UNCLE $CROOGE ADVENTURES #295: -- "The Life and Times of $crooge McDuck" - "The Empire Builder from Calisota" (1909-1930)
COVER: This cover is another reprint of a cover I did for the German "Don Rosa Album" series. And again, it's "flipped" so that Bombie won't be covered by the oval portrait dealie (which wasn't an element of the German covers). But that portrait served to cover up the name of the Titanic which was good since that was supposed to be a surprise (however small) in the story -- no need to give it away on the cover. The German cover also cropped off the fact that $crooge has nowhere to step but on an ice cube. Titanic buffs -- please don't bother to tell me that it was starless and moonless the night she sank... if they had counted on being on a comic book cover, they would have picked a more appropriate night. But the "dim" look of the coloring on these "self-covered" issues looks rather nice on this moody scene. Susan's coloring on Bombie is downright spooky. Them eyes of his gots me hyp-mo-tized!
Ever since I laid out my 12-part plan for this series sometime in 1991, I knew that part XI would be the killer! It would be hard enough to tell the other chapters, some of which covered 5 or more years in $crooge's early life, in my allotment of 15 pages per episode. But once I'd told the tale of how $crooge finally hit pay dirt on White Agony Creek and how he set up his home base in Duckburg, there's nothing much to say in particular of the next 45 years of his life. Those years were spent in successfully continuing to build up his empire and fortune, and stories of constant success would be boring and not appropriate for this series. But in order to bring $crooge's story up to that night on Bear Mountain, I had to deal with all the intervening years since 1902. Yet... what possible plot thread could run through all or most of those years to make the story hang together and not simply be a collection of boring anecdotes?
The other single biggest problem was also on me at this point: in trying to deal with every fact of $crooge's life which Barks had peppered his wonderful stories with, there were tiny inconsistencies here and there which I easily danced nimbly around. But then there was "Voodoo Hoodoo" in DONALD DUCK / FOUR COLOR #238! This was one of Barks' earliest uses of $crooge, before he had really solidified the character in his own mind, much less realize that the tycoon would someday become regarded as his greatest creation. "Voodoo Hoodoo" was fraught with racial stereotypes and untenable "facts" such as $crooge being a dead ringer for Donald in his youth, and that he had been in Africa "making his second billion" as early as 1879 ("70 years ago" from 1949)! But worst of all was the idea that in Barks' tale that $crooge may have actually been an unscrupulous "robber baron" at one point and stolen land from helpless African natives using a gang of thugs. Yow! I originally planned to simply ignore "Voodoo Hoodoo" in my series!
Then it struck me that perhaps these two problems, that of $crooge as a villain and that of my needing a plot to span 30 years, could solve each other! The idea that in his growing greed and cynicism, $crooge finally crossed the line and became a Flintheart Glomgold for one moment in his life... this could be my story. This one misstep could haunt him for decades and teach him yet another lesson. It still remained to figure out why $crooge would look like Donald in those days, but I finally came up with explanations for everything... except that 1879 date, which is all I finally ignored. Of course, I had to draw Bombie and Foola Zoola in the new politically-correct style now decreed by Disney, without the big noses and puffy pink lips as in Barks' original tale, but that's okay since that's the only way readers would see them appearing in reprints, and unless they were a fellow collector who had all the original issues, these readers would be puzzled if those characters looked differently than what they were familiar with. After all, when old Disney comics are redrawn ("censored" if you wish, though I don't think that's exactly the appropriate term), the publishers can't warn the readers that they are getting their art-history rewritten, so they won't know. However, to make up for this change, I gave Foola back his old sharp teeth, and I removed the pupil's from Bombie's eyebulbs, which was one of Barks' original intentions for the original "Voodoo Hoodoo".
The printing in this Gladstone issue is better than in the previous issue, but still rather muddy.
This chapter has more built-in references to old "Barksian facts" than perhaps most of the other chapters combined. So, now I'll list them as briefly as possible (?) in their order of appearance:
$crooge's surplus Boer War cannon -- WDC&S #134.
The Goldopolis sequence was described in "Mystery of the Ghosttown Railroad" in UNCLE $CROOGE #56. But that story contained another date that I had to ignore: it tells of $crooge being a traveling tycoon in 1898, a year when he would actually have been still struggling in the Yukon gold fields. Perhaps his memory failed and he meant to say 1908, ten years later? Yeah, that's the ticket! In Barks' original story there had also been a reference to a hole being shot in his top hat (in 1898), though another old story had stated that the hat wasn't bought until 1910. So I substituted a fedora.
"...when I sold recordings of 'The Baggage Coach Ahead' at the 1904 World's Fair" -- "The City of Golden Roofs", U$ #20.
