Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"Christmas Cheers"

I don't know about all y'all, but I've always gotten the impression that this is Barks' most obscure Christmas story. It's been reprinted in the US often enough, but for some reason I just never think of it, and recently reading through a bunch of ten-pagers, I was surprised to see it come up: an unfamiliar Christmas story? Goodness! It can't have been the first time I'd read it, but I had only the vaguest of memories of it which sort of came back as I was reading. Well, now it shall be immortalized...in blog form!

It's an odd sort of story, really. You can divide a lot of Barks Christmas things into "cynical" and "heartfelt" categories (with a bit of overlap, of course), but this one doesn't quite commit and in the end one is left a bit unsure how to feel. But, of course, we will get to that. Note that oddly minimalistic title. Unsurprisingly, future publications monkeyed with it. Here's how it looks in the Disney publication in 1993:

The dumb thing where they switch the title from Donald Duck to Uncle Scrooge remains dumb, though in fairness, this isn't a Donald-centric story; Scrooge really does play a bigger role. The title itself is well-done, though. But--I hear you asking--how did Gemstone do it in their Christmas Parade version?

("I didn't--" I HEAR YOU ASKING.)

Not half bad. I sort of miss the Christmasy branding, but since, as noted, this story is only somewhat Christmasy itself, your mileage may vary. And at least it gets the right character in the title. But how, you demand to know (YOU DEMAND IT) did it look when Boom (yup, Boom) reprinted it?

Urgh. One of the less endearing aspects of Boom (did they have any MORE endearing aspects?) was their fawning desperation to be liked, as evinced by that banner. Let the material speak for itself, guys. Please. But even leaving that aside, this is kinda shitty: you get a totally generic U$ logo, and they haven't even bothered to do anything to gussy up the title itself. Unless you think adding "in" counts as gussying up. To me that just looks odd: the fact that they've left the title in the original font, which is the same one used for "in," makes it look like "Christmas Cheers" doesn't connect to "Uncle Scrooge;" but rather, it's its own thing, and now you have to contemplate what it would possibly mean for a title to just be titled "In Christmas Cheers."

Anyway! Now you know more than you ever knew you wanted to about this story's title! This blog is a vital service to the community!

Anyway, after that fascinating excursus, let's move on to the story itself. You can sort of tell from very early on that it's going to involve people ultimately getting what they want. A bit reminiscent, clearly, of "You Can't Guess," but not as developed. I like how Donald feels the need to clarify to himself that his name is, in fact, Donald Duck. Let there be no confusion! Also, cigarette lighters cost three thousand dollars. Make a note of it.

Boy, if our biggest problem was finding the cash to fill a pothole...but I'm not going to get political here. I will merely note that TAXES DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.

And now, the REAL tragedy of the piece. "Too old to find one myself?" Man, that contradicts the character! But this is typical for later Barks. This story was published in 1962, a year after "The Golden Nugget Boat," which, if you recall, is about how he's NOT too old. Well, turns out he is. After all, in that other story he just found a giant nugget by sheer luck. Reality has sunk in, I'm afraid. Too old to find a gold mine. Bah! Bah! Bah! Why no humbug?

Well, it's actually a pretty nice wintry atmosphere, Christmas or not. "He's coming for us with fire in his eyes!"

Extra credit for "what's a reindeer doing in this part of the world?" A lesser writer would've just thought, eh, kids have no idea where reindeer are from, and I'm probably not even so sure myself, so whatever. Barks goes the extra mile.

Words of wisdom.

More shades of "The Golden Nugget Boat." Only more so!

Yeah, so everyone gets what they want, and you get these little narration boxes, which kind of suggest festive times. And yet...I don't know. It's not bad exactly; it doesn't feel like--as in "The Golden Christmas Tree"--Barks is grudgingly throwing in sentiment against his will, BUT is doesn't feel like his heart is exactly in it either.

They've got cars big as bars they've got rivers of gold...

I mean, then we have this ending, is one thing, where they end up heading for the hills. There's no immediate threat of violence, as you'd see in some stories (and god help you if this had been written by Guido Martina), but it's just sort of...hmm. Well, good for the hoboes and taxpayers, anyway. And COME ON, Scrooge has very little latitude to complain, if there are really "many" nuggets like the one we see. Not that that would stop him. Here's Boom:

Pretty half-assed, guys. I'd insert a war on Christmas joke here, but the fact that a substantial percentage of us take this seriously even though it's the dumbest shit imaginable somehow makes it less funny than usual this year. Well, that's okay! Let there be much merriment!

