Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"The Duckburg 100"

And I said let's all meet up in the year 100, won't it be strange when...okay, never mind. I realize that that is unconnected to the story and makes no sense as a parody of ANYTHING. But for whatever reason, my brain just REFUSES to not play it whenever I hear that title. What can I say?

(Okay, jokes aren't funny when you explain them, but A) that wasn't funny to start with; and B) it's not really even a "joke," so, for the perplexed, i.e.

Well, this is a story from 1961, round about Scarpa's prime, and, well...there's a lot to like about it, and it doesn't even have too many maddening Scarpaisms with notably rare exceptions). And if that sounds ominously circumspect to you...well, read on.

But first, feast yer eyes on the great cover that Marco Rota did for a 2008 Italian reprint:

Really gets you pumped up for the story. Also, we can all be thankful that it was recolored, because here's the original Italian version:

...hate to say this, but it kinda looks like it's soaking in urine. Ours is a big improvement. does Scrooge know this contest involves "thrift?" "Big Duckburg 100 Contest" isn't very descriptive. Oh, right, it says "campaign to encourage saving"...on a completely different building? Across the street? But I guess the banner somehow connects the two buildings, and the other is some sort of annex of the main bank? But the banner doesn't look like it's flush with the main building; it distinctly appears to be at an acute angle from it, so... wah? I dunno; there appears to be some distinctly non-Euclidean geometry going on here.

And that was a lot of harping on that, but seriously, it's pretty weird. Anyway, the main point is that there's this here contest going on.

Um...we'll come back to the details of the contest; for now, let's just note that it involves the bank, which Scrooge happens to own, giving away cash prizes to savvy savers. He has to stop them!

I'll say this for the story: it's a fairly complicated scenario--we have variously interlinking plotlines involving Scrooge himself, Donald, Jubal Pomp, and the Beagle Boys--and Scarpa handles all this surprisingly well, given his general MO. There's a lot less confusion than you'd think--so GO RO!

So...not to open a can of worms, but I'm going to open a can of worms. Because here's the translation part that just baffles me. And I mean, actually baffles. I'm not being rhetorical! So it's one thing to include anachronistic references in a story for laffs. Whether or not you philosophically agree that it's a good thing to do, you can at least understand why someone would. But including them because you want everyone to think the story was written and takes place in 2015? Donald's TV hero was clearly dubbed "Captain Retro" to allow for that bit about cell phones, and I DON'T UNDERSTAND. Is it...really possible that we want to trick people into thinking that this is a contemporary story? "Trick" makes it sound kind of meaner than I'm going for, but I simply don't get A) why this would be desirable; or, B) what other reason there could BE. And, I mean, even it it were, it's not likely to WORK very well. Granted, this story was printed before IDW had taken to including dates of original publication in their comics (a change that I commend in the strongest possible terms), but even so. The only ones who could possibly be fooled would be absolute Disney-comics newbies who, moreover, have absolutely no sense of curiosity, or possibly no internet access. I don't have the numbers, but I think this must be a very small portion of the readership. Whereas to someone like me, it's just jarring because it's so obviously a translation...thing. I mean, just look at that television there!* As hard as you try, pretending that this takes place in the here and now is simply not on. Romano Scarpa was a pretty good cartoonist! And he wrote his best stories in the late fifties and early sixties! What's wrong with acknowledging this?!

*I'm reminded of the Ace Attorney series of videogames, of which I'm a fan. These games are made by Japanese people, set in Japan, and often include very distinctly Japanese elements. But the people responsible for the localizations are absolutely dead-set on these games being set in the United States. This leads to a lot of weird dissonance, as satirized in this comic:

This localization isn't on that level of goofiness, of course. But it suuuure reminds me of it.

Well, regardless of all that, I like Donald in this story. I didn't the first time I read it, but somehow on revisiting it, my opinion changed. He's so goshdarned enthusiastic! And we see by the way he immediately snaps back to reality when shit gets real that he's not really being depicted as a little kid; he's just funnin'. I can relate.

And then we have Jubal Pomp! Like Gilbert in "The Blight Before Christmas," a search reveals that this is the first time I've mentioned Jubal. And for similar reasons, though it's not that he annoys me particularly; it's just that he's never really made much of an impression on me. He's a "wannabe tycoon" with frequent get-rich-quick schemes, if the shorthand that we're given in American comics is to be believed. And there's no reason why it shouldn't be! I just haven't seen enough of him, perhaps, to know what if any nuances there are to his character. He often teams up with Brigitta. That's all I got. Also, he reminds me of Van Horn's Rumpus McFowl. And it's not just the hat! ...okay, it's mostly the hat. But it's easy to picture McFowl in the role that Jubal plays here.

