Sunday, April 4, 2021

"The Rabbit's Foot"

Happy Easter!  Is this a seasonally-appropriate story?  Well...rabbit's foot...rabbits...might be a bit of a stretch, but let's go with it.  I must say, going off on a tangent as I do, Stardew Valley is one of my all-time favorite videogames, but it's definitely pretty weird that when you get some rabbits for your coop, they periodically drop rabbit's feet.  Thinking too hard about the mechanics of that will do nobody any good.  So let us proceed.

Really, I feel like this story doesn't get enough recognition.  You might ask, how are we judging amount of recognition something is getting?  I don't know.  I guess in a kind of truthy way; it just feels right to me.  People know about "Pirate Gold" as Barks' first duck story, and "Victory Garden" as his first ten-pager, but how about his first original story?  You could easily argue that that's more of a big deal, but who speaks of it?  I do!  Here and now!  Sing Goddess the wrath of the duckies!

And for his first story, it's kind of gratifying how it presages his later work.  Right out of the gate, we get this thing where Donald reads a book, takes it to heart, and becomes angry and defensive when HDL challenge it.  Sure, it lacks that Barks characterization (you'd be unlikely to see HDL look so pissed off), but still--cool.

Though I dunno, man--you really think that fortune-cookie stuff is profound wisdom?  "No man can sell it, and no man can buy it--in bed."

Is letting your kids do random dangerous things to prove their luck good parenting?  I can't remember.  Gotta check my Dr. Spock.  The nature of their familial relations is pretty loose in these early things.

Yup, this is the kind of thing you will find here.  Do you think the Park Safety Counsel appreciates people tromping around on their condemned bridges?

Of course, you talk about "luck" and you're obviously going to think Gladstone, and this sequence in particular is exactly the way his luck tends to work.

Gorillas' teeth actually do kind of look like that, though why the colorist chose to make the bottom fangs yellow is anyone's guess.  Is this some sort of pirate gorilla with gold teeth?  Donald definitely has the right idea here.  It's how any responsible parent would act--though as we'll see, his reasons may be a little different.

You may recall Donald hightailing it and leaving his nephews to their fate in "Christmas on Bear Mountain."  That wasn't great, but it's a bit more forgivable in so early a story.

See?  We've got a lucky rabbit's foot!  How exactly does he expect the gorilla to react, anyway?

...well, it seems to have worked out, at any rate.  Yeah, I think this is the story's weak point: the gorilla sees their rabbit's foot and just...decides to get them peanuts?  For some reason?  It seems that Barks couldn't come up with a good reason for the foot to save them, so he just went with this arbitrariness.  

Whoa: Donald's expression in the second panel there looks very much like the "sly" expression that Van Horn uses.  Can't say it's my favorite thing ever, but it's interesting to see.

Somewhat unclear "rules" for how luck works: check!

ROAR!  I dunno, man.  I really don't think it should be drooling unless it's rabid.  "Wait a minute! I've got a rabbit's foot!"  His indignant protest is funny.  Or so I think.

This level of savagery on Donald's part isn't super-attractive, and of course would be substantially toned down as time went on.  But ooh!  Check out that random picture on the wall of a bearded duck!  "Strange art in the Duck residence" is another common Barksian trope.  Boom!

Well-deserved, well-deserved.  Does he really need a full-body cast (I'm just assuming) because a clock fell on his head?  Apparently.  Really, though, why shouldn't he want a rabbit's foot?  He's seen evidence that it works, as long as it's not stolen.

Well, that's about that.  There may not be that much to say about this, but hell, probably more than any of Barks' previous duck-work.

Now let's look at a few Taliaferro strips from WDC 32, where this was originally printed.  There's not THAT much that's interesting; we saw few last time, including that unfortunate "Nipped in the Bud" one.  But:

Man, Taliaferro was just inscrutable sometimes.  So...he insists on bringing the theatre (note British spelling)?  I don't get it.  Is it some kind of war thing that would have made sense to readers at the time, or am I just thick?  Someone please explain.

