Monday, February 17, 2020

"Scavenger Hunt"

If you were going to get an old Western issue of Donald Duck, and you couldn't get one of infrequent ones that included Barks stories, I don't think you could do much better than 33-36, which contain mainly Dick Moores-drawn stories that are really truly not half bad, taken for what they are. Both "Dirty Work at the Crossroads" and "Show Biz" come from this period. And I know I just said "mainly Dick Moores-drawn," but this is Phil DeLara again. I hope you're enjoying or at least basically tolerating these old Western things. I guess it's just a nostalgia kick for me. Sometimes the world gets to be a bit much, you know? You just want to retreat into a more innocent, if dumber, past.

I realize that "Scavenger Hunt" is the most painfully uncreative title you can think of--you may be able to guess what the story is about!--but that's just how it goes. The foreign titles aren't much better, though a few of them are at least weird: inducks lists a Chilean publication called "Donald Duck and the Unexpected Passenger," which DOES relate to the story, kind of, but in a weirdly tangential, beside the point way; if you were describing the story to someone, that would NOT be one of your points of reference. And then we have a Spanish publication called "Cruel Punishment," which, seriously, you've got me. That one's totally inexplicable, unless "Cruel Castigo" has some very specific idiomatic meaning that Google Translate is unaware of. Sure, some of these stories COULD get a bit sadistic in places, but not this one.

So many questions: does Donald really not know what a scavenger hunt is? Is a "scavenger hunt contest" supposed to be somehow different than a plain ol' scavenger hunt? And in what sense is this one "sorta special?" You seem to be describing an extremely normal scavenger hunt.

FIFTY DOLLARS! Now admittedly, that's not chump change; adjusted for inflation, it's almost five hundred. Still, it feels oddly small; I feel to feel substantial, a prize total has to be at least triple digits.

In any event, no prizes for guessing what Donald's gonna do next.

"You couldn't afford a trip to the meat market" is a REALLY strange turn of phrase. I want to think it's an acutal idiomatic expression I'd never heard, but alas, it gets zero google hits. Though by the time you're reading this, that won't be the case. I guess such weirdness is good!  I'd prefer not to contemplate that expression on Gladstone's face in the top right.

But the REAL question is: what the heck kind of trip is he planning on taking for fifty dollars? Sure, that was more in 1954 than it is now but if this is any indication, still not enough to actually fly anywhere:

I guess he could drive to a nearby modestly-priced resort and spend a few days there, but that seems awfully chintzy, and I don't think it's what's being implied. I really don't know what the writer was thinking, unless they were just severely underestimating the cost of air travel.

This part makes me laugh, because where are they all dashing off to like that? Do they for some reason imagine that all the things they need to find are HERE! In this direction! Gotta get there as quickly as possible, even if we lose our blue top hats! It seems like the writer had the idea that this was a race, and then took that concept literally in a completely nonsensical way. The obvious thing to do is to look at your list of items and think of where you're likely to find them, not to all blast off like a buncha jet-powered lemmings.

See, LOOK at this: apparently, Donald just, like, charged blindly out into the countryside before even bothering to look at his list. Fortunately, his old friend Farmer John can help! Ah yes, Farmer John! That popular recurring character we all know and love. You can really tell that a writer is just frantically improvising when they stick these generic helpful NPCs into their stories. And yet, I have the vague feeling that if they needed to include a farmer in a small role, there might have been someone else they could use? An actual recurring character that maybe even has some relationship to Donald and would make more sense than just a random dude? Oh well. I guess we'll never know.

ANOTHER thing that makes me laugh: so Donald needs these specific things, and Farmer John doesn't have any of them, but he does have other things that are sort of like them. And yeah, Donald later realizes that he can cheat, but before that, he apparently has no idea what to actually do with these items that he so enthusiastically accepted. How did he possibly think having things that were kind of like the things he needed would help him? I swear: I know it's just because of authorial laziness, but the characters in this story are all just behaving in incredibly bizarre and--I think it's fair to say--stupid ways, if you think about it for more than a second.

Sailor Bill, another beloved recurring character! You know him: he's a swell guy! How could you forget? Seriously, man, ONE of these stock characters is bad enough; two just seems excessive.

See? You know his name is Sailor Bill because Place of business? is labeled "Sailor Bill's Place." Though given that this "building" actually just looks like a flat facade, I'm a little suspicious of this whole thing.

How come they need four things whereas Donald only needs three? Seems unfair. Also, everyone else is seemingly working alone, so how come they're allowed to be a team? Just because they're always together and splitting them up would be inconceivable? All things considered, it's probably not useful to fixate on these tiny issues.

Yeah, so this would be the "unexpected passenger" bit, if you'll cast your mind back to the beginning of this entry. Well, it is what it is, and it's a good thing it's not real life, or they would've broken that poor goat's back by dropping on him like that. I mean, probably. What do you think they weigh? I know stories are not consistent on whether they're meant to have human-ish weights or be more like actual waterfowl. But at a minimum, you've gotta think, like, ten pounds each, yeah? That'd be enough to flatten a goat.

