Monday, July 10, 2017

"Captain Donaldo, the Black Corsair"

HEY HAVE YOU HEARD? Italians are HELLA fans of pirates. Or at least, those of them who make Disney comics. Like, for instance, this one, by Luciano Bottaro and our ol' frenemy Guido Martina. Also, sometimes I like to translate Italian Disney comics, so what the hell, you can download my version here.

So, you might wonder, should I read it? Is it any good? Well, hmmm. About that...I don't think anyone would accuse it of being the best story I've worked on. I initially came upon it somewhat randomly; I wasn't looking for it, it was just included in this, which is where I got that Seven Dwarfs story I did. And on first reading, I was kinda seduced by the nice Bottaro artwork and by the fact that Donald gets a happy ending and I rated it more highly than I should have. I didn't read it a second time until the translation was underway, and I slowly started realizing, huh. This is...not as great as I thought. For reasons that I will enumerate. I shouldn't be too harsh; if you go into it without sky-high expectations, it'll probably be a pleasant enough read. Just BE WARNED.

It's based on the 1898 adventure novel by Emilio Salgari...well, I say "based on;" I haven't read the book, but I would assume it's more a "loosely inspired by" deal, inasmuch as that's what every single Disney literary adaptation I've ever read has been. NEVER MIND THAT. Let's go!

The central problem, oddly enough (because usually it's the opposite), may be that the story is too short. There's not room for all that much to happen--not least because the first eight pages are devoted to this kind of bickering; not that it's not vaguely amusing on its own merits, but it sure does eat up the space. In other stories, A LOT more happens in a similar number of pages.

This business with beans--I seriously don't know what to say about it. It is weird. There: I said something. Does it have anything to do with Salgari? I have my doubts! So in theory there are two things here: the trafficking and the "sick" doubloons. Don't get too attached to the latter, however, as it quickly disappears and is never mentioned again. GREAT PLOTTING, GUIDO.

Yes, the viceroy's daughter. I'll admit, the stuff with Gladstone and Donald's opposed reactions is interesting: the idea is clearly supposed to be, oh look, Gladstone only wants her for mercenary reasons, but Donald is HELLA ROMANTIC. To that, a cynic might suggest, yeah, well, it's not like either of them know her, and is sheer horniness really that much nobler a motive than avarice? That's not quite right, though. I don't imagine Martina intended this--or, indeed, that he intended much of anything in a story as slapdash as this--but his character here is very noticeably pre-sexual. To wit, BEHOLD:

It's a totally child-like fantasy, and he's portrayed this way throughout the story. It's a bit of an odd choice (though, as I said, I doubt there was much conscious "choice" at all), but there it is. Not very Barksian, but sort of endearing in its own way, I suppose.

Note that Gladstone's luck plays absolutely no role in this story. Any references to "luck" in the story are my addition, just to remind readers that that's kinda Gladstone's thing. It's not surprising, really; this isn't the first literary adaption I've read where he's just a somewhat generic villain. But, well, it is what it is. And actually, I suppose in its limited way, Gladstone's characterization isn't bad in this story, even if he doesn't actually do that much (see what I said about the story being too short), and even if he's always defeated extremely easily, as above.

The kids pretending to be pirates are cute. Note actual pirate names that I've given them. These are all real pirates; Morgan and Michel are characters in The Black Corsair; Van Hoorn I mainly just picked 'cause it sounds like "Van Horn." Hurrah! I considered writing "the Welshman" in Welsh ("y Cymro"), but it seemed a bit too obscure.

Please note terrible caramel/caravel pun, taken directly from the French text. I thought it was fun/lame enough to be worth keeping.

Yeah so anyway, Donald is framed for the trafficking, etc. I toned down Scrooge's suggested punishments; not that those two aren't horrible and inhumane, but in the French, it was the gallows or the stake. Seemed a bit much. I do think "you're going to bury me alive?!?" is funny.

I just want to say: enjoy that second panel there, because it is absolutely the last time in the story you will hear anything about Scrooge's sick doubloons. Hurrah!

I dunno about this violence. It seems kind of jarringly excessive. I mean, maybe it makes sense under the circumstances, but even if so, REALLY now, do you have to be so cheerful about it?

Scrooge exits the room and also the story. The French version is called "Picsou, Governor of Maracacao," which is weird since Scrooge is such a minor character here. I suppose it's for the same reason that Gladstone used to rebrand Donald stories with the "Uncle $crooge" title: it's his book, and he's more popular. Still dumb, though!

Okay, this bit's pretty cool, I'll admit. Stirs up the blood!

