"The Flying Dutchman"
A TERRIFYING HALLOWEEN TO ALL AND SUNDRY! I was going to leave it at "The Flying Scot," but I just couldn't resist covering this other "Flying" story--it is an interesting coincidence that they were released so near to one another, even if there was no influence of the one on the other. Also, with "The Flying Horse" and "The Flying Farm Hand," I've now written about FOUR stories that start with "The Flying." In the future, I shall diligently endeavor to expand this list.
So...Barks! "The Flying Dutchman!" This, of course, is one of the surprisingly few "Scrooge's treasure hunt" stories that he wrote, and thus it had outsized influence on Rosa's work.
Just look at that art! Barks was the only Western artist who could compete for quality with the best of the Italians, and man, when he was on, he was just...on. I know I praised a few similar Scarpa drawings last time, but let's face it: compared to The Master, they pale pretty significantly. That is just plain cool-ass.
Did Rosa include this little "fact" in the L&T. Probably. I don't exactly remember. Note, however, that Barks' willingness to include a bit of nonsense like this demonstrates that he was in a looser, flakier mode when writing this story. Comparable to Scarpa's more-or-less constant flaky mode? Well...not really. I suppose you could pounce all over me for being willing to indulge such things from Barks more than his supposed Italian counterpart, but you have to admit, there's a pretty darned big difference between them. And I don't think Scarpa gets the better end of it.
Do note, however, that he still brings a certain amount of verisimilitude to the table. Flakinesswise, this can't begin to compete with "Interplanetary Postman" or "Queen of the Wild Dog Pack."
More ship! Ya gotta show a ship with blood-red sails for a Halloween entry! Otherwise, you should probably reevaluate your life. The writing is simple, but effective. Even when (as we'll see) Barks was more or less phoning it in, you still get effective little bits like that. Anyway, it's off to find the Flying Dutchman! Join us, won't you?
So as noted, the thing about this story is, I have to admit that it's pretty darned thin. Before I reread it for this entry, I didn't remember it very well, and coming back to it, I was actually kinda shocked by how little there there is. I think it's pretty apparent what happened: Barks came up with the initial hook for a Flying Dutchman story, but it must've quickly become apparent that with no other embellishment, this wasn't really going to be enough to fill out an adventure-length story. So he just kinda punted and filled the story out with gags--most of them involving Donald's obsession with fishing. Barks is Barks, of course, and his native talent meant that he was able to come a lot closer to getting away with this than anyone else would've been. But...I can't in good conscience assert that he ultimately does, quite. It really is striking how aimless the story feels. Some of the gags are okay, but there's no sense of urgency or of anything really being at stake, and so it goes on until it just kinda ends. Don't get me wrong; it's not unpleasant to read, and I'll take it over "The Flying Scot" any day, even if the latter does have more of a semblance of a plot, but it's certainly not Barks firing on all cylinders.
The story's first fishing gag, and surely its most bizarre. Donald was using a crude line drawing of Scrooge as a fish-dartboard? Whaa? Also, pretty darned inhumane to the fish, I must say!
You could defend this bit on the basis that, hey, at least the fishing impacts an unrelated plot point! And...yes, it does. But the only thing it really leads to is this little detour to South Africa which really contributes nothing to the story and could easily have been excised. Go figure!
Well, Donald does have a point here. Whales are not fish! This is a good lesson for kids to have hammered into their heads from a young age, so I'm glad it's here. There's a lot of bits here of Scrooge chasing/yelling at Donald. This is the sort of thing that heavily influenced Rosa, but--this is the key thing!--Barks is never sadistic about it. It never feels like a real sort of violence.
Even if, as I've said, nothing ever goes much of anywhere, this whole build-up to the storm is well-done, with some good atmosphere. It's not a patch on the Horseradish story, but it's still quality stuff.
...and this, of course, is just the fucking best. Hurrah! Happy Halloween!
'Course, that leads to this jarringly out-of-character Scrooge moment. Home? Whatever happened to "I just haven't the strength to give up?" I can't deny it: Unca Carl botched this one pretty badly.
But it's not all bad! That Donald/Scrooge interaction genuinely makes me ell oh ell, for one, even if I can't say I find Donald's monomaniacal fishing obsession to be the all-time greatest characterization either.
Yay again! Sort of.
By which I mean, I suppose one probably didn't really expect a supernatural explanation, but the one we get is pretty darned uninteresting (and also far-fetched, though nothing compared to Scarpa's "the boat somehow turned into a glider!" business). Big ol' anticlimax.
Note also that even though this is technically a treasure hunt, that really feels like an afterthought. We just get this one abrupt look at the gold bars, seemingly out of nowhere, and that's that. Compared with "The Mines of King Solomon," in which we're given the chance to share in the excitement of the discovery, this comes across as perfunctory indeed.
And so, it ends! With another fishing gag! Even though the action's clearly over, this really doesn't feel like an ending; the story just seems to abruptly stop, like Barks was thinking, gotta fill the page count gotta fill it gotta fill it gotta--BAM. DONE. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
Labels: Carl Barks