Sunday, March 7, 2021

"The Money Ocean"

 Okay, it is time for something new, and that something new is...well, I guess the title gives it away.  Foiled again!  It would be hard to keep secret, really.  This is one of those famous old-school Rota stories, along with "Night of the Saracen," "From Egg to Duck," and the never-published-in-English "Paperino Pendolare" (notice how I implied that my fan translation of "From Egg to Duck" somehow constitutes a "publication."  You can't stop me!).  But this one is currently Rota's top-rated story on inducks, at fifty-nine, and I'll go along with that.  Why haven't I covered it before?  It is a mystery.

We start with vivid dreams (and weird coloration, but that's neither here nor there).  Here's the question: does Scrooge have nightmares like this regularly?  Because, good lord, if so, I think he <i>really</i> needs to reevaluate his life.  The money can't possibly be worth it if it's causing him this degree of mental anguish.  Then again, I guess you could just make that argument about his cavalcades of adventures itself.  The things we all tune in for!  What a life.

Well-drawn, though.  It's very strange that he declares "I'm just a poor old man."  This could be an intentional remix of the iconic phrase, I suppose, and I guess we can assume as much since it's like this in both US printings, but it's so similar that it just looks like the writer was misremembering it.

So here's how the McDuck Ultra Alarm Clock works: first, a loudspeaker blasts you with siren noises.  Then, a fan shoots wind in your face, a cuckoo come out of the wall and chirps, a claw shoves your pillow from behind, another claw emerges with a glass of water (presumably to hurl in your face), and a final claw wipes your face with a cloth.  A tad overdetermined, I feel, and more likely than your average alarm clock to cause actual physical and/or mental trauma, which may not be what Scrooge needs at this time.  Does Scrooge really need all this help to wake up?  If so, that would seem to be more evidence of a serious underlying problem.

Nice tam o'shanter nightcap.

Simple analysis, but accurate, kind of.  I say "kind of" because actually, the Beagles literally are an astonishingly high percentage of these menaces.  If they went away, you would be sitting pretty.

Seems more than possible.  This is the hollowness of wealth!  If you get rich enough, you become completely alienated from normal human concerns (which is why you shouldn't be elected to public office, but good luck arguing that).  In Scrooge's case, that has manifested itself as fun adventures, but really, the underlying problem hasn't gone anywhere.  You should become a philanthropist, at any rate.  It's how the robber barons tried to assuage their consciences, and it just might let you fool yourself!

Scrooge cadging food from his nephews when he's feeling depressed certainly has Barksian precedent, so I appreciate this.

So on the one hand, I like the kids' toy box there.  But on the other, I must level a criticism here.  This is how Donald gets his inspiration to suggest a solution to Scrooge's problems.  There are two ways this could go: first, he could make his remark about how "we'll have to find a box to put all the pieces in" and go "waaaait a minute...a box?  That gives me an idea!"  Second, he could say something like "boy, I don't know how we're ever going to solve our uncle's problems; he's a mess.  Hey, wait a minute, that toy box gives me an idea!"  But these panels seem to be trying to mash both these ways together, with incoherent results.  Although this could just be a translation issue; I've never seen a printing of this story in any other language.

You were wondering why Scrooge hadn't already thought of this idea.  Well, why did he build the multiple bins in the first place?  That would have also been expensive, so he must've had what he saw as a compelling reason, and that's presumably why.  Is this reason no longer operative, or what?  This is a bit handwavey on the story's part.

Lookit this!  It has transgressed all boundaries of logic and geometry.  I feel like you've sort of broken the world here.  We've often talked about how Scrooge's money isn't money in the normal sense, but this really makes that clear, if it weren't.

And if not, the fact that it's now an "ocean" rams the point home.  It has become a force of nature.  You can't look at that and think "money."  Changed changed utterly: a terrible beauty is born.

...why can't you swim here?  This again might just be a translation issue, but it might be an interesting rabbit hold to go down.

In "Only a Poor Old Man," Scrooge tricks the Beagles into braining themselves by making them assume, falsely, that they can splash around in money in the same way he can.  But this doesn't establish anything except that they can't do it.  It's true that after that incident, Donald asks Scrooge how he was able to do it when the Beagles couldn't, which seems to imply that he's never done it before either.  But we have other Barksian evidence that it's not just Scrooge.  I'm probably missing something, but here are two, from "The Money Well:"

and from "That's No Fable!:"

Of course, in both of these, it's HDL: is there a Barksian example of Donald swimming?  If not, we could posit that it's a genetic ability that skips generations--either that, or it's just an acquired skill that for whatever reason he hasn't acquired.  But either way, there's no reason Huey should be regretting that he can't swim.  He can and has!

