Sunday, May 15, 2011

Comics Review: DONALD DUCK #366 (May 2011, kaboom!)

It could legitimately be argued that "Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold!" (FOUR COLOR #9, 1942) is so obviously self-contained an adventure that it doesn't need a sequel. "Donald Duck and the Pirates," which kaboom! rescued from obscurity (or the bottom of a 65-year-old box of Cheerios, I'm not sure which) and reprinted last month, was more of a simplified rehash than a sequel. In 1962, however, Italian creators Abramo & Giampaolo Barosso (plot and script) and Giovan Battista Carpi (art) took the plunge and resurrected Yellow Beak the parrot for a tale originally entitled (this is a loose, Google-y translation) "Back to the Sea with Yellow Beak." Retitled "Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold... AGAIN!" for this first American appearance, the mini-epic (at 22 pages, it's a mere zephyr compared to the 64-page blast knocked out by Carl Barks and Jack Hannah almost 70 years ago) turns out to be a straightforward but very entertaining effort... even if Uncle Scrooge gradually does becomes the main protagonist during the course of the story, pushing Donald and HD&L a bit to the side in the process.

The set-up for "Pirate Gold... AGAIN!" is completely believable: Yellow Beak, bored with retirement and with salt water still running in his veins, invites Donald and HD&L to join him on a search for another booty-bonanza in the Caribbean. Scrooge decides to join the fun, which sucks the Beagle Boys into the story, and the Beagles subsequently play pretty much the same role as did Black Pete and his two rat-faced allies in the original "Pirate Gold." We also rubber-stamp the original, more or less, in the areas of villainous disguise (the Beagles essay two, posing as itinerant sailors and, later, as shipwrecked South Seas natives) and the troubles inherent in procuring a ship (needless to say, Scrooge's penury creates most of the Ducks' troubles this time around). Surprisingly, we don't actually get to see the treasure being dug up -- Donald and the boys handle that onerous duty off-camera -- but the double-twist ending involving the true (and hidden) nature of the treasure certainly makes up for the oversight.

Joe Torcivia does another excellent scripting job -- this time, by side-stepping the contemporary political and pop-culture references that filled "The Pelican Thief" in favor of nods to such classic Disney comics tales as "Only a Poor Old Man" and "Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot"... plus, of course, the original "Pirate Gold." If such terms as "slumgullion" mystified the readers of 1942, as I'm sure they did, then one can only imagine how arcane they must seem today... unless you're a devotee of Fusion cooking, that is. Nevertheless, I'm glad that Joe included some of them here. Joe also does an excellent job of keeping Yellow Beak's pirate patter enjoyable without beating us over the head with the peg leg that the 1962 version of Yellow Beak seems to have traded in for a "life-like" new model, much as lumberjack Pete ostentatiously ditched his wooden leg for a "lak' modern design!" in Floyd Gottfredson's "Mystery at Hidden River." Take yet another bow, Joe! Though, preferably, not too close to the bow.

1 comment:

Joe Torcivia said...

Chris:

Oddly enough, I first encountered the term “Slumgullion” in an AUGIE DOGGIE story! It baffled me back then too! Though, thanks to SpongeBob and the evil Plankton’s “Chum Bucket” restaurant, no kids were puzzled over my reference to “chum”.

As for “pirate patter”, imagine getting to do a pirate story and not using “Arrrr”! Just couldn’t find a proper place to work it in – since no “real” pirates appeared! It was actually easier to work in that Phantom Blot reference!

Thanks for the kind words!

Joe.