Sunday, December 1, 2019

"Out of the Blue"

And now, the start of what I like to call A VERY UNCLE SCROOGE #348 CHRISTMAS. This issue is unusual in that it's a Christmas issue of Uncle Scrooge from Gemstone with no Barks content at all. Were they looking forward to a time when they'd HAVE to do Barksless Christmases? Alas, such a time would never have the chance to arrive. But what would it have been like it if had? Let's take a peek, shall we? Also, there will be at least one other story, and possibly more, depending on how I feel. Obviously, I am not super-concerned with conceptual purity.

As seems logical, we will start with the story that has nothing whatsoever to do with holidays or winter or anything. Well, "out of the blue?" "Blue Christmas?" That's a thing, right? Let's say it is. Sure. 'Tis the season for pushing tenuous ideas well past their breaking point. I like Van Horn reasonably well, but I've never written much about him here; it's never felt like there's that much to say. He has his strengths, and he has his tics that annoy me, but none of them have generally seemed vitally important for me to talk about. I'm disappointed that he gave up on his occasional efforts to write longer adventure stories. I'm sure I've said that before.

Okay, let's be honest: this really doesn't rank among my favorite Van Horn efforts, so let me try to be positive where possible: Donald's opening line, while nothing all that mind-blowing, is pretty okay. I also really like the green eyeshade: a totally anachronistic thing that has no meaning in the modern age but is nonetheless still associated with people doing accounting and finance work. That's fun.

Debts, if you're wondering. Debts are the thing that Donald got all of.

But wait! A hoary "inheritance" plot twist! I don't much care for the owl judge (lawyer?)'s toothless sarcasm there, I have to tell you.

Oh gawd, I try to be positive, and then I come to what I find possibly the most irritating thing in Van Horn stories (I mean, beyond the meta-irritation of the lack of ambition): the LOL RANDOM book titles and the like, usually having to do with some sort of food, like tapioca, anchovies, or "prunewhip" that Van Horn apparently finds funny. Gawd. I suppose this is a slightly mutated version of Barks' occasional book titles, but those were much less strenuously "wacky" than these. Bah.

And let's not forget "Bulgarian bus transfers." Always with the Bulgarian bus transfers. On the one hand, I AM amused by Donald's sarcasm there--the body language is good--but on the other, I dunno. Wouldn't he be excited to get an unexpected hundred bucks? Granted, that's less than it would have seemed in the fifties, but it's still not something you'd say no to. It's also confusing because you have all these Barks reprints in which lower sums of money are meant to be impressive, and even if Gladstone versions (not so much Gemstone) occasionally updated references to specific years and things, they didn't change money amounts, so you're sort of programmed to think, yeah, a hundred bucks! Not bad! Only here, Donald turns up his nose at it, apparently. You know where it's going with this "interest" business, however. Pretty sure this only applies to banks and things. If you informally lend someone money and they give you an IOU, I don't think they're legally bound to pay you any sort of interest. Whatever; it's just the sort of thing that happens.

Yeah, so the rest of this is going to consist of Scrooge fleeing to try to avoid having to pay, and yes, to an extent you just have to accept cartoon logic, but there are different levels, and I don't see how ANYONE could read this without wondering, what exactly is the endgame here? Is the idea that you're going to keep evading your relatives, like, forever? Are you going to relocate overseas to avoid paying this debt? And if it's legally binding--which you clearly accept it as, otherwise you wouldn't be running--aren't you just being a criminal? You have a flippin' business empire; you obviously have any number of payments you have to make every day. How is this the last straw? Bah. Not a fan.

Well, anyway, get ready for some extremely mild hijinx, as we oft see from Van Horn.

Yeah. And if YOU used half as much energy working on your businesses as you do to avoid spending what's gotta amount to .000000000000001% of your daily expenses, who KNOWS where you'd be? I mean, argh, I know harping on this is pointless and even if it's unavoidable, there's nothing to be gained by it, but I can't help it. It's all in the execution, really. This probably COULD have been done more effectively, such that you'd be more willing to overlook the problems. For instance, you could make it clear that Scrooge has some reason to be feeling especially financially fragile lately, and that the IOU, you know, expires THIS VERY NIGHT or something. But no. We get nothing like that.

Yeah, but you don't actually legally OWE "the gimme crowd" money, you lunatic! Oh what's the point?

I cannot begin to sufficiently emphasize how totally correct HDL are here. Come ON.

See, I don't like this either, because it's just so obviously Van Horn coming to the end of the story and making up some random crap to finish it, rather than anything organic or natural. No yeah actually Donald owed Scrooge almost exactly the same amount of money so we're done here. Also, can I say how much I don't like that "sly" heavy-lidded look he gives characters in situations like this? 'Cause I don't.

...and then this equally arbitrary ending. I mean, I guess I like the fact that he sees fit to give Donald a happy ending, but it's just as arbitrary as what came before. We Can Do Better.

Also, COME ON, MAN: It's "Two Out of Three AIN'T Bad." You know it, I know it, all the boys and girls in all the world know it. I know you pride yourself on hating popular culture, but you're just making yourself look silly here. REALLY.

Well! THIS was certainly a dyspeptic way to start the holiday season! Well, I suppose I can drop a little spoiler by way of assuring you that future entries in A VERY UNCLE SCROOGE #348 CHRISTMAS will be significantly more positive.



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

A Christmas review so early as in December 1 (or December 2 my time)?

This is some holiday madness that gone to your head Geox!

December 1, 2019 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

"I made it square!" went not just out the window but up the fire escape for this one, I see. (And would Scrooge really let $2900 he had coming slip his mind?)

December 1, 2019 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

Looking through my files, I discovered that I actually have this issue, so I can read along with your analysis of these stories! That’s always a plus.

December 2, 2019 at 1:25 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

This story isn't one of WVH's best. Too much indeed comes out of the blue--esp. Donald's roof debt (I agree with Steph, there's no way Scrooge would have forgotten that for an instant) and the sardine-can-powered happy ending. On WVH's wordplay: sometimes it fits in very smoothly *and* is unexpectedly clever at the same time: e.g., "my wife's excessively cultured pearls" in "It's in the Bag!" But often I find it just odd, and not in a delightful way. It just sticks out like a sore thumb. "They're as rare as lace on combat boots." No one, I think, least of all Donald, would ever say that. The dialogue often pulls me out of the story, rather than simply adding a layer of humor and sophistication to it. "Strenuously wacky" is a good term for it--humor that makes the reader much too aware of what the writer is trying to do. This is one of my main problems with WVH's writing. That said, sometimes even a book title/author including tapioca can work for me: "Your Stagnant Existence" by Prof. Doldrum J. Tapioca, in "Ghost on Kamikaze Moutain," was just right. It was funny, and it FIT with the meaning of the book and its role within the story. But I cannot imagine one of the nephews getting as excited as he appears to be here over the illustrated history of prunewhip.

December 2, 2019 at 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

...or rather, "Ghost of Kamikaze Ridge." I've been thinking too much about Bear Mountain and other Christmas stories, lately!

December 2, 2019 at 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just can't get over how much I hate this coloring style, with the flat, pointless gradients everywhere.

December 5, 2019 at 3:46 PM  

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