Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"Santa's Unexpected Visit"

And now, another eight-pager, also from CP7. You more than likely know this one, at least if you're American, as it's been reprinted TWICE in modern times: first by Gladstone in 1988 in their first Christmas Parade, and then by Disney in 1990 in their first Holiday Parade (WAR ON CHRISTMAS ARGLEBARLE). It's not too bad for what it is, but printing it twice in three years still feels like significant overkill. Disney was kinda bumbling around for a while during their tenure as publisher. They probably weren't even aware the story had just been reprinted.

For this story to work, you DO need to accept this somewhat, uh, unusual characterization of Scrooge. It DOES infantilize him to a significant degree, which you may find endearing or you may find obnoxious, BUT, given the tendency of a lot of non-Barkses to portray him as a total monster, I can deal with this. I certainly wouldn't want this to be the prevailing consensus opinion on what the character is like, but I find it generally pleasant here.

You see this and you wonder, wait a second, what, "I only have to list one good deed?" what is this nonsense what's going on here. Yes, that is explained later on, but still...I dunno.

So yeah, of course, the bulk of the story consists of him obliviously helping out various people and animals while he strains to remember something good he's done. It's all sweet and funny enough, but I must say, thinking about it for more than one second makes you realize: dude, you seriously can't remember one decent thing you did over the course of the year? This seems to suggest, not just blinkus of the thinkus, but some sort of serious mental illness. Like, your self-image is of an actual psychopath? Jeez.

Still, as I said: it's nice and fun and festive. I like that dude benevolently smiling up at him.

Not sure whether "at heart" is the right term.  Or...well, maybe it is, sort of: I do think the idea is interesting: that at a conscious level, he only thinks about money; but instinctively, he does good things.  He's a boy "at heart," but he doesn't even realize what that entails; he thinks it's just about writing to Santa, but it's actually about doing more than just obsessing about money all the time.  It's actually pretty nuanced (I mean, more in theory than in practice obviously, but still), and it would certainly be a workable framework for writing the character. I think I've already talked about this elsewhere, but given the shit he's constantly putting his relatives through, there have to be off-panel moments of kindness for them to be willing to tolerate him, and this is how that could work.

I think my favorite part is him saving the cow.

...I mean, dammit, you know this stuff is going to become explicit at some point anyway, but did we really need this doctor to spell it out for us prematurely? Also, doesn't it seem like just giving away money like this would be the sort of good deed that he wouldn't do, as it contradicts his conscious concern with money? Well, maybe he's only concerned with money when he has time to consciously process it, at least in this story's conception.

...and I don't know what to make of this shit. Throughout the story, we see Scrooge doing nice things, but the one that he takes credit for isn't; it's just random flailing around that happened to have a positive result? Are we meant to agree that this is a good deed, or is it meant to be an ironic thing? It could be, but it's never brought up or referred to in the end, and really seems as though it's only here to give him some excuse to write a letter, so I don't know. I suspect the writer did not spend a lot of time thinking about it.

CAN HE DO IT?  Ladies and gentlemen, you paid for a whole seat, but you'll only need the edge!


So this explains the "I have to do just ONE good deed!" thing.  The idea of Santa as an old friend of Scrooge's through the years does seem to have potential. Naturally, this doesn't do much with it, but wouldn't it be nice?

Though, I mean, in that case, shouldn't they have a better understanding than they seem to? And how come it's apparently just this year that people have been sending all these letters on Scrooge's behalf? This doesn't quite add up.

Also, I'm incredibly curious as to what that gift is supposed to be, even if it's not really the point.  We never find out, sad to say.  It's I really going to go down this, ahem, rabbit hole? well, why not?  I can be as self-indulgent as I want--at the end of the story of El-ahrairah and the Black Rabbit of Inle where Frith comes down and gives El-ahrairah new whiskers and ears and stuff, and then he's like, oh, hey, Rabscuttle, I have something for you too but then the story's interrupted and you never learn and WHAT WAS FRITH'S GIFT TO RABSCUTTLE?!?

Anyway.  That was probably baffling to a lot of people, but I have no regrets!

