Monday, October 31, 2022

"The Wax Museum"

Boo!  Why no entries for a number of months that I can't bear to contemplate?  Well, no real excuses; the summer was pretty rough, and since then I've been fairly busy with my fellowship in Tallinn.  Anyway, I haven't been completely inactive with my blogs; on my main one, I'm almost finished blogging every Freddy the Pig book.  Whaddaya want from me?!?  Blood?!  Well, it IS Halloween, so maybe that's not unreasonable.  Wax museums are scary, right?  I've never been to one, but probably they are.  

These are all dramatically different reasons to fire someone, aren't they?  The first is for doing something specific, the second is for the sake of a pun, and the third because—presumably—they hired him as a barber without having given him any kind of tryout or anything.  It feels like it's not wholly coherent, somehow—that it doesn't really provide a picture of what fundamental thing about Donald causes these serial sackings.  Then again, maybe that's the point—he contains multitudes.  I enjoy the first one in particular—seems like a remarkably forbearing bakery that lets him get away with the first two dough-mixer naps.  I want to work there; I'd only do it ONCE!  I might get my name on an employee of the month plaque.

Okay, gotta go off on a little tangent here.  Inducks labels the hardcover Fantagraphics as having “dialogue altered.”  What does that mean?  We must find out.  So I compared the two, and it didn't take long; it's right on the first page:

Mmm.  You know, I'm not one to look at these things and start hollering about censorship or free speech, which is always disingenuous, irrelevant, and unhelpful.  But fair's fair: this is not an impressive feat of work on Fantagraphics' part.  It completely throws off the rhythm of this opening montage.  There needs to be something else in that panel.  Otherwise it just looks like a setup that's had the punchline shorn off, as indeed it is.  And as casual racism goes, “from an Indian war chief?” is fairly anodyne.  The funny thing is that in this same book we also have the extremely offensive “Black Wednesday,” published unedited.  

Okay okay, I'm just playing dumb if I pretend I don't get the rationale: that story would be impossible to scrub of racism, so ya gotta just bite the bullet and print it.  But for this one, where all you have to do is excise one little bit of dialogue, at the very low cost of making the opening of the story marginally worse?  Not a high price.  They would think.  And they might be right, but man, wasn't this project meant to present all of Barks' work, warts and all, in the same way the Gottfredson books did?  Does any of this matter, or not?  Come on.

Well, I suppose maybe the violin job would have been sort of “scientific,” if he actually had to build violins.  But you would definitely not just hire someone off the street for that.  Still, that's the good thing about wandering around Duckburg: if you do it long enough, you're sure to pass a wax museum or something, and they're sure to need guards.  That's just the way the city works, and if you don't believe it, note that this is a remake of an earlier story in which night watchmen were ALSO being sought after.  It happens!  In the real world, jobs that don't come via spam subject lines rarely describe themselves as “easy,” but that is neither here nor there.  

Sick burn.  If they hadn't insulted him, maybe he'd've gotten some sleep and we would've been deprived of this story.  Reminds me of this, though this story came first.  Probably.   Also, does he always fling his hat off in a random direction when he gets home, or is that another result of his rage?

If you look up “pumpkin bowling” on the internet, you'll get results.  Of course you will!  You can watch videos of people doing it.  Nonetheless, it's not something most people think about much, and it definitely seems odd to just be doing it at home like it's nothin' (this wasn't published as a Halloween story, so it's not that).  Though actually, if we take all this stuff together, we see that Donald has quite a varied array of, I guess, leisuretime equipment: if he's not bowling with pumpkins, he's training as a gymnast, and if not that, he's brushing up on his tap-dancing.  A real renaissance man.

THUD.  I do kind of admire Donald's devotion to routine.  When it's time to sleep, he is going to SLEEP.  Don't mess with him.  If asking someone to stay awake is “messing with” them.

So you could read this as “dang, look at his devotion to being asleep: it's so great that even a terrifying tableau of Dracula menacing a dude isn't enough to keep him awake!”  But I don't know about that: in spite of HDL's assumption that Donald's going to be kept awake out of sheer terror, there's no indication that he IS scared of anything that's going on.  Some people don't find Dracula scary!  What can I say?  I kind of think we're meant to see it as just being down to the intensity of his interest in sleeping, but that remains unproven.

