Thursday, July 13, 2023

"The Giant Pearl"

 Hope ya like Tony Strobl, or at least tolerate him, 'cause he's gonna be bringing you the art for all subsequent stories in the DCRCIJS (as I like to call it).  I feel like I shouldn't have complained about "Sea Breeze Sailors" being lumpy, because this really laps that one in that regard.  I'm almost afraid to write this entry, but press on I must.

Anyway, if nothing else, Strobl turns in pretty good work here.  Fairly dynamic sense of movement.

I'm thinking a lot as I read these stories about the tropes that tend to come up--that you see over and over.  Wondering to what extent AI could recreate them.  I think right NOW the answer is "not very well," since I doubt any AI has a well of them to draw on.  But it's interesting how these things appear.  So: can you tell from THIS page what's going on with Scrooge, or are we not quite there yet?  I think at this point, there might be several options.

...but most of those are foreclosed extremely quickly.  NOW you know what's happening, at least as regards Scrooge being after his nephews.  He is one hundred percent not going to want to take them off somewhere to hunt for treasure.  JUST. ISN'T. HAPPENING.  Is this interesting?  IS IT INTERESTING?

Well...there's this.  Conflict!  Of a sort.  I guess "the Underground Gazette" is all right.  But really, why are you worrying about this one pearl?  If you're going to the trouble of trying to safecrack Scrooge at  all, mightn't you as well go for the main cache?  Or is the idea that they've just given up on that?  I find the idea unacceptable.

(Also, how about "mightn't you as well?"  It seems to parse as a phrase, but it took me a moment to formulate it, and a google search reveals that very few other people have ever said it.  Fun!)

One problem with covering a lot of these old stories is that there's SO much filler material, and I want to just breeze on past it, but I can't, because this IS the story.  There is nothing else.  On one level it reminds me of nothing so much as the Scarpa story "The Flying Scot," where--if you remember--there's this whole long sequence of the ducks trying to find a sardine for a bird.  But at least with that story, eventually we do get somewhere.  Here, there's just no other there there.  It frustrates.

Suffice it to say, here's the kind of stuff you'd be missing out on if I skimmed: Donald buys a boat to avoid Scrooge; it immediately sinks.  Okay.  That's probably representative of the sort of thing you're going to see here.

But actually, right here the story threatens to get interesting in an unexpected way: so Donald and HDL are after the guy who sold them the defective boat, Scrooge is after Donald and HDL, and the Beagles are after Scrooge.

And for one brief shining moment, I imagined that maybe the entire story was just going to become one giant farcical chase sequence.  Alas, 'twas not to be.  Things like this show that actually, a lot of these writers could have made their stories A LOT more interesting if the writers had had the ambition.  Imagine that.

Well, anyway, the Beagles torture Scrooge by making him ride a ride.  Isn't that a pretty basic-ass combination for the safe?  I feel like unless it's information that's important to the story, or you're making a joke, you shouldn't bother with providing specific details like that.  It's just pointlessly distracting.

Also, if there's any question, I should clarify that, no, Donald is not being the slightest bit sarcastic when he talks about the Beagle Boys "treating" Scrooge.  He's just not very bright, it appears.

You can see the Beagle's mask sort of coming off in the bottom left there.  Exciting!  Though the idea that he has a special bin here, I dunno.  This is one of those instances where you have to wonder, was the writer aware of the existence of the Money Bin?  You can't blame people for feeling things out like this, but still, It feels very odd.

Sometimes, I show an image that I really have nothing to say about just so everyone can follow along with the story.  This is one such time.  Well, except that that ride operator is either really dumb or really passive aggressive.  Could go either way.  Do his bosses like the fact that he's letting this guy ride forever for free?  Do the other parkgoers waiting in line?  ARE there even other parkgoers?  We do not ask such questions.  Okay, I guess I had something to say about it after all.

That is extremely not how that works, but I kind of like the image anyway.  Very cartoony.

See?  Is anyone surprised?  You saw this or something very like it coming.  Still, this is pretty deflating.  Isn't there any way it could be made a little less lame?  We may not have expected anything different, but STILL, the entire story so far has revolved around this, and at least in theory we weren't meant to see it coming, so to cavalierly just brush it off like this...well, I guess it's meant to be funny, and maybe it would be if this entire concept was completely new to me, but it really just comes off as lazy.  Laziness?  In a Western comic?  Shocking, I know.