We also get one of Scarpa's less remarked-upon fixations: I HATE MODERN ART. Well, I SAY "modern art" but it would be more accurate to say I HATE ABSTRACT ART, 'cause really, folks, do you honestly imagine that the man had any actual understanding of the theoretical and aesthetic characteristics and concerns of modernism? It's really just GRRR ART DOESN'T LOOK LIKE SOMETHING BAD. Not what you'd call a sophisticated stance. To be fair, it's something you'd also see in Barks, on occasion. And, though I can't immediately call to mind any examples, you've gotta think Van Horn too, given his you-dern-kids-get-off-my-lawn cultural conservatism.

The only thing, plotting-wise, that falls short is this bit: the excuse the disguised Beagle uses to get into Scrooge's office to sneak in the little robot is that he CAN'T give him the statue now, because he's covered in glue and can't get it off him--but there was no way he could've known in advance he'd end up gluey. We could stipulate that the real problem is that McDuck doesn't have the cash on him, but in that case, the whole statue/glue thing becomes superfluous.

I feel bad for Jubal here--after getting blatantly ripped off by the Beagles, he gets screwed over AGAIN and then just disappears from the story. Is there no justice in this fallen world?!?

And I also like that Scrooge gives Donald a cool reward for helping out. That's sweet.

Okay, RIGHT, but now it's necessary to look at the nature of this damn contest, because it makes zero sense and this senselessness infects the entire story. "You have two choices: you can do something super-easy and make an extra hundred dollars...OR! You can do something much harder! And if you choose that option, you can extra hundred dollars!" Boy, that's a tough one, innit? Seriously, this is NOT a puzzler. There is a Correct Answer here, and that answer is "stick the hundred in a desk drawer for now; then tomorrow you can use your two hundred for whatever you want." Anything else isn't even worth thinking about.

There would have been other ways to run this contest in which it made sense! In fact, I daresay most ways would've made sense! But Scarpa unerringly gravitates to the one that makes gibberish out of his otherwise well-constructed plot. It really does seem positively pathological with him sometimes.

And it leads to stuff like this, which is as nonsensical as anything I've ever seen from Scarpa. "I smell a rat?" "Something's fishy?" These are sentiments that simply don't apply to the situation. "Suspicious" indicates that there's some room for doubt; we THINK Scrooge is up to no good, but golly, we just can't be sure--in spite of the fact that he's giving them ridiculous, self-evidently bad advice and not even providing any kind of specious rationale for it. "Bad advice" might be generous, actually. "Invest all your money in a Ponzi scheme!" is bad advice. "Pointlessly lose the contest!  No rationale, I just think losing is a good idea!" is...well, I guess the term still applies, but it's so over the edge that no one would ever actually say it in so many words. It makes sense that Scrooge wouldn't be eager to bring up the downside of spending the money right now, but the fact that HDL don't bother to bring it up just makes them look dim, and this whole thing just makes your head hurt with its dumbosity.

That's the long and short of it, innit? This also just makes Donald seem unacceptably stupid. Because yeah, he can make dumb decisions, and he can have poor impulse control, but never like this. If it were just a matter of "you'll just end up owing a hundred to the bank, no matter what," you could justify it: say, okay, he doesn't want to owe money, but he's entirely sure he's never going to have this opportunity again, so damn the torpedoes." But no! This is a situation where HDL could--should say to him "dude: all you have to do is put the money somewhere safe overnight. Then, tomorrow you can in effect get the walkie talkies for free and have another c-note to to buy more Captain Retro crap." But no!

Everyone keeps repeating the parameters of the contest and yet still goes around acting as though they were other than what they actually are. I don't think I've ever seen a story create quite this level of disconnect. It's just such a poorly-thought-out move on Scarpa's part that it distracts from and diminishes the story's considerable virtues. Also, note the way Scrooge talks about "fooling" the Beagles. He knows perfectly well that this "investing" business makes no sense! Why doesn't anyone else? It ain't particularly arcane, foax!

Okay, so what would be the easiest way to fix the story? Well, it depends how much revision you're willing to do. If you change the contest rules so there's no saving option, it's just "invest it or give it back," then the behavior of Donald, the Beagles, and Jubal all instantly makes sense: for Donald, the walkie talkies are a matter of now-or-never, and the others are so filled with hubris that they're sure they can make profitable investments/successfully rob Scrooge. The downside is that then Scrooge dashing around urging them to SPEND SPEND SPEND becomes even more absurd. You could have him urging them to make specific investments that he knows are bad, but again, that would involve quite a lot of revision, and would also likely lengthen the story considerably. Another option that might work better would be to say, okay, one hundred extra if you save it, two hundred if you invest it. That would cover the Beagles and Jubal well enough, but it still leaves Donald with no good motivation.

