Thursday, May 24, 2018

"The Delta Dimension"

And now...ladies and gentlemen...boys and girls...tadpoles and pollywogs...terries and fermies...almond joys and mounds...peanut butters and jellies...stalactites and and cetera...the time has come for: THIS!

Yes, the first of Fantagraphics' "Disney Masters" books is out, featuring THREE classic Scarpa stories. And they really are good stuff; they all contain next to no characteristic Scarpan bullshit. The contrast between these and his more slapdash efforts is actually kind of dramatic, especially when you read all three of them together like this. One wishes that the man had consistently made an effort. Anyway, two of them are new to the States, but we're going to start by highlighting the only one that's previously seen US publication, the oft(?)-requested "Delta Dimension," from 1959. It was first printed in the US in Gemstone's short-live Mickey Mouse Adventures digest--the only vintage Italian story to be so. To me, that pointed to a tantalizingly awesome direction in which the series could have gone, but then it was cancelled. OH WELL. These hardcover books we're getting now are sweeter anyway, I'll admit.

Welp, let's start. I like the fact that Goofy is reading about the many exciting adventures of Flip the Fish. That is all.

It's this whole thing where there are strange weather phenomena and what's causing them?!? If there's one complaint to be made about this story, it's that it's awfully slow getting started. Granted, a lot of Scarpa's stories have this sort of slow opening (I was going to say "build up," but they're clearly not actually "building up" to anything--they're just making time)-- following, to some degree, in Gottfredson's footsteps--and this wheel-spinning isn't painfully dumb in the way that it could sometimes be--but boy oh boy it does go on. Well, you'd best just relax and take it as it comes. The best way to enjoy it, for sure.

Ho ho! Just a publicity stunt! I cannot help finding the environmental implications of this somewhat alarming, but that truly is an unfair quibble, given how basically disciplined Scarpa is here.

Not hurting anybody NOW, but in ten years...okay, never mind.  But this acid storm business is really extremely alarming. It makes me think of the Rhyming Man's plan to riddle the world with horrible poisons.

Yup, even if he's cloaked in shadow, I don't suppose it's much of a surprise to anyone that this is Dr. Einmug, of "Island in the Sky" fame. He's back, baby! And I really do enjoy such call-backs. THEY ARE COOL. LA.

And OH HO, Scarpa getting metatextual here. DOES that photograph look like 1936 Gottfredson Mickey? Well...

...actually, yeah; it's not a bad likeness. WELL DONE, SCARPA. Or is that an actual Gottfredson image taken from the earlier story? Hard to say. I don't want to bother checking now. If it is, tell me.

Blah blah, more gear-grinding as our heroes look for the source of this sinisterness and mildly amusing stuff happens. Yeah!

More old-school mice in those paintings! Yee haw! It's pretty well-done; I do like this MYSTERIOUS FIGURE cloaked in shadow an' all.

Cyanide hail? Now you're just freaking me out. Gah.

Ecce Atomo! I've written at least a bit about him in the past, but he seems to me to be Scarpa's most obviously Gottfredson/Walsh-inspired character. He's very Eega-Beeva-esque, to the point that he struggles a bit to justify his existence. But! He speaks in cartoon German. So there you go. Which certainly makes sense with the Einmug connection. I actually kinda think that's an English-only thing, though. I certainly don't remember it from when I was reading Atomo stories in French. It's a good idea, though; it at least goes some distance to differentiating him from his obvious inspiration.

Meson...temperature...element...fourth dimension...yup, checks out. Carry on.

In the original US printing, the footnote pointed you to the issues of WDC in which the story had last been printed. And now, you know THAT fascinating fact. Which you probably could've guessed anyway. Aren't you glad you're reading this blog entry?

Wouldn't it be cool if atoms were really intelligent? It would. Well, maybe they are; how would I know? I'm no scientician! It's cool that he has electrons, though I don't think that is ever any kind of plot point.

Man, Einmug's looking pretty darned devilish in that first panel there. You do not want to fuck with him when it comes to science.

Anyway! Meet Bleep Bleep and Bloop Bloop!

