Wednesday, August 18, 2021

"The Mighty Trapper"

 Okay, why has it been a month and a half?  It JUST HAS.  No excuses!  Here we are!  Blah!  I talked about this one briefly with regard to that Seventy-Fifth anniversary book, but let us now examine it in more detail.

Here, I feel, we start to see those Barksian dynamics really coming together.  Donald being a blowhard and telling these tall tales--it's good; a lot of specificity, and the Donald-vs-Nephews dynamic is very familiar (also, dig that picture of a weird bearded duck).  Somehow I especially like his face in the first panel.  And yet, in another sense, this story is slightly alienating to me, focusing as it does so heavily on indiscriminately murdering the shit out of all kinds of animals.  We are a long way from Junior Woodchucks territory here.  You know, I occasionally like to read Trollope novels, but good lord, the interminable fox-hunting scenes are both distasteful and very boring to me.  And yet, they don't generally have much bearing on the overall plot, which makes this rather worse.  Or so I believe.

...speaking of foxes.  What is this?  Fox hunting isn't an American fixation.  And there's just no sense in the story of WHY it's axiomatic that All Wildlife Must Die.  

YEESH.  What more is there to say?  Also, doesn't Donald giving out furs--even ones where all the hair falls out (did it come from a defective fox, or what?)--suggest a higher level of socioeconomic status than general suggested?  I don't know, people!

I mean, dig it!  Look at it!  "There's a fox!  Oh boy, I'm going to slaughter it right away!"  Also, he's got traps in the attic: does this suggest that his bragging to HDL was actually based to some degree in reality?  I hope not.

...Donald is setting this trap so as hopefully to crush the fox's leg so that then he can kill it at his leisure.  I mean, I'm just spelling out the obvious implications.  And my mind is boggled.

But I don't want to exclusively focus on the weird, unintentional implications of violence (even though it's kind of the story's main thing), so here's this, which I think backs up my notion that the dynamic here is going to persist throughout Barks' work.

...and this can't help but recall the "Think Box" story, where he likewise pays a visit to a shop at an unreasonable hour to make weird demands.  And MY GOODNESS, look how evil he looks in that first panel.

...I am extremely skeptical of the efficacy of the "sprinkle the dog with ashes" plan.

While I've been talking about this story's murderous aspects, I do have to admit that this militates against them, at least a little.  Because obviously he's not going to kill this dog--that would traumatize the hell out of children, and nobody would like it, as Barks must well have realized--nor is there any implication in that direction.  He has the trapped animal, and now...he's just going to sort of stand there next to it, I guess.  It is very apparent that Barks spent no time thinking about what all this trapping stuff actually MEANT.  Which maybe means that me talking about it is equally meaningless!  But, too late, apparently.  Bah!

Say goodbye to the dog, as he won't be seeing him again, or her! Is this responsible pet ownership? What did Donald DO with it after this? Hmph.

Some detail here on where "bohimaton" comes from, which is actually kind of a shame--to me, it's a lot funnier if the word is just the result of Louie's brain suddenly breaking.

Um, have you forgotten the premise, dude?  They think that YOU caught a wolf, so if they do it, it's going to make them think they're equal to you at worst--which is bad enough, maybe.  Though come to think of it, what explanation are you going to give them about what HAPPENED to your alleged wolf?  I'm not sure this plan was ever really a "plan," per se.

I ask you: what the HELL would you possibly do with a wolf that you caught using this method?  You'd have to get a stepladder or something, and how would you extricate it without getting attacked or at least letting it escape?  I mean, I'm glad it's not a death trap, but if there were any chance of you actually getting a wolf, you'd just be BEGGING for trouble.

"Hundreds of spectators?"  Slow day in Duckburg, apparently.  This is VERY hard to envision.  It is a pretty amusing denouement, however.

Hey look, Mortimer sells mousetraps now.  Okay, that's pushing it.  WHATEVER.  Anyway, if nothing else, we can also see Barks' tendency to not know how to effectively end stories.  This is the kind of thing you can see any ol' place.

Okay, Taliaferro strips in this issue (well, obviously the images here are from a reprint, but you know): there's not much that's of any great interest, but:

...I'm pretty sure that's the opposite of scalping, actually.   I just wanted to point that out.

Also, Daisy kills a cop.  Good; you can argue all you want about the accuracy of ACAB, but THIS one certainly seems to be a bastard.  I was going to sort of tie that more explicitly into current events, but then I realized, jeez, if I did that I'd be ending this entry on quite a dark note.  So, I just decided to leave it at that.  



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I can't wait when you get to a Barks story and be like "Oh yeah, this is first Barks-canon story where all characters feel in character" etc.

I wonder what that would be (Not sure why I would bet on "Mummies ring" but here we are)

August 18, 2021 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Lugija said...

In the second image there is a view of the city the ducks live in (not called Duckburg for some time yet). I wonder if it's any specific skyline, like St. Jacinto mountain was in the rabbit's foot story. Anyway it shows a glimpse of the larger world, not relevant in this story.

August 18, 2021 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah! I love those little indications you sometimes see of a larger world.

August 18, 2021 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

One image is missing.

August 18, 2021 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I would like you to know that I got a hearty laugh out of “a defective fox”! Good review as usual, in any case.

