Tuesday, July 18, 2023

"The Secret of Saltwater Cove"

You know, the openings of these stories often have these glimpses of a kind of utopian blissfulness that evaporates like the morning mist when the actual plot kicks in, which is always very quickly.  Still, I don't know.  We can maybe appreciate these isolated bright spots for what they are, even if the story itself isn't much.  Not that this one is really bad, by the standards of these things, but...worth thinking about, anyway.  How 'bout someone just printing a book consisting of the fragmentary good parts of these forgettable stories?  I'll be the editor.  Granted, the resulting book probably won't appeal to anyone but me, but, well, it would appeal to ME.  What else do you want?

This may be making my abstract discussion of the story's progression literal: boom.  Out go the lights.  What has become of my vacation fun?!?  In spite of what it may look like, at least this isn't supposed to be pollution.  So there's that.  Still a bit dismal, though.

Oh, well, hey, we're back.  Let the sunshine in.  I really like the nephew in the upper left there because Strobl was content to understate things--no elaborate, labored sarcasm.  That works pretty darn well, and it would NOT be the case in the Jippes redraw, I will tell you that much.

Okay!  Here!  We've gotten where I want us to be!  Pause; stop!  This is enough!

Sigh.  I always feel just a bit deflated at Scrooge's inevitable appearance.  But, well, here he is.  Trying to do a weird, impossible thing that looks for all the world like a supervillain plot.

Yes.  That's why I have this money all weirdly piled on the floor like that.  It is NOT for plot purposes, and shame on you for thinking that.  "Several fruitless days before I made my first million."  Try shoving that line into yer Life & Times!

C-c-c-counterfeiters!  You know, these stories aren't really allowed to feature anyone guilty of REALLY irredeemable crimes, so to make up for that, sometimes they inflate the terribleness of significantly less-terrible crimes to quite an excessive degree, making the characters seem a little deranged.  Here is one such instance.

ARGH!  Again with the "reward!"  I swear, you notice this trope and you just can't stop seeing it.  Granted, it happens in Barks as well fairly often, but he was artful enough that it generally doesn't seem so egregious.  When I see it in stories like this, I always quite literally ell oh ell.

Boy, what a surprise to see these guys.  Note the story's "sotto voce" font.  That's quite unusual, isn't it?

Let me also note re that fog: it recurs frequently, and you feel like there ought to be some sort of explanation for it, but there absolutely is not.  It's just there as an excuse to get the ducks to the island and then have people not see each other in the fog, but its lack of justification makes it feel very inorganic.  

If you were wondering "wait, why is there a printing press here, anyway?" the answer is: sheer nonsense.  I mean, it IS an explanation, sort of, but I don't know; I feel like it's not enough to have AN explanation; it has to make some sort of sense.  I know, I know; I'm unreasonably demanding.

That is one weird moral compass ya got there, boys.  Okay, okay, I get the point; it's not meant to be an ethical opposition to fake money; it's just that they think it won't work.  Still seems counter to most depictions of the characters, though.  It's really just here so we can have the predictable yet slightly amusing series of misunderstandings that we do.

We know that this violence that the Coast Guardians predict isn't going to come to pass, but it's just weird to think about that being a real possibility.  You sure can hint at what you can't show, here.  It's not that I mind all that much--in spite of the weird dissonance it can create--but really, does Dell Comics Are Good Comics mean NOTHING these days?  Why when I was your age mumblemumble.

Okay.  Right.  We all get the picture...

That image of Scrooge in the middle right.  

I...don't know how to respond to that.  Everybody's doin' a brand new dance?

But can we also just acknowledge the flagrant illegality of this?  I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I'm fairly sure the Coast Guard is not allowed to just spy on you and then smash, warrantless, into your house on the say-so of some rando.

You know, Scrooge, if you're trying to turn rocks into cheese, it is a matter of indifference if the word gets out: A) no one and their kid brother will try to imitate you; and B) even if they did, they wouldn't beat you to it, I guarantee it.  Obviously you wouldn't beat them either, but hey.  The point is: stop pretending your nonsense plan is in any way meaningful in the real world.

...oh.  That shows what I know, I guess.  Hard to say why Donald knows this alleged factoid and the others don't, but it's really remarkable how instantaneously Scrooge's entrepreneurial spirit just vanishes: dude, the you don't just give up!  You resolve to build a better mousetrap!  Really, now.

