Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Barks' "series finale"?

Moments ago, I finished reading, for the first time in my life, "The Doom Diamond", originally printed in Uncle Scrooge #70 (Gold Key, July 1967) the very last Uncle Scrooge adventure that Carl Barks both wrote and drew. (In the following issue, the finished version of "King Scrooge the First", the final entry in Barks' historic 15-year Uncle Scrooge run, was rendered by Tony Strobl, following Barks' thumbnails.) (And, of course, 30 years later came "Horsing Around with History", but that's another chapter of Barks' story...)

I always figured that each of the twilight stories of Barks 1942-62 run were "just another mid-`60's Barks story". However, I've found that "The Doom Diamond" exhibits a couple of very striking signs of a bowing-out.

First, all too poignantly, in light of Barks' imminent retirement, is, on page 2, Scrooge growing too weary, drained, and exhausted to persist in combatting the Beagle Boys' latest scheme to rob him. (A team of blue jays that they've specially trained are, in constant rotation, invading the bin, each bird, on each visit, snatching a single coin and bringing it to the Beagles' hideout.) The ensuing Scrooge-versus-the-Beagle-Boys conflict appeared to be rehash of "The Paul Bunyan Machine", etc. But the story's resolution essentially shocked me for being the remarkably apropos, understated, wise, reflective "iris-out" that I interpreted it as. B

asically, with less than two pages to go, the ducks are stranded at sea, while the Beagles rejoice that they're home-free, the money bin theirs for the taking. But then, they overhear a fateful radio transmission:"Scrooge McDuck, the financier, is presumed lost in a terrible storm in the South Pacific! Unless he returns shortly, Duckburg officials will remove his vast fortune to Fort Knox!" Devastated, the Beagles are forced to come to terms with that fact that if they don't rescue Scrooge, they'll have no chance of ever stealing any or all of his cash! We fade out on the Beagles loafing about as their trained blue jays continue to chip away at the bin's content, as a flustered Scrooge desperately continues to strain himself in fighting off the blue jays -- if this isn't Barks, in parting, professing (perhaps subconsciously) that a certain existential order will always be maintained and, when temporarily broached, restored, and assuring us that his characters -- on an archetypal level -- will live on just as we've long known and love them, well, then I don't know what it is! :)

-- Ryan


  1. Well done, Ryan!

    I can still vividly remember receiving my mail subscription copy of this issue, one fine Saturday morning in the spring of 1967. No school and, once the cartoons were over; I just tore into it – neither knowing, nor caring, about the associated historical ramifications.

    Indeed, the anticipation was so great that I could not keep myself from looking away from the big black-and-white TV and glancing though the issue, during the copious commercial breaks on Frankenstein Jr., Underdog, Secret Squirrel, and whatever else was running at the time!

  2. Joe,

    Thanks! Great account of your experience reading the issue in which "The Doom Diamond" first appeared, at the time it was the current issue, while you were just a few years old -- I really enjoyed reading it, and am very glad that you shared it!

    I've done the "cram as much reading as I can during a commercial break" thing all too many times to count!

    -- Ryan