Saturday, January 23, 2021

"The Case of the Purloined Pearls"

 I've been reading those Disney Masters books lately.  I have faithfully purchased every one (other than the ones with Paul Murry; we must maintain SOME standards), and they're good fun, mostly.  I think the best is still the first, The Delta Dimension, featuring three smashing Scarpa stories.  In spite of all his preposterous nonsense, when the man was on, he was on.  Somewhat surprisingly, however, I think the second-best may well be the recent Hubbard/Kinney volume.  It is rad as hell to have all these Studio Program Fethry stories printed in the US at long last.  I have definitely warmed to them, even if I'm still a little ambivalent about Hubbard's art.  There's nothing wrong with doing things a little differently, but I dunno: Fethry's stringy hair and the lines under his eyes are...not wholly appealing.  He looks strung-out in an unwholesome way.  Or so I feel.

But that's neither here nor there.  We are not here today to talk about Fethry.  Because this book ALSO features two O.O. Duck stories.  Who what when where why?  These are the questions I asked when first seeing them.  Because it just about blew my mind to see this character I had never ever heard of before--and not just that, but a character I'd never seen before who receives top billing in stories!  Sure, I know I don't know everything about Disney comics; there are definitely entire Brazilian continuities filled with characters I know nothing about.  But somehow, seeing an American character like this--appearing in the US for the first time ever, bar a small cameo here and there--WHOA.  I don't know; it struck me, anyway.

So here he is!  And also, Mata Harrier, his assistant, who doesn't do much, at least in the stories I've seen.  I am always skeptical of characters who seem to exist solely so their names  can be wordplay, be it Moby Duck or Mata Harrier, though granted, Mata's name is cleverer.

But what's the concept for O.O., really?  From his name, you'd think, okay, obvious Bond spoof, and you'd be right, but in that case why is he dressed like Sherlock Holmes (whom the title also suggests)?  Most peculiar.

Though actually, more than James Bond per se, I think the proximate influence here is Get Smart (though obviously, it's all the same sort of thing): this story--O.O.'s first--is from 1966, and that show debuted in '65.  This nonsense with the electric toothbrush is exactly the sort of thing you'd see there, as is the generally goofy plot.

All told, Hubbard and Kinney did eight O.O. stories.  After that, there was a string of Brazilian stories--and two Egmont things, though those clearly aren't a systemic effort to revive the character.  This story is fine, but it's easy to see why Fethry took off whereas O.O. remained an obscure also-ran.  Sure, you could spin off secret agent stories around him 'til the end of time, but he doesn't fill any kind of niche that can't easily be filled elsewise.  Probably part of the problem is that--again, at least in the two stories I've read--he never really gets much of a discernible personality.  The thinking doesn't seem to have gone any further than "spy parody."  Is he even supposed to be good at his job?  Hard to say.  Could go either way.  Hmm.


Then too, there's the fact that these stories all feature Donald.  The new characters aren't even doing the heavy lifting.  Here, O.O. does play a role in the, um, mission, but in the other story in the book, he's even less of a presence.  Justify your existence, man!

I'm sort of amused by how nonsensical the phrase "north forty" is in this context.  And yet they keep using it!

This is nice.  Hubbard was a good artist.  I'd like to see what he could've done outside the bounds of Disney comic.

Be honest: is this "medicine" just PCP?  'Cause that's what it seems like.  Sorry for the bottom-feeding drug joke, but it was just sitting there, begging to be used!

Oh yeah, O.O.'s enemies are called "Blonk."  If that's a specific reference to some other pop culture spy thing, I'm afraid I'm not dialed-in sufficiently to know what.  They're very anonymous here, which makes them less memorable.  Are we meant to think that there's some super-secret archvillain mastermind behind the whole thing?  There's no indication of that, though it would be interesting as an ongoing mystery.

This whole "Donald uses gadgets in the opposite of the right way" thing is an ongoing theme.  This is pretty nuttily amusing. I said.  There's a sight you don't see every day.

So there you go.  This is your nefarious scheme.  Such as it is.  It definitely feels appropriate for the milieu.  Is Scrooge suggesting that the elixir was permanent?  Would Donald have been in a perpetual berserker rage if he'd taken it.  We shall never know.

Anyway!  That's O.O. Duck for you.  Expect him to come up again in this blog never, probably.  Still, it's been fun, and I hope there are further Kinney/Hubbard Disney Masters volumes planned.

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Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Hum... A reacurring character that 100% exotic to me. I heared he... exist few times and I seen his desgin once or twice but that's as far I went. This review (and scenes you posted) doesnt' seam to sparkle my intrest to explore him more.

Give me Humphrey Gokart any other day.