Okay, just one more go-round.  Come to think of it, I guess the Beagle Boys fishing in the mist IS kind of evocative.  No comment on the Coast Guard ship people hollering plot-relevant information at one another, but "one hears many interesting things in the fog!" and "let us not dilly-dally" are pretty good.  The script has its moments, as well as its anti-moments.  Not sure who wrote it; doesn't quite feel like Bob Gregory to me (though what do I know? He DID do a later entry in this series), but either way, it's a cut above.  That's one of the frustrating things about so many of these stories being of unknown authorship: it's difficult to critically evaluate the writers, or say who was better and who worse.

Yeah.  Okay.  Fine.  I mean, this isn't terrible as these things go, but it really DOES seem like something I would've come up with when I was five.  Let's just hope that at no point do the Beagles think to glance inside the bags until they're far enough away that Scrooge and the money are able to beat it.

Ah ha!  This wily writer thought of everything!  What do we do about Donald and HDL not having the opportunity to refill the last sack?  Well, the Beagles probably just leave it there.  NBD.

Um...salt.  I don't know if...well, whatever.  You do you, I guess.  At least it's less environmentally devastating than Plan A would have been had it worked, which it wouldn't have.  I don't know what my point is here.

And we end on a hearty heh, heh!, the official catchphrase of Western comics.  Maybe I should get a sticker made:

That's what I'm talking about.  I haven't been checking, but you've gotta figure there are some stories that both open and end on "heh, heh!" right?  Tell me if you know any.

Earlier I was wondering whether I should keep including the introductory splash panels for the games and comics, but now I realize, duh--of course I should!  Those are typically the best thing in the book!  Why would you possibly write about stories of questionable quality and leave them out?  Yeesh.

"Dumbfoozler."  I thought this was maybe an actual term for something, but no, if you google it, you just get this and a few other activities in old Dell comics (and now, this blog--hi, everyone!).  Clearly, these were all written by one person.  But who?  This is culturally vital information, and I fear it may be lost to time.

Anyway, there you go.



Blogger Written Dreams said...

At first, my assumption was that the black fog was smog produced by Gyro's experiments, with the inventor unaware of that side effect.

July 18, 2023 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

That would be logical. I almost wonder if the writer didn't initially have that in mind but sort of forgot about it at some point.

July 19, 2023 at 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

When you needed a nonviolent crime in your chidren's book/comic book/cartoon back in the day, I'd say #1 was generic robbery and #2 was counterfeiting. I ran across counterfeiting in comics, in children's books (e.g. the first of Enid Blyton's "of Adventure" series), in cartoons... One of my favorite jokes in Rocky & Bullwinkle was Boris and Natasha's scheme to print counterfeit box tops and flood the market with them, threatening to devastate the world economy.

Robbers can hide in temporary quarters, in alleys or in the woods, but counterfeiters must have a lair, due to the need for a printing press. So the lair with a printing press was a major feature of these narratives. If you saw a printing press in a dodgy place, you immediately knew what was up.

By the way, the Beagle Boys *are* counterfeiters in the 1962 Chendi/Scarpa "Being Good for Goodness Sake"--I wonder if that's the first time they counterfeited money? I'm sure it can't have been the last.

July 23, 2023 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Yes, I was thinking of that Chendi piece, probably my favorite Italian Christmas story.

July 23, 2023 at 5:50 PM  
Anonymous Lugija said...

I keep changing my mind about Scrooge having brought a pile of money as an incentive. It just sits on the floor next to Gyro while he works? Is it too weird, or completely in-character for Scrooge who often treats money as just fun objects?

We rarely see the actual R&D of Gyro's workflow, usually it works by magic ("Inventions while you wait"). This alchemy problem seems too hard even for him, even though he has a magic press (did he tune it or are old printing presses just the thing to press salt out of saltwater as-is?) Anyway, that de-salting press that works by handpower is a much greater invention than creating more gasoline, they should sell that one.

July 24, 2023 at 2:40 AM  
Anonymous Lugija said...

Oh, they did end up using that one, I already forgot about it between reading the blog and commenting. But instead of de-salting seawater to get drinking water easily, which you'd think would be an important use, Scrooge instead thinks about selling the salt. Fine, I guess, you can do both with it.

July 24, 2023 at 2:52 AM  

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