Friday, January 22, 2016

"The Eternal Knot"

I can't--and indeed I think it's fair to say that I won't--stop.

Hey, as long as IDW keeps printing vintage Italian stories, no one gets hurt. That's the long and short of it. The obscurer the better. Today the Super Barosso Bros are back in a li'l 1962 jaunt. Just our thing. It's in the inducks top 1000, so it's doing okay, but several reviewers accuse it of not making sense.'s pretty coherent, really, unless a LOT was changed in translation to salvage it. Maybe a few things around the margins are a bit questionable, and yeah, it's a BIT choppy in a wholly typical way, but nothing serious. Also, it's pretty rich for the country awash in Scarpa to accuse other people's stories of not making sense. WELL ANYWAY.

We start in flashback to Scrooge's prospector days. As you can see, he has gotten himself into a veritable tizzy. It's a good thing one of the examples he gives is this "Aunt Molly" character; otherwise, this would come across as a proto-MRA rant. Please do not try to imagine how he could have an extra aunt in the standard Barks/Rosa genealogy. You will just drive yourself to an early grave.

Here's the deal. It seems somehow appropriate that the conclusion of this, if they all stick to their guns, is nobody getting any money ever. Somebody else can spin out a metaphor from that.

Back in the present day, I like that coloring.  The red flames, blue sky, yellow moon, black silhouettes--solid.  That is all.

...the inevitable occurs. As several people note on inducks, it seems a bit odd that an Italian story of this vintage doesn't feature Brigitta in some capacity in a plot like this. Presumably, she wasn't quite established enough at the time.

The sums of money that you see in a lot of these Italian stories always seem kind of low. I mean, comparatively speaking. Sure, five hundred million is a lot of money, but for Scrooge, it would be essentially pocket change. Add or subtract it from his fortune; it barely makes a dent either way. But, of course, he's still fixated on it--which may provide us some insight on why you always see him obsess about tiny amounts of money, not being willing to spend a nickel on this or that, whatever. Psychologically, saving a dollar and saving a million dollars is basically the same thing for him.

A part of me wants to object that this objection to breaking the engagement is gibberish, but the more sensible part of me knows that there is little point in making such an objection about a story of this sort. It is what it is. It gets the job done. He CAN'T break off the engagement, and that is that! He just can't! Go away!

ARGH I AM GOING TO KILL MYSELF. But, uh, in a GOOD way! It must be said, though, if we were going to take this story even a little bit seriously, this would make Scrooge into quite the sociopath. You just learn that your friend (or guy you were friendly with, anyway) died horribly, and your first instinct is to make a dopey pun? Man, you might as well be James Bond.

It is rather interesting that characters are apparently allowed to be killed off in stories like this, albeit offstage.

...maybe this is what people are complaining about when they say the story makes no sense? Because no matter how many times I read this, I cannot make head or tails of what it's supposed to be saying. Is Bafflewitz figuratively in a pit, because he died and is now in Hell? Or is he literally living his life in the bottom of a hole that he can't escape from, and therefore (highly dubiously) disqualified? Neither of these seem to make a whole lot of sense, but I'm not sure what the other options are. Also, it's sure hard to parse how Scrooge's facial expressions and body language fit in here.

OH BOY MORE ABSTRACT ART HATRED! But of course, this is only drawn by Scarpa, so the question is, did the Barossos share his opinions, or is this something inserted by David on the basis that it fits in with the general milieu?

Right, so anyway, when Donald and the kids prove unable to tempt the last remaining member of the pact down the mountain, Scrooge sends Gladstone, which in theory is an interesting and unexpected thing to do, but kind of pointless in practice. Also, it must be noted that "luck" seems to have nothing to do with Gladstone's success--Donald could just as easily have brandished that porn fashion magazine himself. Sure, you could play it as "oh, what a lucky break, I just happened to have it with me!" but the story ne'er goes there.

So what happens is...this. You kind of assume at first that the absence of this Dukehart woman is setting us up for some kind of big reveal, We just never see her. Chekhov's gun remains unused. It's all a bit unsatisfactory, I must admit.

People who think a lot about duck/dogface miscegenation (that includes all of us, I assume) ought to be fans of this, though. We can't tell from her name which one Dukehart is meant to be, but she's either marrying or was going to marry someone who was whichever one she's not! Yay!

Good plan, good plan!

Ha ha! Screw you, Scrooge! I believe I am on the record as always appreciating it when Don gets one over on his uncle.

