Monday, December 11, 2023

"Spaced-Out Christmas"

Here's a story that I found whilst rummaging around looking for something good to write about!  It was published as part of IDW's much-lamented run.  I'd only read it once before, and hadn't been overly impressed by it, but on rereading...I actually think it's pretty good.  These things happen: I didn't much care for "Being Good for Goodness Sake" when I first read it, and now it's my favorite Italian Christmas story.  This is not on that level, but that's never stopped me.  Let's check it out.

The opening is certainly festive enough to pass muster.  That's so important.  "Spaced-out" may give you pause as to what is to come, but it's all right.  Let us look, by the by, and this inducks scan of the original printing:

Man, that is some odd coloring.  The holly leaves are barely visible, creating the impression that the berries are just floating there.  And why does the Christmas tree on the right look so discolored? This is how it looks if you leave it up 'til the end of January.  I dunno, man.  Why not color your story to best advantage?

That's the problem with getting Disney characters presents, innit?  There aren't really many things they're associated with, or specific interests.  The kids like toys (or medals, if they're in Woodchuck Mode), but it never gets any more idiosyncratic than that; Scrooge likes money or else expensive things, Donald...well, he has a car.  I'm not sure if we'd use the word "like."  Anyway.

I like seeing HDL just hanging out thinking about stuff.  That's the kind of slice-of-life material that I am there for.  No further comment.

So yes, this part, which is a little dubious.  The problem is, Donald is describing his nightmare day in these over-the-top, horrific terms...and yet the reality, while not exactly FUN, also isn't anything that you would call that unusual or special for him.  You need something really over-the-top if you want to sell him being like this, and the dialogue has something of a protests-too-much tone.

However, I do like the film-strip style, just for what it is.  Why did Scrooge have a Ming vase?  Well, he must've found it as part of some Far-Eastern adventure.  Did real Ming vases have "Ming" written on them in Roman characters?  We may never know.

I don't...think you're allowed to just enslave people because they broke your shit?  IANAL.  This is the part of the story that sort of seems like it's shading over into "mean," albeit (of course) a lot less severely than the Guido Martina stories of yore.  This isn't of yore (unless yore is more recent than I thought); it was first published in 1985.  The Scarpa art gives it a classic feel, but it was written by this Massimo Marconi fella.  He's made a few other US appearances, but nothing that really stands out.

I mean...yeah, okay.  You missed your bus and were late for your date.  As I've said, it just doesn't seem all that remarkable, as these things go.  Ya gotta be more resilient than this, Donald.

I'm actually not convinced the evidence will show you've had any holidays like that, really.  Well, I guess "The Duke of Baloni" might come close, but given all your financial vicissitudes, the holidays have generally gone pretty darned well for you, really.  Don't be a drama queen.

The story does pretty well in terms of letting us know that something's going on without tipping its hand.  Or so I think.  It works well in that regard.

I mean, given where the story goes, this part ultimately isn't as obnoxious as it seems, but I do have to ask: is it really okay to torture a guy like this just because you have something nice for him coming up?  That is not the sort of question you expect to see addressed in places like this.

But by all means let's hear it for some hella-gorgeous art.  Scarpa was perhaps the most weirdly inconsistent creator in the annals of Disney history, but when he was on he was on as heck.

Mmm.  Well.  We probably could have divined from the title that something like this was coming.  The thing about Disney stories is, there are different levels of reality; they aren't usually made explicit, but you get a sense just by reading.  And what level a story is operating on is going to govern how willing you'll be to accept the existence of aliens (never mind about whether these are actual aliens--it's just the fact that we're meant to believe that they plausibly could be).  And when these different levels clash, it can feel pretty darned weird.  This is definitely the first thing that turned me off the story.  I mean, it's okay now; I can roll with it.  But still...hmm, I say.  Hmm!

Well, obviously a UFO means aliens, but this very strongly turned me off of the story the first time, and honestly, even knowing what the purpose of this is, and that the story wouldn't very well exist without it, I still don't overly care for it.

And yet, I do like this image of the Earth explodifying, just for itself.  Boom!

And I'm not sure how rhetorically convincing an alien would find this montage, but I really do like it.  Christmasy!

But this is the part where I REALLY check out.  Don't include videogames in your stories, guys!  I realize that my saying that probably isn't based on much besides a bias for the time when Golden Age Disney stories were produced, but still, I do think there's a strong "how do you do fellow kids" element to them which makes me roll my eyes a bit.  A big bit.  Still, if I consider that this was 1985, I can at least imagine that it's kind of a retrogame, which I find a little more tolerable.  I don't recall ever having claimed to be rational.

