Saturday, October 31, 2020

"Kid Stuff"

Yeah yeah, more Yellow Beak is coming. Times are stressful, as you know. Would you accept a quick hit for Halloween in the meantime? Well, it's what you're getting, anyway.

This is some old 1991 Van Horn, from when he was really making an effort. As a result, it's a pretty okay story! I mean, not mind-bending. Probably. Depending how easily your mind is bent. But DEFINITELY better than that last Van Horn story I covered for a holiday (or for any reason), which was "Out of the Blue." That was pretty bad; this is pretty good. How the wheel turns.

Of course, there are some things here that make you cock a skeptical eyebrow. Like, yes, overconfidence is a Donald thing, but as we'll see, in this instance it's not actually overconfidence, and why does he feel that he must be a great painter? Shouldn't he at least talk about having read a book or taken a correspondence class or something? Actually, that would be pretty funny: a correspondence course in house painting. Van Horn definitely missed a trick not just dropping that in here.

And hey, this dialogue is pretty funny. Donald makes a good point. What more can be said?

We never get word of just what's so "unusual" about this house. I mean, there's the haunted thing, yes, but he seems to be talking about something aside from that. Seems like a normal ol' house, really. But it IS at a spooky address! Well, I suppose given Donald's own address and also license plate number, he's probably not that spooked by it. But there it is.

OoooOooooOoooo! Of course, we might ask for some degree of specificity here; just saying that something is "supposed to be haunted" really doesn't tell you much of anything about anything. Still... DOES lead to this alarming panel! Crikey, Van Horn, those facial expressions...I feel like you definitely had the capacity to write horror of a sort that wouldn't have been considered appropriate for a Disney comic. I don't love these--clearly they're not meant to look as creepy as they do--but they're memorable, anyway.

But what I DO like about this story is the subtlety. Is that a weird thing to say about a Van Horn story? But the whole hauntedness aspect is generally understated, which makes it work better. Is the paint moving 'causa ghosts? Or just because the floor isn't level? There is plausible deniability, and in fact, I wish there was more of this ambiguity--instead, we mainly just get the kids making trouble.

I have decided that Donald's song is to the tune of "Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal." Or should that be EERIE CANAL OOOOOO!?! Given Van Horn's prehistoric pop culture sensibilities, it fits well.

I frankly think the ghost is a better prankster than HDL are--is just inflicting random bodily harm really going to convince anyone that there are ghosts?

I mean, fair's fair; "the floor is tilted" DOES seem like a more reasonable explanation than OMG IT'S HAAAAUUUNTED!!!11 And again, do ghosts shoot you in the back of the neck with beans? I really have extreme doubts.

Yep, here's some of the ol' Van Horn slapstick. I'm sort of lukewarm about it, but I sometimes think it would be more effective in an animated context. Van Horn is heavier on the zaniness than the character, so it seems like the animated Donald might be more his speed.

This is good. Creepy. I like those uneven stairs.

HDL are actually pretty inept here. Did they really think that Donald wouldn't recognize their voices? Does that seem probable? Did they actually put any thought into any of this stuff beforehand, or are they just ad-hocking it with indifferent results? 

I mean...of COURSE he knows Dewey's voice. This deception would work in some stories--it COULD be depicted as being competent, and I'm not even sure if Van Horn realized that it comes across otherwise--but it's reasonable for it not to also.

S-s-s-spoooky! Although how would the ghost know to refer back to that conversation where Rembrandt's name came up? Does it read minds? Hmmm...

Yeah, full marks to Van Horn here; this is pretty great.  He had chops, for sure.  Not actually showing a cartoony ghost was definitely the right choice, as was not dragging the climax out more than single page.

Happy Halloween!

You do wonder, though, why whatever forces are haunting the house apparently just leave off at this point, not bothering Donald any further. Is that a ghostly thing to do? Weird.

And you ALSO have to the heck did Donald do such a good job? The whole point of his excessive confidence is that the reality never lives up to it. But here, it does. Go figure. Not that I necessarily think it's a terrible idea to have him succeed sometimes, but he reeeeeally seemed to be tempting fate in that opening, and to have it never referred to again? I dunno.

It's not a Halloween story if it doesn't end with spooky laughter. Okay, that's obviously not true, but it's definitely an old reliable. Have a good holiday, everyone. More at...some point. Depending of course on happenings in the coming week.



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

That line about Rembrandt painting houses makes me think of the time I was working for work and I hat to go to this labor office (I'm sure there is a better name for it in English but this is my try to translate the Polish term) I told the woman I finish art school and she ask me what exact skills did they teach me.

Me - Well I had few years of painting classes...
Woman - Perfect! We have a perfect job for you...

And she directed me to being a "house painter".

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2020 at 9:36 PM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

There just aren't a lot of movies depicting haunted houses attacking repairmen, house painters, electricians, roofers, carpenters, plumbers; maybe ghosts like having there dwellings look nice, but don't like it when they're permanently occupied.

October 31, 2020 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Mmmh… there aren't that many stories about ghosts attacking repairmen, but ghosts rebelling when new owners try to modernize and "repair" their beautifully decrepit dwellings is a pretty common comedy-ghost trope at this point, I think.

November 1, 2020 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I believe Robert the Doll had some stories (urban legends) related to him about "terrorising" moving team when his house got a new owners but it was long since I read it

November 1, 2020 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Say what you will about this story – and, Geo, sometimes I think you just live to gripe (said with smiles) – but Van Horn did everything he could to “set the readers’ expectations and pre-formed notions on their collective ears”.

I said that back when this story was new, and your comments more-or-less say this now! I feel he succeeded. How say the rest o’ ye?

