Wednesday, October 31, 2018

"The Not-So-Ancient Mariner"

HA! You didn't EXPECT a story that has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with Halloween, DID YOU?!? excuse is that "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is kinda spooky. I know some people don't think ghost pirates are really Halloweeny enough, but surely we can all agree that the Pogues' "Turkish Song of the Damned" is the best Halloween song of all? C'mon.

I feel like this story is kind of obscure, which is perhaps surprising given that it's Barks' final ten-pager. You could really feel him fading: he drew a Lockman-penned story, "Monkey Business," for WDC 297 (November 1964); then he took a hiatus from ten-pagers until he was somehow coaxed back for the quite unpleasant (albeit intentionally so) "Beauty Business" for WDC 308 (May 1966), which he followed up after a few more months off with this, in October. certainly wouldn't expect it to be exactly a career high, but as send-offs go, it could be a lot worse. Whaddaya wanna bet the whole thing was inspired by him somehow hearing about the Coleridge poem and deciding to just sort of free-associate in the idea of shooting albatrosses? Not entirely different from the way "The Twelve Days of Christmas" inspired "The Thrifty Spendthrift." Note that, like "The Beauty Business" and other, non-Barks, ten-pagers of the time, this is credited as a "Donald and Daisy" story. This was due to a mandate from the top, I think, to try to appeal to a female audience. Certainly, you'd think this one would be more effective in that regard than the last, though Daisy remains very much a secondary character here.

If there's one thing this story's notable for, it's Daisy's bewildering array of outfits and, more noticeably, hairstyles. Difficult to say if some editor suggested this to Barks ('cause, you know, girls like playing dress-up) or if he was just amusing himself, but either way, it amuses me, at any rate.  Certainly a lot more appealing than her grotesque metamorphosis in "The Beauty Business."  This groovy-chick one is probably my favorite.

We'd also see Daisy with unusual hair in "Hall of the Mermaid Queen," but if it's Gladstone's rather incredible beatnik mane you're looking for, this story is the only game in town. Surely this, at least, is Barks' own idea--we all know that his interpretations of the counterculture of the time tended to be idiosyncratic.

Well, Donald driving himself mad memorizing poems (or "poem") is definitely a thing. Hey, it's amusing enough, but it's also pretty obvious how seriously Barks was taking this whole endeavor. I hadn't thought about it, but surely the word "God" as referring to a specifically Christian God, even as part of a quotation, is unusual in Disney comics, or at least American ones? Yeah, you see the word itself aplenty in "Mythtic Mystery," and I imagine--though examples don't come immediately to mind--that you can find comics where the Superstitious Natives talk about the gods being angry and stuff, but this? Is there anything else like it? Someone get on it.

Yes, that checks out. Barks and Donald are accurately quoting Coleridge. Good for them!

Daisy's second hairstyle. I'm amused by the utter contempt with which the crew treats Donald and his horrible ticket. That...doesn't seem like a good way to attract business, even if they didn't have Yelp reviews back then.

And WHOA, it's...Aunt who now? Yup, Aunt Drusilla, who only gets two images and one line. She doesn't really stand out in any way, but it somehow always seems memorable when Barks uses these distinct, one-shot characters. Right, so it's pretty obvious that when HDL refer to her as "Aunt Daisy," they're really just using a term of affection, not implying an actual biological relationship. Nonetheless, if we wanted to take things way the hell too seriously (more seriously even than Rosa did in his family tree), and wanted her to be their actual aunt while at the same time not biologically related to Donald, she has to be their father's sister. So then Drusilla would have to be their father's father's or mother's sister. Or, I suppose, a hypothetical brother's wife. Likely widow by this point. I...don't know why I said that, or what anyone would possibly do with that information. But it's out there! People are raising questions!

I must say: a world where people are routinely rewarded "for being sharp at poetry" is a world I'd like to live in.

This is like points I've raised before about late Barks and postmodernity, but I think it's relevant here: we see that Donald was operating entirely under an illusion: neither Daisy nor Gladstone actually won a contest to get these tickets. All that is solid, and that. Donald's foundations are entirely shifted. Hmmm...that might be more modern than postmodern. But now I'm just babbling to myself about things no one cares about. THIS BLOG POST IS NOT AN ACADEMIC PAPER. But maybe it should be.

Seriously, Donald got a ticket for free, but how do they actually SELL tickets when the main selling point is "you chumps are WORTHLESS GARBAGE! Into the hold with you!"

Third hairstyle. Nice shades. Question: is "Fatsonia" some kind of play on something? If so, what?

Fourth hairstyle! And fifth, if you want to count the wig as a "hairstyle," and indeed why wouldn't you. I like Daisy here; sure, you'd think she might've helped Donald out earlier, but at least here she's helping Donald and putting Gladstone in his place. But what in God's name is a "Go-Go Howler?" Does it have something to do with this? That's pretty darned strange even for late-you, Barks.

Yeah, there's this whole silly thing with the albatross. Gotta remember where we are, I guess.

Hairstyle five or six, depending how you count, which could conceivably just be hairstyle three but without the glasses, but it looks different to me. Note that this is another example--a last example, I suppose--of Barks sort of fudging the "luck" thing so Donald can win out over Gladstone. Is there any reason why his luck wouldn't've accounted for this turn of events, resulting in Gladstone's victory anyway? None but narrative convenience. Still, nobody would be able to tolerate Gladstone if he didn't frequently lose, so this is all right. I like the fact that Donald goes out on a high note in Barks final ten-pager. Happy Halloween.



