Friday, December 15, 2017

"Silent Night"

I know what you're thinking: "Did he sing six Christmas carols or only five?" Well to tell you the truth, in all this merriment I kinda lost track myself. But being that this here is a candy cane, the most festive treat in the world, and would fill your heart with holiday joy, you've gotta ask yourself one question: "Do I feel jolly?" Well, do ya, punk?

Oh man--OH MAN, PEOPLE! We now come to...this, and there's a part of me that thinks I really am participating in some sort of war on Christmas by posting it. As you probably know, this was written in 1945 but not published until the seventies. I have to say, while I certainly don't approve of suppressing Barks stories, you can kinda understand the editors' viewpoint here, in a way that you couldn't with the censored parts of "Trick or Treat." Barks' cheerful desecration of holiday spirit is unrelentingly hard-edged and violent in a way that you rarely see in Barks, and when you combine that with the wholly sentiment-free take on the holiday...well, it's no surprise.

So the first fun fact to be noted here is that this first half-page isn't actually Barks; it was lost at some point; this is a 2001 Egmont effort at recreating what it likely would've looked like.'s really amazing work. Daan Jippes' art is, to my eyes, absolutely indistinguishable from Barks' own in this story. I mean, I can point out things that might be not quite totally Barksian, but that's probably just because I know it's not Barks. If I hadn't been told, I would never have suspected, and even now that I have been, I'm still frankly not sure I believe it. Well done all 'round!

Now, we do come to Barks. Donald's semi-archaic maundering is right on point, and hilarious and great. Seriously, where the HECK did Barks run across the word "gloaming?" Also great is how quickly he pivots to drill-sergeant sternness: we WILL spread Good Cheer, goddamit! I guess the fact that he envisions it as "drenching" everyone with "typhoons of good cheer" was a hint.

I mean, it's impressive, really, how instantaneously he weaponizes the idea of Christmas cheer. Look at the nephews in the top right: you can totally see where Jippes got the inspiration for the weird poses he likes to put the characters in.

I also like the way Barks brings across the idea of dissonant loudness, both with their poses and the way he styles the lyrics. Personally, I would be HONORED if a buncha ducks came up to my house and started quacking at me in a rhythmic(ish) manner.

"To force cheer onto the world." That's telling, innit? The thing about this story--and I think what you could say in its defense, if you were trying to defend it from charges of being excessively cynical--is, I somehow don't get the impression that it's an attack on the holiday per se. Maybe a little bit on people who want to FORCE you to celebrate in a prescribed way, but for the most part, I get the impression that Christmas is just providing a handy vehicle for this loud, energetic tomfoolery. And that's all right with me.

Donald's Caterwauling Face there is just about perfect. Jones! Why did it have to be Jones? For someone who doesn't like having Christmas music sung at him, he sure does seem to own a book entitled Soulful Carols. Even if he's trying to get rid of it here.

Imagine being that devoted to the idea of using Christmas music as a fuck-you. I mean, it's interesting stuff, really: an initially perfectly fun and harmless idea--"Let's go caroling!"--so quickly becomes a pitched battle. The question is: was Donald's thinking on the matter ever benign? It really does seem that way for a few panels in the beginning, but given the rapidity that it morphs into war, you have to wonder. Was he just looking for trouble, like in that one ten-pager where he's allegedly looking for peace and quiet but conveniently brings along all his loudest noisemakers for violently disproportionate retaliation against any perceived sound? Let's ask: what would have happened if the people he and HDL carolled at had been receptive to the message of good will toward all men? Would it all have been just a buncha festive fun for all in that case? I do not have answers to these questions. What do you think?

Do you have to admire Donald's determination? Well, you have to marvel at it a bit I think, at least.

You know, I really don't even have a clear idea of what alum IS. I see it in the spice aisle occasionally and I think, huh. That's the thing that occasionally prevents people/dogs from talking/smelling in Barks stories. Under what circumstances would I use it in food? Sounds upleasant. And does it really work that way? Well, this is demon alum, so it may be a special case.

Yup, that's a lotta speakers all right. Note Jones' paintings of a viking longship (?) and of squiggly pink and grey lines. Also, the grand piano and suit of armor. What's this guy's deal, anyway?

I mean...yeah, I can see, as a Western editor, how I might be reluctant to run this. Not that I'm not kind of amazed by it, but boy. I dunno. I like it, but I also recognize that it's pretty extreme and perhaps not to all tastes. It's worth noting that when Barks reworked this story in 1961 (as "Terrible Tourist"), this conclusion was significantly toned down: Donald just gets a kick in the ass.

