A few years ago, going on the recommendation of a friend who since high school has been one of my closest, I perused the work of film director Werner Herzog. This post is off-the-cuff, so to introduce Herzog, I'll cite Wikipedia: he is "one of the greatest figures of the New German Cinema", and "[h]is films often feature heroes with impossible dreams, people with unique talents in obscure fields, or individuals who find themselves in conflict with nature."
After binging on a fraction of the Herzog filmography, at some point during the ensuing couple of years, for one reason or another, my thoughts fell upon Herzog. I began turning over in my mind my memories of the several of his movies that I'd seen. Suddenly, it struck me that some of them had a difficult-to-pinpoint but distinctive air of ... Carl Barks! I'll quote again, in part, one or more Wikipedia author's characterization of Herzog's work: " ... heroes with impossible dreams, people with unique talents in obscure fields ... " Might that not be apt things to say about, say, Scrooge McDuck or Gyro Gearloose?
In particular, there were two Herzog films that I'd seen, Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and Fitzcarraldo (1982) -- incidentally(?) both starring Klaus Kinski -- that stood out as Barksian. Especially Fitzcarraldo. Take into account the Wikipedia entry's (as of this writing) introductory synopses of the film: "It portrays would-be rubber baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an Irishman known as Fitzcarraldo in Peru, who has to pull a steamship over a steep hill in order to access a rich rubber territory. The film is derived from the real-life story of Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald." I ask you, does that not sound like a plot that would be seemlessly transposable for an Uncle Scrooge story? Perhaps in particular, given the harrowing tone of Herzog's film, a Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge story?
Tonight, I re-read Uncle Scrooge #249 (Disney Comics, Dec.1990), featuring the book-length story "The Puffer", plotted by Paul Halas (according to Inducks -- this credit is absent in the issue itself), scripted by Gary Gabner (update: per Joe Torcivia, both Disney Comics and Inducks are incorrect in crediting the dialogue to Dave Angus), and drawn by Daniel Branca -- a rare treat, indeed, a book-length Daniel Branca story! Revolving around a steamboat race pitting Scrooge and his nephews against Argus McSwine, it draws heavily from ... well, logically, Barks' "The Great Steamboat Race", originally printed in Uncle Scrooge #11 (Dell, Sept. 1955). The villain in Barks' original one of his many McSwine prototypes, here dubbed Horseshoe Hogg.
Two-thirds or so of the way into tonight's reading, I suddenly got a strong sense of an impending plot development, and my heart skipped a beat ... or I gasped in shock ... or a chill went down my spine ... well, I'm not sure if any of those literally happened, but it was like one of them had! ;) Sure enough, just as in Fitzcarraldo, the aid of a native tribe is enlisted to construct over a stretch of land to a river an extended platform upon which they'll tow a terra firma-stranded steamboat until it's asail in said river!
(See the resemblance/commonalities?) ;)
I have no idea if Halas, Angus, or Branca had seen or even knew of Fitzcarraldo. But directly inspired by the film or not, it works fantastically as a homage to "The Great Steamboat Race" and an original, well-crafted -- but still Barksian -- Scrooge story, yet also, at least to some degree, affirming my sense of an "odd couple" kinship between Barks and Herzog and Fitzcarraldo's adaptability to an Uncle Scrooge comic!
If you're a Barks fan and Herzog and Fitzcarraldo at all appeal to you, I urge you to seek it out!