Thursday, March 30, 2023

"The Flat-Footed Floogle"

 You definitely shouldn't get used to me churning out blog entires at this pace (who knows, maybe there'll be a six-month gap between this and the next one, though I hope not).  But I'm enjoying this, and here's another Dick Moores story that NEEDS ATTENTION.  To be clear, I'm not planning on writing about his entire oeuvre, nor am I lobbying for a Dick Moores Library.  Still, as weird as it sounds to say, this is true: I'm very likely the biggest living fan of his (I mean, of his duck work--he spent most of his career working on the comic strip Gasoline Alley, of which I know nothing).  How about that?  And yet, even I have to concede that a large percentage of his work is both bad and unwriteaboutable.  You're getting a very curated selection here.

(incidentally, the wikipedia page for Gasoline Alley informs us that it features "storylines reflecting traditional American values," and it just goes to show how toxic the right has made that phrase that it can't not sound ominous as hell.)

On the other hand, he did on occasion write some pretty fun stuff, like HDL's suggestions for what day it might be.  Saint Elmo's Day is a real feast day, on June second (quoth wikipedia: "Saint Elmo is the patron saint of sailors and abdominal pain"--um...great tastes that taste great together?).  The most prominent use of the name "Jimmy Valentine" I can find is to a play which was made into a number of movies that Moores might've seen (as I mentioned when writing about this, his cultural references tend to be a bit out-of-date; the most recent of these films is from 1928).

One thing about Moores' work is that his character portrayals swing wildly back and forth: Donald and Scrooge can be mostly likable, or they can just be unbearably conniving.  I don't think I've ever written about the latter sort, as they're pretty dispiriting (I assume these were all written by Moores, or if not then at least by the same person; they're stylistically of a piece).  But the problem is that he writes characters to fit the plot, rather than the other way 'round.  Everyone, including Barks, is sometimes guilty of this, but Moores could take it to fairly egregious extremes.

Well, this one is fairly nice, albeit goofy.  I like how there's no justification for why it's so vitally important that we give Scrooge a present: it just is, okay?  He's our uncle, so we have to.  Whether that's out of love or a sense of obligation is left as an exercise for the reader, but he needs a present.  And since he has everything, let's give him a party.  Experiences are better than things, they say, although they might not if they were aware of a little thing called a Steam Deck.  Regardless!  I like how they're all on the same page about this.

Meanwhile, here's Scrooge, playing his little game of coin tiddlywinks, which certainly wouldn't have been out-of-place on a Barks cover.  That is sort of cute, but he is NOT INTERESTED.  But I am sort of trying to figure out how to parse this: you have to assume that Scrooge has multiple phone lines, right?  At the very least, one for business and one for personal use (I mean, realistically, many for business use, but let's keep it simple here).  But if that's the case, then wouldn't Donald be one of the few people who would even have his personal number?  So why is he just immediately hanging up like that?  It might be an emergency; he doesn't know.  You're thinking about this way too hard, you might argue; the question of how many phone lines he has definitely never passed through Moores' mind, and to the extent that he had any implicit assumptions on the subject, it would probably be that he just had the one.  He's not a complicated thinker, is Moores.  To which I say, that was unnecessarily insulting to the man, but you might have a point.  Only...

It's hard to imagine how he could've gotten rich if he's going around sabotaging his business line all willy nilly.  On the other hand, why even HAVE a personal line if he's gonna do this?  And unless he never plans on replacing it, this is all very penny-wise pound-foolish.  I can't believe how many words I've wasted trying to make this trivial joke mean something.

Why is Donald reacting to this with the sort of embarrassed saving-face attitude that cartoon characters use?  Probably heard me blathering.

Anyway, now we get to the crux of the biscuit, which is this Looney Tunes escapee.  Two entries in a row featuring weird birds!  And they were published in back-to-back issues of Donald Duck.  Moores was on a roll.  You have to admit, if nothing else, it DOES look pretty cool.

It's called the "Flat-Footed Floogle" (I guess the title of this entry makes that obvious) and that is all we learn about it.  This story is untitled in English; all of the foreign-language printings of this story call it "Scrooge's Birthday" or words to that effect, but it seems pretty obvious that the floogle is really its distinguishing feature.

