Saturday, September 10, 2016

"The Crewless Cruise"

MY GOODNESS, just when it seems like I have a certain amount of momentum going...bam. Brick wall. What excuse is there for this?!?  Yes, I've kind of had a lot going on lately, and I've been a bit distracted by this and that, including a bit of romance. BUT WHAT KIND OF VAGUE, HALF-ASSED EXCUSE IS THAT?!? Surely blogging about cartoon ducks HAS to be priority number one. Sheesh!

We are covering this story not because we think it's of any especial import, but simply because we remember liking it as a kid and we want to revisit it. Self-indulgent? Hey, welcome to Duck Comics Revue! Glad to have you here!

First, let's look at the cover. It wasn't usual at the time for Disney comics to have story-related covers, but this one does. The other notable thing is that it's pretty inscrutable to me. The nephews are progressively more amused from top to bottom, and Donald finds this...strange? Troubling? Difficult to say. Granted, it's visually kind of strange, but I dunno. I mean, really, that's probably all there is to it: this increasing amusement is weird to Donald, end of story. No use thinking about it any more deeply than that. But still...huh.

As I've mentioned earlier, often the dialogue in these old non-Barks stories can feel sort of indefinably off. That's the case here, but credit where credit's due: the whole "who was that" sequence is kinda clever/funny. It's also a bit undermined by Strobl's art, alas: having them violently rolling their eyes like that, lest anyone should miss the fact that they're BEING SARCASTIC suggests a belief that readers were a bit slow on the uptake. Also, I kinda just noticed here how dead-eyed Strobl's HDL can look when they have their pupils in the middle of their eyes like that.

I find it a little alarming that "this is finally different" on the basis that Donald's allowed to quit if he doesn't like it. Are we to imagine that he's heretofore always been some sort of indentured servant in his jobs for Scrooge? Maybe!

"One of those electronic brains." You know--one of them! This is a mid-century preoccupation that no doubt reflects cultural ambivalences about "progress." How many "dream house" stories do we see--in old Disney comics and elsewhere--where someone gets a super-slick automated house that does everything until, inevitably, it goes haywire? I'm sure there must be a Daisy Duck's Diary to this effect somewhere, though I can't find it offhand. Anyway, this is a similar deal, only transferred to a ship.

I was definitely first introduced to the concept of "fine print" by Disney comics--probably by this very story, in fact. HDL's skepticism is justified, even if it doesn't prove necessary in this particular case. Given all the times he has dicked them over (especially in this writer's conception), Scrooge really has no justification for being miffed.

"A bit of all right." An American character out of nowhere coming out with this extremely British colloquialism--it doesn't get much more jarring than that. I can't tell whether that's accidental, or whether Huey is meant to be using foreign slang, just for kicks--this goes back to what I said about the dialogue in old non-Barks stories.

What do you suppose their favorite comic books are? Super Snooper! Though, let's face it, unless there's a huge stack of those things, they're gonna be doing a lot of rereading over the course of a month. This business of Huey's skepticism seems like it's going somewhere, but then it doesn't.

It's only a very small portion of the story, but I distinctly remember that when I was small, the thing I really liked in this story was the ducks just chilling out in the ship with no one else around. Fun, but also sort of eerie--as though there's a hidden dark side.  Ooh!  Still, I wanna do it too! Good ol' Braino.

Fuckin' Braino...I ask you. Programming a computer to get seasick seems like a dubious prospect at best under any circumstances, but one in a ship? That's just perverse.

"Calling Uncle Scrooge." "Mr. Scrooge does not answer." Let it be noted that this story presents no evidence that Carl Fallberg knows the character's last name.

So anyway, they get blown off-course and wind up here. Now listen, I can see how you'd be miffed by the storm and the computer malfunctioning and all this, and given Scrooge's reputation it makes sense that you'd be primed to expect the worst, and YES, the computer does sound kind of sarcastic there.

Still. A remote Alaskan ghost town in the middle of nowhere isn't even a tiny bit interesting to you? Really? Not an iota? No, fine, really. I'm not judging you. I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin'.

...just including this for later context.

And even with a tame bear, it's still not interesting? Jeez, people. You really are impossible to please.

Also, I find it highly disturbing that the ducks are only capable of thinking about the commercial possibilities of this bear. I mean, okay, so they're talking here about what Scrooge wants, in theory, but they're sure not suggesting that they would prefer anything else, and as we'll see later, Donald thinks selling the bear is just a swell idea. Wouldn't it be better for him to join the panoply of one-shot duck family pets? I submit that it would. I'd leave the money-money-money thinking to Scrooge, if I were Fallberg. Which I'm not. Good lord it would be weird if I were.

What a swell fella! Scrooge can kind of come across as an insane person in these stories, violently lunging back and forth between horrible monster and great guy with no warning.

See what I was saying earlier? Heh heh! Money! Bwahaha!


...yes. "Stooge." That's the ticket. I will not dignify that with further comment.  Except to ask, how old must that bear be, if he dates from Scrooge's prospector days?  Older than any bear could plausibly be, that's for sure!  Man, why does everyone just want to sell Bertram? I am truly not down with that. I don't recall even thinking about this aspect of the story when I was small, but these days, it irks me. IRKS, I say!

