Sunday, December 25, 2016

"Another Christmas on Bear Mountain"

That's right...ANOTHER Bear Mountain story! Collect five of 'em and send 'em in with your shiny tin dime to become a member of the Junior Birdmen of America! In the US, this 2007 tale was part of last year's extremely welcome onslaught of Italian Christmas stories, and without it, there wouldn't be enough to do a Bear-Mountain-themed series, so you can thank your lucky stars for that. It's written by one Tito Faraci, who is new to this blog. He hasn't been widely published in the US, but most of what has been is...Ultraheroes stories. That doesn't necessarily bode well! On the other hand, he's also credited as co-author of "River of Time," that rather cool Steamboat Willy "sequel," which bodes somewhat better! So we will charge into this one with an open mind!

You know, you can point out that it's based on the Barks story (well, related to it, let's say) all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that if you're not familiar with the original, you're going to miss a lot here--if nothing else, it plays off its predecessor in ways that'll be totally lost on you. Sucks to be you, hypothetical you! But not the you reading this, no. You, of course, are a suave, dashing, and effortlessly socially adroit lady and/or gentleman.

The most obvious thing about this story--to me, at any rate--is how utterly un-Barks-like the art is. I mean, duh: Cavazzano's art has always been the furthest things from Barksian. But I can't help feeling like it would've helped had he at least made some effort to move in that direction for this particular story. That said, I do like the bits of detritus Scrooge has accumulated here. As far as I can tell, it's not Barksiana--as it would be had Rosa drawn this--but it's still pretty charming. I especially like that cheerful green robot in the lower left.

But oh my daaaarling, why did you change?

Let's give this story credit for delving--not that deeply, but reasonably enough--into Scrooge's character. Of course, as I've probably noted when talking about the L&T, it's really impossible to actually draw a linear progression between old, mean Scrooge and new, less-mean Scrooge. Still, let's do it anyway, to the best of our ability. Why not? You may often forget it amidst all the falderal, but Christmas can (should?) be a contemplative time. So why not use it to consider these things?

This is pretty funny. I really like his clenched fist in that last panel. The first time I read this, I wondered if this was, in fact, Santa himself, playing a li'l trick in Scrooge--and when I realized that this was not the case, I wondered if it had been in the original until it was changed in translation for unknown reasons. Comments on the first "Bear Mountain" story seem to have pretty well established that this is not in fact the case, but it easily could be his identity--it's all in the text. I suppose it just feels odd that that twist doesn't exist, given that there's absolutely nothing to visually distinguish him from regular ol' Saint Nick. Still, I'll concede that it's better this way, as his relationship to Santa and Scrooge's to Donald can then be paralleled.

Donald the equivalent of Santa Claus?'s a thought! Anyway, this is all rather clever. I really like Evil Santa's dialogue (all due credit to Gary Leach's script--not to mention Cavazzano's art, which really helps to sell it).

So anyway, time travel. A very different approach to that last thing we looked at, at any rate.

It's certainly interesting to see Donald's attitudes retconned here to match the later Scrooge--obviously, you never would've seen dialogue like this in Barks' story because Scrooge was just an inchoate idea at that point.

Yup. Here we go. Um...yes. I'm afraid I'm revealing that, even though I certainly prefer this to "Return to Bear Mountain," I don't have a hell of a lot to actually say about it.

And THAT is why I am going to skip forward. It Grandpa Claus can time travel, so can I! The fun thing is that we get to the same general conclusion through a different route: so in the previous story, Scrooge sees Donald passed out next to a bear and thinks, crud, he's so flippin' brave he's just sleeping there, whereas here Donald's fake bravery comes from acting tough because he thinks the bear is just Scrooge. Well, okay, AND from rescuing the bear cub--but if that's meant to demonstrate a real difference in Donald's attitudes between this and Barks, I don't think it does a very good job of it. Still, here we end up.

I like a bit of psychologizing as much as the next man, so subtle though it's not, I enjoy Grandpa's dialogue there in the top left. So true!

It was all a dream...OR [blah blah etc]?!?