Blogger Achille Talon said...

Perhaps the reason is that Donald's own albatross stunt wasn't random chance but an actual "stroke of luck", and in the rare event that Donald gets actual luck, Gladstone's luck and his are on an equal footing.

November 1, 2018 at 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Andrebyboer said...

The Fatsonia sounds like a take on the RMS Franconia.

From childhood I vividly remember the Norwegian translation of the stanza: "Jeg føler skjebnen true / for med min pil og bue / jeg skjøt en albatross!" It renders Coleridge into this wonderfully trite doggerel.

November 1, 2018 at 6:43 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

This story feels obscure but I bee seen Daisy's aunt pop-out here and there (i fan work for example... and yes, there where atemps ad Daisy family tree) and I do remember bitnik-Gladstone as his last apperance in Barks so in a way it got to be memorable...

I think all the diffrent Daisy hair styles makes here very cute!

Thanks for name-droping that Turkish song! Now I'm in love with it as well!

November 1, 2018 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

A bigger question about Daisy’s ever-changing hairstyles is, “Why are they all different colors?” Even if you’re wearing a series of wigs, wouldn’t you want them all to be the same color so that people will know you’re the same person? The short “modern” Daisy and beatnik Gladstone series of stories isn’t really my favorite. While Barks never used the character, Fethry would have made a better beatnik.

November 1, 2018 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I think for Barks (and, let's face it, for most artists), "girl duck" was generally considered enough to indicate Daisyness.

Extremely true fact about Fethry. We may also recall this story featuring, because why not, Beatnik Gyro. Barks could definitely be pretty weird.

November 1, 2018 at 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I also like Daisy's actions in the late-story panels you highlight.

Scroogerello on Feathery Society said that Barks himself had an Aunt Drusilla...after that I looked on the family page of and it says there that CB's mother Arminta had two sisters, Barbara and Drusilla, and three brothers, one named Carl.

Anyway, I like Aunt Drusilla, and she's the only member of Daisy's family (which I believe to be unrelated to Donald's) I'm sure of, other than the unnamed sister (Julia? Augusta?) who is the mother of April, May and June. And the sister's husband, their father (so I believe AMJ's last name is not "Duck"--far too many Ducks in this universe, plus I don't want any girl to grow up with the name "May Duck"--we seemed to establish on Feathery that AMJ have not been given a last name in American comics).

Note that Daisy's and Gladstone's initial statements that they "won a voyage/cruise on the Fatsonia for reciting" a sea poem are rather misleading. Gladstone may be used to saying he won stuff, but it's not really believable that Daisy would describe her windfall that way.

November 2, 2018 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, Daisy talking like that is a bit questionable.

The hardest thing with Disney genealogy is that regular characters can NEVER be actual parents, so you have to work yourself into contortions trying to figure out how to make all this aunt and uncle stuff work. Of course, that's also part of the fun.

November 2, 2018 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I would like to mention for everyone's edification that oddly enough, in one French translation of the story, the translator apparently figured that the Daisy-with-wigs was too different from regular-Daisy for readers to recognize her, so renamed her "Petra Duck" and acted like she was a different character, a cousin of Donald's. And Drusilla was explicitly said to be the mother of "Petra".

Also, if you don't mind cartoon-continuity, Donald Duck's Diary actually introduced us to the mother and father of Daisy (albeit as part of a dream sequence as related in Donald's clearly unreliable diary). They have made cameos as portraits in a couple of stories. (You will recall that they also appear on Gilles Maurice's Duck Family Tree.)

November 2, 2018 at 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Cartoons mean nothing to me, in the matter of establishing genealogies. I don't mind the portraits of Daisy's parents derived from Donald Duck's Diary (which I have seen in one story), but they don't tell me anything about the parents, not even whether they are living or dead.

Given the number of times in comics Daisy has shown up at Donald's family's holiday celebrations, though, I tend to assume that her parents are dead, and that her sister's family visits the sister's husband's family at the holidays, thus leaving Daisy without family in the neighborhood. And (to bring this cleverly back on-topic) "The Not-So-Ancient Mariner" does not indicate that Drusilla lives in or near Duckburg. So no local family for Daisy other than the sister's family.

November 2, 2018 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Wow, Achille Talon. This is super interesting trivia - the fact that they made her a diffrent character. To be fair she dosen't feel here like Daisy at all. And it's not just the looks. Even something about her behavior is tad off.

November 2, 2018 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I find Daisy with hair-styles that half-cover here eyes way more cute then regular Daisy...

...I have spoken!

November 2, 2018 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger Thad said...

This probably wouldn't even be in my top 50 Barks stories, but I can't help but love that final panel of Gladstone. It really is the perfect end to his ten-pager oeuvre.

November 8, 2018 at 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In terms of geneaology talk, surely it's worth mentioning (unless I'm misremembering) that both Della and Matilda's designs are recycled from Daisy's endless hairdos in this story? I may be misremembering with Della but I'm pretty sure Matilda is.

November 10, 2018 at 7:51 PM  
Blogger Kenneth Moe said...

Reading this story marks the completion of my four-year Carl Barks "marathon". This blog has showed up in quite a lot of my recent Google searches. Fun to see other people still reading this stuff, and at about the same time.

December 18, 2018 at 7:19 PM  

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