Wednesday, December 7, 2022

"Minnie's Christmas Tree"

 And now, we bring you...another story! But this one's interesting, I promise! Well, kind of. Don't get your hopes too sky-high. But seriously, it is not totally devoid of interest. Feel free to use that as a pull-quote.

We open with this revolting display of condescending paternalism—and it's also super-gross to see Minnie just playing her part (“How clever!” “Oh, Mickey, you're wonderful!). Patriarchy degrades us all, as is often noted.

Okay, so maybe it starts off less-than-promising. But this isn't really necessarily a strike on the story: Mickey's misplaced confidence leads to trouble, and nobody would ever imagine otherwise. The problem I have—you may or may not—is that I don't particularly like this portrayal of Mickey, even if it's just there to set him up for a fall. You know, I like Donald as a character better than Mickey. That is no surprise. But would it be fair to say that there is a greater gulf between good and bad portrayals of Mickey than there is between same of Donald? Of course, there are outliers, but without actually having thought about it very deeply, I feel like this is generally true.

All this aside, though, it's worth noting that this characterization of Mickey at the beginning proves irrelevant to the story's main conflict. You know he's going to have to try to find a tree through alternate means. That, you can guess. But there's no reason he has to act this way for the story to get where it wants to go. And I wouldn't even put this in the same category as the “naive storytelling” I talked about in the last entry, since this doesn't seem to really be a notably easier way to tell the story than anything else. I would like to think that the author was making an intentional criticism of patriarchal power structures...but that seems somehow unlikely. You rarely even see conscious subversion like that in Barks, let alone these other dudes. Alas, I'm afraid that the only thing happening here is the author blankly reflecting back the dominant societal norms of the time. The fact that in this particular case these norms don't work out isn't necessarily meant to be a condemnation of them per se. I think. Maybe it is! I'm no mind-reader! But whatever it is, it's hard to believe I've written so much about it.

The lot owner's disembodied head in the top left is a real hallmark of artistic quality. I do kind of like seeing Mickey get his here, but I don't find Minnie's behavior super-seemly either. Look, we all want big Christmas trees. I understand. But STILL, thematically, one of the kind of main things about Christmas is Jesus being born into super-humble circumstances, innit? Maybe you should treat this as a growth opportunity. Don't be contemptuous of small trees.

Also, can we go back to how weird-looking the lot owner is, even if his head isn't disembodied? That bottom right imagine of him holding the tree makes my brain hurt.

Sigh. Yes, I suppose under the circumstances, it was inevitable that this would end in tears. Feminine tears, of course.

Huh. Mickey has a mountain cabin. Who else has a mountain cabin? Any guesses as to what we'll find there?

The story is oddly insistent that Mickey's horse is Tanglefoot. I'm not really an expert on these old Mickey comic book stories: was Tanglefoot a regular there? I feel like not. But I could be wrong! And probably am! At any rate, inducks is not convinced, identifying this character only as “Tanglefoot from CP 3.”  We know him well.

The excitement: can you handle it?!?

BOOM. A mountain! A mountain with bears! Bear Mountain! Of course, that's a pretty generic-sounding name. We all love Barks, sure, but let's not go nuts. Still, it would be fun if that name exactly were used in this story (it isn't; I'm not holding out on you).

There's that recently-published IDW book of Bear Mountain stories. On the one hand, it would've been nice if I'd had that a few years back when Bear Mountain was the Christmas theme. On the other hand, I've looked through the book, and I have to say, most of the new-in-English stories there really aren't much cop (though I may well be able to salvage a post or two from them). Then again, neither are the old-in-English (?) stories, other than the original. Associating yourself with Barks doesn't necessarily lead to deathless works of genius? Who coulda knowed?

Anyway, I will give this story here credit for doing bears differently than you'd expect. In stories of this type, you expect some sort of bear-aggression. It's pretty much a given. But that is not what you get in the present case! Here, the bears are just sleeping and being, I suppose, passively annoying. Kind of interesting visually, too. Really not what you'd have expected. Moderately well-done, anonymous writer.

A lot of the action is taken up by our heroes...moving bears. And it's a dilemma, because part of me feels like I'd be neglecting my duty if I didn't point out how ludicrous this is, and part of me thinks it would just be wasting your time to state the obvious. I mean, if you can make fun of something in a funny way, that's fine, even if you're shooting fish in a barrel, but I dunno, man. This one may have defeated me.

Seems vaguely like a horror motive in the making here. The bears DO seem a bit zombie-ish.

The zzz sounds indicate that the bears are meant to be asleep this whole time, but it's sort of hard to tell if the artist is always going for that or not. I'll level with you: it's all a bit weird-looking.