Oh, and to throw a wrench in the works, in "So Far and No Safari" we see that gophers can also swim in money:

Make of that what you will.

And really, if you have a boat that can actually sail over money--violating most laws of physics--why can't ducks also swim in it?  Shenanigans, are what I call!

I really like the vague sense of unease that comes with this, even when everything seems fine.  How are these things happening?  Gyro did it.  Yes.  That must be it.  Mustn't it?  It's actually never made clear whether or not this is presaging things to come, which if anything only makes it more effective.

See?  Pretty good.  "Who's to say" anything, I suppose, but this seems ever-so-slightly ominous.  This is probably not an association that anyone else would make, but I keep thinking of that old Fallberg/Strobl story "The Crewless Cruise."

In case you thought that Rota was suggesting that no ducks can swim in money (admittedly, a big thing to forget about)--well, as you can see, this is not the case.


Dang, man, you're willing to just admit that possibility like it wuz nothing?  I suppose it's probably true, but if not you, then who?  Isn't your money the basis of your entire identity?  Shouldn't this be causing some sort of existential crisis?

Suspense!  I really like the long, spooky corridor that he had installed, for just such an occasion.  Good thinking!

Now that is one cool-ass image.  Yeah!

So this is definitely just the translation, since the original was published in one part, but: in the first US printing, in issues 266 and 267 of Uncle Scrooge, there's a little two-page summary at the beginning of the second part, consisting of panels taken from part one, to get you up to speed if you missed it.  And then, after all that, "Gyro is finally confronted with the problem."  Okay, makes sense.  But the issue is that, when the story was published in one part in Gemstone's seventy-fifth anniversary book, nothing's been changed; the "finally" is still there, which really doesn't make sense.  It suggest that there's something that happened after the previous panel, and only after that, finally, did we check with Gyro.  Anyway.  Whatevz.

And while this is going on...I must say, questionable disguises are one thing, but "Dellespa?"  It could be worse; it could be "Despella."  But are you actually making a serious effort to hide your identity, or not? was a dime that she dropped originally, as you will see if you glance back.  Okay, you could posit that Scrooge misidentified it, but is that likely?  Do you think his expert ear wouldn't be able to differentiate between a quarter and a dime hitting the ground.  Again, could be a translation.  But whoever is responsible, it seems a bit clumsy.

Magica's plan is very fuzzy here: supposedly, she wants to blackmail Scrooge by making him give her the Number One Dime to make the storm abate, but that very clearly isn't going to happen, so after that she just kind of stands around and cackles maniacally.  When she first appears, she seems to be trying to trick him into letting her into the bin, but she was going to have to reveal her identity soon enough anyway, so what's the point?  I don't know if she really thought this one through.

Sixty cents an hour!  This must be an emergency.  I certainly don't blame him for not going to the police: look at those guys, just standing there smiling like idiots while reminiscing over their latest abuses of power.  ACAB!

It's pretty weird how Scrooge is so confident about this flatly impossible scheme.  You're gonna have to get Gladstone if you want to find one specific coin in this ocean.  Actually, that would be an interesting direction for the story to go in.  But, it doesn't.

"It acts just like water."  Doesn't it already act just like water?  Isn't that how you're able to swim in it?  

Yeah, and to be fair, so did Rota.  You've really just got to sit back and admire some of these images.

THIS IS COOL.  It's just a shame it's not another full-page image.'re the scientist, but still, I must express my grave doubts about this.  Sure, they may both be "energy" in the broad sense, but surely it's qualitatively different from sciencey energy, such that any science-based tracking wouldn't work.  It's like, electromagnetism is a force, and gravity is a force; therefore, a device to detect the one must detect the other.  That does not follow!  Well, I say that, but then it does, so I must be mistaken.  Carry on.

Scrooge does have a bit more of a jerkish side of him in this story than I'd like--well, really just in this climax.  Not a huge deal.  But still.  It's your money!  You're the one who earlier was having a personal apocalypse!  You go down in there!  

At any rate, good atmosphere, with Donald in the tunnel there.  Harrowing.

Wellanywayproblemsolved.  As it inevitably would be.

"Your overly liquid capital."  Well, as long as there's a reasonably explanation.

See?!?  Donald CAN swim in money!  Presumably this doesn't have anything to do with anything Magica might have done, since her spell is broken.  I doan geddit.  I also think this ending is meaner than it needs to be, but so it goes.  It's not much worse than Barks occasionally did.