So, uh, I guess that's about all. It's not a brilliant story, I wouldn't say there's any need for anyone to reprint it, but it played a part--however small--in my childhood, and in the relentlessly self-indulgent world of this blog, ain't that enough?

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Blogger Achille Talon said...

About the cover: notie that while Donald is reading a comic with his face on it (which is a legitimate, "possible" fourth wall gag), each nephew is reading a comic with their face on it. Donald might be confused by that, since #1 there's no 'Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck' comic line, and #2 there's even less chance of there being independant comic lines for 'Huey Duck', 'Dewey Duck' and 'Louie Duck'.

September 10, 2016 at 5:33 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Also, speaking of "credit where it's due", have you seriously not noticed that this gag was lifted wholesale from "Trail of the Unicorn"?

September 10, 2016 at 5:34 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Also about the cover: I would have assumed that Donald's dubious sidelong glance is meant to convey his (and our) doubts about the structural integrity of the triple-decker deck chair.

The cover I'm reminded of is the one with Donald putting the boys to bed in a triple-decker bunk bed...but that looks more solidly constructed.

And Achille, in "Trail of the Unicorn" it seems to me that the second panel where HDL ask if it's Uncle Scrooge on the phone ("Was that Uncle Scrooge McDuck, richest man in the world, on the phone, Unca Donald?") is less of a simple gag based on Donald's repeating "Uncle Scrooge" during the phone call and more of a means of informing the reader in 1950 of the identity of this "Uncle Scrooge". The straightforward gag in that panel is more Donald's response "Yes, Uncle Scrooge," which follows on his repetition of variations on that during the phone call. So I'd say Fallberg was making a different (also funny) joke, here.

I also quite like the joke of HDL's reaction to hearing of Scrooge's new contract with Donald: OK, guys, let's haul out the microscope!

And GeoX, I'm not sure Scrooge bounces from horrible to great guy within this particular story, unless there's horrible stuff you don't mention. He seems pretty OK, even generous and appreciative, towards Donald and the boys throughout (aside from the question of who's responsible for making a yacht-captain-brain that gets seasick!).

September 10, 2016 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I was inartfully trying to suggest that you never know what Scrooge'll be like from story to story. Which, granted, is true of Barks to an extent, but given that a lot of these secondary writers don't seem to have a very strong grip on the character, plus the fact that there's a whole bunch of them--he really rockets from one extreme to another, and it can be disorienting if you read a whole bunch of 'em at once.

September 10, 2016 at 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

I vaguely remember an old "Darkling Duck" episode where the characters are trapped into doing certain things because they didn't read the sides of their contracts. I wonder if that line was inspired by this story, or if they came up with it on their own. However, to this day, if I have to sign a paper legal document, I look at the back and sides as well. Seriously. I've gotten some funny looks, yet I still do it.

September 11, 2016 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

The "fine print" trope is extemely common. The chances that the writers of that "Darkwing Duck" episode got it from here are buried frighteningly deep below zero.

September 12, 2016 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...


I have two takes on the cover gag…

ONE: It is some sort of bizarre “triplication gag” where, in reaction to the comics, (Top to bottom) Nephew One cracks the initial smile, Nephew Two follows with the next-in-sequence “chuckle reaction”, and Nephew Three completes the response to the comics with the ultimate guffaw!

TWO: They are each reflecting the merits of the particular comic that they are reading. (Top to bottom) Nephew One is very likely reading a William Van Horn Ten-Pager. Nephew Two is reading a Carl Barks Ten-Pager. And Nephew Three can only be reading a new IDW Disney comic! (…Yeah, I’m a “homer”, so what?)

Donald, by his uncomfortable expression, must be reading “Bird-Bothered Hero”

September 13, 2016 at 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Oh, I get it, Joe--it's like when a single sentence is divided up among the three nephews, right?

September 13, 2016 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...




September 13, 2016 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Nephew Two is reading a Carl Barks Ten-Pager. And Nephew Three can only be reading a new IDW Disney comic! (…Yeah, I’m a “homer”, so what?)

Hey, I like the IDW comics plenty, but nonetheless, I gotta go on record as insisting that this is a pretty serious bit of blasphemy. :p

September 14, 2016 at 12:43 AM  
Blogger Mesterius said...

Yeah, all due to respect to the IDW line, but suggesting that the content in their monthly books is better than a vintage Carl Barks ten-pager... uh, no.

September 22, 2016 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

It's not necessarily better, but it is more likely to make you laugh out loud, what with all the amount of jokes crammed in the speech bubbles by our wisecracking localizaters.

September 23, 2016 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Review Or Die said...

Or, perhaps rather than the merits of comics that don't exist yet, the ones on higher bunks took a little longer to get up top and aren't at the best part yet. It's a nice cover for its progression and making a little bit of sense, I think!

September 23, 2016 at 1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muzuma(the name of the ship) is seemingly Lithuanian for Minority. This has no relevence to the story just thought I'd point that out.

September 24, 2016 at 2:05 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Interesting, but I think for this story, it's more to the point that "mazuma" is a slang term for money. :p

September 24, 2016 at 2:14 AM  

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