Right, so to me, this is by a wide margin the funniest shit in the entire story. We all know that Scarpa--like a surprising number of Disney artists--was a cultural reactionary. It's part of what made "The Miner's Granddaughter" so weird. But even with that in mind, the fact that the most ominous, sinister thing Scarpa could think to have his bad seed do was angrily read "Teen Pop Annual" is just the best. Was he worried that all those durn teens with their jukeboxes and sock hops were also all potential nazi collaborators? I think we can assume as much. All the well-adjusted, non-threatening kids spend their time studying French verbs and math. Make a note of it.

MARK ME, FOOLISH UNEBELIEVERS: It is a thin fucking line between the 1910 Fruitgum Company and stealing atomic secrets. Lock up the kids!

Whoa, who's THIS guy? What kind of unpredictable malarkey is this?!? Cancel my subscription and give my money back. He's pretty brutal here: one hundred percent willing and eager to rain poisonous death on Mouseton. This raises questions. Obviously, he's not going to end up murdering a bunch of people, but if we see that he's one hundred percent willing and eager to do so, don't we basically have to treat him as a character who would do such a thing and thus not even a tiny bit potentially sympathetic or lovable, ever? Well, maybe, but maybe we have to go up a narrative level, as it were, and note that the thing about that is that Mickey's always going to stop him, the narrative demands it, so do we really need to treat it as a serious thing, or can we take that into consideration? I don't care! Look, a cool bug!

I found it by googling "cool bugs," and you have to admit, it IS pretty derned cool.  Nature is fucking unbelievable sometimes.

The most (intentionally) amusing thing about this story is the way Pete and Mickey kind of have two relationships, like they're actors. They're enemies, and yet in the interstices between their fighting, they act like at least friendly acquaintances. Like actors playing roles. My goodness, maybe this relates to what I said above.

Oh, Mickey. You make yourself look truly unnecessarily dumb by getting taken in like this all the time. But then...maybe it's not unnecessary! What does anything mean ever?!?

You still look dumb, though.

But seriously, big props for this part. The megalomania is done really well, and it feels like a really appropriate follow-up to "Island in the Sky." Well done, Romano.

But damn, man. You sure did kill him off brusquely there, and doing it right as he's turning good seems needlessly sadistic.  Well, I suppose not technically "kill," but it amounts to the same thing.  This definitely has a Walsh feel to it. That's what you get for listening to that dreadful pop music, I guess.  Someone should do a story where Bleep Bleep searches for his brother.

Question, though: when Einmug brings the atoms out, they're children. Are we supposed to assume that all the intelligent atoms are like that, or was it just arbitrary that he happened to get the ones he did? If the former, Bloop Bloop is gonna have a hard time adjusting to shrunken life with the other atoms and no pop music.

See what I was saying earlier? This is amusing on a level that one doesn't necessarily expect from Scarpa.

This stuff too. The climactic fight here is a definite highlight of the story.

And now it's over. Yes. I said this re "The Blot's Double Mystery," and I'll say it again: WHY A 1313 LICENSE PLATE?!? You're just confusing things. Well, in that story I guess Martina was confusing things, and here Scarpa is. Maybe it's just an Italian tradition but it's weird 'n' I doan like it.

Well, that's okay. It's still definitely good work. You'll note that I did very little nitpicking of the story; that's because, as noted at the start there's very little to nitpick. Minimal bullshit! Which is great for everyone involved. I highly recommend that you check out the book it comes from as well as the future ones in the series. Well...most of the future ones in the series. I look forward to the Bottaro one with keen intensity, but I think I'll have to pass on the Paul Murry volume: I feel like at this point in my life, going into a boredom-induced coma is just not something I need. Here's my theory: Murry fans are the reason that insipid legacy comic strips like Hagar the Horrible and Beetle Bailey continue to appear in newspapers. They're not funny, they were never funny, but a small but extremely loud cohort of geriatric fans with bad taste means that it's more trouble than it would be worth for harried editors to get rid of them. And that is that.

But anyway, you should definitely support publishers when they do good things like print Italian classics. And that is all for today.



Anonymous Elaine said...

Maybe Bloop-Bloop spreads the Gospel of Slackerism among his fellow atoms, and they all stop doing their job, and EVERYTHING FALLS APART. "If I can't listen to pop music, then no one can! BWAH-HA-HA-HA!"

May 25, 2018 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

You know why you love you? Because you are the only guy around who just randomly interrupts his fun-yet-insightful reviews of 1950's Italian Mickey Mouse comics to show his reader a picture of a cool bug. Which is, indeed, hella cool.

