Monday, July 9, 2018

"All at Sea"

I feel guilty: I've been neglecting my flagship blog here. Granted, I've been kinda burning it up on the duck cartoons front, but this is the shit I REALLY care about. Let's kick it old-school with a little Barks, shall we? It's been a while. Every time I think "have I said all that can possibly be said?" I read a story and I think, huh, I have some things I want to say about this. So now: "All at Sea," from 1960. People often peg the late fifties and early sixties as Barks' weakest period, but I dunno. Sure, there may be some justifications for that, but there are also fun stories like this.


Yeah, let's be serious here. "Howler" does seem like a more rewarding job than money-polisher--more opportunity for creativity--but I also can see how it could get exhausting. Coin-polishing offers more opportunity to slack off.

Interesting stuff that I didn't think about reading this as a child: this "new nation of Tomali" is pretty clearly a response to the fact that this was around the time that African countries were breaking free of their colonial overlords. Interesting timing, actually: according to inducks, this was created on February 12, 1960 (I really want to know how they can possibly be that exact--is that the day Barks turned it in to the publisher?), and between then and its publication, in September, the floodgates really opened: a full thirteen countries achieved independence (according to this handy timeline). I assume we can credit that in large part to this very story's magical influence. I'm reading this guy in the CBL Library in Color volume, and there's an essay by Geoffrey Blum about how, with the way world cultures were changing, writing orientalist (THERE's a word Barks wouldn't have used) sorts of stories started to feel less appropriate to Barks, leading to what some might call a creative downspin, and definitely a tonal shift. This story side-steps the problem appropriately however, I think. Just don't spend too much time thinking about how exploitive these rubber tree sales might have been.

Donald also has a not-bad response there, I'll note.

I do like Donald-beaten-down-by-dumb-rich-uncle-problems.

Really, the story could take place anywhere; I'm sorry to say that it's fairly obvious that it's specifically Africa because of a perception of primitiveness: a European country would let you do these things remotely. This is certainly not a notably problematic story, but you can't help seeing these things seep in around the edges. If you're me, anyway.

Some smart Beagles there. I suppose with their constant string of failures to rob Scrooge, it's no surprise why other writers should depict them as incompetent, but...they're really not in Barks. Fairly consistently.

When you know the plot of the story, you really do see the pieces being put in place; I can't remember exactly, but I daresay even if it were your first time reading it, you would realize that things like the rats weren't exactly arbitrary. Maybe the obviousness seems a little artificial and puts this a step lower than Barks' all-time masterpieces? Well, maybe, but I still take a great deal of pleasure in seeing him working the levers, even knowing why he's doing it and where it's going.

You know, usually, these plays on real names in Barks don't do a lot for me. I mean, they're FINE, but they're just there. They don't move me in any way. Gotta admit, though: "Cootie Shark" cracks me up. That is all.

This MUST be an actual song that's being played on here. Someone tell me what it is!

You gotta wonder, though: first it was a research laboratory; now it's "the rat business?" I dunno. The former certainly seems more Woodchuck-esque, as long as we're not talking about any particularly gruesome experiments.

Also, Barks makes us spend A LOT of time in this story thinking about rats fucking.  Just saying.

A good example of the "terrible disguises effortlessly fool people" principle. I don't know about this business with the Beagles looting the entire town. Even though their REAL plan is to rob Scrooge? Hardest-working crooks in show business! I also don't know what to make of the Beagle jovially showing off the tied-up policeman. He doesn't seem, like, threatening about it or anything; it's just like, well, sorry, he's indisposed at the moment! I want to know how this interaction would've gone if they hadn't fled.

The question is: how are they robbing the town and simultaneously out on the ship? Is this evidence of the "international Beagles organization" thing that I'm not a huge fan of? Well, no, because the guy on shore is numbered 176-617, and later on you see that that same Beagle is involved in the shipboard robbery. I think what this is is a li'l continuity error.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Til you hae drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!