Ha ha! Don't worry! We'll have something a bit more festive next time!



Anonymous Elaine said...

Um, yeah. Personally, I would have voted for printing this in the Collected Works of Carl Barks but not in a Christmas Parade, thanks all the same. The aggressive caroling might have been funny, but for me the sadistic ending removes whatever humor might have been there.

December 15, 2017 at 11:42 PM  
Blogger Richie said...

It's funny. Oversensitive as I was to sadistic endings involving Donald (what with their proliferation in the classic shorts and lesser comics), I used to dislike this ending on pure principle, knowing about it before reading the full tale. Now, I haven't yet done so as of this writing...but these images cracked me up something fierce.

It's hysterical seeing Don being this much of a pain in the hide, and it also helps to lessen the cruelty of what is still a real sadistic finale, but at least one that the duck kiiinda had coming (unlike in many of the shorts and comics alluded before). I mean, his kids just got sprayed with cold water in a snowy night, but who cares when there's peace to disturb out there, right?

Reminds me of Porky Pig and Daffy Duck's "Boobs in the Woods", which ends with Porky forcing Daffy to become his car's motor (in quite the painful manner!), but only after having endured his antics during the whole cartoon.

Donald, and the overall tone of this ten-pager, is more in line with the brashness of the theatrical shorts of the time than the Barks we're familiar with; however you can already see him unearthing more from the character than he'd have on the screen. His maundering is a riot (love how Barks immediately justifies the Duck being so learned all of a sudden) as is his "instantaneous weaponization of Christmas cheer", as you put it. Of course there's also the cynical edge; which I agree, is not attacking the holiday itself, but those who will push their celebrating ways down your throat (this carries more weight if one recalls Barks was supposedly not much of a Christmas man himself).

"We can't understand a word you say, Unca' Donald!" darned if this isn't closer to the shorts than I thought!

December 16, 2017 at 2:54 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

So Jones just wanted to go to sleep and not be bother by Donald's loud singing? Man, what an asshole! >:(

And I'll bet he's so grumpy only cose his family didn't visit him and he's lonely on Christmas! SELFISH DICK! >:(

Let's all hope that maybe all that torturing Donald on the end will help that Grinch relive some presure and he willl get back into holdiay spirit...

On the first page third panels, you can sort of tell it's not Barks. The way HD&L are drawn is way to diffrent.

December 16, 2017 at 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun (?) alum fact: the reason the gag is forgotten is due to changes in grooming products. At the time, it was common to use alum products for shaving, leading to many men accidentally becoming familiar with the substance's...unique taste and properties. Its most common use nowadays everyday people might be familiar with is pickling, which is why you've spied it on the spice aisle.

December 16, 2017 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I'd say that's a reasonably fun fact. Thanks!

Also, great comment, Richie. I always like it when you chime in.

December 16, 2017 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

I think that some of the editor's objection to this story may be the use of a religious carol in such a raucous story. It's also quite a mean-spirited piece for a Christmas story. While many of the gags would have worked well as an animated cartoon, on the printed page, they're just disturbing, seeing these moments of "slapstick" frozen in time where the eye can linger on them. Of course, attitudes toward what is acceptable change, as Disney had no problem with a Christmas special where Donald Duck gets horribly sick when he doesn't fly south for the winter so he can stick around for Christmas. Much of that is pretty disturbing.

December 17, 2017 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Þorgrímur Kári said...

I think kid me was at least a little bit more on Donald's side here... I mean, yeah, Donald is being an idiot in this story but all the people he and the nephews sing for also REACT like massive douchebags to Donald's buffoonery. It reminds me of that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he's pestering the opera singer -- yeah, I get that this would be really annoying but do you really have to relatiate with violence as a first resort?

December 18, 2017 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

@Þorgrímur Kári :
Actualy this reminds me another Looney Tunes cartoon where Sylvester the cat is singing and Elmer is trying to get some sleep.

They even had part where he uses alum to make Sylvester's head shrink.

"Back Alley Uproar" was the title...

December 18, 2017 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger Richie said...

"Also, great comment, Richie. I always like it when you chime in."

Aw shucks! I realize the lateness of this reply, but that meant plenty, thanks a bunch. It's an equal treat to see ya around, which hasn't happened yet this year apparently...Hoping it's all due to busy RL shenanigans and not anything dire!

March 26, 2018 at 4:33 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, I've been neglectful. But you can expect something new very soon.

March 26, 2018 at 11:07 AM  

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