I also just wanted to take the opportunity to comment further briefly on the last story, as inspired by commenters: I really did miss a trick in failing to note that that bird--which dispenses allegedly-genuine US currency in its eggs--is from Africa, and that that simple fact carries a hell of a lot of baggage with it.  It's interesting and important to understand these things.  Clearly, Moores wasn't trying to make any kind of Statement; he just thought, this bird's weird; what's an exotic place it could come from?  Africa.  Bada bing, bada boom.  Bob's yer uncle.  Job's a good'un.  And yet, to a contemporary audience if raises all sorts of dicey questions about the exploitation of Africa by Europe and America.  Without meaning to, Moores reflects and reinforces the dominant narratives of his time and place.  I suppose if there's any justification for writing about these stories, that would be it: you can't understand the past solely by looking at its masterpieces.

Well, sometimes that's the case.  I'm not sure if the present story's really going to help anyone understand anything, but so it goes.  

Note the '313' here.  I guess I haven't been paying close attention here; at what point did it become de rigueur for writers to use that number?  Also, as long as we're making trivial observations, isn't seven cents an awfully awkward amount to have to pay for a newspaper?

You know, I always joke about how "extremely obvious costumes fool everyone perfectly" is such a Disney-comics trope, but it really is kind of weird how absolutely universal it is.  Come to think of it, I guess it might not just be a duck comic thing--it's just that these are what I know best.  I have to imagine it's at least the same in Looney Tunes or Walter Lantz comics, many of which were written by the same people.  

Those glasses look as if Moores, or someone, just pressed stamps of black ink over Scrooge's eyes.

JEEZ, wha'd you even ask him what he wanted for if you were just going to forcibly eject him without him even saying anything?  How do you EVER interact with him?  Is it even possible for you to have interpersonal relationships?  Okay, granted, you DON'T have many.  But that's just all the more reason to not act like a raving lunatic around the few people who'll put up with you!

Granted that talking about gun safety can seem like a sick joke these days, but one rule I DO know is that you should never point a gun at someone if you aren't prepared to fire it.  Are you prepared to murder your nephew because he asked if you were going to be home?  Is that a thing that's going to happen?  I mean, the portrayal of Scrooge in this story really isn't that bad, comparatively, and yet he still has his psychotic moments.

And yet!  In spite of everything (did he really borrow one cent from Scrooge?), Donald remains determined to go through with this birthday party.  There's this gap here that the story never explains--why he is so determined--that lends at least a bit of interest, and makes it all seem weirdly humanistic.

"Trackman?"  Maybe that's an old-fashioned term that I've just never heard, I thought; I should check that before making fun of Moores for not understanding words.  But no, its sole use seems to apply to railroad workers; this is just weird.  But not uncharacteristic!  Here's Moores not knowing the word "jackhammer:"

Heh, heh.  Heh, heh, indeed.  Draw your own conclusions.  Anyway, in contrast to that, I kind of like the absurdity of baloney ice cream.  But then, is that misspelling of "parfait" intentional or not?  There is literally no way to know.

And SERIOUSLY, "mustachio?"  I get that sometimes Disney comics use fun parody names for things, but pistachio is just a doggone ice cream flavor!  None of the others are burlesqued in this hilarious manner!  So what gives?

And if you think that's bad, check THIS shit out.  That dialogue in the bottom panel is beyond comprehension.  Also, marvel as Moores violates English rules of ADJECTIVE ORDER ("Swiss old lady"), something that any native speaker knows intuitively.  The mind boggles.

Yes, well, as far as the bird goes, it doesn't actually do all that much.  It just sort of appears and Donald gets irrationally angry about it and that's about it.  But I like it in a wig, which is the most overtly Looney-Tunes-esque thing it does, and also the most likely to get this story banned in the state of Florida.

...oh, so that's the only reason you threatened to murder him.  Well all right then.  This story really takes a tell-don't-show approach to character.  I do, at any rate, like that Scrooge has separate taps for dimes and quarters--though the faucet appears to be shooting plain ol' water as well.  Either way, that would be incredibly painful in any realistic scenario.

Man, given that Donald's gun-safety protocols are if anything even worse than Scrooge's, it's a wonder this family has lasted as long as it has.  Blam!  Ka-blowie!

One Disney-comics trope that many commentators, including yours truly, have mostly overlooked is the tendency of radios to suddenly start blurting out relevant information at key moments.  It's extremely convenient.


One does wonder what Donald and Scrooge were doing during this hour.  Just making awkward small talk?  But anyway, here we go!  A charming ending, I will grant.  Donald and Scrooge have made peace, and it's time for some cake and ice cream!  It's not entirely clear if they're dressed as kids to try to trick anyone (obvious disguises that fool everyone are one thing, but I kind of doubt that what they've got going on would be enough even for that), or just getting into the spirit of the thing.  Obviously, I prefer the latter explanation, but either way, we are DONE here.