Eh, Hagar the Horrible could be funny. Or perhaps, for once, our translations were skillfully peppered-up? I don't know. Definitely agree with you on Paul Murry though. I recently got around to reading IDW's reprint of Ghost of Man-Eater Mountain… and by God, why is Murry the classic guy when stories this good could exist? It's no masterpiece but I was genuinely entertained there. So why? It's like if Tony Strobl had become known as The Duck Artist if you had a perfectly good Verhagen to go right next to him: it's not that Murry/Strobl is bad, but come on. Though of course, an art comparison may not be that relevant since it's the Murry stories' plots which are so soul-crushingly boring.

Anyway, enough digressions:

— Atomo indeed does not have a German accent in the original, which that would be because Dr Einmung doesn't either (I think). In French at least, he's alternatively known as Prof. Mirandus and Prof. Enigm, neither of which are particularly German, and he only ever kept his accent in translations of the original Island in the Sky. Everywhere else he's fluent.

— Get used to "1313", and that design for Mickey's car. That isneary as established a tradition in Italy as Donald's 313.

— Perhaps that wasn't Scarpa's original intention but the way I've always wrapped my head around the "enlarged atom" thing is that the process of enlarging the atoms made them sentient. Otherwise the idea that everything (including us) is made of independantly sapient little homunculi is just… disturbing in a not-exactly-quantifiable way. Also, in this context, splitting the atom (a.k.a. what Einmung was experimenting with before he moved on to his Delta research) becomes even more disturbingly akin to some sort of vivisection.

— True, gotta love the Pete/Mickey dynamic in this story (and others; consider Tap Yocca; Scarpa just got Pete).

May 25, 2018 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

(Also taking this opportunity to remind you that you are four episodes late in DuckTales 2017. Come on!)

May 25, 2018 at 2:55 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Thanks for the kind words. And you're right that the Ducktales thing is a shame; I will totally get on that tonight.

As for 1313: in "The Blot's Double Mystery," it's just the number of a taxi. So I don't know what's going on.

Man, yeah, I should've made that connection to vivisection; it is indeed creepy.

Also! Yeah, "The Ghost of Man-Eater Mountain" is kind of stunningly good, compared to what one might've expected. I should write about it one of these days.

May 25, 2018 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger gl said...

Perhaps that wasn't Scarpa's original intention but the way I've always wrapped my head around the "enlarged atom" thing is that the process of enlarging the atoms made them sentient. Otherwise the idea that everything is made of independently sapient little homunculi is just… disturbing in a not-exactly-quantifiable way. Also, in this context, splitting the atom becomes even more disturbingly akin to some sort of vivisection
It was specified in this translation that only some atoms were intelligent, while most were not. I'm not sure about the original, though.

May 25, 2018 at 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Yes! Review a story by Don Christensen! (Have you done so yet? I can't find your index. Didn't you use to have an index?) I want to discuss Christensen. A Disney comics writer who was *not* a cultural reactionary.

May 25, 2018 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger gl said...

I can't find your index. Didn't you use to have an index?
If you don't see the index on the sidebar, you can find it here:

May 25, 2018 at 8:45 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Index link should be to the right of the page comme d'habitude, though you won't see it if you're looking at the mobile version of the site. The only Christiensen story I've written about is the inexplicably-titled but delightful "Having a Panic," back in the day.

May 25, 2018 at 10:54 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Thanks, george greg, I was able to find the index that way. The link doesn't appear on the right of the page for me as it used to, that's why I commented as I did. And I'm viewing the blog on my laptop, so I don't think it's the mobile version. It's a mystery.

Anyway, I look forward to the opportunity to discuss Christensen's work someday. Now we can return to the Delta Dimension, and plan the sequel "Back to the Delta Dimension, or, Am I My Brother's Bleeper?"

May 25, 2018 at 11:54 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I take it all back! I was looking for the index link when I was on the page for the particular blogpost, and it's not is on the homepage, sorry for the confusion.

May 25, 2018 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Hey, I think I have an old mystery solved. The "inscrutable" title of Having a Panic.

God, I can't believe how we all missed that for so long.


May 26, 2018 at 4:52 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

No doubt you're right, but given that there are no picnics in the story (sure, it involves lawns, where one could have a picnic, but none is ever alluded to), and that "having a picnic" isn't exactly very distinctive as idiomatic phrases go, it all seems pretty tenuous.

