Thursday, December 13, 2018

"Reindeer Roundup"

Not to be confused with this thing, from CP 4:

Not very helpful instructions, if you ask me. They doesn't make it even a tiny bit clear what "rounding up the deer" actually entails. Also, does this game have a victory condition of some sort? Not that I think there have to be winners and losers in every human endeavor, but somehow It all seems a little pointless. Well, fortunately, we don't have to think about it.

What we have to think about is THIS, from 1965's CP8. You know, you should be grateful. For a long time, I COULD NOT find this one anywhere on the internet, so you would've had to do without. But now I have! So SUFFER, HUMANS! Wait, did I say "grateful?" I have no idea what's going on here.

We open with the thing where, allegedly, kids start acting all good 'round-about Christmas-time out of a paranoid fear that Santa is going to punish them for their misdeeds and yet he's apparently super-easy to fool so you can just act extra-good for a few weeks in December and you're good to go. Well...I'm not really sure to what extent kids ever actually took this seriously, nor whether there were parents sociopathic enough to actually give their kids coal. I think I first learned about the concept from Calvin & Hobbes, where it was always a big thing. Of course, Barks himself had a pretty great take on the concept that treated the whole thing with the level of gravity it deserved. Anyone want to place any bets on whether this one is going to do a comparably good job?

Yes, that old saying. Note that in the Barks story, Donald dealt with things in a mature way. This Donald, on the other hand, is more than happy to use his children as slave labor. Whee.

Okay, if nothing else, this image of Donald being injured is kind of a highlight. That's pretty funny-looking.


Er. Yes. I like that hedging the newscaster is doing: "probably one of the most..." The whole thing is pretty batshit, anyway. This is a concept that was never not going to be goofy as hell, but again, it's all in the execution. Some people could undoubtedly craft a quality narrative around it. Dunno about this guy, however (inducks is silent on the identity of our author here, but it's probably just Lockman again).

There's just something about...I mean, even when Santa clearly exists in the world of a story, there's usually something sort of mysterious and unclear about him. Having this dreadful crime be the story of a news report is just...hmm.

So, you know, back to this quid pro quo stuff: it's always going to be a dubious lesson for kids, but even if you're not undermining it the way Barks did, it can still be sort of okay in the right circumstances, with the right touch. But--and this is so characteristic of these things--the author cannot get this right. He just pounds so hard at it, reeeeally driving home the brutally mercenary nature of the whole thing, that it's just kind of unpleasant. Dammit, we must demand more from our hack writers.

Well, anyway, the story just drops that plot thread anyway, for which we can all be grateful. Here's Scrooge with his IGMFY attitude! Delightful!

The Beagles want him to pay this ransom to free Santa. It's pretty dumb; still, I have to admit, I like the image of the Beagle in the sleigh using a phone booth. One very odd thing that you'll notice about this story is that Santa himself never appears. Seems like an odd omission, but hey, when you have a writer who's more or less just concerned with getting paid, these things happen.

So there's a part of me that wants to say "yeah! Scrooge should pay! From each according to his ability! This matches up with my ideology!" And yet, somehow, in a case like this, there's an even bigger part of me that wants to agree with the nephew, not for any ideological reason; just because no! This whole plot is dumb as hell! If I'm not buying into it, why should Scrooge?

There's a recurring thing in this story where the Beagles can't remember the names of the reindeer, which just strikes me as yet another dumb thing to throw on the pile. As if they're going to obey the Beagles orders in those circumstances...

It becomes grimly obvious where this is going. The similarity of this to "Dinner at Grandma's" does indeed seriously suggest more Lockmania.

As does "jingle bell indicator" which, fair play, is pretty funny.

Anyway, they get captured and blah.

So I feel like by the fifties, the whole trope of newsies bellowing headlines was a thing of the past. Do the writers of things like this remember it from their own childhoods? Very difficult to say. More than likely a lot of them are just getting it second-hand. Regardless, it always strikes me as a generally lazy, hackish way to get exposition out there.

Well okay, yes, that message from the little kid is reasonably effectively childlike. It's just this whole thing of crowds baying for Scrooge's blood and then cheering him...I feel like I should stop using the word "dumb" all the time. But it sure ain't easy.

Um. Yes. Right. Okay okay, so the story does avoid actually stating right out that the blowtorch was meant as a toy for some tow-headed moppet, but that's still the extremely strong impression that comes across. We're really supposed to believe that Santa stores sled-maintenance tools in his sack of toys? It's just another of those innumerable situations when the most convenient thing possible happens just 'cause it's convenient. Blah.

