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Thursday, 1 March 2018

REVIEW: "Uncle Scrooge and the Horn of Plenty"

It's an unusual story I bring you this time, and one which I translated myself. Uncle Scrooge and the Horn of Plenty was written in 1982 by Osvaldo Pavese, and illustrated by something called the Francest Bargadà Studios. 

(The "F" flag refers to the old French currency, the Francs. In an official localization, this would have 
been changed to a $ sign, but I do what I can.)

We open at sea, with some prety darn decent art. This story has a very Barksian vibe, helped greatly by Donald's characterization. Seeing him at the steering wheel of a sailing ship naturally brings this oft-reproduced Barks painting to mind, too. Also, the mythical island they are looking for is called “Erinia”, which is the name of a real Greek island. It is hard to tell what Pavese was thinking — on the one hand, this shows he did his research, but on the other hand, well, Erinia exists and we're pretty sure it is not populated by centaurs, giants and co. Quid? 

Why the turnip-bashing? I like turnips. Involving disliked vegetables in a Greek-themed treasure quest may be a call-back to Barks's Golden Fleecing, although, unlike in the Barks tale, the turnips in Horn of Plenty never really tie into the main plot beyond the nephews intending to use the Cornucopia to eat something else at last.

The island as seen from the sky is a striking picture, though perhpas the island seems a bit small in comparison to the apparent size of Scrooge and co. I find the childish, petty conflict between Donald and Scrooge endearing, and Scrooge's likewise childlike enthusiasm about finding Greek Mythology creatures even moreso. (Also, you'd think Huey, Dewey and Louie would have learnt something from Golden Fleecing and not doubt the existence of the creatures so thoroughly, but ah well. Continuity was never the strong point of Disney comics before Don Rosa.)

So after being knocked out by rocks, they meet this Centaur fellow. His design is nothing special, but his dialogue (in the original Italian) is poetical and grandiloquent, which I tried to carry on to this version. Also, grumpfh. Prophecy. Why is there always a prophecy? And the hints dropped by the Centaurs and Co. (which fly right above Scrooge's head every time) about wanting to keep the Horn are all but obvious, but I couldn't really help it.

More obvious hints that everybody misses. Bah. Also, those duck-faced satyrs look very odd. I'm pretty sure something like the one in the bottom right panel would tumble over and fall. On the other hand, Scrooge's oblivious, dream-like happiness still amuses me.

…So on the one hand, Scrooge is moving away from “likable obliviousness” to “pretty damn thick” here. On the other hand, I don't know if that was Pavese's intention, but maybe Scrooge is being “too clever by half” here, because giving ceremonial weapons to new citizens actually was a thing in Ancient Athens, so…? (Also, this blacksmith looks like Fergus McDuck. …No reason.)

Ah yes, the Giant. I don't quite know what to make of him. From what develops later, it's clear he's based on Polyphemes in the Odyssey, but then, why isn't he a cyclops? Not to mention that as far as Giants go, he is a pretty bland Giant. Forget Willie — freakin' Gustav had more personality than this guy. The Francest Bargadà Studio folks also can't seem to keep his height straight from one panel to another, as you can see.

This sequence, on the other hand, is pretty nice and dynamic. You really get a sense of motion despite the image's actually being, well, just a static image. The Giant isn't anything special, but I like his confused expressions.

The reference to Barks's September Scrimmage in the second panel here is mine, of course. On the other hand, what does belong to the story is the design of that goat. I can't quite place why but I really like that goat. Very graceful. 

Also, will fiction stop portraying setting people's bottoms on fire as harmless slapstick? Seriously, it's fire. This sort of thing can lead to serious injury. It would be bad enough if the Giant's bouncing attempts to light it off succeeded, but the last panel here clearly shows they haven't, so the fire would have realistically long ago burnt through his clothing and started  consuming him, weren't this a children's comic.

Again the graceful goat. Either way, although the story naturally doesn't expound on it, I think we're meant to assume that the Giant dies (if not from getting a boulder twice the size of his head smashed into his skull, then from the subsequent rockslide). This is… unexpectedly dark — even Homer didn't kill Polyphemes off entirely.

Seriously, that goat. Look at its satisfied smile in the first panel as it parades Scrooge & Co. around. I want that goat as a pet. On the other hand… (sigh) Brigitis. 

Brigitis. Brigitis is a strange turn for the story to take, especially with nothing hinting at her existence previously. I mean, unexplained lookalikes are no strangers to Disney comics, but… why? This isn't a historical parody story, Pavese! The real Brigitta McBridge is presumably minding her own business back in Duckburg, even now! So… why? And why does Brigitis have to be in love with Scrooge just because she looks just like Brigitta, or the other way around? See, this would make sense if the story was actually All Just a Dream, but it's not

Also, in the original, Scrooge seems to be rejecting Brigits's proposal on the basis that she looks like Brigitta, and therefore must be just as insufferable. This is so overwhelmingly stupid that I broke my usual rule of not tampering with dialogue, and had Scrooge protest on the more reasonable grounds that madam, I've only just met you a minute ago, fercrissake!

That helpful Centaur also turns bloodthirsty pretty quickly. It's, again, surprisingly dark, but very mythological. Break not the Faerie's rules and all that. 

It was all just a dream, except, oh, it wasn't, blah blah blah. We have ourselves a conclusion. I'll admit, those final three panels are surprisingly moving, and Scrooge losing the last two jewels from Erinia without even noticing they were there at all is a nice touch. This particular “Dream… Or Not?” ending seems to be more about why Scrooge won't think to come back, than it is about leaving the actual facts ambiguous. Which, okay. Fine. I'm still sick of the trope, but fine.

Something odd is that it's clear the idea was that the Erinians were using the Corncupia as their primary source of food, hence their desperation to get it back. This made the Giant come across as all the more of a jerk, since with his goats and all, he could probably feed himself without the Horn. But such a plot point seems like it was setting up something — namely, Scrooge realizing he can't just waltz in and take away those islanders' livelihood just to get some more shinies. Only that never happens, because Scrooge gets the Horn taken away from him by Brigits Ex Machina before he even considers the morality of bringing it back to Duckburg. Blah.

So… that's Uncle Scrooge and the Horn of Plenty. Is it a masterpiece? No, by far. But it is nicely drawn (Giant proportions notwithstanding), creative, and evocative. The overall atmosphere is very Barksian, to me, especially the sequences with Donald at the beginning and end. It's a romp I wouldn't mind seeing IDW publish one of these days, unlikely though it may be. 

1 comment:

  1. awesome.
    have a great day.