May 26, 2018 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Wow! I sure was having a picnic while reading this review and that bug sure was cool! Like Pecock spider level of coolnes. Worth the price of subscribing to this blog ^_^

I never cared much for Atomo Bleep-bleep - felt like less interesting Eega Beeva but he's fine I guess.

May 26, 2018 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

"The Delta Dimension" is an interesting story that really seems to follow in Floyd Gottfredson and Bill Walsh's footsteps. It really has the pattern down of starting slowly and building up to the main plot. Historically, 1959 was a perfect time to not only bring back Professor Einmug, but also for a story about "living Atoms", as atomic energy and hydrogen bombs were in the news a lot, and a few years earlier, Osamu Tezuka had begun his most famous sci-fi manga "The Mighty Atom", which became "Astro Boy" in the US. Scarpa's story (and "The Bleep-Bleep 15" as well) are a little reminiscent of the types of stories usually found in Astro Boy comics, although not as preachy. (And if Scarpa going off on tangents annoys you, don't read Astro Boy...Tezuka goes off on tangents that makes a Scarpa story seem as focused as a Barks 10-pager!) Atomo Bleep-Bleep seems a bit like a retread of Eega Beeva, but with his atomic powers using mesons instead of Eega's inventions and general eccentric behavior. Bloop-Bloop listening to music and reading Pop Idol magazines seems like a gag that would be right at home in one of Bill Walsh's scripts.
The duel between the two enlarged atoms would probably have been something that would have been showcased in an anime series, although in Scarpa's story, it seems to have been a way to keep the two busy to focus on Mickey and Pete's fighting. Overall, "The Delta Dimension" is one of Scarpa's better works, which isn't surprising, as Scarpa seemed to do his best work with Mickey Mouse.

May 28, 2018 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

Geox, of course that vintage Mickey picture is drawn by Scarpa. Here he was not even trying to look like old Gottfredson, as he could:
(Never seen Scarpa's covers of Gottfredson's reprintings by ANAFI in the FG library?)

May 30, 2018 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger Monkey_Feyerabend said...

I don't like much Atomino. He's a good fellow, but not adding much humor, like Eega typically does. And I am still convinced that Bloop Bloop was a more interesting character than his boring brother, since he shows a genuine moral and intellectual development (Scarpa kills him right at that high point of his brief existence muahhahahaha!). So I do agre with Geox when he says:

*Someone should do a story where Bleep Bleep searches for his brother*

As concerns their language, in the original they speak a proper Italian with no German accent, just like Enigm or any other character. Usual story: comics for children with incorrect language where inconceivable in a country where most of the population still needed to learn the official language of the nation.

May 30, 2018 at 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought the atoms only became sentient when brought to human size. I can't remember if the Finnish translation I read directly said so or if I just assumed.

reading the finnish translation, they changed cyanide rain into blasting caps for some reason...
Ah yes he says 'i made an atom big and saw it was alive like us' which is vague I guess. also in finnish the book he's reading is 'great film actors through the ages' which doesn't exactly sound like the reading of a caricature of pop obsessed teen as much as a aspiring film critic or something. no idea what it's in the original but it is a book and not a magazine or something

May 31, 2018 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

"Great Film Actors" is just weird. I have NO idea what that's trying to get at. Can anyone tell us what the book's called in the original?

June 1, 2018 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Adamant said...

Goofy's Flip the Fish magazine is definitely a translation thing too, Flip the Fish wasn't created until the 90s I believe.

June 2, 2018 at 1:13 AM  
Blogger gl said...

I know that this post has nothing to do with this comment, but I know you've said in the past that you wished a version of the Life and Times would be published with all of the companion chapters in order, and it looks that's finally here: Just figured I'd let you know!

June 17, 2018 at 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Spectrus said...

" It's cool that he has electrons, though I don't think that is ever any kind of plot point."

Casty did make a little joke out of it when Heath O'Hara, Mickey and Atomo are on their holiday trip - O'Hara makes a pic of the other two and then says "Your electrons are blurred on the photo" and Mickey says "Obviously. Haha!" ;-)

Speaking of Casty, he more or less re-interpreted that classic fight scene, too.

Pete's threats sounded more reasonable in the German version... (and, judging from the comments above, in the Finnish one too)

July 10, 2018 at 4:51 PM  

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