Friday, March 24, 2023

"Bottled Battlers"

 So here we have another Barks script given life by others.  There's the usual rigamarole with the art: the story was originally drawn by Tony Strobl, but then Daan Jippes swooped in and redid it.  I'm always a bit skeptical about these redraws, and never more so here: there's no cut art to be restored, and Strobl puts in pretty solid work.  I don't have any real complaint about Jippes's art either, but I dunno: regardless of their relative levels of talent, Barks and Strobl came from the same cultural milieu, so to me, his art just seems to fit the story better than Jippes', even if the latter is a more technically proficient artist.

...okay, actually, since I might have a few non-regular readers, I'll explain for the total layperson: Carl Barks was the best Disney artist, and certainly the most prominent.  He retired in 1967, but after his retirement he was convinced to come back to write scripts for other artists to draw, of which he did several dozen.  The original artwork for most of these was pretty indifferent (although I have a soft spot for some of the artists in question, particularly Tony Strobl), which is why most or all of them were redrawn by the Dutch artist Daan Jippes in the '00s.  There; that probably covers that.

Okay, I do like how Jippes integrates the title with the opening panel.  One thing you will notice if you read them side by side is that there are a few places where the scripts deviate.  Most of these are so tiny and insubstantial that they're barely worth mentioning; by far the biggest is in the opening text box and the Grand Mogul's first line.  And I'm a little baffled here: I have to assume that the Jippes version is how Barks originally wrote it, because why else would you change it?  And yet, that version is...obviously worse.  The first just makes sense: it's early spring, but already the pussy willow buds are appearing.  But in the latter version, it's nearly summer, but they're peeping out?  And this is, I guess, surprising's too late for them to be doing that?  What's going on here?  Gotta say, if the editors at Western changed the original, they did the right thing.  Even Homer nods, you know?

At any rate, from now on I'll just use panels from the original version.

One thing I do appreciate about this story is that, while Barks is still in his rather heavy-handed environmentalist mode, it's much lower-stakes than many of the others of the same sort: no nightmarish dystopian lake pollution, no Scrooge the Evil Whaler...just littering.  Makes you heave a sigh of relief, really.

I'll also note that one other thing the Jippes version changes is that bottom right panel, which switches 'left' and 'right' around.  I don't know if this is just because of the general Western (as in, civilization, not the publisher) bias towards things moving from left to right just because that's how our writing systems generally work, or whether it's meant to evoke "Stuck in the Middle with You" (which would be anachronistic, as that song was released a few years after the original story)...but whatever it is, there it is.

Flippin' brats!  Granted, littering IS a problem.  Not to downplay that.  It just seems so solvable compared to other problems that it gets short shrift.  I do like that "Here is a bottle in two shapes!"  "Here is a bottle in three colors!" bits.  Very Seuss-ish, somehow enhanced by the slightly stilted way it eschews contractions.

Also,  note how I said "flippin'" instead of "fuckin'."  I've noticed that lately I tend to swear less.  It's not a conscious thing; I guess it just seems like profanity has more of an impact if kept to a minimum.  Probably.  Also, without this paragraph, I wouldn't be swearing at all in this entry, so take that for what it's worth.

And hey, here's Magica, whose presence changes this story from a minor footnote to a slightly notable footnote!  Because there's no Scrooge!  That's not something you see every day, or any day.  I mean, okay, given the sheer volume of duck stories out there, there must be other examples, but none spring readily to mind.  Magica without Scrooge is nothing.  Her entire existence is in relation to him.  Other writers may have complicated this dynamic a bit by giving her family members, but it's certainly true in Barks and in most other stories.  Of course, this story doesn't change the dynamic, and Scrooge's non-appearance is probably just down to lack of ambition and/or limited page counts.  But that doesn't change the fact that it is what it is.

Dirty, squirty, purty--if you didn't know better, there are places where you'd almost think this was a Lockman joint.  Also, is collecting glassware now part of the Junior Woodchucks' remit?  Seems a bit out-of-character.

Lead-free!  Whatever else Magica is, she's environmentally conscious!  Apparently.

Somehow, there's just something about the image of the Woodchucks looking on in dismay as she dumps their bag out that really cracks me up.  To what have you been reduced, Ms. De Spell?  This is your most picayune villainy yet.  

Note also that Barks appears to have forgotten about foof bombs here.

In fairness to Magica, though, this is pretty good devilry.  I mean, crikey, if she can just trap people in impermeable bottles like it's nothing, it seems like she shouldn't even need her fancy new acid.  I like "we've got influence at City Hall," which seems like a fairly empty threat.