And Scrooge gets his clothes back. I don't understand how this works. Why wouldn't he just automatically switch back to his present-day clothes, in the same way he switched into his old-school ones when he went back in time? Don't understand; don't care!

I apologize for the poor quality of this entry. Jeez, I thought I didn't have much to say about "Return to Bear Mountain" (and still do), yet somehow that entry is significantly longer than this. The thing is, I do respect this story, I think it's perfectly clever as far as it goes, but I don't especially like it. Or dislike it! It just feels very thin to me. Very limited. Like--here's a simile that will be meaningless for most--extra content in an RPG where they obviously haven't really integrated it with the main game, so you don't have your usual freedom, you can't go everywhere and talk to people, etc. I guess it does what it's meant to do, and within those parameters, it does it well. I'm just...largely unmoved.

But in all sincerity, I wish you all the best of Christmases. Selamat Natal, as we say hereabouts. I won't lie: these are dark times, and I'm not feeling great about the future. All we can do is try to maintain our human connections and not give in to bitterness or hatred. What does this dumb ol' blog mean in that context? Not a whole helluva lot, but it's definitely the case that it helps me to maintain my equilibrium and sanity. Hope to see ya'll around here for years to come.

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Blogger Achille Talon said...

There is a major difference between "Grandpa Claus" (sigh… he really should be Uncle Claus like in the original) and Santa Claus: Grandpa wears glasses, which the normal Santa basically never does in his European depictions, at least as far as Disney comics are concerned.

December 25, 2016 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Yes, in Faraci's original, the elder Claus was Zio Natale ("Uncle Claus," or literally Uncle Christmas)—a play on words with Babbo Natale (Santa Claus, literally Father Christmas), insofar as both have the "...o Natale" sound going.

When developing our IDW version, we decided that in the spirit of Faraci's original wordplay, Grandpa Claus—rhyming with Santa Claus—was a better choice than the awkward "Uncle Claus" or "Uncle Christmas" would have been.
(Uncle Christmas might have worked if the name Father Christmas was still used in the USA, but it effectively isn't...)

Difficult choice: to be faithful to the original, should we port over Faraci's wordplay, or his precise uncle-nephew relationship? We couldn't do both.
The wordplay seemed a better choice in the end, simply because neither of the Uncle options sounded natural.

Achille—we think hard about these decisions—we're not being clumsily disrespectful as you seem to think.

December 25, 2016 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, "Uncle Claus" definitely sounds weird, and given that it doesn't correspond to "Father Claus" or similar, as it apparently would in some languages, I'd say it's a no-go. The solution isn't perfect, but all translation involves a certain amount of compromise and negotiation.

Interesting point re the glasses; I would've thought of them as a pretty fundamental aspect of Santahood, but I guess not.

December 25, 2016 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

Whether he's an Uncle or a Grandpa, the story and the mirroring of Scrooge and Donald's relationship to each other still come through. Hadn't thought of it when I first read it, but Santa Claus and Grandpa Claus do sound similar. Nice touch. While I have the utmost respect for Carl Barks' work, I like Donald's actually show of bravery rescuing the bear cub much better than Barks' ending. It gives Donald a bit more dignity than the original story.

December 25, 2016 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...


December 25, 2016 at 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I like this story quite a bit. Not gonna be one of my top dozen Christmas stories, but also not gonna languish unreread. I like the art, very expressive and buoyant in the Cavazzano way. I particularly liked Scrooge's junk, too--the sarcophagus, the robots, the prospecting gear, the clarinet (oboe?). Like Deb I like the fact that Donald does get to show some bravery in rescuing the bear cub, symbolizing that he does deserve some respect. I enjoyed the conceit, that the Spirit of Christmas needed to recharge Scrooge's Christmas spirit by showing him that he is better off with Donald in his life, that the original Bear Mountain adventure did end well for him, whether or not he'll admit it.

FWIW, I agree with David and GeoX that "Uncle Claus" wouldn't have worked in English--sounds very clunky, and there's no "Father Christmas" in the USA for it to work off of. "Grandpa Claus" was a fine alternative. I agree with Deb that the parallel Grandpa Claus sets up between his relationship to Santa and Scrooge's to Donald comes across clearly anyway.

