Thursday, April 21, 2022

"Rip Van Donald"

Man!  Draggin' my feet, and now apparently my plan to look at Gyro stories has been aborted.  Well, maybe not, but I read THIS.  And I wanted to write about it.  So I am.  Any questions?

It's worth dwelling on this opening, I think, because it's very important in that it explains the stakes for the entire story: why HDL are so upset about having to go south and so motivated to get themselves back north.  Whatever you may think of wintry weather, you have to admit that Barks does a good job making it look as appealing as possible.  Any ol' anyone could write a story with the plot "nephews forced to go south; trick their uncle into returning."  But, due to lack of artistic skill or just lack of interest, a lot of these anyones would do a cursory or nonexistent job of showing why they care that much.  You can't just say "they like the winter;" you have to show it.  This is also a good counterexample to bring up to anyone who asserts that writing and art in a comic are completely discrete: here, the art helps to tell the story.

Of course, free-associating on this topic, you might say, okay, Barks shows HDL's motivations effectively, but it's sort of cheating that he doesn't do the same for Donald: we don't at all get to see what's bad about winter; why he wants to go south.  But I say, while that could be an issue in another kind of story, this one is written so firmly from the kids' perspective that I really don't think it's all that vital to provide his.

Still, it's interesting how perspectives can change.  I don't think I read this story when I was small, but if I had you can bet I'd've been entirely on HDL's side: dang ol' tyrannical Unca Donald, not letting us have our wintry fun!  But today...well, I'm still basically with the kids, but I can also sympathize more with Donald, who has to deal with the practical inconveniences of winter that are invisible to the kids.  Really, I think if they're going to stay up north, they should be required to do at least some of the shoveling and whatnot.  That would help them to understand his point of view.

It's sort of funny to think of the practicality of this: are they staying, like, in a hotel or something, or did Donald just drive south for a few hours and then just plop himself under some random tree?  Also, even though Donald's employment status is always unstable, it's really notable here: is he independently wealthy, that he can just uproot everything and do nothing for the whole winter?  Whatever; he does look pretty chill there.

I do have to call bullshit on this "last summer" business.  You played in the snow last winter, too!  This idea that you've swum enough for, I guess, you entire life does not pass muster!  Pure sophistry!

A clever plan, for sure!  So: how old do you think Donald is?  I've always thought of him as probably being in his early thirties.  And that actually works with the numbers specified; forty years?  Okay, fair enough, even if I probably would've gone with fifty.  Can't complain.

Gotta love HDL's disguises.  Apparently they all have some sort of dwarfism also to explain why we've seen no growth in all this time.  Also, what kind of hats are those?  Why do they appear to have bolts through them?  This seems like it must be a real thing, but what?  Googling around just gets you baseball caps with lightning bolts printed on them.

Also also, this business about growing beards is one of your more flagrant "we are extremely not even pretending these characters are actually birds" moments.  I wonder how many people in the audience, then or now, even registered that.

This part makes me laugh.  The fact that they include this sort of absurdism in their plot is a lot of fun.  No harm in a li'l goofing around!

"Rubber to bend away from atomic bombs."  Obligatory acknowledgment of the ol' Cold War paranoia bubbling up.

It's interesting that Donald not only buys into this story, but he seems to think it's pretty cool, to the extent that he's willing to just handwave away any possible counter-evidence to the idea that he's in the future.

Silly!  Silly, I tell you!  Could a real helicopter lift a car like this?  It is to be doubted!  But, what the hey.  These scans are from the original printing; it's interesting--although I don't really have anything to say about it--that the colorist made the helicopter pilots black.

I...don't know what it means to doctor gasoline with ether.  Googling around, I did learn that "Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is a flammable liquid that has been used as an additive for unleaded gasoline since the 1980s," but that seems less than relevant for a 1950 story.  Then again, maybe Barks was just prescient!  You can't prove to me that he wasn't!  You can prove it, sure, but not to me.

Regardless, we get to see Donald tripping balls, so we can't complain too much.  This makes me think of Bottaro art.  You know, it's interesting: the idea of characters being chemically altered isn't completely foreign to Disney, the "pink elephants on parade" sequence from Dumbo being the most obvious example.  And yet...how often do you see this in Barks?  Is there another example?  Because when I was rereading this, I immediately thought, whoa, that is weird.  Did not expect it!

More hallucinating.  Also, there's just something about how neatly the plan works out that appeals to me, even if it requires substantial helpful happenstance (how did they think this was going to work out if Donald didn't get conveniently knocked out?).  Well done!

If you want to consider this a Donald-vs-nephews story, it's really a pretty low-key one.  The conflict never gets that intense.  And the kids get to play in the snow!  Hurray!  Is this an appropriate time of year to write about it?  Well, we DID have a surprisingly intense April snowstorm a few days ago, so I think it's fine.  There is no need to contact the authorities.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the bolts or pushbuttons on the hats are just HD&L's idea of futuristic headgear.

April 22, 2022 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger GeoX, who is here to stay, like it or not. said...

Possible, I suppose, but nothing ELSE about their get-ups looks at all futuristic to me.

April 22, 2022 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Great review! You're quite right about the deftness of the handling of the scenario — this is a very contrived plot, but Barks carries it off.

Beards-wise, well — I guess Scrooge's whiskers could be made of feathers, but Ludwig von Drake's hair certainly isn't, nor Grandma's.

This story was always a favourite of mine; I have a thing for this sort of… assisted Quixotism, I guess you'd say? Where a character gets convinced by a brilliantly improbable scheme that they're living through some sort of extraordinary experience. I guess these days you could just stick a VR headset on Donald's head, but where's the fun in that?

April 22, 2022 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

"We are extremely not even pretending these characters are actually birds" moments (Quote Geox)

WELL my good sir! Don Rosa wrote on his facebook group that these character *WHERE NEVER MENT TO BE DUCKS* but are *HUMANS WHO LOOK LIKE DUCKS* for comedic caricature efect (or something) and that they realy don't ment to have literal beaks, feathers and duck feat, and fans who think otherwise and dare to call them "talking ducks" are wrong, wrong, wrong and don't understand his stories at all and therefore Barks!

...

Yeah...

April 24, 2022 at 4:38 AM  
Blogger Chris Chan said...

Thanks for the review!

I notice how when the ducks are playing outside, none of them wears a coat or a winter hat, just earmuffs. Donald tells them to "pack your winter clothes," but their summer clothes are EXACTLY THE SAME AS THEIR WINTER CLOTHES, minus the earmuffs (and ice skates, I suppose).

April 24, 2022 at 5:38 AM  

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