"A keen reward."  All right.  Of course, this business about rewards is a standard thing in these comics.  You want the ducks to get some money for finding a thing, but you don't want them to just keep money  because that would be ethically dubious?  No problem.  There's a reward.  Boom.

But should this work here?  I submit that it should not.  What about Scrooge would make you think he would give a reward like that if he weren't forced to?  As we'll see momentarily, the whole question is moot in this particular case, but the story seems to be suggesting that all things being equal, Scrooge WOULD give ten thousand dollars to have his pearl returned.  Is there a sense that he doesn't have a choice; that his nephews are holding it for ransom?  I think it's more accurate to say that this is just a trope that functions in these stories, and therefore it functions with Scrooge too, regardless of whether that makes sense.  You wouldn't call it a character-driven story.

Of course you do.  Is there any purpose in noting that carrying around .0000000000000000000000001% of your fortune doesn't sound like it's making anything particularly secure?  Probably not.  Whatever.  You do you.  But really, are you at least carrying around your dang dime as well?  Because if not, I don't even know.

Right, now we move from the "evading Scrooge" portion of the story to the "get that pearl" part (gonna get that pearl, soon if I'm lucky...).  The one is no less exciting than the other.

Blah.  Why IS this amusement park so depopulated, anyway?

Hurrah.  Problem solved.  Everyone is happy.

Well, "everyone" except those of us who are incapable of any kind of lasting happiness.  I dunno, Scrooge.  A therapist might actually be the more effective solution here.

I'm a big fan of the nephew lying on his back pouring pie into his mouth, however!  That's one for the ages.  Strobl really does do a good job of making this look appealing. shouldn't act like Scrooge's untreated mental illness is some sort of lovable quirk.  Well, I don't know; maybe you should (anybody able to identify what if anything he's humming?).  At any rate, we're about done here.

And now: games.  What exactly are "photographic dots?"  It's just one of those stand-ups of a pirate or whatnot you have at boardwalks where you stick your head through.  Only this one is a connect-the-dots.  It's extremely weird that the story advertises "photographic dots" like it's an established thing.  But why am I describing it rather than just showing it?

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THEM?!?  I demand to know!  

We've also got this turtle here.  Is it supposed to bite him on the nose?  If not, it doesn't seem like much of a prank.  And if so, it seems pretty mean.  I only include this to note how palpably obvious it is that no one at Dell bothered to actually playtest these little activities.  All you'd have if you tried this is a paint- and glue-sodden mess.

Also, comic books!  I can't not show these pages; I like them too much.  Have fun with comics.

BUT WAIT, WHAT'S THIS?  THERE'S MORE!  You thought the story was over just because we got what looked for all the world like an ending?  Think again!  Flip to the end of the comic, and you get a full five more pages of...stuff.  Well, not a "full" five, since the last panel is the ol' pledge to parents, but still.  It's quite odd; I don't know if I've seen anything like this before.  It's certainly not common.  This last part feels so disconnected from the main story that it really looks for all the world like someone told Strobl or his writer, hey, we need some more pages to fill this issue; can you tack some extra crud on to the end of your story?  Dunno if that's what happened, but it does, as you'll see, look REALLY extraneous.

Still, it's kind of interesting in one way: I sort of think of stories as parts of the ducks' lives that are illuminated for us.  We see what they're doing for the length of the story, and then the lights are extinguished, but they're still doing stuff; we're just not privy to it.  And, well, here's a little peek into the darkness.  Not unlike those weird interstitial sequences that they used to include in European digests.  Of course, in both of these cases, the conclusion one tends to draw is "hmmm...maybe they don't generally show us this stuff for a REASON."  Still, theoretically interesting!

Okay, so let's get to it.  Scrooge, having found a thousand dollars' worth of crud, is ready to eat.  Great!  Nobody point out to him that he's STILL down a thousand dollars from where he could be.  He tortures himself enough without us helping him.

Oh no!  No food today; his love has gone away.  Yes!  Come to this blog for the Herman's Hermits references!  Anyway, is this an exciting conflict?  I don't know.

Seriously, was any character ever more demon-haunted than Scrooge is here?  I do have to admit that there's something funny about the non-existent and somewhat ludicrous stakes here.

Oh do we.  I dunno: I know I asked in the intro post to this serious if your heart could take the excitement, and nobody objected, but if you want to change your mind now, I do not blame you.