Still an' all, I like it more than not. It's obviously one of the better things I've written about this year. Like "Curious Kids" (and also, I feel compelled to note, like "Uncle Scrooge's Generous Gift," as Lugija pointed out in comments--thanks!) this one was remade in the seventies by Vicar & co (as "Letter to Santa"--hey, don't go nosing in on Barks' territory!), but unlike "A Light Gift," it's never been published in the US, and I haven't read it. It's too bad, because I'm actually extremely curious: if you know it, tell me how it is. My uninformed feeling is that it has to be less of an improvement than "A Light Gift," because it's already kind of better than "Curious Kids" and the premise is just so irreducibly goofy that there's not much you could do about it or want to do, apart from address the sort of minor nitpicks I've raised--or perhaps to make the psychology slightly more explicit and conscious. But I'd love to know for sure!



Blogger Achille Talon said...

Okay, did an editor have fond childhood memories of the Christmas Parades, want to reprint the stories, realize they weren't any good by most standards, and so scramble to get Vicar to redraw them as the next best thing? What is with these remakes?

Nice little story, anyway. Could have been a great animated short, I think.

Hm… Running the numbers, if Scrooge has been writing to Santa for 70 years, that would suggest he started in 1885, at the age of 18. A little weird, but in another way, the idea that he only started in America squares nicely with the historical trivia (repeated in some Egmont story or other) that celebrating Christmas was actually banned in the Scotland of Scrooge's youth — not to mention the fact that, of course, Santa Claus was hardly part of Scottish folklore in the 1870's, but I can think of several Disney stories which show Santa Claus as already active in the middle-ages, so might not want to put too much weight on that.

Kind of funny that you'd bring up this story where Scrooge and Santa are friends after the latest DuckTales 2017 episode reinstated that 2017 Continuum Scrooge and 2017 Continuum Santa hate each other. Cute though it may be, anyway, the notion of this long-lasting Scrooge/Kris Kringle friendship kind of conflicts with every other story ever where the two interacted.

Also somewhat weird/amusing is the fact that Santa here appears modelled on the version from the “Silly Symphony” Santa's Workshop; note the red nose. I wonder why.

December 19, 2018 at 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

This one's all right, though a couple of changes would have improved it. I agree that it's quite unbelievable that Scrooge would give away money without noticing it; the writer should have had him doing something else nice for the doctor. Also, the thing about other people writing to Santa (this year!) about Scrooge's good deeds doesn't make sense. That should have been handled some other way. Like: Santa just knows, after 70 years of this, that Scrooge always does some good deeds instinctively but generally isn't aware of it. I really like Santa's "Of course not! You're always thinking of--er, other things!" That shows he knows Scrooge's personality well and doesn't really need the documentation anymore.

December 19, 2018 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

Rabscuttle. One of the staunchest sidekicks in English lit. It's high time I get reacquainted with the likes of him and Rowsby Woof! I'd also love to know what his Frith-gift would have been -- just like I wanna know what "deal" George was about to offer Mary so that she could get her robe back.

December 20, 2018 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Screw the snowy weather behind my window! The hail sthorm of reviews on this blog that's the real deal!

December 20, 2018 at 3:04 PM  
Blogger scarecrow33 said...

This story does feel a bit off-beat for Scrooge McDuck, but I generally don't have much of a problem with Strobl-drawn stories, generally because he's so good at getting the characters on-model and looking their best--not hastily drawn as some do, or with slight variations in appearance as others do. There's always an "authentic" look to a Strobl-drawn story which makes any idiosyncrasies easier to take.

Regarding the issue of the letters--Santa only mentions that people have been writing all year about Scrooge's good deeds. He doesn't mention about previous years, but to me I always understood it to imply that this happens every year--that people are always writing about Scrooge's kindnesses. But Santa only mentions it THIS year because Scrooge didn't write the letter, so now he has the others to fall back on. In other words, Santa could have said this to Scrooge ANY year that he forgot to write. Now that he's actually NOT written, Santa can reveal that it's not really necessary because the good deeds are getting recorded. But to me this story says it would be true any year.

In any case, this one is a minor gem for me, due to the excellent artwork and the nice way the Christmas theme of kindness and giving (and getting--this is Scrooge, after all) is developed.

December 20, 2018 at 9:34 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home