I appear to be alone in this, but I actually thought at the end that "Grandpa Claus" was probably Santa himself, in the flimsy disguise of glasses. He's putting on the disdain for his "nephew/grandson" Santa; why couldn't he be putting on the whole "Uncle/Grandpa" persona, in order to engage Scrooge in the adventure? I don't think the fact that he signs the note to Scrooge at the end as "Grandpa Claus" necessarily proves that he *is* Santa's grandpa. Anyhow, that's how I read the line: "I regret saying what I said about my look-alike grandson ...whom I actually respect a great deal!"

December 25, 2016 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I was certainly not accusing you of being "disrespectful", ramapith; I just thought it would still have been better for him to be called Uncle Claus. While it wouldn't parallel "Santa Claus", what it would parallel is "Uncle Scrooge".

December 25, 2016 at 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Review or Die said...

This story might be thin, but it feels like a warm thin. Sometimes that's enough to get you through, especially on Christmas.

Cheers, sir. Thanks for all you do.

Regarding the translation, Grandpa Claus seems like a good fit. My second best would be something like Grandfather Christmas, but that's a little antiquated. It's also an unwieldy mouthful! Name and title translations like this have always seemed headbangingly difficult. It's rare you can get an Ash Ketchum situation going on. The change does seem to help from keeping the situation too dirextly anaolgous, which I can appreciate as a nice byproduct. I love this fiddly technical stuff, it is eo much fun to talk about.

December 25, 2016 at 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Drakeborough said...

"Grandpa wears glasses, which the normal Santa basically never does in his European depictions, at least as far as Disney comics are concerned."

"Interesting point re the glasses; I would've thought of them as a pretty fundamental aspect of Santahood, but I guess not."

Well, according to this miny-gaellery

there are also American Santas without glasses and European Santas with glasses, so nationality is not a criterion to know in advance if Santa will have his glasses or not (for example, apparently Barks liked a Santa without glasses).
Even outside of Disney comics, it seems glasses are optional in Santa's depiction

Unrelated topic: I wonder why Scrooge's butler in Italian stories (Battista) is known as Quackmore in English translations. If Quackmore were a real name, there wouldn't be anything wrong in two characters from the same fictional universe having the same name, but as far as I know Quackmore is a name created by Barks and re-used by Rosa to indicate Donald's father. It can be confusing: I once checked a story, said to feature "Quackmore", to see where Donald's father would be making this rare non-Rosa cameo... and then I found out it was just the English name for Battista.

December 26, 2016 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

My guess is that the name is meant to parallel "Duckworth", the name of Scrooge's butler in DuckTales.

December 26, 2016 at 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Baar Baar Jinx said...

Okay, I'm just going to come right out and say it. What was the point of having a character who looks exactly like Santa ultimately be not-Santa? I get that the authors felt this "Grandpa/Uncle Claus" figure needs to have serious philosophical differences with Santa to make the story work, but ... wouldn't it have worked better to just have the character be Santa from the very get-go (and not lamely pretend otherwise, don't get me wrong), and rework the dialog so that his apparent commiseration with Scrooge's selfishness and hatred of family at the beginning all be an act, and revealed as such at the very end (where, in the current story, "Grandpa Claus" is begrudgingly admitting respect for his "look-alike grandson"?) Or alternatively, why not use some kind of disgruntled Christmas elf or something? Could be this is a European thing I am unfamiliar with, but I wonder if it couldn't have been tweaked for American audiences.

As regards Scrooge's butler having the same name as Donald's father ... it's a pet peeve of mine as well, and we've discussed it on other forums. The general consensus seems to be that it's now so ingrained into American comicdom that we're stuck with it.

December 26, 2016 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

(Incidentally, GeoX, the official spelling is Steamboat Willie, not Steamboat Willy)

December 26, 2016 at 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

@Baar Baar Jinx--As I said above, it's my contention/interpretation that "Grandpa Claus" *IS* Santa Claus, pretending to be his own disapproving grandfather in order to get Scrooge to sign on for the time travel adventure. Certainly his disdain for his supposed grandson Santa is a pretense--I think his whole persona is an act. Given that his motives are revealed to be consonant with Santa's, it makes more sense to me to say that he really is Santa.

