Thursday, December 1, 2022

"Postman's Puzzle"

 Here's THIS.  It's story that may not be the most notable, but that I've nonetheless somehow wanted to write about ever since I first read it.  Is it good?  Well...that remains to be seen, although you probably have some idea of how these things tend to go when I get coy at the start.

Don't have any particular plan in mind for Christmas stories this year.  Just as the spirit (or possibly the glögg) moves me.  If you have any ideas for good stories to cover, feel free to suggest them in comments.

But IS this a Christmas story?  Well, it was originally printed in Dell's 1952 Christmas Parade, and Gemstone later reprinted it in one of theirs.  And the opening certainly suggests as much, though nothing else does aside from the presence of snow.  It's not as far as I can determine, but it feels like it could easily be a remake of a non-Christmas story that just had a minimal amount of seasonal material shoved in there.  Note also that title, which not only has nothing to do with Christmas but is barely relevant to the story itself.  Tah.

Is picking mail up for the post office a swell way to earn extra money for Christmas?  This sounds suspiciously like the gig economy avant la lettre.  As much as I appreciate the post office, I say let them handle their own work.

Anyway, watch out for these Honest John epigones, our fiendish villains.  Wright actually isn't super-good at drawing these characters he (or whoever) invented; they are pretty ungainly-looking.

Anyway, here's O'Hara, who apparently spends his time driving around and pointing guns at people he's decided for no clear reason are suspicious.  So, points for realism, then.  Is Rando Cop there suggesting that if they had money, further harassment would be warranted?  What a world.

In all seriousness, this is the kind of naive storytelling you often see in these old Western jobbies taken to an extreme: the author has clearly decided what he (definitely “he,” let's face it) wants to happen, and as such he's just going to blow through stuff like this with nary a care in the world for whether it makes any kind of sense when you give it the slightest thought.  This is reminiscent of stories I wrote when I was ten.  Well, it's an aesthetic!  I suppose.

A fifty thousand dollar bill!  Of course, there's never been such a thing in the history of the US.  There WAS a hundred thousand dollar bill, however:

Problem is, it was only ever used for bank transactions.  It wasn't legal for ordinary citizens to have, so the only possible value it could have for someone would be as part of a completely private collection.  And even if not, GOOD LUCK trying to get any business in the world to accept it.

In absolute fairness, I should note that there was also a ten thousand dollar bill, which WAS in public circulation, however marginally, so our writer could have gone for that—though it still seems wildly impractical.

BUT ANYWAY, none of that is really relevant, since the writer was clearly just taking a stab at finding  a sufficiently outrageous-sounding piece of money.  Blah.

Our heroes (heroes?) get really, really obsessed with getting this bill to the cops.  So, like, if this is a legal amount of currency to carry around, what are the police supposed to do with it?  How is someone going to prove they lost it?  Do they have the serial number memorized?  I's all just so vague.  And what if they let it go?  Is some random person just going to find it and spend it?  How's someone going to do that?  Stories like this make my brain itch with their lack of specificity or clear stakes.

Also, can we just zoom out for a moment and note that, based on the information available, Mickey and Goofy have no greater “right” to this bill than the foxes do?  They're just being nosy.  Argh!  Gets on my nerves!

Braining someone with a shovel as retaliation for a faceful of snow seems like about the most disproportionate response imaginable.  I know it's just zany ol' slapstick, but jeez.

See, here's another perfect example of what I called “naive storytelling”—stuff just happening because it's the first/easiest way the writer thought of for something to happen: that sublimely idiotic image of the foxes crashing through a restaurant's plate-glass window.

Also, “drawn on a Chinese bank” is incomprehensible to me.  Doesn't a check being “drawn on” a bank just mean the check comes from that bank—like, it has the bank's address and stuff and presumably in this case it would be at least partially written in Chinese?  Here, we're presumably meant to think that it's a fraudulent check but...if—as the story clearly implies—we're meant to think that it being Chinese makes it obviously fraudulent, why would the foxes have used it?  Why not just use a fake check from a more plausible-sounding bank?  I mean I know I'm not meant to be thinking about this, I know it's just meant as short-hand for dishonesty, but I swear, I'm not trying to think about it.  I see it and it trips me up!  I can't just not think about things I read!  Does that mean I'm not the ideal audience for disposable-by-design seventy-year-old comics?  Maybe!  But here we are!

Welp, I don't think this is a turn any of us expected the story to take.  Yup...our bill was just sucked up into that old Scotchman's bagpipes.  Again, what's this “our?”  You're getting awfully damn proprietary here.  I'm fairly sure the bill would just lodge in the pipe and stay there, but the author seems to be conceiving them as being more like a vacuum cleaner, just sucking everything down all willy nilly.  

It seems like conceivably you could just tell him why you want to look, as opposed to acting like the world's biggest weirdo.  I would think.  But the point is, “we're in a desperate spot.”  WHY?  Why is this situation so desperate?  This story would work better if Mickey's psychology at any point resembled that of a normal human.  

Well, that about sums it up: heh, heh.  Heh, heh indeed.

Still, whatever else you can say, you do have to give the story credit for one thing: this is the smuggest fox imaginable.  Goddamn is that one smug fox.

Yes, great action setpiece.  Zoom!  Though my feeling is, you'll be substantially more done for if the engines do start.  Also, can I point out that they don't actually have the bill on them?  Okay, conceivably the foxes don't know that, but in what sense does Mickey think they'll be “done for?”  Do they believe, based on no evidence, that the foxes will just murder them in cold blood?  Or is it just their poorly-motivated quest for the bill that's done for?