Note also that one of the Fabled Folk is “Alice.” Wonderland?  Is she a fabled folk?  Seems an odd choice for that wing of the museum.

Gotta love the way he takes everything in stride.  He seems at least a little concerned about who shot the arrow, but the idea that it was Robin Hood completely satisfies him.  The question of how could a dummy have shot an arrow is of lesser importance?  Let's take a nap in this fiery pit of eternal perdition before we drive ourselves nuts thinking about it.

Is Donald just concerned about keeping his “easy job?”  Maybe, but even if he gets to sleep through his every shift, the process of being woken up and dragged in by his nephews doesn't seem that easy, or pleasant.  Or does he feel a more general sense of responsibility?  Is he heroic in a possibly-Quixotic sense?  I think these things get mixed up and are ultimately not entirely resolved within the story.

Oxygen poisoning IS a thing, of course, but was “don't get oxygen poisoning” a popular fifties thing to say?  Who KNOWS what they were getting up to in the fifties?  I admire that that guy had enough commitment to his jester/baroque musician costume that he lugged a giant flippin' double bass along.

Also, note the rare non-dog-nosed humans.

I just like this.  It's funny.  Whatever motivates him, Donald's single-minded commitment to dealing with the situation is great.  Also note that he's significantly more active than he is in the story of which this is a remake--in that one he saves the day, but only by shooting his gun in his sleep because he's dreaming about fighting bandits.

Also, “I don't know how they move on their own power, but I haven't time to find out now” is one for the ages.  We don't worry about the madness; we just embrace it.  And admire his notable lasso skills.

And, well, so it ends, a little anti-climactically, as is the norm.  Sweet gig, though I kind of suspect that if you looked through the whole of Barks, you'd find that this isn't even the biggest riot ever caused by Donald.  Though admittedly, he rarely gets rewarded for them.

Will there be other blog entries in the future, where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives?  Check back; find out.



Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Actualy when I was at Madame Tussauds years ago [around the early 2000's] they in fact did had some section where you would go true a very dark and twisted corridor where you where passing statues and once a while there was an guy in a costume doing a jump-scare on you in the least expected, "well, this one is clearly a statue" moment.

My mom was so freaked out. The-he-he. Good times.

Anny way the real horror here is to discover that Fantagraphics did such random censoring after all the "Darkest Africa" stuff they where ey-ok with. I would understand a little more if they where from Canada since representation of native Americans is a hot button issue there but this felt very random at this point. To be honest, this type of books is aimed at collectors, who are the last people who complain about this stuff, since they are aware what they are geting into...


October 31, 2022 at 1:18 PM  
Anonymous DJ said...

According to a recent post on the Feathery Society forums. the new Fantagraphics box-set containing "Under the Polar Ice" (which is where this story was reprinted) and "Christmas in Duckburg" contains the uncensored versions of "Wax Museum" and other stories, but there's no further verification yet. The "Polar Ice" volume has some really bizarre censorship, some of it not even related to racial issues--like replacing the word "violent" with the word "angry" and the word "mob" with the word "bunch." And yet, as you mention, "Black Wednesday" goes untouched.

In regard to "Wax Museum" itself: it's interesting that Barks drew Napoleon as a human and not as a dog-nose variant, which of course necessitated using a rare human as the Napoleon-costumed party guest. Now that I think of it, though, did Barks ever draw a historical figure as a dog-nose (or a duck) in his stories? I can't think of an example offhand; while he references historical figures from time to time in his stories--Queen Elizabeth, King Solomon, Pizarro, etc.--he never actually showed any of them in flashbacks, an area in which Rosa and he diverge.

November 1, 2022 at 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Boggle said...

I think Rosa insinuated in one of the L&T chapter notes that the editors always insisted that he depict historical figures as dog-noses (as opposed to humans; presumably going the duck route was always an option, but he only went with it in the case of Francis Drake). I also vaguely recall something about editorial pushback against Barks' use of human characters in stories like "Big-Top Bedlam" and "Dangerous Disguise," but my source on this is my memory of a Barks collection I read at the age of seven or so. Can anyone corroborate/deny?