If this was in fact the author's intent, would it have been better for the character to explicitly reveal himself as Santa to Scrooge at the end? Not necessarily. I think it's kind of fun for the reader to figure that out.

December 26, 2016 at 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Baar Baar Jinx said...

I have no idea what the original author's intention was, but it would seem to me that if he wanted to leave Scrooge (and us) in suspense as to whether this character who appears to Scrooge at Christmastime and whisks him off on an adventure involving magic and time-travel with self- discovery thrown in at the end is or is not Santa, there are better ways to do it than to have said character look just like Santa and yet explicitly state at the very outset that he is not Santa. For example, have the character be an elf, or a sugar plum fairy, or as angel-like a figure as a secular Duck comic will allow, and have that character pretend in the beginning that he/she is disillusioned with Santa and sympatico with Scrooge, only to reveal at the end that he/she was working with Santa after all, or leave us wondering if he/she maybe really is Santa through some clever twist. I guess I don't understand the need to have a character who looks exactly like Santa but is not, especially when, in the end, his interests align with Santa's after all. And I think it would have been worse if "Grandpa Claus" was revealed in the end to have been Santa all along... false pretenses is one thing, but a bald-faced lie, especially so silly a one, would not have gone down well.

I understand that the American translators were stuck with the script they got and wanted to be as loyal to the original as possible, but in this case, I would have happily forgiven them if they chose to do away with this whole "Grandpa Claus" bit and have the character just be Santa the whole time, who put up a facade as to where his sympathies lie in the beginning, then smiles and reveals his true motivations in the end as Scrooge sees how much his family actually means to him.

And whether "Grandpa Claus" is really Santa or not, did he actually try to get away with giving Scrooge his own clothes back as a Christmas present? Unless that bag they're laying on is full of goodies, this is one cheap Christmastime figure.

December 26, 2016 at 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Review or Die said...

Ambiguity isn't a vice, and here I think it's done well. No matter the interpretation, it works. That's solis writing right there.

December 26, 2016 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I think Grandpa Claus is meant to be exactly to Santa what Scrooge is to Donald, and that includes the fact that they're nearly identical (give whiskers and glasses to Donald, and he's Scrooge). And Baar Baar… Yes! Yes, Grandpa Claus is cheap — of course he is: he's the Scrooge McDuck of the Claus family.

December 27, 2016 at 5:23 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

You know what woul be a TRUE sequel to the "Christmas on Bear Mountain" story? (Going by logic of what Rosa establish that this was FIRST time Scrooge meet adult Donald after years and years of isolation)
Story where Scrooge is restarting to have a public life, his first meeting with Gladstone, Daisy, Gyro, Gus and all the characters he never meet before. Like maybe after even in "Beat Moutian" Donald would call Grandma Duck and was like
- Hey, lets throw a party introudce Uncle Scrooge to entire family!
and like he goes and meets Gus for the first time and is like
- Hey, your like grandson of this dude I meet years a go in Klondike! No way!
- Zzzzzz....
- Er...

I mean there is not much of plot or intrugue there but that would be a bit interesting....

December 28, 2016 at 8:09 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Sorry Pan, but "The Richest Duck in the World" clearly mentions that Scrooge visited Grandma Duck's farm and was able to meet Gus Goose, who remembers the incident; and on the other hand, Barks establishes that Scrooge still didn't know Gyro very well by the time Seven Cities of Cibola took place, since the two don't recognise each other in the street at first. That only leaves Daisy, Gladstone, and… possibly Fethry and Kildare, if Don Rosa was okay with them.

December 29, 2016 at 4:47 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 29, 2016 at 6:39 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

(talks to himself)
Who the heck is Kildare...?

(Google search)

(search the INDUCKS)
Oowwww... That guy... Yhe I remember...

(scrol down)
Huh. Only two apperances in last decade both being cameos where you even have to question if it was ment to be him... I never like the guy any way, to much of Fethry v.02...

