Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"The Victory Garden"

Whoa, three entries in a month?  I'm on fire!

Perhaps you have heard of a little thing called "Carl Barks' first ten-pager."  You probably also know that it wasn't exactly a Barks original, the script having been written, supposedly, by his editor of the time, Eleanor Packer.  Barks: "It was a rather indefinite sort of script. I worked it over and made more sense out of it."  It would LOVE LOVE LOVE to be able to see this original script, but I don't think it's extant.  If I'm wrong, please let me know.

Here's an extremely interesting thing: Disney comics that specifically reference World War II.  Here, it's only in the general idea of a victory garden, but it's done more explicitly in many DD and MM newspaper comics of the time.  It's kind of jarring when you first see these, because no other major world event has ever been portrayed in Disney comics.  I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I'm wrong.  Sure, stories are influenced by the cultural context they're written in (the Great Depression having a big influence on MM comics of the time is a notable example), and sure, a writer might obliquely reference the cultural climate (like those late Barks stories that feature vaguely-defined "rebels"), but I think the second World War really stands apart.  It's probably because this was a huge thing that more or less everyone agreed was of existential importance.  Such things are not very common.  Can you imagine a Disney comic about the Vietnam War?  I submit that you cannot.  I submit it!

So anyway: gonna make us a victory garden.  I do not know to what extent such things material affected the War Effort, but I think they're a good idea in general: to the extent that we're able to, we really ought to make ourselves less dependent on food chains that we can barely perceive or understand.  

"There's only one way to put in seeds--and that's any way!"  I feel like that's the most memorable line in the story.  Is there some saying or aphorism or something that that that's derived from?  All I know is the phrase "any way's the only way" from the Tom Waits song "Invitation to the Blues."  GREAT song, btw.

In behint yon auld fell dyke

I wat there lies a new slain knight

And naebody kens that he lies there O

But his hawk and his hound and his lady fair O

His hound is tae the hunting gane

His hawk tae fetch the wild fowl hame

His lady's taen anither mate O

So we maun make our dinner sweet O

Okay.  Seriously now.  This is the sort of story this is.  Some broad slapstick for y'all!  Not the all-time most sophisticated, but enjoy it or don't!

A popular song of the time.  Though I think Donald's interpretation--if I had the wings of an angel I'd get into a fistfight with some crows--is distinct from the original.

Do you think the intersection between Hope and Faith is Barks' addition to the story?  It's a pretty bizarre idea in any case, just sewing your seeds in some random lot.

This is different from the later "obvious disguises that nonetheless fool everyone" trope, since it's an obvious disguise that fools no one.  Still, we might see the grain of the idea here.

Man, these traitorous crows: do THEY care about the homefront efforts to help our boys lick Hitler?  Heck no!  They just want to chow down on some seeds!  Why in my day *mumble mumble* why are all these faceless adults gathering to watch a small children's scrimmage?  I guess they were hard-up for entertainment during the war years.

The visual of the adults' legs reminds me of that weird Peanuts continuity where Lucy plays in a golf tournament.

I dunno.  Did he perform a Football Move before being tackled?  This bears more study.  Though I suppose that kid gnawing on his leg like that would likely result in some sort of penalty anyway.  Foobaw!

The story unexpectedly veers a little bit into surrealism with this "invisible seeds" thing.  Do birds exclusively sense food visually?  I'm not sure.

I like the ending, I must say.  Did I say "surrealism?"  Donald's bed surrounded by plants seems to be the perfect embodiment of that.  I also like the crows just admitting, damn, man, we've been beaten.

Would you have read this story at the time of initial publication and thought, it's obvious that the writer here is by far the most talented person to ever work in this milieu?  Possibly not, but it's an amusing enough curiosity.

Is this entry a little short?  Gimme a break; it's not a long or complicated story.  But as long as we're here, why don't we look at some World War II newspaper strips?  We'll restrict ourselves to ducks for the time being.

A lot of these are about rationing, which makes sense, since that would have been the most visible component of the war to many people.  It's sort of amazing how willing everyone was to just pitch in like this.  I mean, good lord, look at us now: you can't ask Americans to wear a mask so as not to spread a deadly disease without a large percentage of them hurling themselves on the ground and screaming like a spoiled toddler.  Yeesh.

As to this comic: would anyone really want to binge that much coffee at once?  If you did, I'm pretty sure you'd have bigger problems than just being unable to sleep.

GOOD GOLLY, the sexual politics of this one: I've done a lot of evening in my time, but here, I find myself quite unable to, literally or otherwise.

Is this supposed to be another of these noxious "Daisy is dumb" things?  Well, I'm with her: I haven't the first clue how I would "cut my car lights down to one-foot candle-power."  I don't know what that even means.  Was this just something that people were taught in the forties?

Sometimes it amuses me how disrespectful, I guess you'd say, these thing are to the war effort.  I don't mean that in a condemnatory way, obviously, but it's like, the war is a serious thing, and here Donald seems to be using it as an excuse to harass his nephews, while they're just making passive-aggressive donations to mess with their uncle.  Does anyone actually really care about any of this?

