Monday, December 24, 2012

Ducks for the Holidays: My "Festive Five"

GeoX's ongoing trilogy of Christmas Carol posts has prompted me to post my own list of the Top 5 Duck-related Christmas stories.  I previously posted this list on the Disney Comics forum, but left slot #5 open because I didn't want to be a "Scrooge."  This post will fill that small gap.

1.  "A Christmas for Shacktown" -- Big surprise, huh?  Manages to be sentimental, funny, cynical, and redemptive, all at the same time.

2.  "Letter to Santa" -- Very different in tone from "Shacktown," of course -- more biting, less sentimental -- but Barks is on his game throughout, starting with that magnificent opening splash panel (actually, splash PAGE):

3.  "Search for the Cuspidoria" -- My "sleeper story" on this list.  Remember that Disney direct-to-video special, Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas?  I was less than enamored of "Stuck on Christmas," the Duck contribution to that bauble, primarily because I didn't like the characterization of the Nephews.  Yeah, I realize that the short was trying to recapture the "rapscallion era" of the Donald shorts, but they really did come across as awful jerks, ultimate reformation notwithstanding.  "Cuspidoria" would have been a perfect replacement -- it's an imaginative riff on the idea of "holiday redemption," and you could even have slipped Launchpad into the cast as the one who flies (er, steers) the submarine.  Seeing Scrooge, HD&L, Donald, and LP in such a short would have been, as the man says, epic.

4.  "Tis the Season" -- This blows DONALD DUCK AND THE CHRISTMAS CAROL completely out of the water.  Mike Peraza's six-page, picture-book-style story -- actually, it's more a series of vignettes than a true "story" -- could be considered the Duck comics "universe"'s version of A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Its characterization of Scrooge may strike hardcore purists as somewhat inauthentic, but I prefer to think of this Scrooge as the DuckTales version of the character.  This seems logical in that Peraza was heavily involved in the production of the TV series. 

5.  "Donald Duck's Best Christmas" -- The pull of nostalgia definitely affects this choice.  Not because I was alive when the Firestone Tire people were distributing their holiday giveaway comic in December of 1945, but rather, because this eight-page Barks story was featured in a Gladstone reprint during the Christmas season of 1986.  In that first Gladstone year, the future of American Disney comics seemed sunny and limitless, and I was getting to read hitherto unseen Barks tales on a monthly basis.  This one definitely has its gooey aspects (the poor kids are suspiciously chipper, not at all like the sullen waifs on the first page of "Shacktown"), and Donald here is very much in "self-righteous asshole" mode, but I've always liked it a great deal.  Barks manages to balance sentiment and comedy quite well here.  Barks' first use of Grandma Duck gives the story some extra cachet, though the characterization of Grandma here is nothing like the one that Barks would ultimately fashion for the character.

Merry Christmas!

2 comments:

Joe Torcivia said...

A great list, Chris – especially with the inclusion of “Tis the Season”, a story that (alas) is less likely to come to mind than the others.

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

I was reading the CBL album that collects Barks' Firestone stories, and in his introduction, Geoffrey Blum says that the popularity of these was what made Western demand of him that he do longer-form Christmas stories, which he was not interested in doing--yet, when pushed into it, he turned out "Letter" and "Shacktown," two of his best stories ever, seasonal or otherwise, and a handful of others that are pretty darn good to boot. I think one could reasonably argue that his ambivalent attitude towards Christmas and its associated cultural baggage could be part of what allowed him to write such powerful, dynamic stories on the subject.