Monday, December 16, 2019

"The Christmas that Almost Wasn't"

Okay okay, a day late, but now we're back on track. No need to panic. Before we start, for anyone who hasn't yet had the pleasure, let's just have this great image by Tony Fernández of Greta (Grebe-a?) Thunberg as a duck:

Given that she's Swedish, she probably has at least SOME familiarity with Disney comics, so I hope she sees it and appreciate the honor.

ANYWAY, now we finally reach a story that really goes for broke on being as Christmas-y as possible. I admire that; no distancing or irony of any kind to be seen; just pure sentiment. And it works, more or less! Certainly, this opening is as seasonal as we could ask for.

But OH NO, what has happened?!? I suppose it's fairly easy to predict where this is going, but that's pretty much okay.

The one thing I will say, and I don't know if this is necessarily what you'd call a "problem:" well...was this idea of Gyro's Helper being such an important friend ever more than subtext at most in Barks? Whereas here (and in Rosa, of course, in "Gyro's First Invention") it becomes more just plain text, and somehow, that always feels kinda leaden to me--excessively fanfic-y. I mean, hey, it's not a mortal sin or anything, you know, it's Christmastime, tidings of comfort and joy and all, but still, couldn't this perhaps have been presented in a slightly subtler way? I don't know. Maybe that's just my aesthetic sensibilities. As I said: it's fine!

So yeah, you have this random family, which again will likely recall other stories. Funny thing about this, though: there's no indication that this is actually one of those poor-but-virtuous families you'd see in a Barks Firestone giveaway comic; they may be virtuous, but the only reason they're not going to have a good Christmas seems to be that they put everything off until the absolute last minute.

I mean, they could be poor, but they're not drawn with any signifiers of poverty, and they have a car and a large-ish house with orange curtains covered with triangles, so, you know. This whole thing could be very different with different art.

As I say, it's fine, and Gyro inviting them 'round like this works well, but still, it might have more impact if the family seemed to be in reduced circumstances, rather than just having suffered a mild inconvenience. I probably shouldn't harp so much on this, but I don't actually have that much to say about this whole affair, so YOU WILL TAKE WHAT'S GIVEN YOU.

Yep yep yep. So it goes.

Sure, why not! Although I do wonder if anyone would really be happy to get a Christmas tree angel repurposed as a doll. I mean, those things are just not substantial in the way a good-quality doll would be.  Not something you could really hug in very satisfying way.  Well hell, it works okay in the context of the story; I just tend to think about things too much. Anyway, Helper makes a good tree topper; just the herald that the birth of Christ Our Lord calls for. Good on ya.

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Anonymous Elaine said...

I like this story quite a bit. I'll allow for more explicit sentimentality in a Christmas story. Also, I have the sense that Janet Gilbert often (not always!) writes stories aimed at children a bit younger than the Disney comics norm--say, 7 or 8. I have a theory that this is why she doesn't get much love on the fan forums. I know that as an 8-year-old, I would have LOVED this story, and "All Tricks and No Treats" and "Sorry, Wrong Number" and "To Bee or Not to Bee." If she is writing for the younger set of Disney comics readers in this case, it makes sense that she might feel she should make it clear to the reader why Gyro is so attached to his little robot-friend.

One of the things I really like in this story is that after Gyro says how great a friend Helper is to him in the panels you quoted, the next panel shows *everyone* crying, the guys as well as Grandma and Daisy. I think that response might have been gender-linked in many Disney comics. Even Scrooge is tearing up!

I also like how much Donald cares about Gyro and Helper, especially when he offers at the bottom of page 10 to go out looking with Gyro again. That's the Christmas spirit!

My favorite line of dialogue: when Molly opens her present and says, "Oboy! I hope it's a baby doll!...It IS! Sort of!" That "sort of" makes me laugh.

I'm willing to go with the tree-topper angel-as-replacement-doll, because sometimes such tree-toppers are actual dolls, with plastic legs and all.

I agree that it's a bit unclear whether Gilbert meant Molly's family to be poor. On the one hand, the father apparently had money to buy a turkey, fruitcake and doll...and as you say, Vicar gives the family a good-sized house. On the other hand, all they have on hand to eat is porridge, which seems unlikely for a middle-class family.

While I'm OK with Vicar's art in this story on the whole, I do think that the tree in the splash panel at the bottom of page 9 (the one where the Ducks are all depressed about Helper, but Daisy says "the tree's done!") looks very bare. It looks more fully decorated in the final splash panel.

The final splash panel, where they dance around the tree, depicts a standard Christmas scene in parts of Europe but not so much here in the USA. That is, I'm not sure people actually do dance around the Christmas tree nowadays, but the scene is still a Christmas trope in northern Europe. It always reminds me of the memory I heard from a man born nearly a hundred years ago, of his childhood in Sweden. He said that at some point on Christmas the grown-ups always insisted that the children must dance around the Christmas tree, because it was A Thing, a scene with nostalgic power for the adults. He himself always hated this, but he had to do it! Rather like a child who is forced to play her musical instrument for the guests.

December 16, 2019 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

To be fair (TO BE FAIR!) I accept some stuff in Duck Univnerse evolve after Barks, so the fact that Gyro/Helper relationship pretty much turn into buddy-buddy rom-com... I don't know, felt like natural way to go with the characters sooner or latter when you looking for new things to explore with them.

Yhe, this story would woork better if the family was poor, they seams to be just your avrage middle-class people. Then again I would never asumed Simpsons where ment to be low on cash (in early seasons) looking on the size of their house.

Do they let characters smoke pipes any more in Disney comics? Seams to close to smooking.

Not the biggest Greta fan (For the record : I'm all for stoping global warming, I just have some other issues with her being used as the mascot of the movement and I can agree with a person and still hind him/her annoying or not arousing my sympathy but... Eh, In the spirit of the holiday let's not get into that rabbit hole) but It is a nice art.

December 17, 2019 at 6:56 AM  
Anonymous Lupan Evezan said...

Where's the image of Thunberg-as-a-duck from? A blog of some sort?

January 15, 2020 at 10:53 AM  

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