Just one thing after another.  As I've said, this is mental illness.  There's no need for Donald to be so smug about it.

Are YOU sort of curious too?  Seriously, you couldn't sleep without knowing the thrilling conclusion?  I mean, I know this was before videogames, but seriously, was your threshold for excitement THAT low?

I know I've been semi-joking about Scrooge's suffering here, but GOOD GOD, that bottom middle panel.  The absolute picture of misery.  Could ANYTHING be worse?  Does he EVER eat a decent meal in this world?  Regardless of whether he deserves it, I just want to throw a cheeseburger at him to end the vicarious suffering.

My sympathy tends to dissipate a little here, however.  Plutocrat screws working man out of an expensive meal?  Not so cool.

But Donald ain't helping either!  I believe last time I introduced my fun game where you decide how likely Donald is to join a leftist paramilitary group.  The answer here seems to be, NOT VERY.  He seems to view this whole thing as little more than a game.  Sure, he's indignant at Scrooge, but more because he's breaking the rules than because of the basic immorality of his actions.

Well, don't worry, because standard narrative tropes again come to our rescue.  Terrific.  I'm not actually sure that this one supports the idea that DELL COMICS ARE GOOD COMICS.  I suppose as these things go, this isn't one of the MOST nightmarish, but...well, it is what it is.  It sits there and exists.  I guess that's all it was required to do, but I wish it had done more to transcend its roots.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like how Scrooge, who starts digging for literal dimes, just nonchalantly throws away a "worthless imitation" of a pearl. Sure those things aren't worth as much as an actual pearl, but it's not like you can just find them lying around in the park either. He paid at least a couple dollars to have that made.

July 14, 2023 at 1:11 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That's a great point--it certainly would've been worth more than a lot of that beach crud he finds.

July 14, 2023 at 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Achille Talon said...

I don't know how much of this is your commentary rubbing off on it, but I find myself enjoying these stories themselves more than I expected to start with. Case in point, I find Scrooge in this one quite funny. (I think I said that multiple other times already; perhaps I have developed a higher fondness than you for depictions of Scrooge as basically, dysfunctionally unhinged. Call it an antidote to Rosa/DuckTales-2017-style Scrooge-worship…)

I also don't find the clichés and contrivances of the plot annoying. They feel like home, you know?

July 14, 2023 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Written Dreams said...

I remember reading this story. It was pretty fun, though I don't remember that final part with Scrooge scrounging for food.

July 14, 2023 at 11:58 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

The final part was apparently left out of several international publications. And hilariously, in Chile it got published as a separate story a full month later, apparently without any indication the two parts were connected.

July 15, 2023 at 2:24 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I know I make fun of this stuff a lot--as how can one not?--but it is worth emphasizing that there really are levels: some Western stories of this era are just the most godawful dreck imaginable, and whatever their faults, these Beach Party stories definitely avoid that fate. They could be MUCH worse!

July 15, 2023 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Adamant said...

"I only include this to note how palpably obvious it is that no one at Dell bothered to actually playtest these little activities. All you'd have if you tried this is a paint- and glue-sodden mess."

It took me a while to figure out how that turtle "game" was supposed to work, but apparently they want you to glue half a walnut on top of the turtle drawing so the walnut shell forms the new shell and the actual drawing gets hidden underneath. I don't think that's going to cause all the much of a mess, really. But it's also basically just them saying "make a cheap turtle toy by painting a walnut shell green", which doesn't seem like something it's worth devoting a full page to.

Not that bad an arts and craft project for 5 years olds though. I think we did something similar in kindergarten.

July 16, 2023 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yeah, your version is clearly more accurate. Maybe fun for tiny children. In any case, lamenesswise, I'm not sure anything will ever beat "make a calendar by putting a picture on a calendar."

July 16, 2023 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

Strobl's art may not be the most "on-model" art ever, but at his best, (before the late 60's), his work was at least very lively and has an animated feel to it. The ducks may have a very limited library of facial expressions under Strobl's pencil, but there is a sense of life to the posing and staging of a scene. By the time he took over as the main artist for Uncle Scrooge, his work became a lot more stiff-looking, but his inkers could be at fault there. Strobl's style really fit the Hanna-Barbera characters much better than the ducks, but on the material in this Beach Party book, his art does have an animated look to it.

July 21, 2023 at 12:43 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home