Beagles captured. Look. Gape in awe.

I guess fairness compels me to admit that the writer actually did something a little clever here, in that he has HDL know the reindeers' names where the Beagles didn't, and he keeps things subtle by not actually drawing attention to the fact, as you'd expect. Well...I say that, but did he actually intend it, or did he just stumble into it? Really, really difficult to say with things like this. Still, blah blah death of the author, I'll give the story credit for it anyway. And not much else.

So...did Scrooge's print shop make fake money that was one hundred percent obviously recognizable as not real money (in which case, why would he think the Beagles wouldn't notice?; sure, they didn't, but that's just down to bad writing), or did he just commit a massive federal crime? Well...let's not spend any more time thinking about this than the author did. Oops, too late.

Yeah, all right, nice images, but I really have had just about enough of Scrooge's smugness.

Yeah, okay, it's silly, but it makes me laugh. And you've really gotta take what you can get. This story could've been so much better than it is, but, well, it isn't. Tune in next time for more festive disappointment!



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

The image of Bealgels calling from Santas sleigh is very amusing to me ^_^

December 13, 2018 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

and yet he's apparently super-easy to fool so you can just act extra-good for a few weeks in December and you're good to go

In yet another effort by this professional Devil's Advocate here to make sense of what most likely never make sense in the writer's mind… maybe it's less of a "trying to fool Santa" thing, and more of a "rushing to do as many good deeds as possible so that no matter when they were peformed, when all is said and done, they've done more good deeds than bad this year" thing.

December 13, 2018 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

"yeah! Scrooge should pay! From each according to his ability! This matches up with my ideology!"

Even disregarding the absurdity of Scrooge being the only person in the world with a billion dollar on hand, it seems to me like it would be equally valid — and it would be more poetic at that — for every person in the world (children included) to give anything from a dime to five dollars as a charity.

This is, after all, a world where the children like HDL are already doing much more than one dollar's worth of work in trade-off for their presents; I don't think many of them would fail to chip in, or even mind. And it's not like the presents they'd get in return wouldn't be, on average, more expensive than whatever they paid. So since (however irrational that reaction may be on his part) Scrooge's distress over losing a billion is much greater than the distress of any of the billion people who'd need to each give a dollar, and that unlike them Scrooge isn't otherwise involved in the entire Santa business, preference utilitarianism points towards the charity solution as superior to the "coerce Scrooge" solution.

Of course, this is a flaw that would be fixed if instead of asking for a billion dollar in general, the Beagles held true to their usual Scrooge-obsession and specifically demanded a billion off Scrooge's fortune. Possiblyvic Probablylockman was not clever enough to think of that, however.

Regardless, I feel like the story fails to mention another sensible reason Scrooge has of not paying: society shouldn't bargain with criminals on their terms. If you start giving a billion dollars to the Beagles because you really want to have a sleighed Christmas, next year they'll be kidnapping the Easter Bunny or holding the Tooth Fairy for ransom and they'll never stop until someone makes a bold move and refuses to pay, whatever the consequences. (There are possible counterarguments to this; but it feels like the most coherent position to take if you want to argue that Scrooge shouldn't pay, and the story's failure to address it is, I think, another major flaw.

So...did Scrooge's print shop make fake money that was one hundred percent obviously recognizable as not real money (in which case, why would he think the Beagles wouldn't notice?)

…because the Beagle Boys are idiots? But whether or not you find the Beagles' stupidity in this matter too hard to swallow (I don't, really — it's a given that non-Barks, non-Grandpa Beagles hardly have two neurons between the lot of them), I do think that's what going on here, considering how attention is drawn to play money, and that even if Scrooge were willing to do such a thing (and from the same source as the Money Tree story, he might) printing actual forgeries would presumably take more than "a few minutes" at "Scrooge's print shop".

Also, that ending seems to be cribbed from Barks, switching Donald's front step for his car, so even though I to found it funny, I'm not quite sure Perhapsvic Maybelockman is deserving of much praise for it.

December 13, 2018 at 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Wait...does Scrooge figure out earlier in the story, before he refers to it in the "play money" panel, that the dollar sent by the child was actually play money? I'm disappointed that it turns out to be play money. That cancels out the honest sentiment of the child sending Scrooge a month's allowance.

On the author's side: it seems obvious to me that he must have intended the contrast between HDL and the Beagles re: knowing the reindeer names. I agree that he should get credit for not pointing out the contrast explicitly. I also think this keeps the running joke about the Beagles' ignorance from being just another dumb thing.

December 13, 2018 at 7:04 PM  

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