YIKES.  Do. Not. Want.  Get it? "'Nipped' in the bud?"  Because "nip" means to cut off but it's also a racial slur!  High-larious!  I mean, okay, there's no use getting too performatively offended by ancient comics (though given the recent uptick in anti-Asian rhetoric, this might be more relevant than one might hope).  Still.  Not so great.  And can I just say?  You used to hear the argument--maybe you still do; I'm trying to stay out of those fever swamps--that since we made racist caricatures of Japanese people in World War II, we should be able to do it to Muslims in the War on Terror™.  But is this really so complicated?  It was super-fucked-up that we did it then, and it would be if we did it now.  What's even the argument here?  If you have some kind of evidence that racism was instrumental in winning the war, please present it.  Otherwise, GO AWAY.  Actually, go away anyway.  I don't want to have this argument.

Yes!  Let's lock out brutality!  I'm for that.  Was key donation a thing?  Well, why not, although I do wonder how many people have huge numbers of old keys just lying around.  The punchline here is obvious yet still pretty funny.  Shame about that title, though.

Again with the coffee.  This one's pretty weird: he can't get coffee, so he gets his...revenge? donating his coffee pot as scrap metal?  Now how will you ever make coffee again?  I'm not sure whether that is using your bean, to be honest.

DAMN, Donald.  This is ice cold.  Not that the relationship between Donald and Bolivar is usually depicted in a particularly sentimental way, but this is taking it a bit far, innit?

Okay, one more:

Even though these comics clearly acknowledge that there's a war, there's no specific ideological detail.  None of them would ever think to ask "...but WHY are we at war?" or anything like that.  The closest you'd get would be this, I suppose, which isn't close at all.  These polls make no sense: what kind of bloodthirsty maniac is going to declare themselves in favor of contextless "war?"  Even the worst warmongers don't do that; they always have some sort of justification.  I'm glad to see that Donald is not pro-war on principle, although you'd think a comic like this might seem vaguely seditious during World War II.



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Well, as far world events in Disney comics go, I know stories that refrence actual Olimpics going at the time etc.

Buta as far TRAGIC world changin events go the only one I can think of is after the Charlie Hebdo shoting there was a cover of Topolino with subtle refrence to the event.

April 1, 2021 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Well, there are a number of stories which are set explicitly in the Cold War, even setting aside the ones which are technically about some fictional Cold War with “Brutopia” or other equivalents. But you could argue that's more of a setting than an event.

April 1, 2021 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Also you appear to have failed to post the Bolivar strip??

April 1, 2021 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Whoops, fixt.

April 1, 2021 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

“Can you imagine a Disney comic about the Vietnam War? I submit that you cannot. I submit it!”

And I submit Barks’ Uncle Scrooge epic “The Treasure of Marco Polo”! If that’s not the Vietnam War, I’ll eat Rockerduck’s hat!

April 1, 2021 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Perhaps you should label Bob Karp and Al Taliaferro :)

April 1, 2021 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Can't agree with you on that one, Joe. That's what I'm talking about with stories that "obliquely reference the cultural climate." Sure, "Treasure of Marco Polo" is obviously influenced by Vietnam, along with other cultural upheavals of the time, but it's not "about" it on the level of text: all the specifics are made up, and the scenario doesn't map onto any real-life situation. That's what I'm talking about here.

April 1, 2021 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

As for that Bolivar story - you know? Perhaps that's way he never appeared in Don Rosa stories. Rosa asumed - since all is canon that this story is clearly how Boliver's saga ended and the rest are only flash-backs showcasing "better times" ;)

April 1, 2021 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

The WW2 strip I remember the best is one where Donald and the nephews are decorating a cake when the air raid siren sounds and Donald has to turn off the lights. Shortly after the end of danger signal sounds, and Donald concludes it was a false alarm and turns the lights back on in the final panel, letting us see a mostly-eaten cake and some guilty-looking nephews behind him.

It's not the funniest gag in the world, but it really made an impression on me, being the first time I had seen any kind of Disney content that was clearly made during the war and was very heavily acknowledging it.

April 3, 2021 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger whc03grady said...

"It's kind of jarring when you first see these, because no other major world event has ever been portrayed in Disney comics."
Uh, Don Rosa would like to have a word.


April 8, 2021 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Mesterius said...

whc03grady/MG: I think GeoX may be thinking of world events that were current when the comics themselves were produced.

April 12, 2021 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger whc03grady said...

Fair enough

April 12, 2021 at 12:46 PM  
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Blogger rumrill said...

Thanks for this post. I love your humor. Definitely more laughs than from the strips themselves.
One WWII Barks reference that I always found mystifying until this morning when I read a reference to it in today’s paper was to “Lord Haw-Haw”. I can’t remember the story but it involved one of the nephews posing as LHH in some game they were playing.
Lord HH was a Brit who was convicted of treason for spreading Nazi propaganda.
Can anybody pinpoint the story? Barks often used the newspapers for source material. Like “Dread Valley Sandy”

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