I very much enjoy the fact that the family is obviously just using this whole thing as an excuse to play dress-up (Dewey's sidelong irritated glance is fun too).  I'm sure I first learned of the existence of Nome, Alaska from this very comic, also. Why is Scrooge so full of rage about his "Mrs Cootley" costume?  Difficult to say.

I have another observation to make. In these panels, the guy's hair is just kind of an indifferent brown blob. But in the CBL album, he's blond, so you can see the original art better (although you can here too if you look closely enough): his hair's kind of natty. Given that this IS Africa, did Barks, in fact, envision him as a black person? I kind of think he did! But, as far as I've seen, no colorist has ever cooperated with him on this. Unfortunate.  I fear that colorists perhaps implicitly assume that if they're not racist caricatures, they can't be black.  We all know that Barks' record in that regard is somewhat spotty, but I think he did fine here.

I will say that in the CBL album, that little girl is unambiguously black, as opposed to...not. Good touch.

Beer comes in cans; it also comes in bottles. Soup comes in cans, but...not bottles. Where's my bottle of soup? I feel cheated. Well, I see that they DO exist, in a trendy way, but honestly, they don't look that appealing. So what am I complaining about? I just like complaining, apparently.

Gotta give the Beagles credit: when they can't find the gold, they don't try to take revenge or anything; they just basically admit defeat and leave. It's only sporting.

It is an oddity of Barks: this tendency to have characters address each other by name for no reason. Donald's line there is especially odd. It also looks like he's rubbing it in by explaining what exactly the Beagles are doing...which was probably already fairly apparent!

Well, hooray for that. I guess we just have to hope that the Beagles don't notice that they've been had until they're well out of range? Well, the story's over and they don't have the gold; therefore, they lose!

I would be remiss if I didn't note that this story is the subject of a vanishingly rare bit of inter-story continuity from Barks. "The Status Seekers:"


Anyway, that's all. Fun story. I like it. Man, I'm as bad at ending blog entries as Barks was at ending stories. Well...bye!



Blogger Achille Talon said...

…sorry to latch on on the most random detail ever, but is the idea of bottled soup really that baffling in the U.S.A.? Of all the random cross-cultural differences. Any soup worth buying here in France comes in bottles (be it glass or plastic). Canned soup is a thing, of course, but it's viewed as a very low-quality product.

This is weird.

July 9, 2018 at 5:15 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

No, it's definitely true. The idea of bottled soup is VERY strange to me. Interesting for sure!

July 9, 2018 at 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Soup" is/was a criminal slang term for nitroglycerin. See, for example, the professional safecracker named "Soup" Slattery in P. G. Wodehouse's novel Hot Water. Coming right after "Fifteen locks on the banker's safe", it seems that the Beagles are using "soup" in its safecracking sense here.

July 9, 2018 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

NICE. I completely missed that.

July 9, 2018 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Also, GeoX, your opening paragraph mistakenly refers to the story as Lost at Sea. Should probably get on that before we find ourselves in another Dreaktime situation.

July 9, 2018 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I have NO idea what you're talking about.

*walks off whistling casually*

July 9, 2018 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Here's an over-analyze-y thought: that painting in the second panel, showing the oversized, dollar-sign sun rising over that small wooden house next to a river, in the middle of what appears to be muddy terrain. I wonder, coudl it be a symbolic painting commissioned by Scrooge about his own life? Fortune rising over his lonely shack in White Agony Creek… I know it's absolutely not what Barks intended, but imagine you're Don Rosa. Wouldn't you just pounce on this interpretation? And that's what it made me think of.

The dollar-sign-in-natural-decor imagery is reminescent, also, of the faux-Salvador-Dalì paintings Don Rosa drew as the works of Scrooge's favorite painter in The Black Knight Glorps Again, for the benefit of the editors who couldn't print Barks's paintings there as he had intended. Which only adds more kindle to the fire.

July 9, 2018 at 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Ah, here we have one of my childhood favorites. Perhaps it would not have been at the top of my list had I been able to read all Barks' classic Scrooge adventures, but of those we had, this one stood out to me. I loved the sailing ships, the silly costumes, the rats' endearing enthusiasm for trade. I loved the way the rats save the day--the way they can reverse the theft by acting under the radar of the human characters. And I really loved the ending, where Scrooge for once shows his gratitude to those who saved his cash, rewarding the rats by giving them cool stuff to trade. That was one of Scrooge's most likeable moments, in the stories I read as a child. And child-me liked imagining the rats running their store.