But anyway, even if the story occasionally causes me to raise a skeptical eyebrow, I'd still say that it's one of the best things Rota's written.  Well done, sir!



Anonymous Elaine said...

The visuals in this story are top-notch. That panel you cite where Magica is looking out over the lightning-assaulted schooner--that's one of my favorite images of Magica ever. As you say, it would have been great to have an enlarged version of that. And all the stormy sea-of-coins scenes are terrific.

In the two Barks panels you cite with the boys lying in coins...I would have said that they had dug themselves into/under the coins, as one does with sand on the beach. I've never thought anyone but Scrooge could swim in money, at least in "real" Duckburg. (In Bottaro's "The Black Corsair's Niece," the pirate who is an alt-Daisy does get to swim in money.) I acknowledge that at the end of this story, Donald does seem to be able to dive into the money...but I take that as a visual joke, playing on the whole "is it coinage or is it water?" question that pervades the narrative. If I try to make sense of it, I would say that Donald merely burrowed into the coins super-fast, powered by desperation.

March 7, 2021 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

To be fair Donald didn't swim in money at the end... just burry himself in it, like (dare I say it?) a gopher.

Love the art in this one (Shocker ey?) and the concept is so surreal it's magic...

Actualy there is an Italian story with EXACT SAME PLOT - minus Magica and Scrooge dosen't just insert from other bins as much every single dime he owns from banks all over the world.

That story however has very interesting ending. Scrooge learns there is a great fire in Duckburg and brakes the bin so a wave of money can go down and put own the fire (phisics) Since Scrooge's money is on the street and up for grabs he is officialy broke and poor with not a penny left.

But then we get a touching twist with people of Duckburg brining back his money in backets as a way to gratitude and Scrooge is rich again - hurray! - and the reader get's teary eyed. Awwww...

I can actualy fallow Gyro logic. He may not know what Magic is but if it's some form of energy (even one he can't understand ala black matter) he can sitll make a machine that would detect some "force" and at very least send signals to f-- with it. Seams resonable to me.

Also I have a diffrent issue with Scrooge's alarm clock and I'm sock You didn't comment on it -
If Scrooge is so cheap/penny-pinching... Why he spend so much money for a contraption this complicated? Fells like each of elements of this wake-up machine are expensive on their own. Just adds hipocricity to the list of this characters strange insanities...

March 7, 2021 at 7:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MAN, the American coloring completely ruins the visuals in this story. Ouch.

March 7, 2021 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Gotta agree with our Anonymous friend here. If you use silver coins for this story of all stories, then in splash panels where you can't see individual coins, the ocean just looks like… well, water. It looked far more striking in gold. (That's no fault of the individual colorist, who clearly put a lot of effort into this—just of the policy of always coloring Scrooge's fortune this bluish-gray colour!)

Also, I will concur with everybody else that as far as “standard canon” is concerned, swimming in money is a weird and intentionally-inexplicable, magical-realism-based ability of Scrooge's. While others (like Glomgold) may be revealed to possess it, this will always be a surprising and noteworthy thing in and of itself. The kids or Donald might burrow in the mass of coins like sand, but they can't treat it like water the way Scrooge does, it seems by sheer force of faith.

(IIRC, DuckTales 2017 made a point of the fact that of the nephews, only Louie, whom they characterise as the money-loving one, can swim in money like Scrooge. And even then, he has to work at it first.)

March 7, 2021 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I dunno. I hear what you guys are saying, but it SURE doesn't look to me like the nephews in those panels are just burying themselves in coins the way you presumably could under normal physics. In particular, just TRY to tell me that that bottom-right nephew in the "Money Well" panel isn't swimming. You can't do it, my friends!
You might be right that the phenomenon has developed as a Scrooge-centric thing, but I think it's pretty evident that Barks didn't conceptualize it that way (I mean, if he thought about it all).

March 7, 2021 at 11:17 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I think Barks is just inconsistent about this, as with so many other things.

March 8, 2021 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Clearly. My only point is that it's arguing against the grain to say that these images don't show what they appear to be showing.

March 8, 2021 at 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Nope, you haven't convinced me re: Barks. Scrooge alone can swim in money. HDL bury themselves in coins as if in sand, and gophers and other rodents can burrow in and threaten the paper money. I do not think the bottom-right nephew in the Money Well panel is swimming. When Barks had Scrooge swimming or diving in money, you could see the motion.

I'm sure I won't convince you, either, but what is evident to you is not so to me.