Nope.  Can't deal with "you're talking to the master!"  Nuh uh.  Do not want.

Okay.  Yes.  Well.  Ahem.

And you might accuse me of being impossible to please, because as much as I was complaining about the presence of aliens, I don't care for this, either.  Well, at least it's...nice.  Preparatory for a good ending.

"As you know, Bob..."  Well, it does give us the chance to see Scrooge being generous.  Almost makes me not want to muse on the fact that if he was willing to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars around, he could easily have found a more practical avenue to improve his nephews's lives in a much more concrete, lasting way.  One might almost think that he prefers this flashy stuff because it lets him make a loud and impractical bang.  Always about YOU, Scrooge, innit?

I don't know why I'm being mean like that.  I don't think you have to read the story like that at all (although I do think it's the logical conclusion), especially in the spirit of the season.  I just sometimes see a lead like that and can't resist following it up.

And anyway, you can't argue with the results?  A surprise Christmas party!  Who doesn't want that?

Happy Christmas!

Oh, wait.  I like the way he shoves aside the "End" blocks, and I like the double ending.  You get one satisfying conclusion and then, bam, another one.  Adroitly done, I think.

I mean, you might've suspected that something was off just based on the fact that the aliens had an obvious joke name.  Possibly.  Still, I'm not one entirely sure that my first thought on hearing them say my name would be "they must be my relatives in disguise!"  As opposed to, you know, I must have just forgotten I mentioned it.  It's not like he can page back through the story to see if ever comes up.  And even if you definitively determine that you didn't, the only reason you leap immediately to "it must just be my family" is because, given the nature of the story, there are so few other possibilities.

Well, maybe hearing his name just made him realize, wait, none of this is very plausible.  Maybe, but I don't know; he doesn't seem to be dismissing the possibility that it could have been aliens.

But, of course, all that is neither here nor there.  What IS here--and possibly there as well--is that there's a pretty darned big something-missing here: where the heck is Daisy?  Her absence creates the impression--I'm sure not intended by Marconi--that she really is pissed off at Donald, and this is her holding a grudge.  Unfortunate, as it adds a bit of a black spot to an otherwise solid ending.

Oh well!  Happy Holidays anyway!

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Anonymous Elaine said...

Truth be told, the only reason I have this story is because I splurged a few years back and bought myself this issue with the "C" cover on eBay: Donald and Chip 'n' Dale, tangled up in Christmas lights. It's one of the ten or so Christmas comics covers that I use as decor in December!

I do like the double ending, though. And I'm fine with the moral at the end of the real ending, where Donald finds meaning in his miserable life because he has kin who care enough about him to stage such a production to boost his morale. (Although I agree that Scrooge could have done more effective things to make Donald's life happier with that much money! But the kids' plan is great, and they needed big money to enact it convincingly....) I do like the fact that the boys' plan succeeds in the long run not by bamboozling Donald into believing he Saved The World, but by heartening him when he realizes the lengths they went to to cheer him up. It's a fine Christmas message.

I wonder whether the Italian name the "aliens" give themselves is so transparently jokey? But there are definitely things I love in Thad K's dialogue: "Another day, another three-tenths of a dollar!" The callback to Joe Torcivia's "Retro-Duck" from "Duckburg 100"--Donald is such a devoted fan, certainly he would have bought and obsessively played the video game (like other video games, this one is based on a "retro" character who was on TV years earlier).

Speaking of translation, I am amused that on the "end" blocks they had to put an exclamation point on the fourth one; the word "fine" having four letters!

The last panel of Donald's meaning-of-Christmas page shows Donald and the boys caroling to a shepherd. He seems to be standing outside a stable (or some rough building with hay/straw) which has light streaming from it. Is this the closest a non-Brazilian Disney comic story gets to the True (as in, religious) Meaning of Christmas? Anyone know what the text is on that panel in the original?

December 11, 2023 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

"I don't...think you're allowed to just enslave people because they broke your shit?"

We're not? Oh-oh...

Elaine - I think Italians where a cool with religious refrence (Pope country after all) and I don't think this is the only story that makes a refrence to Jesus birth as Bethlehem. I faintly recall that there where some covers refrencing this event.

I like that the story give Donald some credit being smart enough to figure this out, especialy since - lets face it - at this point the Duck characters meet up with aliens so many times It shoudnt shock Donald that much. I dont think "life on other planets" is longer any question in Duckburg world. If anything "Are there part of space where there is no inteliget life" feels like a bigger one. Its like The Sims games where if you look by a telescope into the sky for to long an alien ship will kidnapt you.

Truth to be told Im happy I didn't see this one as a kid. The picture of earth blowing up like that would scare me for sure.

