"The Miner's Granddaughter"
Well, it's been a while, but if you think I'm going to let the fact that my country's president is an angry, evil baby stop me from writing about duck comics--and, furthermore, that I'm going to let him thoroughly ruin the good name of our favorite duck--you have another goddamn think coming. This shit just got PERSONAL. So LET'S FUCKING DO THIS.
Here's a question that you will never, ever answer correctly without looking it up: which character has appeared in more stories with Dickie than any other? Answer, per inducks: the Aracuan bird from The Three Caballeros. Trust those Brazilians to make our lives just that little bit weirder!
ANYWAY, welcome to the entry that everyone, or possibly no one, has been waiting for! It's "The Miner's Granddaughter," also known as the rather uneuphonious "Paperetta Ye-Ye Arrives." Yes, it's the introduction of a not-particularly-popular original Scarpa character, the cringe-inducingly named "Dickie Duck," and can we begin by agreeing that "Dickie Duck" is an absolutely fucking dreadful name for the character? I guess Scarpa came up with his own English-language names for his characters (correct me if I'm wrong about that), and he gets pride of place, but--while I don't know how proficient his English was--he's never done worse than this. I mean, sure, "Jubal Pomp" is kind of nonsensical, and "Trudy von Tubb" is just a fat joke, but JEEZ, "Dickie Duck." You didn't see Carl Barks coming up with the Italian names for Disney characters, so I don't see why Italians should get to provide the English ones! Dammit!
One thing you immediately notice about this story is that it's distinctly unbalanced. The first twelve pages are one thing, and then after that--basically, as soon as Scrooge and Dickie leave for Duckburg--it becomes something else for the next twenty-eight pages. The first part is relatively sedate; the second is more or less nothing but manic action.
Right, so we start with Scrooge receiving this mysterious letter that takes him right back. The art there is pretty good--I like the same images/different costumes set-up which makes it seem like it's some kind of film strip--click click click. It's a good evocation of Scrooge's past; it's hard not to immediately think Rosa! but that's just because Rosa so thoroughly colonized the character's past years later. Not sure what I think about the script including specific Rosa references--I guess I don't mind that much, but it's a little jarring. For all his flaws, Scarpa did come first, so why not give him pride of place?
So in a way, this is kind of interesting; it psychologizes Scrooge in a way that you rarely see from Scarpa, and it's certainly visually striking.
All that wide open space--you can really feel it. But...am I being a bit of a killjoy that I point out that the whole thing is kinda redundant? By which I mean: in the Barksian universe as pioneered in "Only a Poor Old Man," that's the whole point of the Money Bin--to evoke the past. Including a more concrete evocation like this can't help seem thuddingly literal-minded by comparison. Not that it's not good in its own way, but it's just one of those things that goes to show: Scarpa was not the artist that Barks was.
...and all this, of course, isn't even touching the really obvious incongruity here; ie, why is Scrooge trying to relive his time in the Klondike with Goldie in an old-western town? Yes: for reasons that truly surpass understanding, this story infamously relocates Scrooge's history with her to this generic old west. This, we presume, is the reason it's so rarely been printed outside of Italy. Duck comics aren't too concerned with continiuity (as has been discussed here and elsewhere at tedious length), but this little bit of revisonist history is so huge and so blatant that one can easily see how it would be a bridge too far. Seriously, how could this have happened? Glittering Goldie: Star of the NORTH, dammit. It's basically inconceivable that anyone could remember the character yet somehow forget where she was from--which makes one wonder whether there might not have been some truly ill-advised editorial interference with this story. I dunno...I'm not saying it makes a lot of sense, but it's sort of possible, I guess, to imagine some dopey-ass editor deciding that the old west was more, uh, popular than the north, thus mandating the relocating. This hypothetical editor should be ashamed of being so dumb, however. Sheesh.
Thad Komorowski's English script does about as good a job smoothing this over as you could expect, but there are some thing that are just beyond fixing, including the fact that Scrooge is reminiscing about his Klondike days in an old west town. I mean, even if you buy the idea that, oh, Goldie moved there sometime after the Barks story, this is an obvious logical non-starter. Sheesh.
SO, one thing I can't help liking is this...
...it SEEMS like it's going to be an infuriating "laws are for the little people!" thing, but then, BAM, Scrooge is back on the hook (doesn't make me think any more of Goldie, though). What we need from cops is less murderous racism and more willingness to fine gazillionaires. And that is my opinion.
Oh, and I guess here's Goldie or something. Scarpa does a good job of drawing her, for sure; she certainly resembles Barks' original more than Rosa's sexed-up version does. I don't think I have much to say about her here, actually--ironic given her iconic status. Ironic iconic. She's really only here as an excuse to introduce a teenager without having it seem completely out-of-nowhere; beyond that, she doesn't do much.
Even before Rosa ushered in today's continuity mania, you've gotta imagine that anyone's first thought reading this would be, OMG! Is Scrooge the grandfather?!? The question of who the plain ol' parents are would also signify. Scarpa, however, is not even a tiny bit interested in this. Obviously, in a Disney comic, you couldn't do more than very obliquely hint at the situation in any case, but I doubt Scarpa even momentarily considered the implications ("implications" being something he rarely if ever considered). Forget about all this possible history and drama--Goldie's a semi-plausible way to introduce this new character, and THAT IS ALL.