Maybe this isn't worth thinking about--okay, obviously nothing here is worth thinking about, but you know--but I can't help wondering about the mechanics of Donald and Gladstone hitting the finish line. We see them running towards it from opposite directions, but, like, what are the exact mechanics of there being a "tie?" They simultaneously break the tape from opposite directions? Well, we'll never know, because good ol' DeLara opted not to show us this pivotal moment, probably having realized that he wasn't able to picture it in his head any better than I was. Whee.

Boy, who could've seen that coming? Also, is the fifty dollars all in the form of small change? I don't see how else it could fill up that bag like that. It's really quite a childish idea of what "money" looks like. Surely the author knew better; did they do it like this to appeal specifically to childish sensibilities? Or was it just lazy received wisdom about what money should be? The world may never know, although it has a pretty good guess.

Well yes anyway, Gladstone doesn't win either onaccounta he "borrowed" the monkey from an Italian organ-grinder stereotype, so here's the ending: this completely out-of-nowhere trip to the amusement park (do you think being forced to ride a rollercoaster is the "cruel punishment" in question?). I mean, okay, amusement parks are fun, granted, but shouldn't the ending bear at least some connection with the rest of the story? I mean, even if HDL had just expressed a desire earlier in the story to go to the swell new amusement park that's opening, that at least would be something. But no! Just this and a limp gag about backseat drivers!

Do you think DeLara ever imagined that someone would one day write a fifteen-hundred-word article on this dumb little story he drew (and possibly wrote; who knows)? I wonder if he'd be honored or just bemused. Probably the latter. Here's the weird thing: Barks stories are sometimes sort of too smart if what you're looking for is escape. Sure, they were written for kids, but they have sophisticated plots with nuanced characters and rich subtexts, so if you read them as an adult, you can't help but engage with them on a deeper level than you did as a child. Not so here: with these non-Barks things, there's no other way to read them; they are purely childish pursuits, and you're forced to sort of engage with them as such. I mean okay obviously I mock them in a decidedly not-childish way (OKAY OKAY it IS childish in a sense, but not as-a-child, if you see the distinction), but I still read them differently than Barks, and, secretly, I actually sort of enjoy them.  Well, some of them.  Some are just utterly meritless even by the most lenient standards.  You decide which category this one falls into.  But anyway, this nonsense is what you get, as opposed to a different kind of nonsense. Please enjoy, because, god help me, there's more coming.



Blogger Sidious said...

I'll make it my headcanon that" Farmer John" is the brother of "Farmer Frank," the one who once invited Daisy to a dance in one of those lame text-only stories. Try and stop me! :p

February 17, 2020 at 5:32 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I certainly won't. What text story?

February 17, 2020 at 7:48 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

This one.

February 17, 2020 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Ah, yes! I remember the days when the spin-off "Disney's Farmer John" Comics sold better then "Super Goof" and "Uncle Scrooge" titles put together, before "Swell Sailor Bill Adventure Parade" series over-shadow it. I belive good old Farmer John was the first character from the comics that didn't appear in animation yet who had a greetable mascot at Disneyland (ofcourse now that a new rad version was introduced in current Duck Tales show it's not that big deal of a shocker)

It's a bit odd it took You this long to get to such iconic character.

February 17, 2020 at 1:12 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Alternate title: Five Jet-Powered Lemmings, Three Stock Characters, and One Well-Nigh Flattened Goat

I do think it's a seriously bad idea to have one of the objects of a scavenger hunt be a skunk. That cannot end well. The hunt's judge AND EVERYONE ON THIS SIDE OF TOWN should be grateful to Donald for painting a cat.

February 17, 2020 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

I wounder if the authors of the videogame "The Day of the Tentacle" read this story (one of the puzzles in the game are about "cat", "skunk" and "white ink"); and the scene of Donald picking items that don't seem to be useful at the moment but it will have utility after seems typical adventure videogame (30 years before videogames exist).

February 24, 2020 at 6:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cat + white paint/ink = skunk is one of those ancient gags that's been around since forever in dozens of way more famous pieces of media than this story, including pretty much every single Pepe le Pew cartoon.

February 27, 2020 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger TTL TTLR said...

Man, this new "CORONA virus" or whatever it's called has made me wondering whether or not is GeoX alive and/or well. I must need an answer, as he has not been posting here since mid-February, and now it's March.

March 11, 2020 at 6:15 AM  
Anonymous george greg said...

Fear not, he's alive. He's still posting on Inchoatia, after all.

March 11, 2020 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

And is active on Facebook :)

Don't let the media spreed paranoia get to You ;)

March 11, 2020 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Not dead, or otherwise corona'd, yet. :p I'll try to have a new entry in the near future, but don't quote me on that.

March 11, 2020 at 11:18 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

You still do owe me a Sarah Jolley review… and other people, other anniversary reviews! But take your time. Your reviews of operas are just as fascinating, and certainly a rarer thing on the Internet.

March 12, 2020 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

To be fair, the last time you where quite for very long I asumed the Beagle Boys kidnapt you and are holding you ransom for 28 (!) boxes of prunes. It happens.

March 12, 2020 at 8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I suggest this somewhat topical classic, "Uncle Scrooge and the Mushroom Shelter"? (That's mushroom as in "mushroom cloud", and it's the kind of story I don't think would ever be approved today. And yes, it's Italian, of course)

March 13, 2020 at 2:07 AM  

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