Sunday, May 11, 2014

(Some of) my assorted thoughts on: Uncle Scrooge #231 (Gladstone, cover date Nov. 1988)

Our Don Rosa cover is very much in the same vein as Barks' covers for this very same title:

“Too Safe Safe” – Barks ten-pager. Walt Disneys Comics and Stories #171. 1954.

Scrooge task Donald with removing a sole mouse from the money bin … but not because it’s grunt work; Scrooge actually considers the mouse a threat to his cash of the most serious order, but Donald works the cheapest. The Donald-Scrooge interplay is archetypal, especially in the context of Donald working for Scrooge in the bin. Going as far as back as “ , this story certainly belongs to its era; to regular readers; there is a familiarity with the setting and the relationship between its inhabitants. Scrooge, of course, looks down on Donald, while Donald, though his uncle is prone to angering and insulting him, is determined to succeed in his assignment, though he’s just as on edge about failing. In the vein of the classic opening to “Back to the Klondike”, in which Donald nonchalantly stands by as Scrooge loses his nerves, pacing, talking to himself, and forgetting what happened a moment before, Donald comes off well in contrast with his obsessive-compulsive uncle; in fact, Donald looks outright SANE. (This is more apparent to the readers, however; Donald’s self-awareness is too limited to allow him that affirmation, sadly.) The bit where Donald, for some inscrutable reason, nails a pillow to the ceiling above Scrooge’s desk chair, then – once Scrooge has questioned him as to what the hell he’s doing – informs Scrooge of the discovered mouse, resulting in a shocked, alarmed, and outraged Scrooge literally hitting the (now-cushioned) ceiling in the fashion that only a cartoon character can, is hilarious.

Another priceless moment is – Scrooge having JUST sent Donald away, without pay due to Scrooge’s entire fortune now being inaccessible, worried about how he’s going to be able to eat – Scrooge’s realization that, “Wait! What am I going to eat?!” The one-panel lapse between Donald’s departure and Scrooge’s epiphany is timed PERFECTLY. And Scrooge’s facial expression – he looks like a truckload of hardened cement just hit him – is Barks at his comic(al) best.

Gyro, in one of his earliest appearances, functions as a plot device, providing the impenetrable wax that Scrooge’s entire bin is sealed in. (You would THINK that Scrooge would have enough foresight to realize the problem this would create, but not only are Barks’ characters all too human in their flaws – in this case, Scrooge is SO focused on protecting the contents of his vault from Federal Reserve note-nibbling rodents, he is unable to see any factors of the project external to tis primary objective. Additionally, Barks’ world is just cartoony and whimsical enough where such logic breaks [thanks, Gregory] are permissible.) Gyro isn’t yet the meek, somewhat downtrodden but generally cheery, relatable tinkerer we would come to know in the Barks’ Gyro-solo stories. Here, he’s more of tertiary joke in and of himself: he’s just some crank who claims that he can only get invention ideas when he knocks himself on the head. his role here is only to be the object of this recurring gag and to facilitate the impenetrable wax’s entry into the story. Don’t get me wrong, it is a funny portrayal, and he’s not unlikable, but we’re not given an opportunity to identify with him here. The evolution from Gyro’s more angular, raggedy appearance here to the more composed and upright character design Barks would settle on seems to parallel the evolution of his characterization, which may have been subconscious on Barks part; before the reader could identify with the character, its creator had to, first.

Of course, Barks had mastered the nephews by this point (I might even take a hardline, Don Rosa-ish position and state that not only are Barks’ nephews definitive, but he actually created them, and the rowdy little brats in the shorts never existed). Although they don’t show up until the final page, their appearance is quintessential Barks’ nephews: they’re shown as having taken – virtually parental – responsibility for feeding their bungling two uncles, admonishing them for their irresponsibility.


“Fear of Buyin” (original title translates to “Loss Day Found”) – 8 pages. Plot: Joel Katz. Script: Tom Anderson. Pencils: José Cardona Blasi. Created in 1985, first published in 1987. Denmark.

Uh oh! This story includes a non-Barks flashback to Dawson that is invalidated by the very existence of Life and Times … and worse yet, it posits a life-defining moment that Scrooge has rued ever since! If it were just a few panels showing some generic depictions of Scrooge prospecting and walking past the saloons and dance halls of Dawson, I guess that’d be relativity innocuous … but this inferior story actually has the gall to invent an important and event – and even date!!! – in Scrooge’s life. I should repent for even having set eyes on it! And … quick!!! Any and every existing copies, scans, and the original art (if it even still exists) should be destroyed, per an international mandate!