Well...here she is. I'm afraid she gets off to a bad start with me just because I really, really do not like her character design. There's just something about the way she's more human-looking than the other ducks--without even a hint of webbed feet--that just hits my brain synapses the wrong way. Still, we will do our best to suck it up as we move forward.
...oh, before we move on, I just want to note that I find this elder-abuse bit super-unpleasant and off-putting, even if it has an, uh, happy ending.
....also, "I WAS already the custodian, too!" is possibly a joke I'm missing. Doesn't look like a very good one, though.
So BACK TO DUCKBURG we go, and at this point, the story really, well, takes off. That rocket is appropriate, 'cause from here on it's just non-stop forward momentum.
...okay, as calculated as this whole thing may be, that's cute.
The one overriding complaint you can level at this--that it's hard not to--is that all this foofaraw is in the service of trying to make us think, in a bullying sort of way, that Dickie is the GREATEST CHARACTER EVER OMG. If she's ACTUALLY the greatest character ever, you don't need to slam us with all this! Just show us! As it is, it looks as though you're trying to trick us because you're not so confident about the whole thing.
This introduction is in sharp contrast to Scarpa's usual MO--Brigitta and Trudy were both introduced in a very low-key way in stories that weren't specifically about them. No such understatement here, to put it mildly. It's one of the things that I kinda makes me suspect that maybe she wasn't totally Scarpa's idea--that the powers that be decided, hey, we need something to appeal to these weird hippie kids with their incense and their sock hops! Get on it, R-Scar! You've gotta figure his nickname was R-Scar. Only stands to reason.
Note that Dickie does lame impressions of only TWO characters, one of whom is Scarpa's own damn creation. Is Brigitta REALLY the second-most-important or interesting denizen of Duckburg? Really? One cannot help but feel that Scarpa may have been a bit high on his own supply here.
I could do A LOT of carping. You'd best believe I could! And yet...it kinda feels like any criticism would be missing the point. Imagine a scenario where some bow-tied poindexter is painstakingly explaining that hedgehogs are not bipedal, nor do they move at any great speed, and as he's explaining this, in the background Sonic blasts on to the screen, does a loop-de-loop, and disappears off the opposite side. It's not that the lecturer is wrong, it's just that he's kind of irrelevant. Please let's note that this is the sixteen-bit Sonic--the one who was actually cool, unlike the weird, emo-y version that Sega later hit on.
Really, you might as well just go along for the ride and GOOD LORD, this is officially the most sixties thing ever. There's a kind of insane disconnect here that probably results from Scarpa's general establishment stodginess: Dickie's supposed to be this kinda hippie-chick type, yet the whole story has this WESTERN theme, and the band is--APPARENTLY--some sort of country outfit. BUT SHUT UP, ME! STOP MISSING THE POINT! GO GO GO! Is there ANY universe where HDL would be down with this kind of treatment? NEVER MIND! WE'VE GOT PLACES TO GO AND PEOPLE TO BE! I HAD TOO MUCH TO DREAM LAST NIGHT! INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS, MEANINGLESS NOUNS!
The conflict of the story, such as it is, is this business where they think she's robbed them blind. Not exactly a lot of suspense, but if you're reading this for a sensible, reasoned plot, sister, you are reading it for the WRONG REASONS. I find that other than this here sentence, I'm not even going to MENTION the Beagle subplot, it being SUCH an insignificant afterthought.
YES! It's ANOTHER Scarpa story (along with "Donald of the Woods" and "Marco Polo") where Clara Cluck appears in one panel, says and does NOTHING, and then vanishes (well, actually, she appears in TWO panels here where she says and does nothing, but the principle is the same). I am unreasonably excited about once again seeing this bizarre quirk of R-Scar's in action!
Fuck it, man. You gotta love it. It is mandated by all of the most important authorities, including Timothy Leary, Wavy Gravy, Robert Anton Wilson, and Dr. Irwin Corey.
You've gotta love Scarpa's eagerness to just casually toss out whatever romantic tension one might imagine to persist between Scrooge and Goldie. Rosa built a whole career around it, but for Scarpa, whatever! That's over and done with! Have some helpful seduction tips! I kind of wonder if he had some sort of "fantasy ending" akin to Rosa's but with Scrooge ending up with Brigitta. Then again...I don't actually wonder about that. He never would've had the temperament to think about the characters in those terms. This just goes back to what I was saying earlier about his total lack of interest in considering the broader implications of the situation. One can, however, maybe sense a li'l effort to establish cultural hegemony: Barks is the past! Rad Romano Scarpa, with his awesome NEW love interest, is the future! I suspect this vision might not meet with universal approbation.
The best is yet to come, eh? No, I'm pretty sure that for Dickie Duck, this is THE best. It's all downhill from here. Certainly, Scarpa didn't show a great deal of interest in establishing the character as a regular--and when he was interested in such things, he was not shy about showing it.
Look, this whole thing seems like a very calculated, cynical attempt at demographic broadening...AND YET, there's an energy and joie de vivre here that means I can't help sorta kinda loving it. Certainly, Scarpa's loose art style and shaky character consistency have never felt more appropriate. DON'T GET ME WRONG: I wouldn't want all duck stories to be like this. Hell, I'm not so sure I'd want any other duck stories to be like this. But...I'm going to give this one a fairly emphatic yes.
Labels: Romano Scarpa