Monday, December 21, 2015

"Memoirs of an Invisible Santa"

So anyone who thinks some of the choices I've made in my localizations are a bit de trop should be advised that a story entitled “Mickey and the Christmas Treats” was officially published in the US as “Memoirs of an Invisible Santa.” Just saying.

Not that I'm objecting to this decision; far from it. Titles don't get much blander than that original one, and a story as batty as this deserves a bizarre title to match. Originally published in 1954, this is the earliest Romano Scarpa work to ever appear in English; it's only the fifth story he drew (under the mad whims of the inescapable Guido Martina, of course). Let's get straight into it.

So we open with Mickey preparing for a Christmas party. Goofy has some innovative ideas for gifts, INCLUDING...

...this. Ominous music. Now, there is a long tradition in Italian stories where Goofy, for extremely vague reasons, obtains some sort of special ability to kickstart the plot. Anglophone readers may remember an example of this in the story that was localized as “The Great Gawrsh-Durn Champion.” This story...isn't exactly that, but you can definitely feel that it's in the same general vicinity. Here's this weird thing that he made! Maybe it'll do something unusual? I don't know! There's no way to tell!

...WHAT THE HECK?!? Okay, sure, why not, it makes them invisible. Except their shoes, for no reason that Martina bothers to even try to justify.

So they go out to try to figure out what's going on. Note this cat that keeps popping up for no reason. Now, so far all of this is fairly straightforward. I mean, the premise may be a bit odd, but nothing excessively out of the ordinary. Things start to really spin out when the guests arrive, however. This conflict and the way it plays out are really odd.

So here they are! And we can note that even at this early stage, Scarpa was perfectly competent to draw both ducks and mice. We get our first hint that something's a bit unusual in Scrooge's behavior. Look how mad he looks in the lower left there, and then look at him getting enraged at the kids for engaging in normal kid behavior. Now, yelling about how the Younger Generation is all wrong is a common Cranky Old Person stereotype, sure, but that doesn't mean it's a normal thing for Scrooge to be doing. I ask you: except when it comes to being thrifty and entrepreneurial, when has he ever cared about how kids act? When has decorum ever been his thing? “Hasn't Donald raised you right?” That's just a bizarrely out-of-character thing to hear from him in any context, let alone one as trivial as this. I suppose in justification, we could argue that this might have been early enough along in the character's development that this didn't seem so obvious. But that seems like a stretch to me.

Why does Mickey have a portrait of Daisy on his wall, anyway? What's going on here?

The important thing to emphasize here is that that “I envy an uncle with a nephew like him!” is apropos of absolutely nothing that Donald has said or done. It's just random, completely unmotivated hostility. Evidently, Martina grasped that Donald and Scrooge were frequently at loggerheads, but he hadn't quite figured out that their arguments were meant to have some actual basis, however trivial. As a result, we get this, which may well be the weirdest thing in a pretty darned weird story.

So we switch back and forth between the two plot lines, and we get various weird gags where everyone thinks they're losing their minds due to Mickey's and Goofy's invisibility—though it must be noted that none of this ever really goes much of anywhere.  I'LL TEACH YOU TO BUILD SNOWMEN ON THE ROOF!

The real action is back at the house, where the characters are becoming ever-more irrationally enraged over Mickey's non-appearance. Since when is “it” anything like anything that Daisy “always says?” Note that Donald is reacting to this by hitting the booze early. He's clearly feeling no pain here; you will note that he's the only one in that bottom panel who appears to be enjoying himself. Good choice.

The real action amps up when Mickey and Goofy get back (having failed to solve their problem, which ends up helpfully solving itself). Is this how you would react to the unexpected absence of a host? It seems unlikely! You'd more likely assume that something was genuinely wrong, which would be accurate in this case. But,'re not a character in this story! So shut yer trap!

I must say, I do always laugh at the unbeknownst-to-him newly-visible Goofy wreaking vengeance.

And summarizing A Christmas Carol as “thuh heroic ghost makes thuh no-good party-poopers repent” is somehow the best thing ever.

Anyway, the whole thing resolves with this rather confusing business where Mickey and Goofy solve the conflict by making everyone else think they've gone insane. As you do.

Why is it a “lucky break” that they didn't tell him who did the swinging? Is this one of those Kantian things where it's impermissible to lie at all, for any reason, ever? Even though, let's face it, Goofy is already lying here, I mean come the fuck on?

Oh, and also, this resolution relies on all of his friends having absolutely no sense of time. Apparently the confusion has something to do with Goofy having messed with the clock to make time slow down, but it's all presented so vaguely and confusingly that it's a bit hard to figure.

If you want someone to kiss you, one good trick is to make them think you were three and a half hours late and then reveal that you were actually only an hour and ten minutes late. Works every time. Their inexplicable rage at the former will turn into surprised delight at the latter. Trust me; I'm a scientist.

I must say, I find the use of the word “snarky” incredibly jarring here. Anyway, GAME OVER. The end.

In spite of everything, however, I do enjoy the tableau at the end. What can I say?  I'm an easy tableau lay. Still, let's face it: to the extent that this story is entertaining, it's more for the gawking at how weird it is than for any actual, you know, goodness.

Good way to fill in the extra half-page, I will say. More tomorrow if I'm not too drunk!

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Anonymous Elaine said...'re going from least favorite to favorite, so that means you like this one *more* than "It's a Wonderful Christmas Story"? Yikes.

December 21, 2015 at 11:28 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Evidently so! Apparently, I really don't care for that "Wonderful Life" story. Also, I clearly have biases, however conscious, towards both weirdness and older stories that worked in this one's favor.

December 22, 2015 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Let's all sing :
"On the second day of Christmas my Geox gave to me... THIS... ONE... REVIEW!!!"

In the panel when Mickey tell that time was "running faster then it should" I don't know why, but I find Goofy funny as hell :P

December 22, 2015 at 9:45 PM  
Anonymous Baar Baar Jinx said...

"The important thing to emphasize here is that that “I envy an uncle with a nephew like him!” is apropos of absolutely nothing that Donald has said or done. It's just random, completely unmotivated hostility."

Maybe Scrooge and Donald had one of their famous "merits of hoarding piles of cash vs. splurging on ice cream sodas" arguments in the car on the way over? It might explain why Scrooge is in such a sour mood the minute he walks through the door and takes that early potshot at Donald's parenting skills.

December 25, 2015 at 7:34 PM  

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