November 1, 2020 at 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Things I like about this story: I like the art, apart from that disturbing panel with the scheming nephews. The "spooks are real" panel is great. I also very much like the cover Van Horn did to accompany the story, WDC 673. I appreciate the fact that the kids who are attempting to spook Unca Donald *for no good reason* (they often have a legitimate reason to want revenge against him, but not here!) are the ones who are spooked, while Donald gets to paint in peace. It's a fine thing that the assumptions of those who have read a bunch of brittle mastery stories are upset.

What I don't like: yeah, the ghost referring to Rembrandt bothered me, too. Would have been fine if that earlier conversation had taken place in the haunted house. Mostly, though, I'm put off as I often am by Van Horn's over-the-top dialogue. "I'll have this rickety old joint looking like six million bucks before you can spell root-te-toot in Sanskrit." Do some readers find that funny? It just feels leaden to me, when Van Horn goes overboard that way. The whole sentence just crashes to the floor. No person would ever say such a thing, and it's not funny, besides. "I bet those little tin-pot scorpions will high-tail it outta here like sixty!" "Tin-pot scorpions"? Would anyone ever say that? It just stops me in my tracks, takes me out of the story. And when Donald says of the boys "Sour grapes!" I don't think he's using the expression correctly. Also, when one fleeing nephew says to the others, "Gettum up, scout!" what's that supposed to be? Hollywood-Injun for what? Seems like a cross between "giddy-up" and "get out."

I do appreciate the fact that Van Horn has a distinctive voice in his dialogue, and sometimes he hits the sweet spot for me, where the unusual wordplay still feels like something a person might actually say, but is also clever and funny. This is the case in the Van Horn story I re-read every Halloween, "It's in the Bag!" I can believe the adults handing out treats would call Donald a "big palooka" and "a middle-aged moocher," or say, "Go home and count your wrinkles, grampaw, and quit your blubbering!" The burglar is the one who uses the most excessive verbiage, and that works because it characterizes him: "Youse is a prodigy of pilferage!" "It's time to perambulate wit' alacrity!" The only line of his that didn't work for me is "I'm a regular Benjamin Einstein wit' garlands!" That one was too weird. On the other hand, the plutocrat's comment about "my wife's excessively cultured pearls" made me laugh. Clever, not just bizarre. Likewise, Donald's calling the burglar a "ham-fisted yegg." Both words are used according to their proper meaning, and cleverly combined.

All this to say that sometimes Van Horn's dialogue works well for me. But more often, I'm afraid, the odd words just throw me off without making me laugh.

November 1, 2020 at 7:54 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I do agree with you about his writing, and I think the things you mention are of a piece with the LOLRANDOM Bulgarian bus transfers, twelve-volume history of prunewhip-type stuff. It's definitely something he's always struggled with.

November 2, 2020 at 12:16 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Barks often had “odd and funny ways of saying everyday things”, and that’s what I think Van Horn tries to tap into.

There are times where I agree with you that it’s “weirdness for weirdness-sake”, rather than something that fits-in with the dialogue flow of the story. But certainly not all the time! For what it’s worth,I say tooting my own horn, I decidedly and deliberately tap into that too – and, honestly – more often than not, I think I do it more successfully. (…Despite occasional cautioning from editors!)

November 2, 2020 at 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Also, when one fleeing nephew says to the others, "Gettum up, scout!" what's that supposed to be? Hollywood-Injun for what? Seems like a cross between "giddy-up" and "get out."

I believe is a slurred way of saying "Get them up", as in "get your legs moving". Or in other words, "run!"

November 2, 2020 at 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

"Get them up"--well, that's *conceivable*, I guess...but has anyone ever actually said "Get them/'em up" meaning "get your legs moving"? Not that I'm aware of. Googling "get them up" with quotation marks does not yield any such results, and googling "get 'em up" with quotation marks gives you song lyrics, where at least sometimes it seems to refer to a burglar's instructions to "get your hands up."

November 2, 2020 at 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Also, it seems to me it's clearly meant to be Hollywood-Injun, because of the "scout." In Hollywood-Injun, the "um" on the end of a word is not a stand-in for "them," it's a nonsense suffix replaces the correct tense marking. E.g. from Disney's Peter Pan: Squaw get-um firewood. Wendy: Squaw no get-um firewood.

So "gettum up" would be "get up"--which is still strange. Why not "gettum out"?

November 2, 2020 at 3:03 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Maybe the best explanation is... "It's Van Horn", and leave it at that?

November 3, 2020 at 2:52 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

"Gettum up, Scout!" is Hollywood-Injun for "Giddap, Scout!"

Scout was the horse belonging to Tonto, the Native American co-star in The Lone Ranger. The line references the trademark command Tonto would give his horse when rushing through danger.

November 7, 2020 at 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Thanks, David! I see that if I had only googled the entire phrase, "Gettum up, Scout," I would have discovered this. I googled only "gettum up." FWIW, the first hit is someone who is arguing that that's *not* what Tonto was saying, but that he was actually saying "get 'em up, Scout." He adduces this whole backstory about Tonto having been a scout for the U.S. Cavalry yadda yadda for which he provides no sources. Anyway, it's clear now what the reference is, and also clear why none of us got it!

AND I see from my dictionary that "giddap" or "giddy-ap" or "giddy-up" is from "get up," which I didn't realize. So then the natural Hollywood Injun version of this would indeed be "get-um up." The only remaining mystery is why the command to the horse to get going is "get up" even though the horse has not been reclining.

November 8, 2020 at 4:59 PM  
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