Looking at the Icelandic translation of the first page on Inducks, I see that "Indian war chief" was changed to "punk rocker." The translation's from '86, so I doubt anyone involved was concerned with the casual racism. In any case it would've been too anachronistic a replacement for the Fantagraphics collection.

November 2, 2022 at 3:53 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Barks was indeed reprimanded for “Dangerous Disguise” and other such plays at normalizing everyone but the Ducks being humans — but they didn't give him grief about the *occasional* human thereafter, as far as I know.

With regards to flicking hats around, it seems headed for that piece of indeterminate furniture, there; it's not inconceivable that this is where Donald is used to putting down his hat when he comes in.

November 2, 2022 at 6:05 AM  
Blogger Joe Torcivia said...

Hi, everyone…

Just making a rare (these days) appearance here, before returning to the dark reaches I inhabit, in order to clear up a misconception before it spreads.

“Anny way the real horror here is to discover that Fantagraphics did such random censoring after all the "Darkest Africa" stuff they where ey-ok with. ”

Let me make it clear… Fantagraphics DOES NOT censor! Disney CENSORS! Doing so regarding specific aspects pertaining to characters that they own, which is their right to do whether we like it or not. But it is DISNEY, not Fantagraphics, who dictates the terms of any (real or imagined) “censorship” that might go on.

Fantagraphics no more censors than IDW “censored” aspects of Paul Murry’s Mickey Mouse serial “The Mysterious Crystal Ball”, or Boom! Studios “censored” aspects of Carl Barks’ “Luck of the North”!

Fantagraphics “alters content” at the direction of Disney, but Fantagraphics does not censor!

Perhaps they did not modify that particular dialogue balloon as artfully as they might otherwise have, and that *could* be a fair criticism, but it was not their idea or intent to “alter” in the first place.

As a freelancer of both story and text article content for Fantagraphics – a VERY DEDICATED publisher when it comes to this material, I might add – it is a reality I must work within all the time.

It is also important to note that one should not look back on the greater leeway granted the Gottfredson Library, or even earlier volumes of this series. Sorry for dragging this weary old phrase out of what should be its deserved retirement but… That Was Then, This Is Now!

The USA and the world as a whole have become much more unpleasant and sensitive in recent times… and it’s only getting worse, not better. As a result of new crises, old despicable attitudes resurfacing, and almost feather-like sensitivity dominating our existence, the standards for “acceptability” change almost by the day!

Given what goes on in America, even “replacing the word ‘violent’ with the word ‘angry’ and the word ‘mob’ with the word ‘bunch’ ” becomes a silly and admittedly squeamish reaction that is yet somehow understandable in today’s climate of (almost casual) horrifying politically directed violence… oh, check that… Not “violence”, but “anger”! Justified or not, it is DISNEY, not Fantagraphics, behind said reaction.

Thus, you should expect no consistency with past volumes when it comes to what is altered (or, “censored”, if you must) in material such as this… even if aimed at “adult collectors”.

Now, before I ask Bart Simpson to write 100 times on the blackboard “Fantagraphics does not censor!”, I’ll take my leave, hoping today’s lesson has been learned.

Bye, all!

November 4, 2022 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Nice to see you back on this blog, GeoX! I definitely think this story works for Halloween, due to the nephews' goal of scaring Donald awake, the Dracula sequence, and especially that fabulous panel showing Donald napping in the fiery pit of perdition.

Joe beat me to it, but if he hadn't written what he did I would have posted to similar effect. I don't have his inside knowledge, but it is clear to me from things I've heard and from discussion on Feathery that any changes of this sort are down to The Corporate Mouse, not Fantagraphics. And Corporate Disney's lack of consistency around these issues is something we experienced before Fantagraphics, in the monthly comics, isn't that right? Sometimes it seems to come down to who's in the office at Disney on a particular day.

November 4, 2022 at 10:22 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

And another thought on the Halloween associations of this story...note that Donald's superior lasso skills are featured again in Rosa's "Fit to Be Pied"!

November 5, 2022 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

As casual racism goes, “from an Indian war chief?” is fairly anodyne.

Surely you didn't miss that this is a reference to scalping?

November 8, 2022 at 3:24 AM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

As far back as 1975, I got the bejayzus scared out of me when one of Madame Tussaud's wax sculptures suddenly came to life in front of me.

November 28, 2022 at 7:30 AM  

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