Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New comic review: Donald Duck #371 (IDW, August 2015)

Receiving top billing in this issue is "The Perfect Calm", a 1974 story written by Rodolfo Cimino and drawn by Romano Scarpa. I haven't seen very much of Scarpa's work from this era, but there's a decided contrast between Dave Alvarez' cover representing "Calm" (above), which nearly could be a still from a fully-animated Disney production, and the 40-years-older story's art, which looks more UPA-esque (especially some of the incidental and background characters). Oh, and in a couple of panels, I would have taken Donald for being Al Hubbard's.

The story itself actually reminds me of the more satiric episodes of DuckTales' second season, such as "The Big Flub" and "My Mother the Psychic", specifically because of the shared motif (with Flub) of Donald/Fenton introducing a mega-popular, incredibly lucrative new craze of some sort to society that runs away with itself to the point of evolving into a mass catastrophe ("Flub") and the shared premise of Scrooge exploiting a "mystic" individual for profit ("Psychic"). Also, the lighthearted spoofing of Eastern mysticism evokes the satiric quality of those episodes and the second season in general. In fact, the way that the adventure scenes are played in a more farcical (and here, very silly) way and are used as a means to set up the major events of the story involving calamity at home in Duckburg brings season two to mind, "Attack of the Fifty-Foot Webby" in particular.

My only real criticism of the story is that it would have been thematically stronger to pave the way for Donald's introduction to the Perfect Calm with a series of increasingly and extremely unfortunate events that push him to brink of rage, rather than the mopey "Woe is me" Donald who meets his mentor in jail after merely one little pedestrian sidewalk accident. Perhaps Joe Torcivia -- who peppered the nephews' dialogue with a lot of wry asides and zingers at the expense of their uncle, and I suspect is wholly responsible for the non sequitur (briefly) running joke about, er jokes (of the goat variety) -- could fill us in as to whether there was a "Day of Gifts" in the original story, or if there was some other reason everyone was walking around at the beginning of the story holding wrapped gifts!

[Update: See Joe Torcivia's comment below -- he confirms that the "Day of Gifts" was in the original version, urging, "Give that proper credit to Cimino (and perhaps Scarpa?)"]

Speaking of presents, another ancient British relic by Wilfred Haughton is presented to us, in the form of 1937's"Hampered!"  As crude as they are and as off as the characterizations can be, I love seeing these, and find them quite interesting historically. Case in point re: characterization, here, Mickey is indifferent, even callous, to Morty and Ferdie in a way that I would only expect of the early Donald toward his nephews. As Mickey is in fact in cohort with the early Donald himself for the duration of this strip, perhaps his belly ache-prone pal had rubbed off on him for the moment. 

Don Christensen and Paul Murry's very nice "Chore Chump" (1962) features a rare comic book appearance by Ludwig Von Drake in which his erudite, elitist tendencies are apparent. Though it may seem more like Scrooge's department to disapprove of Gus Goose's aversion to working, period (not just harder than hardies), it makes sense that Ludwig would frown upon Gus' atrophy as a whole, not just intellectual (Ludwig's prerogative). Of course, Grandma is sharp-witted, too, but doesn't flaunt it, and so her getting the best of Ludwig in the end, unofficially punishing him for basically inducing in him via hypnotism a permanent state akin to the effects of Adderall at their peak (until he undid it), hits an especially sweet, wry, and understated final note.

-- Ryan


  1. Ryan:

    “The Great Day of Gifts” was indeed in the original story. Even the guy who gave you “Bad Goat Jokes” and “Yeti-Speak” (me) isn’t THAT GOOD! Give that proper credit to Cimino (and maybe Scarpa?)

  2. I was also wondering about the "Great Day of Gifts" when I read this story, wondering if it was some kind of Italian day for Black Friday. Or just some nonsense made up for this story.

    Sometimes it's best to not try to analyze these old Italian stories, crazy things just happens out of nowhere :)

  3. Joe and Hex: Thanks for confirming that it was in the original story, Joe! Like Hex, I'm left wondering what the deal IS, then, with the Day of Gifts -- is it an actual custom in Italy? It seems more likely to me that, as Hex suggested, it's one of those "crazy things that just happen out of nowhere" in "these old Italian stories", as I'm with him in noticing that sometimes perplexing trend!

    -- Ryan