Anyway, most of the rest of the story is just people coming up to the bottle and being unhelpful about it, starting with these hippies.  Or possibly beatniks?  Or some unholy combination?  Difficult to tell.  Did Barks specify, or is this just Strobl's extrapolation?  They look pretty similar in the Jippes version, for whatever that's worth.

I must say, I'm not sure how it makes sense that the outside people can't hear them, though their exasperated sarcastic remarks are, I suppose, amusing enough.

Sure, "some intellectuals."  Why not?  It's pretty funny, though I can't help but note the non-sequitur-y-ness of "remarkable what some people will do for attention."

First they didn't stop for the bottle kids, and I did not speak out because I was not a bottle kid.

Right, okay, arguably (more than arguably), Niemöller jokes are inappropriate in the current political  climate.  But it's sort of unavoidable here.

What the heck is a "squirrel reel?"  The internet is unhelpful on this point.  I mean, presumably it's like a hamster ball, but still.

I do kind of identify with HDL in this story, imagining how claustrophobic I'd feel stuck in a giant bottle like this.

...I thought people outside the bottle couldn't hear them.  Oh, whatever.  I like Magica whacking (or, possibly unfortunately, whanking) the bottle with a street sign.

Well, anyway.  The end.  Look how shocked the chief is.  Very shocked, is possibly the answer.  He's putting his hand on his cheek, after all, which, as we know, is the universal indicator of shockedness. Yowow.

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Anonymous Achille Talon said...

You've got a repetition of an earlier image before the paragraph that begins with “Somehow, there's just something about the image…“, instead of the intended one!

In other matters, lovely little review as ever. This story brings back memories; it was one of the earliest Barks-scripted Junior Woodchucks stories I ever saw, and has always stuck in my mind, the absurdism of the triplets' predicament in the bottle and the Lemony Snicket-ish unhelpfulness of everyone else about it really tickle my brain. See also the chopper coppers' conspicuous lack of a reaction to a witch on a broomstick flying past.

(Magica's broomstick having a handy saddle-bag, leaving a trail of smoke and apparently having *fuel* in the form of “Venusian brimstone” are also details stuck with me.)

I would assume that “the Junior Woodchucks' collection” isn't specifically a glassware collection, just an undifferentiated hoard of Interesting Found Knicknacks.

To playfully-pearl-clutch for a moment, I do have to wonder about the wisdom of teaching kids that pawing at discarded glass bottles found on the side of the road is fun, responsible and praiseworthy! Eep! Well, I suppose HDL get bottled themselves for their trouble.

It's interesting that — unless there's one in panels you didn't include — there's no mention of the Number One Dime here. Magica says that she intends to cut her way into the Money Bin to "become the richest sorceress in the world", and while that *could* entail stealing the Dime and enacting her old Midas touch scheme, a reader coming to it with no clear notion of what Magica's deal with could easily assume that she's just trying to steal Scrooge's money directly, like a common Beagle Boy!

March 24, 2023 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger ramapith said...

For the record—the opening panel dialogue in the Whitman edition is Barks' original. The Gemstone edition was adjusted to make the story fit the time of year we were publishing it, due to a last minute schedule switch.

Admittedly, I didn't care for that solution, and the Fantagraphics reprint restores Barks' dialogue as intended.

March 24, 2023 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Perhaps Barks asume there is no point in mentioning the dime if he dose not going to show it and readers who knows Magica will know what she is up to. At this time he already did two stories with Magica that had zero mention of the dime and have her and Scrooge fighting over some other treasure.

And yes - I also find the panels of HD&L looking sad at Magica throwing out the trash super funny. It love their reaction is less
- Oh no, it's Magica! What's she up to?
and more
- Oh come on Magica, don't be like that!

It's interesting - I'm suprise Geox didn't mention this - that in one panel HD&L mention being eggs (!) Don Rosa would not approve!

The unhelpful specialists commenting on the bottle felt like most Barks joke in this for some reason.

As for stories about Magica with zero Scrooge - Yes, fact that Barks did write a story like this is interesting and it was great to discover it knowing that it's from Magica's creator himself. After all he didn't do that many Magica stories.

I seen many stories [mostly Italian] that in fact used Magica with no Scrooge in som cases even in more or less non-viallnous roles. Just funny scenarios like her dealing with turists at Mt. Vesuvius bothering her, trying to hire a new lab assistants, going on holiday to rest from her obession, one story had her fight Rockerduck construction team as they cuting out woods next to her (which she needs for herbs etc.) or another was just about her taking part in some champion-ship for witches. There been even stories of her helping out her other witch friend who is not good at magic win a contest or some daily situation with Ratface (similiar to Gyro's Helper) which to be fair takes things just tad to far and making her to much of nice character - most stories I seen that use her in Scroogeless storlines, still have her be grumpy etc.

