Monday, December 17, 2018

"Curious Kids"

...but what sorts of stories do you find in these Christmas Parades once you've ventured past the openers? you wonder. Well...pretty much what you'd expect, really: some MM stuff, a bit of Bucky Bug, Chip'n'Dale, Li'l Bad Wolf...not really very interesting. Some Grandma and Gus stories with those detestable mice, which...yeah. But occasionally you also get some additional non-farm-oriented duck stories! Which typically aren't very interesting either. Nevertheless, we will look at a few of them, starting with this guy from 1955.

So we start with the same concept as "Reindeer Roundup:" HDL abruptly being hyper-good for venal reasons. Still, it's a kind of cheery opening nonetheless! I can't object too much to it. Fine, fine.

Although actually, the concept seems to have mutated a bit. I mean, the original idea was that if you're bad, Santa will loose the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword on you, but here that...doesn't seem to be the case. The present's already there. Presumably it's not going to be withdrawn. So the motives for this sudden goodness seem unclear; maybe they just want to be nice to be nice, but in that case, only the day before Christmas? I don't know. Whatever. It's fine.

BOY do I well remember obsessing about what birthday and Christmas presents were. I never actually opened any prematurely--I had, I fear, a hyperdeveloped sense of guilt about doing anything I wasn't supposed to--but I sure tried my best to look through the wrapping paper (which was sometimes possible) to see what was what. That had nothing to do with anything, but I said it. I guess the only point is, I empathize with the kids.

I do like Scrooge being complicit with them here. That's fun. But OH NO!  This whole "bottle caps" thing seems so obviously fake that it's a wonder anyone here takes it at face value.  But if they did, no story, I suppose.

I mean, you automatically figure that there is more to this than meets the eye, but I do like the family members rallying to HDL's support.

A bit like "You Can't Guess," only not as good.

Daisy with that muff always makes me think of "Shacktown," which is a positive. look, man, of course they're disappointed. That's a given. And of course there are examples from Barks of them bawling. But somehow the way it's done here--overdone, I'd say--strikes me as highly distasteful. Just because there's a comprehensible reason for it that comports with actual child psychology doesn't mean I have to like it.

I mean...come on. Okay, you cheated, and now you're sad. Boo fuckin' hoo. Get the hell over yourselves. They just don't come over very well here at all.

And now: Donald eating alone in a fancy restaurant, like history's greatest monster. That's just weird.

So the plan, such as it is, is about as banal as plans get. When I first read this I thought it might've been some Machiavellian scheme on Donald's part to make the other relatives buy expensive gifts for the kids, but nope. It's just...this.

This whole "oh no! We can't get them TOO many presents! What a nightmare!" thing seems decidedly half-baked to me. Is it really THAT big a deal? Come on. And the reactions are just...clumsy and childish. "The unspoiling type! Heh, heh!" indeed.

Yes. So. I mean, the ending is sort of heartwarming, if overly abrupt, but HDL just come off as really, really unsympathetic here--absolutely one hundred percent self-centered, such that the ending really doesn't feel earned. This is actually one of the better Christmas Parade stories--it certainly has things to recommend it--but it still isn't great.

Yeah yeah, I know: you're just itching to point out to me in the comments that this story was remade by Vicar & Co as "A Light Gift," published in 1978 (Disney published it in their Donald Duck Adventures 21, in 1991). Well, I'm WAY AHEAD OF YOU. Or actually, I suppose, at exactly the same place as you. WHATEVER. But this remake is actually extremely interesting, because it really illustrates in a vivid way why exactly so many of these Western things are so underwhelming: basically, it's an improvement on "Curious Kids" in every way imaginable; it fixes the story in ways I wouldn't have thought it could be fixed. The first and most obvious way is in the art; I have and will continue to defend Strobl, but dammit, I have to admit he had his limitations, and Vicar just depicts the characters much more expressively. There's no denying it.

First, notice the way Donald's first speech bubble emphasizes that the whole situation is a kind of light-hearted thing. His motivations are much more transparent. It's not a huge difference or anything, but it's one of those little things that leaves the whole story feeling a lot warmer/more human. Then--more obviously--note that he suggests that HDL go to dinner with him. They refuse--if they accepted, the plot wouldn't work--but it makes it just a bit less insane when he's eating alone. It's still the weakest part of the story, probably, but it's much better.