Again with this meaningless business of “drawing checks” on foreign banks!  I feel like this would be a much more widespread problem if it were that easy.  Are they just creating their own checks with crayons and construction paper?  That's a fun arts and crafts project for the kids.

Well, Mickey and Goofy somehow got into the hold as opposed to the much more likely scenario of being blasted off the wing.  Actually, I have no idea: would you get dislodged immediately as the plane accelerated, and thus maybe only suffer some bumps and bruises, or would it be more fatal?  Would you be sucked into an engine?  I know little about planes, but enough to be skeptical about this.  It's another of those damn things: it was the easiest way to write the story, and so it is written thus.

Oh.  Yeah.  Sure.  An old Scotchman with a pair of bagpipes (I'm pretty sure “Scotsman” is more accepted, but that, of course, is the least of our problems here).  Sure, of course this random civilian knows exactly where we need to go.  Anything else would require narrative effort.  

My only response to Goofy here is a series of contemptuous "duh" noises.  It's all he deserves.

I will admit: “Clan MacClan” is kind of funny.  Fair play.  

...but the idea of this pattern serving as unquestioned proof that, in defiance of all logic, one is necessarily a member of that clan?  Extremely dumb.  So the clan's just like a country club or something?  Seriously.  This part is the worst.  BAD writer.  NO BISCUIT.

It's actually extremely easy to impersonate a member of this clan, given their total credulousness and the wide availability of the relevant pattern.

The goldfish is okay; that's the kind of silliness that I can accept.  I am more concerned with fundamental narrative issues.

I mean, okay, you apparently couldn't just bloody well tell him what you wanted before going to all the trouble for visiting Scotland, for inscrutable reasons that I'm fairly sure even you don't understand.  But if you've come all this way, fercrissake, you really couldn't just use words, as opposed to assaulting his instrument?  Seems like it would be the polite, and also sane, thing to do.  What do I know?

I swear, I don't even feel capable of commenting on this bit.  Just one damn thing after another.  Well, okay, I will comment on “will you please call the police?”  Call them about WHAT?  WHAT crime is supposed to have been committed here that the bill serves as evidence of?  ODS BODKINS.

WUT. Sure, sure, fine. Actually, come to think of it, no NOT fine. Get the hell out of here, O'Hara. This convoluted flailing around offends my sensibilities.

Counterfeit?  So this entire story could have been avoided?  Dammit.  But in that case, isn't the real question what the random be-top-hatted dude at the beginning was doing with it?  I mean, of course rich guys carry around bills of impractically massive denominations.  This is known.  But a fake one?  Whether the writer was making this story up as he went along or know where he was going from the beginning and just didn't care about tying together all the plot threads...we may never know.  It is what it is, alas.

Ha ha, Scottish people, amirite?  Do you think the candy store would even accept a UK coin?  Again, the least of our worries.  I keep saying that.

But I guess our worries are over, because the story is.  Man, I realize this entry isn't even slightly festive.  My apologies for that!  The next one will be better, conceivably.



Blogger Jeffyo said...

I'm pretty sure bagpipe drones only suck in a figurative sense. That bill never could have gone in there.

December 1, 2022 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Honest John epigones: Wright actually isn't super-good at drawing these characters he (or whoever) invented.

They resemble a salesman character that Manuel Gonzales drew in a Sunday page:

December 3, 2022 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I dunno If it's festive, but it was hilarious. I cackled pretty much all the way through. You, my friend, have still got it!

December 3, 2022 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Drleevezan said...

Agreed! I think this might be the most I've laughed reading one of your reviews. These holiday posts are always a delightful aspect of the season - I was very glad to see that you'd be doing them again this year.

December 4, 2022 at 3:08 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Ah! This article sure jingle bells and hark the herald angels in all the best way (if you know what I mean) that for sure!


would be an interesting Ⓒhristmas story to hear your opinion on (I love short piriot where there was series of stories about Magica and her family and this style in general)

BUT perhaps you would be interesting to check out some ANIMATED DISNEY CHRISTMAS SPECIALS that have our favorite Ducks and Mices?

"Duck the Halls - Mickey Mouse Christmas Special"? (which I re-co-mend)
The new stop motion short "Mickey Saves Christmas"?
"A very Von Drake Christmas" I just made up?
The two new Duck Tales Christmas episodes? (or is it to early to re-dig that trauma?)
Or just go full obscure Disney and review "Small One" directed by Don Bluth?

AND HELL - The fan made (but having some profesional creators involved) "An Exquisite Duck" comic is pretty much a Christmas story by technicality do to bunch of refrences to it?

The sky the limit? Or should I say the Ski's the limit cose it's snowing?

I recall there was a Donald and Featry story that was a spoof of little "Match girl" which given the subject matter may perhaps be one of most insenestive things produced by more modern Disney but I for live of Cornelius Coot can't remember the title or was it published in the USA, oh well.

(plus most adaptation screw it up anyway - it takes place at New Years eve not Christmas)

December 4, 2022 at 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Suggestions for Christmas stories: some year you were going to cover Um Natal Bem Diferente (Saidenberg/Soares Rodrigues), printed in SPG 45, weren't you? Of course, since that's the Duck story featuring the Three Kings, it's really an Epiphany story. Which may or may not be when Christmas is celebrated by some folks in your current neighborhood. Do you have your copy of SPG 45 with you?

And do you have the new Bear Mountain Tales collection there? Or will it be waiting for you when you return to the States? Several good options there, including the Hedman/Vicar "Christmas Magic," the one with the charmed mistletoe sprigs, my personal favorite Magica Christmas story, printed in U$ 336.

December 6, 2022 at 7:57 PM  

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