Oh well! Be festive! More cominatcha...soon.



Blogger Achille Talon said...

Well I remembered it, mostly for the sheer wierdness of the watch-reindeer. I would have loved for Don Rosa to reference that in a story. He was willing to stick the Lemming with the Locket in a couple of backgrounds, so why not Udolph the Fire-Eyed Reindeer here?

Also, will we get your review of Mount Neverest on the Cartoons blog anytime soon?

December 19, 2017 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That's a very good question. I have no justification for why I haven't seen it yet, except perhaps that on some level, even when I think I like it, the series sort of repulses me. Nonetheless, yes, I hope I'll get to it soon!

December 19, 2017 at 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I remembered this as a Christmas story, mostly because of the very distinctive, painterly cover of Uncle Scrooge 275, which printed this and "Double Masquerade" and had that cool two-page Rosa picture of Christmas in the money bin, thus imbuing the two not-very-Christmassy stories with a Yuletide glow.

My feeling about this story is that Barks engineered the plot backwards from the ending where a Duckburg street is literally paved with gold. How could that come about? There'd have to be a big load of paving rock and a big load of gold that would get switched....
In order to bring about that ending, Barks had to do some manipulation, and sometimes the puppet strings show. I was never convinced, for instance, that Donald would desire above all...a pickup truck. He just has to want a truck, so that he can be involved in the great switcheroo. In other Barks stories where Donald wants something that he never wants before or after, it generally seems more in character (a chemistry set with which he can make things explode, hearing his hit cowboy song, etc.).

December 19, 2017 at 10:52 PM  
Anonymous Drleevezan said...

About Mt. Neverrest, most people seem to agree that it's one of the best episodes yet, judging by the Feathery Society. I'm interested to see what you think about it.

December 20, 2017 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I like "Neverrest" as it felt like a classic adventure and old Duck Tales plus it's more Scrooge-centric (and it was way better then the last few episodes)

It's extra interesting when you conisder it was ment to be third episode (after "Pilot" and "Day trip of Doom") I recently actually marathon all episodes in the proper order and it works way better...

P.S. From what it looks like one of upcomming episodes takes place in Scotland! Which means... Klan McDuck! Yaaayyyy!!!

December 20, 2017 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger BrianL said...

Wow, that is a very lame ending indeed!

The reindeer in this story is a good example of how I tend to dislike the way Barks (and to varying extents other artists in the Duck universe) drew large quadrupedal mammals. On the whole, they all tend to look like dogs and very unpolished with little reference to the life appearance of the creature concerned. A pity because Barks was certainly good at what he did but clearly didn't put too much effort in this aspect of his craft.
Compare that to some animals drawn by Uderzo or especially Franquin across the pond in Europe and weep. That's how you draw large mammals! I sincerely hope that readers of this blog have come across comics of the Franco-Belgian tradition because I suspect that many a fan of the Ducks could really appreciate a lot of what the genre has to offer.

December 21, 2017 at 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Jannes said...

I don't quite disagree, but Uderzo and Franquin had to put out a smaller amount of pages per week than Barks when he worked in comics and they didn't work alone- well, Franquin did for a while but it certainly got to him... I don't think Uderzo had assistents but he worked with authors from early on, so he could really focus on drawing. I know that Barks' wife helped out with stuff like filling in blacks and lettering, but still... that was some output! I agree that Uderzo and Franquin were technically better artists, Franquin may even be my favorite overall... But Barks had other qualities. I think it's so interesting what went into him becoming one of the best and most complete cartoonists (!) of all time, relatively late in life... Everything had to come together, no one could do what he did and maybe never will. But that doesn't mean that everything he did was perfect or that he was the most gifted artist.
When it comes to drawing animals I actually think he was really interested and put a lot of effort in it- well, most times...

December 31, 2017 at 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Jannes said...

...I didn't do the math on who drew how many pages per week, just a rough guess... ;)
And yeah, everyone who's interested in comics should check out some Franco-Belgian classics, although it could take a while to adjust...? Hard to tell if you grew up on that stuff as well as on Barks. If you like funny animals, Kim Thompson published a single volume of stories by Raymond Macherot a few years ago: Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus. Two really funny and smart stories in a nice hardcover book. He also did a two-album-book of Gil Jourdan by Maurice Tillieux and I think another one was published after his death. Real labours of love. Today there seems to be a lot more getting published by Cinebook, Papercutz etc., great stuff as well as ...okay stuff ;) I don't know anything about the production values or translations of these books.

December 31, 2017 at 8:44 AM  

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