I love Donald eyes turning into film rolls as he starts the flashback. Has a nice cartoon feel to it and I can imagine this as a scen in the old shorts.

Maybe this is the one Christmas where Daisy finaly got a reminder:
- "Oh right! I do have a family outside of my boyfriends relatvie, dont I? Huh, interesting. Well I better go hang out with them this once. I dont want people of Duckburg to think Im some company moocher like that loser Gyro. Daisy Teresa Duck has spoken!"

Now if you excuse me I have to free some chained-up people from my basement... Happy Christmas!

December 12, 2023 at 1:22 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Pan, I also thought that Daisy chose to spend this one Christmas with her family of origin. In my headcanon Daisy’s sister Rosa and her husband (whom I have named) Julio Malardez and their three girls usually spend Christmas with his extended family somewhere far from Duckburg, which explains why Daisy is typically able to celebrate Christmas with Donald and his family. But maybe this Christmas Rosa, Julio and the triplets stayed in Duckburg and so Daisy joined them for Christmas.

December 12, 2023 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

"Rosa"? "Julio? Thats clever :)

December 12, 2023 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

To be fair, most of the *real* aliens the Ducks and Mice have encountered *also* have joke names.

Regarding Scrooge's motivations for occasionally splurging for ludicrous schemes like this but never straight-up giving his nephews significant financial aid… without by any means *endorsing* his reasoning I would guess that the Barksian psychology behind it is somewhat more sympathetic: as seen in “Poor Old Man”, Scrooge seems to genuinely think Donald would be better off if he followed in his hard-working-self-made-man footsteps, and so he probably earnestly thinks giving Donald free money would “spoil” him and rob him of that “chance”. Poppycock of course, as “Poor Old Man” shows just as well; but perhaps a better reflection on Scrooge's character than the more directly self-serving ego-trip thing GeoX was gesturing at.

December 12, 2023 at 2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The entire "Captain Retro-Duck" localization rewrite is nonsensical and completely ruins that entire plot point. The entire point is that this is a fake video game Donald has never played, or heard of, and that he's going completely blind but somehow still manages to "pull off some absurdly lucky maneuver by complete fluke" (obviously programmed into the fake game to happen). He's supposed to think he saved Earth by being crazy lucky, not by being skilled at a video game, that's how the dialogue presents it even in the localized version. So why rewrite the story to make this be a game Donald is supposedly a master at already? If it was a really game he knows well, surely he'd realize that maneuver of his doesn't actually exist in the real game or... whatever the localizer was trying to go for here. It's dumb and makes no sense. Why even rewrite this section at all?

December 18, 2023 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said... was done because "Captain Retro-Duck" is a thing that was shoehorned into another localization. This is a reference to that.
Between you, me, and Dupree, I kind of agree that it was a bit of a miscalculation, in both instances.

December 18, 2023 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

On the one hand I'm generally against messing around with the actual plot points of a story (although I've softened considerably on less important changes). On the other I must say the lucky version doesn't… feel like it would be as satisfying for Donald's ego? Surely it's a better miracle if he thinks he succeeded via some highly personal skill, than just because he got lucky? Or is the idea that it's "at last, my legendary bad luck has cleared" that's at the heart of the charade?

December 18, 2023 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I think "Captain Retro-Duck" from "The Duckburg 100" is an interesting example of what you can do with localisation to change the context of the orginal and trying to get around the story feeling anachronistic for modern readers. Not that I aprove of this type of fixes - I actualy have more fun reading story knowing that it was made in the 60's or 70's or 30's and expirance what a time capsule it is... but if you want to go out of your way to avoid it then It was an nice way to go.

Now I want to see or make a fanart of how "Captain Retro-Duck" actualy looks like...

December 19, 2023 at 1:41 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I believe Deb did once! But it'd be nice to have a second opinion.

December 19, 2023 at 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Achille Talon Yes, the story very much frames it as Donald being absurdly lucky that one time in his life it counted more than anything. Even this rewrite doesn't completely write out the idea that it was luck rather than skill that made Donald win the game, and the story is building up to it by having all the bad things that happen to Donald in it be a result of bad luck, not incompetence.

And of course there's all the logic issues I mentioned earlier resulting from changing a fake video game Donald has never touched into a real one he's actually good at when the plot still requires it to be rigged to make him win against impossible odds to the point I'm not sure the localizer even understood that was the intent (it's obvious from context, but never actually outright stated).

December 19, 2023 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here, just whipped up this quick comparison. Here's the scene in the new localized version:

And here's with a straight translation of the original dialogue swapped in:

Really makes more sense that way, doesn't it?

December 19, 2023 at 5:23 PM  

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