I dunno--maybe you can think of some way to have this make sense changing only dialogue, but I have a feeling that the cold hard truth is that it would require more work than that. Not to say that it would likely be particularly difficult! The plot is sound in outline! But, as we've seen time and time again, any revision is apparently too much to ask from Scarpa. I'll grant that in some ways, he was a genius. But boy, if only he'd been able to couple that genius with a modicum of discipline--then I can only imagine how good he might've been.



Anonymous Elaine said...

Yeah, I *thought* that contest didn't make a lick of sense...thanks for confirming that.

Hoo boy, the coloring of the cover we got is indeed a huge improvement!

I disagree with you totally on Captain Retro-Duck, though. First of all, I do think we want the stories to make sense to contemporary kids. Sometimes a story is clearly dated in some of its elements (e.g. all-male police force, random tech shown in the art), but that doesn't much impact the core plot. Here, Donald's obsession over *walkie-talkies* is indeed key to the plot. I think it was a good move to make that obsession understandable to a contemporary eight-year-old by putting it into the "retro fandom" category. Not only that, the Captain Retro-Duck references were a great running joke. At first I just said to myself, "Oh, that's how they're finessing the dated tech," but as the story went on, the jokes about Donald's fanboy obsession with Captain Retro-Duck became the funniest thing about the story to me. I don't agree with every choice Joe Torcivia makes (see: yetis' speech), but I'm solidly behind this one.

January 20, 2016 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...


The last thing I’d care to see is another lengthy “original vs. revisions” comment thread. But, what I will say is that, at that particular early stage of the IDW line, there was no explicit indication that these were stories that were decades old! There was no year of publication, or any reference to where (or when) a story might have originally appeared. Save Western reprints, newspaper strip reprints, and sainted British relics.

That has since changed, with every story appearing in these comics now clearly identified as having originated from somewhere – and some-when – else! Both on the contents page of the inside front cover, and now on the first page of the story itself. Under this system, you are not likely to see this sort of thing occur now and in the future.

But, things were still more up in the air at the time I was scripting UNCLE SCROOGE # 3, still well more than a month before # 1 even appeared, so do please take that into consideration.

That said, even I was surprised at the positive reaction garnered by the concept of Captain Retro-Duck, and all the fannish gags associated with it. Overall, it may be the most positive reaction to anything I’ve produced. And, to Elaine, "Retro-Deb", and the rest of the Retro-Rangers, I offer my humble retro-thanks!

Needless to say, writing Donald in this one was an absolute ball!

January 20, 2016 at 8:41 PM  
Anonymous Gyro's Helper said...

I have to say I agree with Geo on the Retro-Duck stuff. Feigning a 21st-century setting for the sake of contemporary child readers is one thing, but how many eight-year-olds are going to understand the concept of retro fandom, or even know what the word "retro" means? IMO this revision is only going to make the story more confusing for its presumed target audience.

January 20, 2016 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, I have to agree that this retro concept seems like it's going to be a bit...conceptually complicated for an eight-year-old. Plus, I think saying that this would otherwise be confusing to kids underestimates their ability to just go with the flow. I mean, we're assuming here that kids DO know what walkie talkies are, given that they're central to the story--in that case, do we REALLY think kids are going to be going "HEY! Why is he into outdated tech! This makes no sense!" I have a hard time picturing that.

I enjoy the Captain Retro-Duck stuff too, but that's not really related to the question at hand, is it? Whether there's a cell phone reference or not, there's STILL going to be a Captain SOMETHING, with the associated running joke. Whether he's referred to as "retro" or not seems immaterial.

I mean, I realize that by harping on this I'm probably making it seem like more of a big deal than it really is, but...

January 20, 2016 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Honestly Jubal Pomp stuff dosen't get better then this. I seen hundrets of stories where he appeared (usually as Brigitta's sidekick/parnter)and I never found annything interesting about him. He's just...*there*!

I heard that in the very first story he appeard in he was a villian that got much nicer in the fallowing stories but that's my extend of Jumbal knowlage.

As for the Scarpa HATES MORERN ART GRRRRR thing... Honestly, I don' think it was annything personal or any atempt on satire/commentary. It's just felt more like something Scarpa thrown in as a easy joke. It's like hating Opera (which I love for the record), it's just a easy cartoon clishe/joke. That's it.