But as for this ending...okay, it's true that you won the contest and therefore get the money, and I suppose it's also true that you can stick relevant documents in your scrapbooks. Bully for you. But...I mean, the clear implication here is that, even though it seemed like you were pwned by Donald in the panels above, you're actually getting something over on everyone else that they don't know about! Ha! Cue conspiratorial winking!'re not, are you? This is wholly unresponsive to the above, and not in any way any kind of twist. Or maybe it's not meant to be related, in spite of everything? Either way, not great storytelling!

OH WELL WHATEVER. I'm not going to try to claim that this story is some sort of lost classic, but it's fun for what it is, at least if you fetishize this old Italian stuff the way I do. More, please!

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Blogger Achille Talon said...

"Please do not try to imagine how he could have an extra aunt in the standard Barks/Rosa genealogy. You will just drive yourself to an early grave." —> For that once I don't see any problem. A McDuck aunt would be problematic, but why couldn't Aunt Molly's full name be Molly O'Drake ?

"Is Bafflewitz figuratively in a pit, because he died and is now in Hell? Or is he literally living his life in the bottom of a hole that he can't escape from, and therefore (highly dubiously) disqualified? Neither of these seem to make a whole lot of sense, but I'm not sure what the other options are." —> What about the obvious option that he fell in a pit to his death ? Death by fall is common business in the Disneyverse, as many villains will tell you.

January 23, 2016 at 4:45 AM  
Blogger Goldensun said...

I am Italian and I own the original story. I can say that many of the things you are puzzled about are just an invention of the translator...

For example, the dialogue in the first panel you posted is completely different from the original. There was no mention of an aunt or a cousin... It was all about being bored because they are blocked there by the snow.

And there is no mention about miss Gladys Dukehart never showing her face. In that panel where Donald & HDL describe her, they simply say:
"The Gladys Duckhart..."
"Queen of coffee..."
"...and bananas?"

The part where Scrooge says "He could never reach our money from down there", which confused you, is absent in the original because it's clear from the previous panel that the guy died by falling in the ditch.

The puns are obviously absent. The joke about abstract art however is really there, not an invention of the translator!

Reading your blog I see that a lot of times, the translator adds odd overcomplicated and confusing details to the dialogue, which I don't see the point of. The story with Gideon is a real mess in this regard. I wonder what is the reasoning behind all of this...

January 23, 2016 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

The reasoning is my old yet friendly quarrel with GeoX: it seems that American Disney comics translators have a tradition to "localize" the story rather than "translate" it, adding gags they want, changing stuff to better fit with American readers' supposed preoccupation and the references they'd get. The Gideon story changes were mostly about giving the American readers what they want: a story about Scrooge's brother, which is what they expect will attract them even though it's not really what the story is about.

January 23, 2016 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Thanks for clarifying, Goldensun. It did occur to me that Bafflewitz might just be dead, but the dialogue truly seemed to indicate...well, I don't know what. As I said. I do think it was a good idea to add the "she never shows her face" business--either way, it's strange that you never see her, but at least now there's some rationale for it, even if it DOES set you up for a punchline that never comes.

January 23, 2016 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

You meantioned that you plan to write about some non-Barks western duck material. Not to spoil the surprise or anything but I was wondering which are your favorite of these stories. My local comic book store just got a bunch of dell/gold key issues of Donald Duck and before I but any I was hoping for your insight on which stories to look out for.

January 23, 2016 at 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Deb said...

In the many years since The Eternal Knot's original publication in Italy, societal attitudes have changed, and what may have seemed silly and harmless then (joking about the demise of McDuck's fellow Klondike associates) would likely have to be handled with kid gloves nowadays. Perhaps the puns and the intentionally non-specific descriptions of these people's demises was seen as a way to get readers not to dwell on the more serious implications of the incidents and try to keep the tone light for what is, after all, a comedic story about talking ducks. The added bit about Scrooge's aunt and cousin seems very much to me to be trying to diffuse any accusations of McDuck being anti-female. McDuck hates spendthrifts, wastrels and those who value an ice cream soda more than money in the bank, like his foolish nephew Donald, not his aunt and cousin who were "smart, single tightwads". Just my two cents on the issue.

January 23, 2016 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I can indeed make recommendations, but only with a sizable grain of salt. I don't think nostalgia is causing me to like irredeemably bad comics, but it is definitely a factor here, and I would never claim that any of these are by any means lost classics. So, if you are so inclined, caveat emptor the following issues of Donald Duck:

38 (The Song Writers), 41 (Rainbow Island Rendezvous), 43 (Safari from Komba Tomba), 48 (A Bucket of Scones), 56 (The Crewless Cruise) 58 (Rattled Railroader), 64 (Adventure at Bomb Bird Island), 66 (The Paper Route Panic), 68 (The Fabulous Fiddlesticks) 69 (The Stone Money Mystery), 72 (Secret of the Sargasso Sea), 74 (Dive to Danger)

You're probably right that someone thought it was necessary to make these changes so as to avoid, I don't know, moral turpitude. But I must reject the notion that there's any discernible logic to these concerns, and indeed I would posit that what seemed silly and harmless then still seems silly and harmless. Let's try not to be too neurotic about these things.