Yup eighteen hundred words on THIS.  I've written less about Barks masterpieces.  What am I DOING here?



Anonymous Achille Talon said...

Another hilarious one — and this time I do feel the story has a lot to take credit for, even though it also has its *unintentional* hilarity. Provided one doesn't mind the portrayal of him as an absolute lunatic, Scrooge's manic characterization is enormously entertaining, and, although not quite Barksian, visibly informed *by* Barks. "He's probably already spent *all* of that penny he borrowed yesterday" is a wonderful Scrooge line.

Him outright pulling a gun Donald is a bit out there for sure, but a flippant disregard for gun safety is quite Barksian in a more general sense — we've seen him frantically shooting a shotgun in his office to try to shoot down a potentially bill-gnawing mite, and, famously, also greeting visitors with a salvaged Boer War cannon, a lit match held mere inches from the fuse!

By the way, as much as it's Looney Tunes-like, that bird strikes me as a relative of the good ol'Aracuan…

March 30, 2023 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Yep, the bird also got me thinking if this story was better if it was the Aracuan bird (Who always felt to be inspired by either Woody Woodpecker or the Dodo from "Porky in Wackyland")

March 30, 2023 at 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

This is a story I remember fondly from my childhood, since my house also had a copy of Donald Duck 34. In fact, I found this story again when you reviewed the "Dirty Work at the Crossroads" story years ago and I bought myself another copy of DD34. For years, I had dimly remembered a story about Scrooge's birthday (the only such story I encountered before adulthood) but didn't have enough details to go on in order to find it.

Random comments:
(1) I do like the Floogle bird, and though I wasn't acquainted with the Aracuan bird in childhood, nowadays I think of the two of them as related.
(2) On "mustachio": I find that quite funny, and think it stands on its own perfectly well as wordplay. There's another of those in the story, when Donald refers to his flowers as his "prize mysanthecrums"--that's prime wordplay, too, in my opinion, due to how it combines misanthropy and "crumbs"= worthless people.
(3) The story relocates certain features of the money bin to Scrooge's mansion/home: the "scram!" signs, the big desk, the trapdoor slide/chute. I think child-me vaguely transposed that whole sequence to the money bin, thanks to those indicators; in any case, the story did not convince me that Scrooge lived in a mansion.
(4) Of course they have to get Scrooge a birthday present simply because they're his only relatives! Whether he needs one or not!
(5) Since the free party at the end is specifically only for children, child-me assumed that Scrooge and Donald were indeed pretending to be children in order to get the free cake and ice cream (I like the Floogle scooping ice cream onto its beak!). But perhaps the masquerade was meant for zoo officials who were overseeing this off-panel, because they certainly wouldn't be fooling Huey, Dewey and Louie. What strikes me about their child-costumes is that they're so out of date, as if drawn from their own childhood; the hats are definitely not the same sort of caps worn by the children in the line. It's also amusing how since (again, a generation earlier) "short pants" were an indicator of a preadolescent boy, Donald and Scrooge are wearing shorts--with big buttons like Mickey's shorts. Googling tells me that at least in the illustration on a 90's lunchbox, Mickey also had buttons on the back of his shorts, and that the four buttons in ?1920's/Edwardian clothes were attached to straps to keep the shorts up, though neither Mickey nor Donald and Scrooge here have the straps. My favorite thing in that panel is the expression on the face of the kid standing behind Donald, who is certainly not fooled by the costume! And is perhaps worried that the big guys are going to eat up all the cake.

March 31, 2023 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

Yes, that's a great observation on Mickey's pants. He actually has FOUR buttons and their original function was to attach suspenders to the pants. It's not just a design choice.

April 1, 2023 at 1:52 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

It's quite something that I never even thought to wonder about Mickey's buttons. Amazingly, one can still learn something new, even in this well-trodden ground.

April 1, 2023 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger ramapith said...

If there weren't all the darned gunfire, I would have reprinted this one long ago... like many, I misremembered this bird as being Ari the Aracuan, and anything he's in is one degree closer to becoming a Gerstein project...

April 3, 2023 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

I think it's still very reprintable if you can get a skilled artist to redraw the panels with guns. I'd bet Henrieke Goorhuis would be willing to do that, even if it means drawing Ducks with overly large beaks à la Moores.

April 5, 2023 at 5:21 AM  
Blogger whc03grady said...

"You have to admit, if nothing else, [the Floogle] DOES look pretty cool."
Au contraire, it looks more than a little horrifying.

April 25, 2023 at 3:50 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home