January 21, 2016 at 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Deb said...

The whole Captain Retro-Duck thing brings up a bit of a balancing act that seems to be an issue with both newer and reprinted Disney stories. On one hand, Donald as the adult fanboy helps to punch up the story, and makes Donald's impulsive behavior a bit more logical, but mentioning cell phones in a story from the 60's is an odd fit. The world of Duckburg just seems to be stuck in the 1950's, and attempts to modernize it stick out like a sore thumb sometimes. That said, I like Fanboy Donald a lot more than the grumpy "Why-are-you-kids-reading-this-trash" Donald of Barks and Rosa's Super Snooper stories.

Scarpa's contest works on cartoon logic more so than real world logic. It is the sort of "suspension of disbelief" writing that is harder to get away with now, as the readership of these comics gets older. At its best, cartoon logic can be fun, especially when it makes a story flow as well as The Duckburg 100 does. Trying to ground the story in too much real world logic would require too heavy a rewrite, and like you said, would probably drag the story down. There is a fun energy to much of Scarpa's work, and if you try to create real world logic for too much of it, it loses its charm. Don Rosa's work falls on the opposite side of the spectrum, and while Rosa's world is more believable than Scarpa's quite often, there is a breezy charm to Scarpa's work that Rosa can't capture because he takes his ducks so seriously. Of course, there is a difference in the target audience each man wrote for...Scarpa wrote for kids, and Rosa wrote for adult Duck fans.

January 21, 2016 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Okay, not having read the story (yet) makes it a bit hard for me to comment, but I'm still going to.

About this Captain Retroduck trouble… I am conceptually against those big changes, as you already know, but if it had been written all today, I would have no problem with the mention of cellphones. In a nutshell, I'm bothered that they stuck cellphones when they were none in the original, but in the absolute cellphones in Duckburg don't bother me.

Now, I have to answer to you GeoX about the cover's colorization. Though the american colorization is good too, I personally find the brighter Italian more appealing. I mean, when the cover is supposed to be about Donald plunged in various diamonds and other shiny things, a grey background and tern colors just won't do. I want colors ! BRIGHT colors ! The original may not have been perfect, but at least it was bright, and the yellowishness of the whole thing made me think of gold, which makes a great deal of sense for a Scrooge story. (might have a little something to do with the fact that, being French, I'm more used to seeing the coins in the Money Bin being colored yellow instead of bluish grey, but still).

January 21, 2016 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

WHOA JUST A SECOND HERE. Can I get some clarification? Because I had just blithely assumed that the original included SOME kind of Superhero that Donald idolized, but now I see that there's no actual evidence for that just from the art. If there wasn't, then I must agree that creating one was one of the most inspired localization choices ever. I still look askance on the "cell phone" business, but the superhero-worship concept itself adds a hell of a lot of color to the story.

(Um, and not I'm not specifically trying to rile up Achille Talon here :p. It's just that it only just now occurred to me. Maybe I'm just slow on the uptake!)

January 21, 2016 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

There obviously wasn't any superhero, as far as I can tell. It was just a play on the "talkie-walkie-mania" that caught people in the fifties, and which is only a memory now with the Internet; it made perfect sense at the time, but would look a bit weird now. I have other examples in French/Belgian comics of stories playing on this "radio-mania" that look a bit out-of-place; notably one of the most famous stories of the "Spirou et Fantasio" series, "QRN for Bretzelburg".

So no. No superhero here. (Probably).

January 21, 2016 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

To Geo and Achille:

Again, I don’t wish to debate previously well-covered ground, but the whole “Captain Retro-Duck” thing was completely my own invention. Because, as I noted, we weren’t necessarily playing these stories as definite period pieces just yet – and, in an age of ubiquitous cell phones, texting, Twitter, and Facebook, going ga-ga over a pair of walkie-talkies seemed completely out of place.

So, not only did Donald become an obsessive fan of a superhero, but it had to be a retro superhero who would have made walkie-talkies all the more “cool” to Donald.

David suggested some sort of “spy-angle” as the reason for the walkie-talkies (and that was good, too), but given the fact that no official position on how to handle obviously-out-of-our-present-time stories had been put forth (…or, at least, communicated to me) at the time, I went with what I thought would make the story the best possible read for a contemporary American audience. Reaction, thus far, has supported this. …And, thank you for your retro-reaction, Geo! :-)

Fear not, though, as this is no longer the case. Period pieces, they are!

January 21, 2016 at 5:32 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Hey, people—

No superhero in the original. All Joe's doing. In the rough translation I handed off to him for an overhaul, they were "Spy Hard walkie-talkies," the latest pop product craze without being tied to any character in particular.