It may be hard to imagine someone without Scrooge's magical ability getting into the positions the nephews are in, under the piles of coins. Of course there are other ways besides the nephews' self-burying in which the money in the bin does not behave exactly as that amount of mixed cash would behave in real life...

March 8, 2021 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

For me Scrooges ability to swim in money was always conected to his deeply personal love of money.

Each coin is a memory and swimming in money is the ultimate immersing in nostalgia.

It's all deep philosophical alegory!

March 9, 2021 at 3:48 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Well, I had thought that the argument was that the nephews were digging themselves under money in a "realistic" way. But if it's actually that they're burrowing in a non-realistic way, then okay, I can accept that that's what they're doing. The thing is, though I don't really perceive much distinction between that and swimming. They would seem to me to be very similar skills. If I didn't know anything about the character and you explained to me that he and only he is able to swim in money, I would assume that it's a unique skill that he possesses due to his unique affinity with cash. But if it's more or less just a technicality, I dunno.

March 9, 2021 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

The key diffrence to me :

To burrow = As if the money was ground/earth

To swim = As if the money was water (faster/more easy)

March 9, 2021 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Swimming in money is a $crooge-specific skill that occasionally translates to other characters in the context of a sight-gag. Others being incapable of performing this skill is hardly ever a plot-point. The only story that springs to mind is "Only A Poor Old Man". To treat this as a hard-set rule is not like Barks at all. That kind of reasoning belongs to Don Rosa and his ardent followers.

March 10, 2021 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Sure. It's just a thing I'd never thought about, and I was wondering about what implicit assumptions there are. Also, we're going to need SOME rules for our forthcoming Barks RPG.

March 10, 2021 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

There will be a Barks RPG sesion?!?

Dibs on Grandma Duck!

March 11, 2021 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Okay. You have a stamina bonus from all that farm work, and also a great deal of mental discipline; you have a bonus against any attack that tries to influence your mind. Naturally, you know how to do any kind of farm work (not counting super-modern stuff), and you have the ability to use any kind of manual farm implement as a makeshift weapon without a penalty. On the downside, you're a luddite, meaning you suffer a huge penalty trying to use any kind of technology invented after 1943.

March 11, 2021 at 12:31 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Fuck yeah! Come on Gus! Let's do some farm chores!

March 12, 2021 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

I want to be Carl Barks himself, bewildered at the lengths his future fans will go in tribute to his humble work! My super-power would be that of an invincible god! "I am invincible! I am doom itself!"

Barring that, I want to be Vic Lockman, bewildered that he has so few fans other than myself. My super-power would be alliteration and rhyming dialogue! Of course, I wouldn’t last very long with that! “Yo-Ho-Ho! ‘Twas nice, but I must go!” …I love ya anyway, Vic! Yay for you!

March 12, 2021 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Woudn't being Carl Barks made you technically the Dungeon master?

March 12, 2021 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Maybe... Or that might be reserved for Walt Disney.

March 12, 2021 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I think Walt Disney is Gary Gygax.

March 12, 2021 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Okay, then... Since Chase Craig edited Barks, maybe HE should be the Dungeon Master!

March 13, 2021 at 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

I'm leaning towards being Gyro's Helper. He will invent some fancy impressive thing while I invent a smaller, much less impressive version of it. When his invention gets him and his party into trouble (which happens a fair percentage of the time), mine will save the day. Only drawback: I'm dependent on Gyro to feed me with batteries and change my head. But since he's dependent on me to put out his fires, I'm confident he'll keep me going. If he dies and can't be revived, though, I'm a goner.

Also, Bolivar will beat me at checkers.

March 14, 2021 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...


And you could power Donald’s old car into being a peppy, self-navigating, crime-fighting juggernaut because (all together now)… “Nothin' Beats the Classics”, to borrow a quote (and a title) from a recent Disney Masters!

Of course, there’s always that unusual period where you get phased-out in favor of the “Bird-Powered Thinking Cap” and “Posty the Walking Mailbox”! But, like any dog or cat in a contemporary kid’s movie, you always find your way back into Gyro’s and our hearts!

March 15, 2021 at 1:09 AM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

For a Barks RPG, the obvious choice to play would be Gladstone Gander. His unbeatable luck would mean that you could fall asleep through half of the game and most likely still win through some bizzare happening, while managing to take points away from whoever is playing Donald Duck.
Or you could just be Gus Goose, and then you could sleep through the entire game (except when Grandma Duck is around) and when awake, eat everything in Donald's refrigerator.

March 16, 2021 at 10:26 AM  

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