Also, Donald's annoyance that his weird fantasy that his love is going to lead him to the viceroy's daughter's ship is funny. Hell, there are a few things to like about this story.

YAY GYRO. Though this whole thing isn't very coherent: so Gyro's upset that they're here even though his expression doesn't convey upsetness even a tiny bit, and even though aside from that one line of dialogue, he never acts even a tiny bit upset? OKAY COOL JUST CHECKING. Also, note--no surprise at this point--that Gyro just abruptly disappears when he's no longer convenient to the plot.

The Dread Pirate Rockerdrake doesn't actually appear; all we get is these Beagles, and they appear in this panel, and then defeated and unconscious in one other panel. And that is all! Again, RUSHED.

Gladstone's certainly a baddie here. But he goes down as easily as he did in their first fight, so whatever, I guess.

Yeah...the viceroy's daughter. Anyone looking for a feminist Disney story isn't going to be too happy about this; she just appears in the last two pages, and she really is just presented as the reward, like in an old NES game.

Also, I mean, flirtation is flirtation, but that top left panel is just kind of gross.  Keep the bdsm stuff in the bedroom, please! Or at least away from the kids.

But hey, it's pretty! As has been noted before, whatever else you can say about them, you've really gotta be amazed at how the art in these old Italian stories just towers over the stuff Western was producing at the time. Also, I must say, I like what I've done with Daisy's last line here. In the French it's just "My hero! You are the most intrepid of cavaliers!" Booooring!

So that's that. It wasn't available in English, and now it is. What more can I say? If I ever translate another story, I'll try to find a better one.

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Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Another entertaining review!? Man Geox, those crazy get-rich-quick scams of yours will get you into trouble one day...

Anyway I recall seeing this story in Italian years ago and I was supprised that Gladstone was actualy co-working with the Beagle Boys. Felt a bit out of character, but it is just an adaptation after all... The art did look interesting BTW

July 11, 2017 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

The reason we never see Rockerdrake, it feels too short, and the Viceroy's Daughter randomly appears, is that this is pretty much the "first part" of a double story; Rockerdrake is confronted, Daisy used, and the Paragon put to more use in Part 2, I AT 163-A, which picks up exactly where this left off.

July 11, 2017 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...


July 11, 2017 at 11:54 AM  
Anonymous alittlelurker said...

Ahahahah a twist final indeed mes amis!

If i remember correctly this is not the first time that in this blog a french comics presents "surprises" like this one or I'm wrong?

July 11, 2017 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said... if anyone's interested, I've now read this follow-up story. It DOES make the thing appear more complete, but it still feels a bit thin to me. Also, the business with Scrooge's sick doubloons does NOT recur. Will I translate this second part? No comment!

July 11, 2017 at 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Geez, how'd you get ahold of part 2 that fast? Do you subscribe to Picsou?

July 12, 2017 at 12:59 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Finding illicit copies of French Disney comics on the internet is extremely hit-or-miss, but in this case hit. There actually ARE Picsou Magazine and Super Picsou Geant iOS/Android apps where you can get all the issues digitally, which I would totally shell out for if not for the fact that they're not available outside France. BAH.

July 12, 2017 at 1:40 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Geox, you mention all refrences to Glandsone's luck are you're adition. So when he's charging to hit Donald and Donald docks and he fals into water he say "Whoops! My Luck"! Isn't that indicating that he has usualy "bad" luck"? Appears a bit off character...

July 14, 2017 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, it was meant to be more along the lines of "shit, why is my luck failing me all of a sudden," but I'll allow that it wasn't the most adroit bit of writing.

July 14, 2017 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

AH! Ok.

You ment something like "Luck don't fail me now!", "COME BACK MY LUCK!", "Luck where are you?" or "LUCK! SAVE ME!" (I'm still stick to my theory that Gladstone is only openly religious character in the series ;) ) To be 100% honest. It felt more like "Just my rotten luck!" in the context.

I will try to read the entrie thing (story you translated) soon and give you a feedback :)

July 15, 2017 at 5:48 AM  
Anonymous Jesper said...

Hi GeoX

I have been enjoying reading your interesting blog for almost a year so maybe it's time I write something. I agree in your annoyance about the viceroy's daughter being presented as just a reward. I really would have liked (and actually expected) her to be introduced earlier in the story and being different from what Donaldo is dreaming of. But it made me think about two stories by Guido Martina that are explicitly feministic:

They are about Daisy getting tired of Donald and Scrooge being male chauvinistic and turns herself into a feminist superhero. As I remember it you are not a fan of the Duck Avenger stories, but I think you will like these ones. They are gracefully drawn by a young Cavazzano.

November 30, 2019 at 1:35 PM  

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