Next item of business: the Italian cover and ours were printed from the *same* exact electronic color file, adjusted only to use our color schemes for the characters and extend the drawing on top.
The Italian version in my actual hard copy looks very much like the IDW version—it's just the scan everyone's talking about here where it seems to have come out brighter and gaudier.
But you're all really just contrasting two different reproductions of the same exact colors!

January 21, 2016 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"exact same colors"… Not exactly: there is some purple next to Scrooge that isn't there in the Italian. And when it comes to color schemes… meh. I prefer it when Scrooge has some blue on his jacket instead of this greyish… thing. As for Pomp, it's not that the Italian is "better" than the american version… It's just, the Italian colors have been used in all French prints of Pomp stories I know, so it just feels weird to me to have him another color; it's like if someone colored Mickey's shorts green or orange. It's not that it'd be ugly… it'd just feel just weird.

January 22, 2016 at 3:23 PM  
Blogger Hex said...

Personally I prefer the Egmont coloring of Scrooge with an all-red coat and blue spats. Probably because I grew up reading Egmont comics and that’s what I got used to. I even prefer the red/black and the Dutch red/green before the red/gray. The old Italian blue/red I like even less.

But what I like a lot about the IDW coloring is that even if they use the original Egmont, Sanoma or Dinsey Italia coloring, they still do adjustments to it so the clothes looks the same in every story. In the Norwegian weekly that I also read they don’t bother doing that. So in the same comic we might have a woodchuck story with brown hats and then another story with green hats. And that looks really stupid.

The exception is recoloring the black parts of Scrooge's (and others) clothes, as that can't be done properly without altering the art. So IDW don't use the gray color then.

January 22, 2016 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Hex —> For Scrooge, my heart is balanced between the "red coat with blue collar and cuffs" and the "blue coat with red collar and cuffs". The "all-read", "red and green" and "red and black" are also okay with me, though I still prefer the two "blue-red" options; and I really hate the "red-gray".

January 23, 2016 at 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

I haven't read this one, but don't most banks have CD's or something like that? Take the $100, and put it right in a CD, it'll make a little money, and qualify for the $100 bonus because it's been invested wisely. Or have I missed something?

January 23, 2016 at 5:50 AM  
Blogger TheKKM said...

I have to admit, beyond any feelings of hostility against localization processes I may have, the idea of "we need to explain why walkie-talkies are a big deal" seems a tad off to me. Surely the fact they're now outdated acts as its own reason now, if I were a kid unaware this is an old story? The point is Donald wants something he doesn't have, something notable enough to be sold on TV, etc. At the time, the walkie-talkies were the latest example of technology craze, but nowadays I think I'd as easily, as a kid, buy that instead there's a retro-craze going on and the walkie-talkies are notable and desirable BECAUSE they're relics :P

January 27, 2016 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

GeoX, do you really think that Zio Paperone, possibly the most prestigious series in the history of Italian disney comicbooks, had such a bad coloring on the cover? :)
The scan on inducks is bad: the relief parts of the cover look like a weird acid yellow, which is not actually there.

In fact Rota's covers on the "white run" of Zio Paperone are amazing, have a look:

January 28, 2016 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, IN ALL FAIRNESS, I've read a number of stories with the original Italian coloring, and I gotta tell ya, it is NOT the best possible look for them, and it DOES tend to be on the excessively yellow side. I'm just sayin'.

January 28, 2016 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

But I was talking of the cover of Zio Paperone, not the coloring of the stories.

January 29, 2016 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

(for what concerns the stories, well, the coloring changes strongly from decades to decades, so I do not understand what you mean)

January 29, 2016 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Okay, strike "original." But things like this and this are pretty dang yellow, and with that context, I do not think it was unreasonable to assume that this preoccupation with the color could extend to covers as well.

January 29, 2016 at 4:50 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

Yes, I see your point. Now that you make me think about it, many Italian stories from the 60's and the 70's often used a strong yellow that clashed a bit with the other "more relaxed" colors. And strangely that yellow was often used to color the interior walls, so it become the color background for so many panels.

Anyway, all best duck stories by Scarpa have been published in Zio Paperone from 2003 to 2008. And, as far as I know, Zio Paperone was the only Italian series that re-coloured stories before re-print them. This is not the case for almost all the others old and new series (I Grandi Classici, I Classici, etc..). That's the reason why in Italy today you find Scarpa's duck stories with a "modern" coloring, whereas Scarpa's Mickey stories are still reprinted with some very old coloring (often the actual original one).

January 30, 2016 at 1:12 PM  

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