Monday, December 21, 2020

"Christmas Album"

 So finally we get to the marquee story in this book.  It's still only eight pages, nothing huge, but it's obvious that more effort was put into it than anything else here.  Does that work out?  Well, reading it is what inspired me to write about this issue, before I'd even looked at any of the others, but beyond that...we shall see.  Western often did this in their  themed books: clearly, "Christmas Album" is the name of the issue, not the story itself, which is essentially unnamed.  It's kind of annoying: sure, I could make up a name for it, but the point of there being a title is so that if people google it they may find this blog, and that's obviously not happening if it's some all-new title.  IT IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN THE WORLD AT THIS TIME.

Here's my question: are the ducks meant to be looking at these pictures as part of a seasonal celebration?  There's no framing to the story beyond these intros, so you can't really tell.  The AMJ and Gyro stories DO mention Christmas in the opening panels, but the other ones don't, and if they ARE supposed to be celebrating, you'd think they'd have tried to get photos that actually have something to do with the holiday.  I mean, really, how Christmasy is a contextless picture of Donald angrily stomping around?

"An outraged duck on the move" is a weird but funny way to characterize him.

Early, mutant Miss Quackfaster?  I must say, I find it ineffably weird the way she addresses the ducks as "fellas."  What is it, Tub?  Are those West Side Boys up to no good again?

(Yes, I know perfectly well that the Little Lulu convention is "fellers."  MUST YOU MAKE ME SPELL EVERYTHING OUT?!?)

I do generally like this story; I think its heart is in the right place, is the most important thing.  Still, I AM being a little indulgent, because I'm not sure so sure about its brain.  The way it sets up suspense, of a sort, is by people reporting on Scrooge making these cryptic pronouncements that indicate lack of holiday spirit; if the idea was that he was intentionally messing around with everyone, that would be one thing, but I sure don't get that impression.  He just seems to be acting weird in a way that makes him seem extremely clueless.

Ah yes, Eggburt the office boy, whom we knew.  A beloved character of long-standing!  But see, his account here just makes it look like Scrooge is being gratuitously dickish.  "Can I have my Christmas bonus?"  "No!  Never again!"  What's that for?  I will say though, that that seems like a remarkably generous bonus--I suppose it depends on how much you're earning, but the inflation calculator says that a hundred in 1965 dollars would be more than eight hundred today.  For an office boy--not bad, I think.

I mean SERIOUSLY, how can this not be meant as a trick on Scrooge's part?  Come now!

...okay, this is hilarious and I love it.  Intentionally funny?  Hard to say.  But whatever the case, it's a keeper.

What contest?  You know.  The breakfast cereal contest.  That one.

At any rate, Gladstone's indignation on behalf of Christmas is also a bit amusing.

HE WOT?  I know some people like to depart for cooler climes in the summer months, but isn't this a bit much? 

...I mean, shouldn't he at least have an actual, you know, house?  I'd love to see what the interior of his igloo-chateau looks like.  Was that Lockman's specification, or Trobl's improvisation?

...hmm.  This may be silly in the extreme, but it's actually not so bad, especially from the likes of Lockman.  One could, were one so inclined, read it as anti-racist: different ducks from different ethnicities are nonetheless so similar that their relatives can't even tell them apart if they don't speak.  Or, you could conclude that no thought of much of any sort went into this.  But it's a hell of a lot better than you often get!

Anyway, the "eski-duck" makes out okay.  I do have to say, this Carmen Sandiego stuff makes me roll my eyes moderately hard.  We're really meant to think we can track him down based on vague ideas about what climate he's visiting?  Humbug!

Okay!  The final confrontation!  And see?  He appears to be totally clueless about his perceived, uh, Scroogishness.  Or is he being disingenuous?  I guess you can posit that if you're in a particularly generous mood, but I think it's a reach.