You'll also notice that the writing is just a lot better, with the characters more, well, in character and natural. I think this is the single biggest reason that Barks stands out so dramatically among his peers. Compare this:

to this:

I mean okay, it's still a somewhat atypical depiction of Gladstone in any case--as befits the Christmas mood--but really, there's just no comparison. One of these writers knew who these people were; one did not. If that doesn't bother you...well, I can see why you like IDW's Fresh and Modern translations.

Another big improvement: a lot less sobbing from HDL--the above panels are the only ones where they do. Their childish grief is significantly toned down, making their general behavior much less unpleasant.

Instead of the dumb stuff about "spoiling" HDL, there's just this as a justification for taking back the presents--a much lighter touch that works much better.

And then there's the ending; again, similar to the original, but outclassing it in every way. Note first that there's nothing about HDL being super-depressed that Donald probably bought them horrible garbage gifts like t-shirts. I mean, yeah, no matter what, there's going to be an element of selfishness on their part, but here it's just handled so much better: sure they want stuff, they're kids, but they know it wasn't ideal behavior, and they even good-naturedly accept the quality of Donald's trick, and damn, man. This is actually a really good story. Not an all-time classic or anything, but still. Pretty darn good, and the gulf between the two really accentuates the difference. Makes me want to see a lot more of these old Western jobbies get the remake treatment. So in conclusion, natch: "Curious Kids" may not be bad as these things go, but you should definitely stick with "A Light Gift" if you're gonna read only one.



Blogger Achille Talon said...

You know, I didn't actually predict the truth behind the bottlecaps. My guess was that it was in fact three collector's coins, which they had confused for bottlecaps.

December 18, 2018 at 5:42 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

…Oh, and does anyone know whose idea it was to remake Curious Kids, exactly? I recall that you once wondered how a Daan Jippes remake of the worst Lockman/Wright stories might look like, but only as a strange thought experiment; yet this is discombobulatingly close to that.

December 18, 2018 at 5:52 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Kind of, though unlike those Jippes things, this isn't an exact panel-by-panel remake. It follow all the story beats, but there was a lot more latitude for revision.

December 18, 2018 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 18, 2018 at 10:43 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

"We where going to get HD&L the usual Meh gifts but since we realise their uncle is even worse, let's buy them presents that will actualy make them happy... Oh, look - Donald isn't the complete monster we asume! Good! We have few minites to get our precious money back and get the kids the CRAP we where planing to give them in th first place."

Is THAT the true meaning of Christmas?

December 18, 2018 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Lugija said...

Vicar draw a rewrite of at least one more of these: "Uncle Scrooge's Generous Deed" was redone as "Christmas Preparations in Duckburg",

It was reprinted just last week in the Finnish Donald Duck, I felt very familiar when I started to read it. The first five pages were gone, and the plan from the beginning was to give people free trees as a PR stunt. Donald was paid per hour as usual, but he was pretty much forced to work ( usual).

The result was, like this one, a very whelming story, with the main draw today being the nostalgic Vicar art. To fit the "more historical than story value" theme, an issue few weeks ago had the Magenta Stamp rewritten as a Mickey story, with Murry art ( ). Oh boy. Removing the Golden Man and the Gladstone parts and changing Donald to Murry-era Mickey made it super bland. There was even a villain who followed Mickey but was foiled by bad luck without ever even meeting Mickey.

How many of these rewrites happened at the time? I can see the point of rewriting a bad old story to be a better one if you think you really need pages, no matter from where, but the other way around...

December 19, 2018 at 11:26 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

On behalf of my gender, I feel I need to point out that the remake was written by a woman: Margaretha Wilson, who wrote about 15 stories (mostly short) and scripted a few others. Of course, I can't say how much of the improved scripting here is hers and how much is the work of the American dialoguer.

Great comparison here of the two versions. Here is one case where the remake really is considerably better than the original, in art and in script.

December 19, 2018 at 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Also: I am quite fond of a few of the Chip 'n' Dale short stories from Christmas Parades (whether so titled or not): The Topsy-Turvy Tree from Dell Giant 26 CP, the pinecone one from Dell CP 3, the Yule Log one from Dell Giant 53 Donald Duck Merry Christmas (reprinted in Gold Key CP 9), the one where they are well-meaning but annoying carolers from Dell CP 6.

December 19, 2018 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

«Instead of the dumb stuff about "spoiling" HDL»

I think that in the Portuguese translation of the remake, that line reappers (at least, I remember perfectly of that passage - "Se as crianças receberem esses presentes todos fucarão demasiado mimadas; isso arruinaria o nosso Natal" - and according to the Inducks only the remake exists in Portuguese)

December 20, 2018 at 7:11 AM  

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