I show $crooge's secretary Emily Quackfaster shortly after she was hired. She was perhaps (?) first seen in "The Midas Touch" in U$ #36. Miss Quackfaster is used frequently in Egmont stories... but here's an oddity: in all Egmont scripts she is renamed Miss Typefast, even though the various translators give her another new name anyway. I never understood the change, unless it was first done by some editor unfamiliar with the Barks stories.
The Star of the World diamond mine -- "The Money Champ", U$ #27.
The Qwak Qwak tribe truce -- "Bongo on the Congo", U$ #33.
"I sold lawnmowers in the Sahara" -- "The Mines of King Solomon", U$ #19.
"I had a thriving salt business (in Egypt) in the old days" -- back-up story in U$ #25.
"When (U$) sold rain hats in Aden" -- "McDuck of Arabia", U$ #55.
"I sold wind to the windmill makers along the Zuyder Zee" -- "The Flying Dutchman", U$ #25; (of course, this is obviously a gag, even if selling lawnmowers in the Sahara isn't, but I still assume $crooge's life took him to the thriving business centers of the Netherlands at some point.)
"That hat cost me two dollars in 1910" -- "The Lemming with the Locket", U$ #9.
"...when I sold concertinas to the Czar's cavalry" -- "The City of Golden Roofs" again, still U$ #20.
The story of the Candy-Stripe Ruby -- "The Status Seeker", U$ #41.
"When I was salvaging treasure on the Spanish Main" -- "Only a Poor Old Man", U$ #1 / FOUR COLOR #386. I even recreated (okay, okay, traced!) the Barks panel from that issue.
"I fought forty-foot crocs when I was a rubber hunter in Guiana" -- "The Swamp of No Return", U$ #57. And if I have $crooge in Guiana, how could I resist having him encounter "The Gilded Man" from DONALD DUCK / FOUR COLOR #422. I also made a reference to $crooge's love of Amazonian nutmeg tea ("A Spicy Tale" in U$ #39) by putting a bag of it on page 18, panel 3 -- but apparently no one included that labeling instruction in the Egmont script, so it's just a nameless sack.
Simply from the timing of his comment of "like that time in Bagdad" in "Only a Poor Old Man" (U$ #1), I freely interpreted that as some memory of fooling bandits with his money-diving knack, as he does to the Beagle Boys in that old story. More definite is the comment in that same issue, "I'll fool 'em like I fooled the brigands of Mongolia years ago", after which we saw $crooge allow the Beagle Boys to unwittingly haul his money to safety in their dump-trucks under dirt they were digging in an assault on the Money Bin.
And still from that famous first issue of UNCLE $CROOGE: "I trained thousands of (cormorants) when I was in the pearl trade in Asia".
"Long ago I was known as the Birdman of Wall Street" -- "How Green Is My Lettuce", U$#51.
And finally, the Maharajah of Howduyustan was in WDC&S #138 in that classic among classics, the Cornelius Coot statue story!
On page 7, panel 7, Foola is yelling "M'gawa niktimba". This is what Johnny Weissmuller always used to shout, and it means "elephant herd - come crush native village except third hut on right where I am tied up" or "Cheetah, stop doing that to Jane" or what-have-you.
I thought it was marvelous that Disney allowed this story to be used virtually unchanged in America. One of the only changes they did dictate was the removal of some angry looking masks hanging in Foola's hut. Don't ask me to explain this stuff.
This was one of my stories done with different art for pages 9 and 17, depending on whether a publisher used it as a single story or broke it into three chapters. So the gags seen on the top half of those pages in the Gladstone issue have been seen nowhere else in the world. (Those special pages should have been used in the Dutch and French editions, but weren't for reasons I can't figure out.)
I had them correct it at Gladstone, but in all other printings of this story, on page 9, second-to-last panel, I screwed up and drew $crooge's spectacles both in his hand and on his beak.
I have no doubt that Titanic buffs can find numerous inaccuracies in my account, and I'm already aware of most of them. At least I show it as a starless night, unlike my cover. And I show the ship sinking in one piece, which we now know is false. Still, that deck-chair sliding past on page 16, panel 7, IS a Titanic deck chair! Also, in my original script, that guy wanting to buy $crooge's Candy Stripe Ruby is John Jacob Astor, but they wouldn't allow that name to be used in the comic; however, they did allow William Randolph Hearst's name on page 2. Like I said, don't ask me to explain these things. If you looked up the word "inscrutable" in a dictionary, you'd find a picture of... well, never mind.
In the panel where $crooge is coming down the steamship gangplank on page 21, there seems to be a push-pin laying on the dock. I believe it must have dropped off the globe in the first panel. Sorry.
Movie buffery rears its ugly head again on the last page... Matilda's line, "he has money and all that money can buy" is spoken by Mister Scratch (Walter Huston) in the recently restored 1941 classic (and one of my top favorites) THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER!