Saturday, December 9, 2017

"Wintertime Wager"

When I said I was going to write about the five Barks Christmas stories I hadn't yet covered, I kind of KNEW that someone was going to make my life harder by pointing out something I'd forgotten. And so, thanks to Pan Miluś: voila. He noted that a lot of people forget that this story takes place on Christmas, and it's true: I had forgotten. And for obvious reasons! Because if there's any story about which you could make the argument that just because it's set on Christmas it's not actually a Christmas story, it's this one. If "Weemite" is only tangentially Christmas-related, this is substantially more so. It doesn't even feint at being vaguely festive in any way. There aren't even any incidental holiday decorations in sight. BUT THAT'S OKAY! It's cold outside. The inside of the ducks' house DOES look pretty darned cozy, I must say.

I suppose it's actually a good opportunity to write about it, because we SURE AS HELL are not having a cold winter in southern Vermont this year (although we ARE getting our first snow today, HURRAH). The story kinda compensates for that. I LIKE the cold, dammit.

Of course, this story is best-known for being the debut of nobody's favorite lucky gander. I feel like this is probably well-trodden ground, so I don't need to spend a lot of time noting that there's nothing about "luck" here, and that he's really just a slightly more malevolent version of Donald. That's the way it is! I am always amused by just how goddamned stupid this wager is.

See? Pretty darned mean. Please note the Duck family's prize painting, which is of a bunch of duck heads gazing bemusedly to the lower right.  Let's hope that if Gladstone wins the wager, they'll at least get to keep IT.  Note also the implication that Donald was pounding back hard lemonades.

I always find it odd that it's "your" rather than "our" house. They do this repeatedly. Haven't we established sufficiently by this point that Donald and HDL are in fact a family? Seems strange. The other thing you always have to wonder: so, could I meet the terms of the wager? And I think the answer is: probably, yes. I checked the relevant wikipedia article and it sounds like if you don't immediately go into shock or inhale too much water--and if you're a basically healthy adult who knows what's coming, that's probably avoidable--you'll probably be okay if it's just for a few minutes. Not that it sounds super-fun, but really, with so much on the line, Donald really ought to flippin' just suck it up and deal.

Alas! Note Donald's "dejected duck" statue on the shelf, above the color-coded books. Also look at the way Gladstone's shoving the deed at Donald in the lower left. That's really effective in making Gladstone look big and intimidating, and I don't feel like we see that perspective very often in Barks.

Of course, for my money--most people's money, probably--easily the best thing in the story is Daisy's appearance. She's just so cool and controlled here. It has been rightly noted that Barks typically had no idea what to do with Daisy (putting him in a category along with...almost everyone else), but this is one of her best appearances. There's nothing I don't like about it.

So what do you think, is drinking two gallons of lemonade in an hour super-difficult? Again, I feel like I could do it if necessary. I mean, without having tried it, maybe I lack perspective, but...hmm. Whatever else you want to say, I don't think this is weather-dependent in the way that Donald's wager was. If you can drink it in the summer, you ought to be able to do it on Christmas. So I think.

Also, "do we sleep here tonight, or do we sleep in the park?" Jeez, that's brutal. It's not a pretty picture, though the good news is that presumably Daisy would invite them over rather than letting them freeze to death.

Finally, discuss amongst yourselves: which is harder, sour or thick and sweet? I'd tend to go with the latter.

One thing I'll say for Barks here: he certainly gives Gladstone more than his fair share of bizarre facial expressions. I like to just look at them and smirk quietly.

It has a better ending than most Barks stories, too. One thing I'll say: if they're making wagers like these, Donald's gotta be more smart about it in the future. Last time, he made the bet where he'd give up HIS house, whereas Gladstone's bet just involved Donald NOT giving it up. There's not enough of a penalty to Gladstone here for screwing up; all the risk is on you. Think about it.

So anyway! Does this story make you feel Christmasy? No? Well, don't worry, there's more to come! Just consider this one a bonus. Before I end, let me quote the following inscrutable inducks review of the story:

If you like Gladstone read Scarpa's stories! After all, Gladstone is unlucky in this first apperance! 8...

The comment's inexplicable in itself, but what really gets me is that trailing-off 8...hmmm...



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

YaaaY! I made the news!

I aslo to like how cozy Doalds house is in contrast to all the snow outsize, and yhe Daisy is quite cool in this story. I find it interesting that Donald's house is by the lake for the sake of this story.

For my book the lemonade-challange is waaay more easy then the lake one. It's only about seven-eight liters. I think I can take it! Lemonade is good. I understand there are no bathroom brakes but sill...

Wow. Second iconic Barks character introcuce in a Christmas story in a row? A trend that never cath on. I wonder if this wasn't first Gladstone story and his luck was established by this point I wounder would it help him in any way or how it would been interprate.

December 9, 2017 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Another peculiar thing about this early Gladstone is that his hair is colored brown, when it would later be established that it's actually blond. On the same subject of coloring, one does wonder about those two rows of books on the shelf in Donald's house — one yellow, one blue — because they're obviously not a single collection: the sizes and thicknesses of the books are totally inconsistent. This is very peculiar. Perhaps Donald just got fed up with reasonable methods of sorting a library and just opted for color-coding as a last resort.

The mysterious 8 I believe would be the anonymous Induckser stating what rating he gave the story. 8/10, y'see. Which is actually, give him credit, quite a reasonable rating in my opinion.

Funny you should point out the Ducks' weird furniture in this particular story — Barks made a habit of sticking this sort of weird interior decorating in his ducks' homes all through the 40's (you see it too in Christmas on Bear Mountain's McDuck Manor, for one thing). I believe it may well be the ever-so-discreet precursor to Don Rosa's well-known "funny background details".

I suppose Gladstone's bet's not involving him actually losing anything (just not getting something he might otherwise have gotten, e.g. Donald's house) may be chalked up to his luck trying to salvage things after Gladstone made a fool of himself, not quite managing to get him out of the stupid bet but nonetheless arranging for it to be a not-too-dangerous bet if Gladstone played his cards right. Thus retroactively retconning Gladdy's luck into the story.

Toodle-oo! And congratulations on writing a post in so short a time!

December 9, 2017 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Even if Gladstoe wasn't introduce I thik this story would still work in a Garfield minus Garfield sort of way.

December 10, 2017 at 3:23 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

This is one of my top five "stories where Daisy comes off well." And since you ask...the other four are the Barks-drawn "Daringly Different" (author identified by Inducks as Bob Gregory, though Gemstone still wasn't sure when they printed it in 2006), Jens Hansegård's "Himalayan Hideout," the anonymous Brazilian Easter story "A Páscoa É Nossa," and (in a completely different key) the Shaws' "Pass the Parchment." Indeed, Barks was not alone in not knowing what to do with Daisy!

December 10, 2017 at 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful writing and drawing, of course - in fact, there's not a thing that could be bettered. But the picture editing, the flow from one frame to the next, the little modifications of mood and focus that occur by shifts in the framing - that's the essence of Carl. That, and the faces.

December 12, 2017 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Jim Mc said...

I wonder how Barks came up with the "luck" angle for Gladstone. Was "Gladstone's Secret" the first story were Gladstone's ridiculous good fortune was a major part of his character?

December 24, 2017 at 2:23 AM  
Blogger Natteravn said...

Drinking two gallons of anything in under an hour would kill a grown man, let alone a grown duck-man.
The stomach has a capacity of MAX 4 liters.
Also found this info:
": If a person who is on a restricted sodium diet, drinks ONLY half a gallon (1.8 liters) in one sitting without using the restroom, that person could die from hyponatremia - water intoxication. However, the same holds true for a normal diet of sodium intake, but the limit increases to more than three liters of water in a SINGLE sitting."

December 28, 2017 at 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Mamzelle Nuage said...

Greatt reading

August 24, 2023 at 5:43 PM  

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