Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Old Froggie Catapult"

Great that IDW’s bringing back the classic comic books, eh?  All I really know about IDW is that Popeye miniseries they did some time back.  I didn’t think it was particularly good, but that’s mainly because they were trying so hard to mimic Segar, and I think Segar is probably the least imitable cartoonist ever.  Their heart was obviously very much in the right place, which bodes good things for the new line.  Anyway, let’s celebrate by wallowing in some Barks.

If I said this was Barks’ best “the ducks adopt an animal” story, I suppose I might get some disagreement, but I don’t imagine it would be very vehement.  What is there to dislike about this story?  That’s right: NOTHING.  Nothing at all.

This is the story that Gladstone dubbed “Old Froggie Catapult.”  I feel like there must be some specific cultural thing that’s being parodied there, but I’ve no idea what.  I do love, it however; I made exactly this joke on the disney comics message board a few years back, but I think it bears repeating: it sounds like the weirdest nickname EVER for a Civil War general.  Fantastic!

Really, an artist who was an ordinary human would not have been able to convey that sense of a bright, cozy abode in a cold, dark world.  But Carl sells the shit out of it, and even if this isn’t absolutely essential for the story to work, it definitely helps.

You can really feel Catapult’s relief at being able to escape the storm.  Another thing that I like: the fact that Donald is so  durn nice in this story.  And why shouldn’t he be, really?  No sort of bad temper or dumbess on his part is necessary to tell the story, so he might as well be pleasant.  It contributes a lot to the generally warm and welcoming feel of the story.

Nice transition, too.

SEE HERE’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.  Donald and the kids just chillaxing, being friendly, doing fun, normal family things.  That’s what I like.

Hey, did you know that, per google, the first time anyone on the internet has written the phrase “Hot Stove Hoppy” was just a few words ago, in this very sentence?  That’s HISTORY that you just witnessed, friends.  Actually, I think Hot Stove Hoppy is a pretty solid name.  I’d go for it, although it would inevitably be shortened to just “Hoppy.”  Donald’s fake-malicious expression is also a thing of which I am a fan.

“He’s the most!”  Love that; also love Shouty McBowtie’s efforts to whip up the whole town into a frenzy.  Great obscure trivia question: where was the frog-jumping state championship that was disrupted by a hurricane to be held?

People remark on the oddness of the way Barks’ “Island in the Sky” turned Duckburg into a futuristic Space City, but that’s just noticable because it’s so visually obvious; it’s not as though the place was ever other than malleable: as, for example, here we can see that frog jumping is the city’s most popular sport.  The biggest bargeload of people in Duckburg history!”  You’re really gonna tell me that’s any less implausible than spaceships?

…but there’s always some douchebag, isn’t there?  Yeah, stop booing, dude!  If we didn’t have this dumb storm to deal with, angrily heckling an animal would be fine, but since we’re stuck out here…

And of course the epic climax!  Sure, he’s kind of anthropomorphic, but he’s still frog-like, and you really feel the danger.  A fish like that (some kind of gar, I suppose?) would absolutely eat a frog, given half a chance.

…as would a heron.  What Catapult goes through is inspiring, and I only say that-half jokingly, because this is really one of the more amazing sequences in Barks’ catalogue.  I even like that last panel there, as you can feel the danger just easing off a little, and our hero able to relax.  Ah, Catapult.  If only you ever appeared again!

GREATEST HERO DUCKBURG EVER HAD.  Take THAT, Cornelius Coot!  ‘Sa helluva trophy.  Darn it, I DEMAND MORE CATAPULT.

Anyway, obviously a great story, and notice how I never until now mentioned how biologically nonsensical Catapult's reactions to cold are, and also isn't it interesting how, in a story about waterfowl who talk and live in houses, such things can still be noticeable, albeit not hugely remarkable?  From now on I’m going to do my damndest to write at least one entry here a month, to keep at least some  vestige of momentum.  Can momentum have a vestige?  I don’t see why not! 



Anonymous Elaine said...

