they contemplate their grim situation: first basically on the sofa, then collapsed next to it, then hiding and barely visible--until suddenly, BAM, determination! A great idea! It's really quite smart and well-done.

December 24, 2014 at 5:39 AM  

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