Was it thanks to this story that I was the only female in my university Intro to Psych class who volunteered to be the rat handler for her lab group? I believe it was. (No gruesome experiments--just mazes and such.)

July 9, 2018 at 8:13 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Another comment on coloring: while people who could have been brown where colored as "white" (pinkish beige), the rats which HDL clearly state to be *white* rats were colored in my comic as brown! The Gladstone colorist, Susan Daigle-Leach corrected this error, and the rats in the album Uncle Scrooge Adventures in Color #31 are white.

July 9, 2018 at 8:20 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

See if this link to a song works:

July 9, 2018 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Bottle soup is *THE* soup GeoX my compadre! There is no better way to enjoy being European then going down the hatch on some soupy goodness from your trusty bottle while watching a soccer game and disscusing how awsome the metric system is! Add being aware what Asterix is and you have yourself a perfect European evening, but it's the old bottley-soupey that's the key and we all know it!

"Once you hook-up my mate, you never try same stuff from a mear plate" as the old regional rhyme I just made-up say. Seriously, next time in Europe go to the nearest suply store and enjoy yourself. You won't regret it! ^_^

July 10, 2018 at 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

Not to nitpick, but are you sure it's Dewey giving the angry sidelong glance? If the triplets kept their red/blue/green colors in their disguises, then it's Huey with the girl's bow.

July 13, 2018 at 4:09 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Yes, it's Dewey--at least, it's Dewey who is put in the identical girl-costume by Donald before Dewey and Scrooge/Mrs. Cootley go into town. "You'd better wear a disguise, too, Dewey!" "Aw, Unca Donald! Have a heart!"

July 13, 2018 at 7:40 AM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

Well, in Portugal bottled soup is not common, I think.

July 13, 2018 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

O.K.– thanks, Elaine! I wondered because of the colors.

July 14, 2018 at 4:51 AM  
Blogger Natteravn said...

"but is the idea of bottled soup really that baffling in the U.S.A.?"
It's just as baffling here in Norway, and I have traveled a lot around Europe, including France, and I have NEVER even HEARD about soup in bottles before today!
In Norway, soups comes in little bags of powder, dried meat and/or vegetables. A whole bottle full would've lasted for MONTHS.

July 14, 2018 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

@Natteravn: I am, of course, referring to soup that already comes in liquid, which is much healthier, one supposes, than "industrial" soup that comes dried-up and has to be re-watered.

July 14, 2018 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Natteravn said...

"I am, of course, referring to soup that already comes in liquid"
You mean pre-made soup? We've gotten a couple of those over here these last couple of years, they come in a soup bowl and you just put in the micro and heat it.
Normal dry soup is much healthier, and keeps for longer, than buying a pre-made full of various chemicals to make them last in storage for more than a day.
There is nothing "industrial" about dehydrating, it's what many people do in their own kitchens to preserve food.
Soup is basically a process more than a food itself, it just describes a way of boiling something until you extract the flavors and nutrients from it, and cook whatever meats or vegetables you add. Soup stock is also common, small cubes of compressed stock that dissolve in water.
Can't see any reason to buy a pre-made soup, it doesn't really take long to make soup anyway.
Also strange that I have never seen it before, I guess I must have but just didn't realize that was what it was.

July 14, 2018 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Some must contain chemicals, but for the most part it's a fresh product — the same stuff as what you'd get when grinding up a bunch of freshly-boiled vegetables, but ready-made for those people who don't know how to cook or don't have the time. It's to be kept in a refrigerator, of course, but there it can last for months.

July 14, 2018 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

For some reason, I can't stop laughing about your "Anyway" after Shakespeare's "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks" rant. That needs to become a permanent addition to the play.

July 14, 2018 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

hoodah hoodah -

November 18, 2019 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

OR -

November 18, 2019 at 8:38 AM  

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