...I thought the issue was that a little tree was UNACCEPTABLE. What did you even come here for? The writer seems to be distinguishing between the little-little of the tree lot and the still-comparatively-big-little of the mountain....but it's all rather awkward.

Well, from this impractical idea, we segue directly into this squirrel thing. These guys coulda been Chip and Dale, but nope, just generic squirrels. That diagonal balloon on the bottom left seems odd, given that there's no evidence that Mickey and Goofy are standing diagonally. Why just this one time, you weird artist? What gives? That artist, by the way, is Lee Hooper, a man who has never before appeared on the hallowed pages of this blog.

The squirrel's tossing the axe to a beaver, Goofy. Make a note of it. The beaver just looks like another squirrel with a very slightly altered tale, causing needless confusion. I do like the axe-crunching panel, though. Very deranged-looking beast.  The tree-search being preempted by a beaver is certainly the sort of ludicrous contrivance one expects from such stories.

The bears get in one final jab. Seriously, I dig these sleeping bears. Bring them back for a sequel!

Mickey ground down by the remorseless logic of capital. You love to see it. A story that could have been entirely avoided, but I don't not like this one enough that I'm willing to let that slide.

Pwned. What am I supposed to do with this ending, huh? Well, even Homer nods, I guess. Was Mickey down a coal mine between the first and second panels?

Anyway, hopefully Mickey's learned some sort of lesson from this, but I wouldn't hold my breath.



Anonymous Elaine said...

I will say one thing for this story: There are countless Disney comics stories I've read which have left no mental trace; this one I remember as "the one with the sleeping bears."

The beaver might have looked less like a squirrel if the colorist had colored it solid brown. I think the confusion is more the colorist's fault than the artist's.

December 7, 2022 at 3:37 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I don't know why but Mickey just so happen to own a mountain cabin feels odd to me. Is it strange that I just' can't imagine Mickey Mouse owning a property other then his house unless it's some one-time "Hey Minnie, My Uncle Mickeyslav just kicked the bucket, and left me his old cabin. They say it's haunted and there is a hidden treasure some gangsters maybe after.... Wanna spend a night there?" or - like in some cartoon - they just have Mickey's live in a wooden cabin for the sake of story to work.

Maybe it's just do to the fact character dosen't have that much personal lore that trivial details like this feel out of place for him.


December 9, 2022 at 2:53 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I think generally Mickey isn't supposed to be that wealthy. His income feels like it's more *stable* than Donald's but not reliably higher.

December 9, 2022 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

At least Donald was shown having jobS!

Out-side of that series when Mickey and Goofy work for delivery service, usualy Mickey isn't shown having a job or any income... I guess he just collect bounty for Pete and Phantom Blot once a week.

December 9, 2022 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Well, there's always “House of Mouse”! Nightclub-owner isn't the first idea that springs to mind, but may be the most prominent stable job Mickey has held in official media. Fancy that.

In Gottfredson, of course, he was semi-frequently presented as a part-time actor, who starred for Mr Disney in short films which correspond to our Mickey Mouse cartoons (but are, in his universe, live-action shorts in the Charlie Chaplin tradition).

In French and Italian comics, you often see him being employed, in a tastefully vague capacity, at the offices of, er, whatever Disney book named after him you're reading right now (“Topolino”, “Mickey Parade”, “Le Journal de Mickey”, etc.), much like Spirou. There was even a French… "series", in the loose sense that "Gyro Gearloose shorts" or "Grandma Duck's Farm stories" are series, that closely paralleled “Gaston Lagaffe” with Mickey in the Prunelle or Fantasio role, and Michel Souris in the Gaston role.

Finally, I do think there are stories that genuinely assume that Mickey is a detective professionally (and I don't just mean one-offs like “Anderville”). Not quite a private detective, not quite a member of the police force either; but some sort of freelance whom Chief O'Hara calls in for specific jobs, and who presumably gets paid freelance rates off-screen every time. Might the Cumberbatch-Sherlock coinage of "consulting detective" be appropriate?

December 10, 2022 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 30, 2022 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

Tanglefoot is in several early 1950s W-coded stories. In one case—"The Mystery of the Double-Cross Ranch"—the story contains gags lifted from an unfinished late-1930s Mickey/Tanglefoot film cartoon, suggesting that the drive to use him had something to do with Murry and/or other Western talents having worked at Disney in years previous, and remembering good gags that went unused.
(Tanglefoot only made it into a single released cartoon, the Donald and Goofy-headliner The Fox Hunt (1938), where he wasn't drawn very recognizably, and never called by name—one only knows it's him from his behavior and the fact that he was mentioned by name in a story conference.)

December 30, 2022 at 10:51 AM  

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