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Thursday, 14 April 2016

REVIEW: "Shiver Me Timbers"

Joe Torcivia (go check his awesome blog, by the way) once asked me if I'd review one of his “scripted stories”. This prompted me to finally get my hands on an American IDW Uncle Scrooge issue, Uncle Scrooge #406. Since all three stories in there are pretty good, I'll review them all, but before that, non-American readers are going to ask what I mean by “scripted stories” (don't all stories have script, after all ?). 

Well. Nowadays, American readers will never get their hands on European stories as their readers first discovered them, except through scanlations. Why is that ? Well, all the foreign stories printed in American comics are not only translated, but rescripted by another author (the most illustrious being Geoffrey Blum, David Gerstein, Joe Torvicia, Jonathan Gray and the late Chris Barat). I have had numerous arguments on the Internet on this matter, because I don't really support this method, first because it stops the readers from having a clear opinion of the original author's work (a good rescripter can make a piece of junk into an okay story… which is nice and all, but then we're going to believe the original author was much better than he actually is). And also, there is a continuity problem. I'm very set on continuity, as you may know, and it really bothers me that we have two slightly different, overlapping versions of the same events. It's Donrosatian attention for details, of course, but it is a fact that through no plausible contortion of Time can Donald have both said on day X “Hello, uncle Scrooge” and “Nice G weather today”. I chose an inconsequential example because I wanted to ridicule myself a little, since I'll admit all this is pretty over-the-top. But sometimes it's a little bit more important. Like this, from The Eternal Knot, which GeoX already reviewed

I am told that Scrooge citing examples from his family is the translator's idea, whereas in the original he was just talking “in general”. Well, assuming I'm a Don Rosa clone who wants to make a Duck family tree, except not just from Barks stories… what do I do ? Do Aunt Molly and Cousin Clem exist, or not ? Since this is their only mention ever and they only exist in one of the two possible things Scrooge said (and that the version where Scrooge didn't cite them is, since it's the oldest one, the most likely to be canon) ? Gah ! And it's not just a thought experiment, because I did attempt once or twice to build such a tree. 

On the other hand… after repeated exposure to them, I kinda warmed up to these rescripting because often, they are damn good ! As I said before too, my idea solution would be that all those talented authors that are busy doing the rescripting be instead hired to write script to new Disney stories. 

At any rate…

This is 2003's Shiver Me Timbers, written by Jan Kruse and drawn by Bas Heymans, and here rescripted by Jonathan Gray. The story opens as the Ducks (including Scrooge) travel to Codfish Cove for a fishing weekend. This feels more like a Donald thing to do, obviously, so the opening dialogues are about justifying why Scrooge tags along too, since we'll need him later when this turns into a treasure hunt. The justification (fishing fish is free, buying fish costs).

Bas Heymans's distinctive art is excellent at this atmospheric stuff with the realistic-looking ship an the old sailor. However, though a three-master would be kinda original, describing it as a "ship out o'time" seems odd. For us it would be, but for the fantasy world of Donald Duck & Co., it appears it wouldn't. Moby Duck sails a similar, wooden, sail ship on a daily basis, and both Donald Duck finds Pirate Gold and its sequel South Sea Shenanigans feature the Ducks and Yellow Beak traveling aboard such a ship. I can admit that it would still get a few odd looks, but it wouldn't be enough spookiness to chase an entire crew of sailors out of town !

This reminds me of Barks's Let Sleeping Bones Lie where Scrooge tries to convert a giant dinosaur fossil into a fast-food restaurant. I'm not sure it's intentional, but it is quite similar.

What the…? You can be sure of one thing, this is one piece of dialogue that Jonathan Gray can be held responsible for. Aside from the weird “ain't” and “o'” that I feel would belong more in Pete's mouth than in Donald's, space-kidettes ? What on Earth is that supposed to mean ? 

Similarly, I'm 90 percents sure that Donald calling Super Goof is Gray's idea. And aside from the fact that I'm naturally unsympathetic towards it because continuity blah blah blah… there is a clear logical fallacy here. Because whereas Donald just yelling "HELP" would justify Scrooge's answer, any Super Goof fan knows that his super-hearing allows him to hear cries for help from absurdly long distances.  Which means that Donald was perfectly justified in trying to yell HELP, and Scrooge is wrong to tell him to stop.

That image of the island and the ship, and its colorization, are both flawless. Congratulations. 

Bas Heymans really knows how to make striking perspective. Bravo again, quite loudly.

Turns out the ghost is just a hand/glove. “Well, I can safely say that I am currently terrified beyond all reason.” might be a rescripting line, but I find it delightfully hilarious in its nonsensicality. It's lines like that that make me reconsider my opinions about these things.

Hilarious allusion, too (for those who don't know, Scrooge is quoting the Donald Duck theme song in the left panel), even though I am once more quite sure that it wasn't there in the original. On the right, wha Scrooge says rhymes, so I wonder if he's still singing or not. Perhaps.

It's weird how in the comics, the other characters pick up on the weirdness of Donald Duck's voice much less often than in cartoons. I guess it's because, since you don't really hear his voice in the comics, we have it less on our minds, and thus allusions are considered harder to get. The point being, this one allusion to his quacking tendencies is welcome !

I like the Moby Duck allusion, though why does he say “our pal” ? Moby Duck is his uncle, not his friend. As for the “Gravity Falls” allusion… other than the fact that it's a very weird pun since it's a pun on a pun… It can be taken three way. Either:
  • There just happens to be a location in the Duck universe known as Gravity Falls (it's possible, I guess);
  • Donald is referring to the TV series, in which case sorry, no, not possible, because the TV series premiered in 2012, which means that in 2003 Donald couldn't have heard about it;
  • This is a hint that the TV series takes place in the same universe as the usual Disney comics… which is possible too, but it's weird because if there's any Disney property whose style wouldn't mash up well with Disney comics, it's Gravity Falls
And the thing is, if it's either #1 or #3, we are faced the continuity problem, since this is all a rescripting thing. Is there a location named Gravity Falls in the Duck Universe, or not ?!?

Well, anyway. The Ducks discover that an evil wizard is behind the whole thing, and that to lift the curse they have to find him. Anyways, things spiral into madness from there. It's often hilarious and always engaging, but I can't help but wonder what went through Kruse's mind. Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman and the Knights of the Round Table and an evil sorcerer and blah blah blah ? What's all that doing in a pirate ghost story ?!? There's not much more to review here aside from that, except that the Headless Horseman is very dissimilar to his standard Disney portrayal.

I do wonder one last thing: how does the chef know the name of the pirates-turned-seagulls ? I don't think those are supposed to be anthropomorphic seagulls, so they can't have told him…

Well, anyway, good art and a delightfully wacky plot make this story a very enjoyable read. As for Gray's localization, it has its ups (very up) and its downs (mindscrews).


  1. Moby Duck is only "Donald's uncle" when a few fanon sites mistakenly claim he is. The original comic books and the TV special, "Pacifically Peeking," say nothing about an uncle/nephew relationship—in the earliest stories, he is quite clearly unrelated, period (the Ducks don't even know who he is!); and later on, while he seems to be retconned into a relative, the exact relation is never mentioned. If Donald has ever called him Uncle Moby (as opposed to simply Moby), I have yet to see it.

    1. Interesting knowledge, but, uncle or not, it would just be plain weird if he was not a relative (since he's NAMED Duck); and as you said, he has been referred to as such in some stories. Thus, be he an uncle or a cousin three times removed, he has no business being called "pal".