No, I’m only kidding … and not at all in an anti-Don Rosa sense, mind you; see my comment above about Barks’ conception of the nephews. I’m a self-admitted continuity nut, and if anything, I’m poking fun at myself, if not “our kind” in general. Even Barks’ own “Cold Bargain” doesn’t seem to jive with “Back to the Klondike” (Rosa even had to retcon its placing of Scrooge’s far-north prospecting days in Alaska.) But whereas I was actually annoyed an Jippes gag piece that BOOM! published because it showed young Klondike Scrooge wrassling with a bear that looked exactly like Goldie’s Blackjack, there’s nothing about “Fear of Buyin’” that bugs me. I can understand objecting to the notion that a greenhorn Scrooge even had ONE millisecond of weakness and gave in to gambling’s lure, enough emphasis is placed on it being just that – a weak moment – and that it was a result of Scrooge hitting a low point and fearing failure (remember, he had barely his first dime, let alone a fortune, at this point – he surely had to have spats of self-doubt) is well-considered and demonstrates enough understand of the character that I commend it.

And, besides, it’s only the story’s set-up! Scrooge’s staff rejoicing at actually being dismissed early, the figurative dark cloud that hangs over Scrooge each year on this date (see? This IS the Scrooge we know – if he DID actually make such a youthful indiscretion, he WOULD regard it in this manner), his anxiety over having to adhere to his vow to abstain from all business for the day’s duration, his inability to avoid anything that reminds him of money, and his frantic roping in of Donald to be his “guardian”, and Donald’s flubbing things at the auction are all prime Duck story transpirations, and are by-and-large Barks-worthy. (The work-base bickering between Scrooge and Donald compliments the preceding story nicely, too.)

Okay, the “can’t avoid anything that reminds him of money” sequence is a bit hackneyed, but nearly inevitable. Sue Daigle – credited with scripting the U.S. version, the only instance of her doing so that I’m aware of – may even improve the gags with the pun book titles that Scrooge jumps away from. Presumably, they were completely different titles in the original version, but still jokes or puns – just different ones. Otherwise, the gags just wouldn’t work.

Standard, perfectly fine Gutenberghus/Egmont art. Of course, Gladstone only accounted for Cardona Blasi with "Produced by the Gutenberghus Group". I have a feeling that Blasi could have been on Vicar's staff of "ghost" artists.


The Beagle Boys – “Soured on Sweets” (original title translates to “A Sweet Tooth”). Plot: Neville Jason. Script: Bob Bartholomew. Pencils: Daniel Branca. Created in 1984, first published in 1987. Denmark.

The chocolate factory slapstick, the cliché of having to go through a million (actual number not stated – but odd how EVERYTHING that came off the production line went to ONE tiny local shop) assembly line products to find a misplaced, greatly desired object, and the silly coincidence of the Beagles running into not one but two other womanat the zoo each holding yet ANOTHER box of chocolates? Meh. Daniel Branca’s art? YEAH!!! I think I’ve said this before, but he pulls off the feat of drawing Barksian Beagles who are more expressive and “flexible than Barks’ (who usually were pretty stiff, but it was part of Barks’ comical conception of them, not a fault), but doesn’t fall into the heavily stylized, angular, absurdly cartoony European digest style.


“Shaping Up” – one-page gag by William Van Horn. Original.

Van Horn still getting his feet wet. Donald comments that Scrooge, upon exiting a gym, looks healthier … not because of a workout, because he turned down all of the very expensive fitness courses that the gym had to offer. (Expensive being the operative word.) A relatively simple but tightly-paced and in-character gag.


The entire letter column is taken up by one GREAT letter chiming in on a debate that had been going on at that time in Gladstone’s letters columns – written by a lawyer in Michigan, making a serious, monetarily complex argument but with (most notably at the end) a fantastically dry wit.

-- Ryan

(P.S. Yes, the Aladdin reviews will continue -- just trying to make sure that I don't lose my [very few] regular readers!)


  1. Ryan:

    You must do MORE of these! Very enjoyable!

    Oh, and NAME some of the pun book titles, for those who don't have the issue, or don't wanna dig it out (like me). After all, you KNOW how I like a good pun in such stories!

  2. Joe,

    I'm SO glad that you continue to enjoy them! (Especially since I don't even proofread them; in my new routine, I give a couple of hours each Sunday to my blog, by the end of which, I just want to get the thing posted and done with! If I tortured myself with editing, I'd never post anything!)

    I'm at work right now, so don't have the comic on hand, but I will gladly cite the pun titles at some point this weekend.

    -- Ryan