Stray nitpick: you appear to be missing the [image] to go with your paragraph on ‘Bohimaton’…


I ask you: what the HELL would you possibly do with a wolf that you caught using this method? You'd have to get a stepladder or something, and how would you extricate it without getting attacked or at least letting it escape

While I can but commend you on the fact that your brain did not jump to this fairly gruesome possibility, it seems to me that a hunter would simply shoot the trapped wolf to death from underneath, and then cut the ropes to make the corpse drop down.

August 18, 2021 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

In real life, yeah, but can you picture the ducks doing that? I think that's further proof that Barks hadn't thought this out super-well.

August 18, 2021 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

True, although playing Devil's Advocate, if we think they want to sell the live wolf to a zoo or something… tranquilizer dart gun?

August 18, 2021 at 4:21 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Fox hunting isn't an American fixation. And there's just no sense in the story of WHY it's axiomatic that All Wildlife Must Die.
The story slots neatly into a cultural era in which hunting was more common, and its dark side glossed over—as in Looney Tunes—by a comedy battle between man and nature, in which nature was implicitly assumed to have a sporting chance. It was comedy when the man was inept and the game small (Elmer vs. Daffy), adventure when the man was heroic and the game huge (Mickey vs. a moose; Frank Buck). But either way, the jocular nature of the presentation moved fast enough and colorfully enough, in animation, to distract from any truly bleak undertone.

Comics, as a static and quiet medium where the brain can linger on a single image, begin to lose that—and I think it's more visible the more our culture changes.

In all honesty, when I myself put "The Mighty Trapper" into the 75th anniversary book, I perceived it as no different than a Looney Tune on the same subject... clearly of a different era, but not grotesquely so.

August 20, 2021 at 7:02 PM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

I'm sure that in some communities, hunting and trapping are still fairly common, but for the majority of folks in the US, it isn't as common a hobby/occupation anymore. This story does feel like Barks was consciously trying to create a story that doesn't so heavily rely on sight gags and animation timing, but he ran out of pages once he got to a certain point, so we got a panel of exposition to end this with that almost feels like "...and eventually they were rescued by, oh, let's say... Moe".

August 25, 2021 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger Lugija said...

That ending is very clunky. Maybe if the crowd had been shown it would have been jarring when the rest of the story is just the four ducks alone against each other, but now the largest scene of the story is told about and not shown. It wouldn't have been that important (it's enough to know that Donald was publicly humiliated) but then why tell us about it in so many words? Barks would later do similar time skips on the last pages of his stories (Old froggie Catapult comes to mind) but in them the most visual and dramatic part was already over.

In one of the old blog posts here about farm comics it was mentioned how kids are taught that the pigs give bacon and ham same as the cows give milk and the chicken give eggs, but how you get bacon out of the pig is never specified. Here we are shown fur clothes made out of a fox so it can't be side-stepped what is going on (even though it's never said aloud what happens to the animals after they are caught, as you point out). Hunting in duck comics is generally talked about and hunting trophies shown frankly.

Except... I'm now trying to remember if there's any animal (other than fishes) that is shown as both alive and dead (food product) after hunting. There was that eagle that Donald caught when he thought it was a turkey, but it was only shown in silhouette before being put into a bag and prepared. Other turkeys have either shown up as already prepared or still alive at the end of the story.

August 27, 2021 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

This Taliaferro Sunday strip shows a flock of chickens first living, then dead/cooked:

Not a common thing—I'm sure I remember a couple of other examples but they could probably be counted on one hand. (A couple of Big Bad Wolf and Brer Rabbit comics show similar examples of non-humanized chickens and ducks first living, then cooked.)

August 28, 2021 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

An interesting topic, for sure. I feel like there HAS to be something I'm forgetting, but it doesn't come to mind. Obviously. Because I'm forgetting it. Boy, THIS comment went downhill fast.

August 30, 2021 at 12:58 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

"Bohimation" is obviously a combination of "Behemoth" and "Abomination", both words stemming from the Bible. It's curious that your source failed to identify the second part of the equation.

September 4, 2021 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I'm...slightly skeptical about that, not least because it's not "Bohimation;" it's "Bohimaton." There's probably an echo of "behemoth" there, but it really doesn't suggest to me "abomination" in any way.

September 6, 2021 at 11:17 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Oh, right... I saw that wrong. This is such an unusual word, though. It's not impossible an "i" was there at the pencil stage and got dropped at the inking stage by accident. As it is, the obvious inspiration seems to be "Automaton".

September 10, 2021 at 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait wait wait hold the phone, THIS is the story where Barks first used Daisy? That's a surprise.

October 1, 2021 at 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how accurate this is, but regarding the origin of Bohimaton, this gives soemthing:

"In a December 11, 1991 interview, Barks told Geoffrey Blum about the origin of the word: "The only person I ever heard use the word was my first father-in-law. He was an Englishman, and when he was talking to kids, he would tell them scary stories about these big bohimatons that'd come down the stairs in the dark. And I think I did find it in a dictionary one time." (Barks gets the dictionary, but cannot find the word.)"

October 1, 2021 at 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, if you're doing Barks in order, any reason you skipped the three stories in the Mummy's Ring one-shot?

October 5, 2021 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've been busy with my teaching and also I had a case of breakthrough COVID which slowed me down for awhile. Rest assured, more will be coming, for Halloween if not earlier.

October 7, 2021 at 5:06 PM  
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