January 23, 2021 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

"Hubbard was a good artist. I'd like to see what he could've done outside the bounds of Disney comic."

Check out some of his "Mary Jane and Sniffles" stories—he drew them longer than anyone.
Early example
Later example

January 24, 2021 at 12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of characters unknown in the US, you guys never got any James Ding stories either, did you?

January 24, 2021 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

The first one WAS published in the US back in the day, in the short-lived Goofy Adventures. That's all, though.

January 24, 2021 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I remain fonder of Hubbard's style than you are! But yeah, 00 Duck frankly puzzles me as a character (nice as it was to finally read about him in English).

I think BLONK is probably a play on James Bond's SMERSH, the Russian organisation later replaced with SPECTRE. "Smersh" scans as a "funny word" and doesn't even have the decency to be an acronym (it's in fact a portmanteau of Russian words, if memory serves).

January 24, 2021 at 7:17 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I am completely charmed by the first MJ & Sniffles story Ramapith linked to--a story where the Scrooge character is converted to sharing the wealth. Old man Muskrat even has a money bin home! Though unlike Scrooge McDuck, he's not up to counting his loot by himself. I have to say that the conversion is not very convincing, though.

I was fond of MJ & Sniffles in early childhood...and may indeed have tried the magic incantation in our back yard when I was a wee tad, I'm not saying. I wonder whether the stories I read were all drawn by Hubbard?

January 24, 2021 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

I had no idea that James Goof had been a recurring figure in the comics - I liked that story from Goofy Adventures a lot; I suppose there was a doppelganger introduced in the following stories

January 25, 2021 at 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comicbookrehab, I've never read the first James Ding story, so I'm not entirely sure what would make you assume that, but no, the "real world" James Ding has always been Goofy in a costume.

January 26, 2021 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

I remember that James Goof story from "Goofy Adventures" established that Goofy was mistaken for James Goof at a party by the guests and crooks in attendance and Goofy played along with the gag, so is that what the other James Ding stories are like, or is it, as you put it, a role Goofy adopts, like when he's Super Goof?

January 26, 2021 at 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They mostly involve Goofy dressing up like the literary character James Ding in public because he loves the attention, then ending up foiling Pete's newest plan, partially thanks to the fact that Scuttle is deathly afraid of him. Mickey and O'Hara often hang out in the background and provide some prodding if needed.

They're pretty fun and offer quite a number of variations on the general theme. Would quite approve of an idea to release a full collection of these stories, there's not all THAT many.

January 27, 2021 at 1:01 AM  
Blogger Comicbookrehab said...

They sound like they would be a lot of fun to read.

January 27, 2021 at 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the first story now and yeah, it's pretty representative of the series as a whole. If you enjoyed that, you should like the others.

January 27, 2021 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

"Is he even supposed to be good at his job? Hard to say. Could go either way. Hmm."

In most stories, not exactly - usually Mata Harrier (and even their chihuahua dog "Wolf") seems more clever than him (a bit like Sleuth and Mickey).

"Are we meant to think that there's some super-secret archvillain mastermind behind the whole thing? There's no indication of that, though it would be interesting as an ongoing mystery."

In the subsequent stories, yes - the Blonk is ruled by a secret mastermind called "the Great Blonk", who usually appears petting a cat (only his hands are seen by the readers), Blofeld-style.

January 27, 2021 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

He's really called the Big Blonk (not the Great Blonk), and he's referenced directly in the second 0.0. Duck story in DM 14.

January 29, 2021 at 10:53 PM  
Blogger TheKKM said...

I think BLONK is just meant to be "funny sounding word that makes an obscure acronym we don't quite know what it means".

I'm surprised there's apparently only 10 stories with 0.0., he was a favourite of Brazillian reprints so I got the impression he was a lot more prolific. His stories were some of my favourite.

February 1, 2021 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Miguel Madeira said...

"I'm surprised there's apparently only 10 stories with 0.0., he was a favourite of Brazillian reprints"

I think that there are 10 non-Brazilian stories with 0.0. (and 53 Brazilian stories).

February 1, 2021 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

"Why is he dressed like Sherlock Holmes?"

I believe it's a visual reference more to Inspector Clouseau than to Sherlock Holmes. It marks O.O. Duck as a bumbling fool.

SMERSH was a real organization that Ian Fleming used as an adversary in the James Bond novels. In later novels and the early movies, it was replaced by SPECTRE, which is what I think BLONK tries to parody.

February 7, 2021 at 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The name SMERSH is a portmanteau of two Russian words: "SMERt' SHpionam" [Смерть Шпионам, Směrť Špionam], meaning "Death to Spies"."

February 11, 2021 at 9:25 AM  

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