Here we see him apparently threatening to behead a rooster if it tries any funny business.  I mean, okay, he put axe heads on the other side of his rake and hoe.  I guess I get it, kind of, but I'm still trying to picture the rooster-slaughter that he's implicitly threatening.  Weird stuff.

...why did you think the kids had a real, working gas pump?  I feel like this one is on you.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take it this means you're doing all the Barks comics in order now? :P

April 4, 2021 at 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is it some kind of war thing that would have made sense to readers at the time".

Yes. Tires were rationed at the time, so he's afraid of them getting stolen.

April 4, 2021 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That had crossed my mind, but...why does he only have three of them? Are those Did he take them off his car, or are these extra tires? You're probably right that that's the intent, but I do not think it's the best possible execution of this idea.

April 4, 2021 at 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He has four, there's two on his lap.

April 4, 2021 at 4:38 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Now I want entire story explaining Donald's wacky tire fetish

April 4, 2021 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

These Disney artists badly understate just how big and unwieldy tires really are. I suppose that goes along with cars themselves being smaller than in real life, but good luck manhandling even one tire, let alone four.

April 4, 2021 at 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

What feels to me like the most Barksian thing in the story is the front page of the Daily Quack imagined by Donald: "Heroic Duck Subdues Gorilla / 'Not brave, just lucky' says modest hero". It's the subhead that particularly stands out to me. I mean, he's imagining getting modesty cred for simply speaking the truth, while simultaneously being lauded for courage he doesn't have. That's pretty smart-funny, and it makes up for the gorilla's lack of peanut-specific motivation.

Also, it's impressive simply because it goes above and beyond what would be necessary for the basic portrayal of Donald imagining himself a hero.

Happy Easter!

April 4, 2021 at 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One rather notable thing here is that the luck always manifests itself, and passes the various tests, as a result of attitude - karma if you wish.
The nephews cross the bridge by running carefully over it while paying attention to how it's creaking, while Donald stomps over in order to "prove" it can hold up anything - and that's when it gives. Is that the nephews being lucky? Sure, but it's also Donald actively pushing his luck very hard to prove a point.
Next, Donald is so desperate to test the power that he sends the kids to a ride he SHOULD have been able to see was in the process of being repaired from that distance. Is it luck that the mechanic happened to be waiting for some passerby who could test the ride for him? Sure, but the chance of that is much higher than the nephews just getting a on an operative ride for free just because, so this is also Donald focusing so much on proving his point he fails to pay attention.
Next there's the gorilla, which is treating both the nephews and Donald nicely enough as long as they're not being aggressive, but attacks Donald once he starts pushing his luck in regards to the gorilla's reactions. They were both lucky the gorilla had the attitude it did, but Donald chose to push that attitude in ways he shouldn't have.
And finally there's the clock scene, where the nephews get saved because Donald is so aggressive he just pulls the paddle without unhooking it. Luck? Sure, but still partially a result of Donald's attitude.

There's a pretty nice moral here about how luck favors the bold, but not those who push it.

April 5, 2021 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

In the rooster gag, Donald is worried the chickens might eat his garden, so when he goes out to work on it, he puts superfluous axes on the other ends of his garden tools—just to remind them that he's as ready to turn chickens into soup as to till the soil.

It's not a great gag, but it seems like everyone missed the garden connection. Endless 1930s-40s cartoons have the hero struggling to protect their garden from marauding birds, often chickens (and crows, of course, as in the WDCS 31 story).

April 7, 2021 at 7:40 PM  
Blogger Sidious said...

In the gas pump gag, my reading is that Donald was knowingly playing make-believe with the triplets, but didn't suspect they had actually connected their fake pump to anything --- and especially not anything that could damage the car.

April 26, 2021 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger Specialist Spectrus said...

"These Disney artists badly understate just how big and unwieldy tires really are."

You ain't seen nothin' until you've seen Alberto Lavoradori's tires! They have the size of peas!

May 11, 2021 at 5:01 PM  

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