January 24, 2016 at 12:07 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I assumed that the guy died by falling in the ditch, and that the confusing comment in the next panel about his not being able to reach the money was added to obfuscate his death. Though the dialoguer was not consistent on death-avoidance, since the Czech was surely done for. And there I assumed that one is supposed to interpret Scrooge as reading the story straight, not making or noting the pun himself.

Just putting myself on record here as strongly in favor of the Freedom To Localize. I will go off now to make up some FTL buttons, which will admittedly be interpreted as a vote for faster-than-light travel (I'm on board with that, too).

Here's my question about the last panel, as I posted on Joe's blog: Are the gold certificates Scrooge puts in his scrapbook in fact the very money itself (not just relevant documents that have been cashed in)? That had me slightly confused (and looking up "gold certificate" in Wikipedia, which didn't help much--paper currency in the USA till 1933? Are we in an alternate universe where gold certificates continued to function as official currency into Scrooge's "present"? Of course, who knows what the Italians believed about American currency in 1962....). But then, if they *are* the actual moolah, I suppose it's no odder to put them in a scrapbook than it is to store millions in your bin/swimming pool.

@Clapton--I'm also fond of Rattled Railroader (I have brothers who are identical twins)...just noting here that that story was reprinted in DD 208. So in case some of the comics your store got are later in the run, you might want to check Inducks for possible reprints of the stories GeoX lists before heading to the store.

And GeoX and Joe and all you fellow East-coasters: I hope you didn't lose power in the storm, and wish you well in digging out. I am reading all my favorite blizzard stories: The Screaming Cowboy, My Lucky Valentine, Operation Rescue St. Bernard, Blizzard Blues (U$ 413), Young Man Winter (Janet Gilbert/Vicar--I love Vicar's depiction of Old Man Winter's cave), Chilly Charlie (Paul Halas & Kym Hempson-Simpson, featuring AMJ and Mim), and my faves of the countless snowy William Van Horn stories: The Ghost of Kamikaze Ridge and Creature Comforts (the one with the Fermi).

January 24, 2016 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I am incredibly jealous of all y'all. There is ZERO snow in central PA, an' it's not FAIR.

January 24, 2016 at 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

@Clapton: I just went through the list myself, out of curiosity and to see how many I had read (hey, it's a snow day, not much else to do!). Here we go: Song Writers 38 only, Rainbow Island Rendezvous 41 only, Safari from Komba Tomba 43 and 171, A Bucket of Scones 48 and 189, The Crewless Cruise 56 only, Rattled Railroader 58 and 208, Adventure of Bomb Bird Island 64 and 206, Paper Route Panic 66, 204 and BOOM's hc Donald Duck Classics, Fabulous Fiddlesticks 68 and 187, Stone Money Mystery 69 and 164, Secret of the Sargasso Sea 72 only and Dive to Danger 74 only.

I would also vote for Loch Eerie Monster, 59 and 159, because I'm a sucker for Nessie stories!

January 24, 2016 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Goldensun said...

@Elaine: In the original last panel he simply says they are "watermarked paper" with the value of 10.000$ each, and they are green colored. Again, I have no idea on why this was changed.

Oh, if someone has any questions about the Italian version of any story, you are free to ask - I own many of them. :)

January 24, 2016 at 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

@Goldensun--Thanks. So, whatever they're called, the certificates are supposed to be the actual money, then. Is that how you understood it? I wouldn't say "gold certificate" is changing that--they were actual paper currency, redeemable for a corresponding amount of gold coins. (And they did come in denominations of $10,000.) But my main question was why Scrooge was sticking the actual money in a scrapbook. As I say, I guess that makes as much sense as the bin itself. The money is a trophy to him, not something he wants to invest or spend. Might as well stick it in a scrapbook.

January 24, 2016 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Goldensun said...

Yeah, they are the actual money, and yes, him storing actual money in the books makes sense just as much as the Bin itself. It's just for the sake of the gag about having the bills serve as the "illustrations" of the story!

January 24, 2016 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Geo writes:

“I am incredibly jealous of all y'all. There is ZERO snow in central PA, an' it's not FAIR.”

I just stopped shoveling after a day and a half, off and on with necessary breaks! Want some of mine? :-)

January 24, 2016 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Sure, just pack it in a box and fedex it over. :p

January 24, 2016 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

Geo and Elanie:
Thanks for the recomendations :)

January 24, 2016 at 8:12 PM  

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