Thanks for reviewing this story, GeoX! It's close to my favorite Barks 10-pager (perhaps edged out by The Screaming Cowboy). Your review lifts up many of the aspects I appreciate, and makes me appreciate them even more. Wonderful evocation of the two storms, in words and art. Terrific facial expressions of Ducks and frog. Great art depicting the heroic journey. I also love the text in the last panel of that journey: "The storm-battered streets of Duckburg have never seen the passing of a messenger such as this! (ka-plop...ka-plop...ka-plop)"

One of the things I love about this story is that it is Catapult's apparent weakness or oversensitivity that paradoxically makes him both jumping champion and town hero. And a key aspect of the plot is that his victory and heroism are also predicated on the Ducks' empathy for him. They understand what motivates him, and while Donald uses that for his own end of winning glory, when Catapult fails due to the storm he reacts with understanding and compassion. "Our big chance is gone! But we don't blame you, Catapult!" (wrapping him in a blanket) As you say, Donald is really nice in this story.

So--one's apparent weakness or disability could lead to unusual and important achievement, as long as it is met with empathy from a few important people. That's a great message, and all the greater for being implicit.

Catapult was already old when they took him in (though how they know that, I'm not sure), so I figure they kept him as long as he lived. And only then got Bolivar.

The one nit I would pick with the plot is the great convenience of Grandma Duck's waiting for them at home, for which I would like to have had a tad more explanation. But I tell myself that she didn't want to go with them, but wanted to celebrate with them if Catapult won. She has doubtless baked cookies with raisins while she's been awaiting their return.

January 25, 2015 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

WOW! I barely recall this Barks story. I also like the cozy part with storm out-side at the start. Love that kind of stuff.

As far mimicking Segar go... I also agree it's also impossible. Reading his stories I got a sense of freedom. He didn't had any formula or rules. He was just writing whatever pop in to his head and celebrating it. It's almost like exploring his personal fetishes (I think uncle Freud would wrote an interesting book about Segar)At least for me that was the spirit of it.

I read the new Popeye comics and they where hit and miss. There was one about Bluto returning as a magician which I found very funny but some other I found honestly bland and forced.

I can't wait for the new movie. I hate CGI and some changes (What? No pipe?) but the teaser look incredible fun and I think they are on the right track to recapture style of Fleischer brothers cartoons (that I would argue is much more possible)

January 25, 2015 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Catapult was already old when they took him in (though how they know that, I'm not sure), so I figure they kept him as long as he lived. And only then got Bolivar.

Perhaps, but here's my counterargument: imagine Bolivar lying by the fire and Catapult snuggling in his fur to stay extra-warm. How fucking adorable is that? YOU CANNOT SAY NO TO IT.

January 25, 2015 at 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Ah, true, I cannot say no to that picture. Of course, Bolivar's achievement in lifesaving in "Operation Rescue St. Bernard" is a result of the same apparent weakness, an oversensitivity to cold--so we know they would both snuggle by the fire. That story has several similarities to the Catapult story, including the ending with awards by the fireplace. I like the Catapult story better though for many reasons, among them that Donald and the boys are much more empathic towards Catapult.

Here's another great picture: Catapult snuggling in with HDL in the hot-water-filled rubber boat on the cover of Donald Duck 44--one of my all-time favorite Barks covers. Definitely one that shows off Donald as a good (and innovative!) parent.

January 25, 2015 at 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I thought Robert Langridge's Popeye miniseries was pretty good.

I do have to admit that I prefer the old Bud Sagendorf Popeye comics IDW is reprinting.

January 26, 2015 at 12:16 AM  
Blogger Richie said...

I love how you brought up E.C. Segar in the only Barks comic (that I can recall) that has someone shouting "Blow Me Down!".

'Tis a lovely entry and this story would have made for a wonderful animated short back in the day...that sequence with Catapult overcoming adversity is golden candidate for animation! Not that Barks didn't do a marvelous job leaving an impression in the still page!

January 26, 2015 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Don’t mean to take the spotlight off Catapult, as that’s such a great story but, if anyone is wondering (or has any concerns) about the overall superb quality of IDW’s product, please read THIS 2014 POST from my Blog. …And, know that I wrote this post BEFORE I knew I would be working for them. This simply reflects my overall respect for, and appreciation of, their product in general.

And, THIS POST offers a look at the cover of the first issue IDW’s UNCLE SCROOGE! Check out the lively comments on this post. …And, feel free to add one, if you’re so inclined. I’d be grateful.

My readers and GeoX’s don’t always overlap, so I’m pleased to spread the word that much farther. From what little info has come my way, I think we’re really going to enjoy these!

January 27, 2015 at 4:26 AM  
Blogger whc03grady said...

I've never read the original, but after your edits this looks like it could be (but certainly wasn't) the comic book equivalent of a backdoor pilot.


October 21, 2016 at 4:30 AM  

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