Hurrah!  I mean, fine, it's a nice gesture.  Is it unsporting of me to try to unpack it?  To suggest that, his employees being working people, they're probably just going to end up selling these diamonds anyway?  And that if they want to polish them, it'll probably be pretty expensive?  And that it might have been better to just cut out the middleman and give them cash, which, fair play, would surely be more than a hundred dollars?  Yes!  It's very unsporting, so I won't do it, and just accept this in the spirit it's intended.  Okay!

So...what have we learned from this little exercise?  Very little!  We have read many stories like this before and will again!  But my eternal quest to be your one-stop shop for Disney holiday amusements continues apace.

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Anonymous Elaine said...

I like the surprise of the eski-duck and I'm glad they make it up to him for kidnapping him. I like the fact that Scrooge's idea of the alternative to store-bought or monetary gifts is the personally mined diamond, a nice callback to his prospecting youth, pick and all. And I especially like the robot substitute-Scrooge, with the lovely detail that he/it is flipping a coin as he walks. Yay, Strobl!

Granted that it doesn't make much sense in the first place for Scrooge to have put cash aside as a Christmas fund, but given that he's done so, why shouldn't he instruct his employees to dump it back into the bin once he's decided to give "homemade" gifts?

December 22, 2020 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Just because it makes it look like he's not giving them a bonus? As I said, it would be one thing if he were TRYING to play a trick on them, but I don't think he is.

December 22, 2020 at 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Ah, true, I see your point. Best construction: that didn't occur to Scrooge, any more than it occurred to me. The "No! Never again!" to Eggburt is harder to justify. You'd think he would have at least said, "Not this year...I'm planning something special!" or the more ambiguous (but still less dire) "No, I have other plans for this year."

December 22, 2020 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I think the issue is we don't have a flashback to Scrooge getting this idea in the first place. But I imagine it was one of these things where he had a lengthy and convoluted internal debate culminating in a sudden decision to act nowwww and in grandiose proportions. Quite likely he'd worked himself up to a childish outrage at his own behaviour. What? I've been giving my employees boring old bills instead of THE EARNINGS OF THE SWEAT ON A MINER'S BROW? Unacceptable. I must rectify things at once.

Hence, a forceful "No! Never again!" when Eggy brought up the bonus again. "How dare you assume I'd do something as insulting instead of giving you DIAMONDS!" was the thought process, but in the heat of the moment Scrooge had quite forgotten that people aren't telepathic.

December 22, 2020 at 3:29 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

All I will say is that Igloo looks bad-ass if I was a kid I would be all all over this stuff and try to figure out (make drawings etc.) how it works and where what room is.

December 22, 2020 at 7:14 PM  
Anonymous scarecrow33 said...

One of my favorite stories! This was my introduction to Gladstone Gander and it's interesting that the bitter rivalry of other stories is nowhere to be seen in this one, so I first thought of Gladstone as basically a "good" guy.

I suppose there wouldn't be much story if Uncle Scrooge had behaved more normally about any of his secret plans. The point is really not so much why he would say something like "No! Never again!" as to the fact that he did say it, and thus threw poor Eggburt into turmoil. Plus the other erratic behavior to compound everyone's consternation.

One thing that's missing is the temper tantrum evidenced by the photo in the first panel. Donald does have that one moment when he states that Christmas will be "dastardly different" but this hardly looks like a full-blown frenzy of rage as the splash panel suggests. Perhaps the tantrum took place more offstage. Of course, he does get pretty confrontational when he and the others finally track down Scrooge, but none of it looks to me like a "super-tizzy." He seems for the most part, pretty even-tempered over the entire story--at least, even-tempered for Donald.

The story may be a bit quirky, but it does effectively build up to an appropriate finish. And it provides a hefty dose of Christmas spirit all around. A fun romp, whether reading it at 6 or at 60. I like Scrooge's "Merry Christmas, all."

December 23, 2020 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

$crooge recruits an office boy in this Barks one-pager from 1961:

Unfortunately, his design is different from Eggburt. (Also note that the gag hinges on a pun, which is why the Dutch version has different art.)

$crooge's Fortress of Solitude is... architecturally underwhelming.

December 23, 2020 at 2:43 PM  
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