I recently read an Italian short story where Brigitta start posting about her attempts to win Scrooge's heart on-line. She starts geting tones of hate mails from people telling her to leave Scrooge alone, exept for one person named "The Dime" who feel to be on her side. In the end "The Dime" turn out to be (suprise, suprise) Magica and she helps Brigitta deal with trolls by using her spell on them ("I hate Scrooge, but on-line trolls annoy me much more!")
Story in question:

Aside for "Look fellow kids, current stuff" aspect of that story, I sort of like idea that Magica can be helpful to people she has no personal grudge agianst. Italians used her like this from time to time and I think when done right can be cute.

March 25, 2023 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Another example of this would be:
In the story two of HD&L have to go in difrent places (one is needed for some Junior Wooduck thingy, other has some school compatition) and one end up being stuck in a Grandma Duck farm where for some reason Daisy, Brigitta and Quackfaster are also staying over. After some "ho, ho, ho little boy has to live with women" gags the Nephew in question meets a girl on the farm next door and falls in love and all the female characters start giving him love advices to win her over (Which is moraly questionable since the girl mention she HAS A BOYFRIEND so it sort of suck they don't see this as an issue, and yeah, Brigitta is the last character you want to give you counselor on how to win someone over... Dicky would felt more useful here being closer to the boys age) Near the end Magica De Spell crushes her broom on the farm and after some "No tricks you witch!" reaction from Grandma they agree Magica can stay over as well and sadly, what could have been interesting "Magica gives Huey (or whover) love advice" is only use for one scene about her wanting to preform love potion which pisses of Grandma. Still there is something nice to see Magica siting on the table with other female characters as they cheat-chat about the little kids heart problems. I just wish they made better use of Magica actualy trying to help.

Also this exchange:
Daisy: If Scrooge was here he would only talk about Klondike!
Brigitta: (sights sadly) Don't remind me...
[Cute way to stubely bring up Goldie]

The cover is also cute:

March 25, 2023 at 12:04 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Yup, I've read lots of stories with Magica and no Scrooge. As Pan says, in Italy she becomes a character with her own world complete with witch colleagues and child-apprentices (cf "Witch Matilda") or whatever. There are plenty of Italian stories with Magica and no Scrooge. One Italian story where Magica helps kids, Pan, is "Amelia fatina per un giorno," the one where the kids initially mistake her for the Befana! Byron Erickson for Egmont created the girl witches Hocus and Pocus who stay with Magica on their school vacations, and there are stories with them and Magica without Scrooge. The McGreals, Janet Gilbert, Per Hedman, Gaute Moe, Lars Jensen, Gorm Transgaard have all written D-coded stories with Magica and no Scrooge. Then there are all the Brazilian stories wherein she lives in a castle with Madam Mim! Leaving all that aside, though, I still think it's worth noting when there's a Barks story where Magica interacts only with characters other than Scrooge.

Here's my question: in how many Barks stories does Magica ride a broom? Mostly she has to take a plane, right? Or harness a slew of Yeekers. The broom feels to me like part of the transition of Magica from sorceress (human using spells) to witch, at least visually. Though the broom here is not your garden-variety witch's broom, as it is powered with fuel.

March 26, 2023 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Hum! Actualy this maybe the ONLY Barks story where she rides a broom (other then two Oil patings and this pretty zany illustration: )

Then agian, I don't have issues of Barks Magica stories with me at the moment to double check, so perhaps I am missing something obvious. Don Rosa mention he never have her broom flying but then agian, even him tend to ignore stories he finds to silly for his own taste even if they are 100% Barks (No "Interplanetary postman" in Rosa-verse, sorry)

Then agian, this bottle story is pretty late in the game so maybe at this point Barks was more influanced by how others depicted her in their work (for same reason no poof booms)

March 27, 2023 at 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Also, I agree that Jippes' redraw was not necessary and is no great improvement in this case. My feelings on his redraws are all over the map. Some are definitely a significant improvement over the earlier version; some are no better and needless; some are actively worse (Pawns of the Loup Garou, where Miss Minemore becomes a neurotic mess).

March 27, 2023 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

It's interesting that in one panel HD&L mention being eggs (!) Don Rosa would not approve!

You're right about Don Rosa probably whining about that if he got the chance. You're mistaken that this is somehow interesting. Eggs hatching is really the only way birth is ever depicted in Duck comics. Don Rosa can try to go against that, but nothing will ever come of it.

March 28, 2023 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Sure, it's just very rare in Barks stories.

March 28, 2023 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

I don't have it in front of me, but in one Barks story, Scrooge was concerned he'd turn into an egg if he swam in the fountain of youth.

March 30, 2023 at 9:35 AM  

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