(Talk to other people like a normal person)
Well, as far relatives that part of Rosa canon theres Ludwig Von Drake (Scrooge brother in law... boy that would be akward after hole "I thrown away your wife who is my sister" thing) and April, May and June to some extend.

December 29, 2016 at 6:41 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Yes, but Von Drake's first meeting with Scrooge, Donald and Co. was shown in the first story of the first issue of the Ludwig von Drake comic book. So yeah, that basically leaves Daisy, April, May and June, and Gladstone. And… maybe Whitewater -- you could imagine the two getting along, what with valuing hard work and having a fondness for the North.

December 29, 2016 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Whitewater was always intriguing as Barks Duck family member that was introduce (with a very coorufll personality say the least) but never cath on as a regular. It's a shame he was never used by Rosa (out-side of family tree)

December 29, 2016 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

I don't know the story, so I did not read the post to avoid spoilers. Even 'cause Faraci is the only Italian writer that I really love, so one day or another I will read this story. I just wonder why Faraci lies basically unpublished in the US, despite being considered the most innovative and influent Mickey Mouse writer from the 90's (according to me the best one after Gottfredson/Osborne/De Maris/Walsh, even if those who love Scarpa and Casty usually do not agree with me on this).
With his whole body of work from 1995 to 2001 Faraci did to the mouse what Miller had done with Daredevil at the beginning of the '80, just to give you an idea. And I am not exaggerating, believe me. In my knowledge there is no modern Disney author as funny and as emotionally deep as Faraci (except for Rosa). His dialogues are not just brilliant: they are really *pulp*. His crazy mix of absurd humor and hard-boiled atmosphere is unmatched.Faraci suddenly came in 1996 from who knows where and turned Mickey into a funny character back again. His investigations in the relation between Mickey and Pete (his favorite character to script) are impressive and touching (the most famous is this one I guess Also, before deciding to focus on Mickey he created a series of damn funny stories drawn by Cavazzano with Casey as protagonist (often supported by the Texan inspector Rock Sassi = Rock "Rocks", his own invention). For instance, in Italy this is considered *THE* cult story of the 90's.

January 2, 2017 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

Ok, I have been a bit too hagiographic. To give the whole picture, let me add that Faraci is also a bit controversial between fans, mainly because of his use of Pete not as a motherfucker trying to rule the world and possibly kill the mouse (the Gottfredson-Walsh-Scarpa-Casty tradition), but rather as a "deep inside good guy" criminal that often ends up teaming up with Mickey.

January 2, 2017 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Hell, I'm sold. More Faraci in the States, please!

January 2, 2017 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

Muahahhahahah, it seems like I am a good seller. ;)
Maybe next Christmas you will be reviewing the legendary story where Casey arrests Santa (and Santa's helpers fire back kidnapping O'Hara):

January 2, 2017 at 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Spectrus said...

Tito Faraci is one of the most important (and best) current Italian writers. His humour is legendary (though I think Vitaliano can compete with him), however some of his stories (including "The River of Time" or several of his PKNA episodes) can also get really deep and emotional. Certainly he is an extraordinary author, on the same plane as Casty and Artibani - although I would say this here Christmas story is not one of his absolute best.

While I'm not a big Ultraheroes fan, I do admit his one contribution (it was just one side story) was pretty good. And he only used the already fixed setting, he wasn't part of the team that came up with the Ultraheroes idea. The stories with Casey and Rock Sassi (whose English name apparently will be "Brick Boulder"!) are a good indication of what makes him so great.

I also always assumed that Grandpa/Uncle Claus (he's the "Christmas Uncle" in German - which sounds really weird when you think about it, but it never bothered me) *was* Santa himself. It's not such a new idea, by the way: I remember a story (drawn by Lucio Leoni) that was built around the basic premises of Dickens' Christmas Story but with the ghost instead showing where Scrooge was still being too soft-hearted and all the mistakes he made in not being as greedy as possible in various situations. In the end, Scrooge kicks the guy's ass and organizes a proper Christmas banquet for his family.

April 30, 2018 at 3:21 PM  

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