Who Gets Stuck with All the Bad Luck?


Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown, by Carl Barks – This is the third volume published in Fantagraphics’ reprints of Barks’s comics, but it’ll be the eleventh in the entire series, if all goes according to plan. I’m not sure why they aren’t just printing them in order, but people who are familiar with Barks’s work have suggested that they’re starting with the strongest material in order to build interest. It seems like the wrong time of year to be reading a volume with a title like that, and there are a few Christmas-related comics in addition to the title story, but most of it doesn’t relate to any particular date. The lead story has Donald, Daisy, Huey, Dewey, and Louie trying to raise money to give a good Christmas to the kids in the poor part of Duckburg, but has a few twists along the way, eventually leading to Donald’s nephews helping Scrooge rescue his money from an underground cavern. Scrooge plays a quite prominent role in several of these stories, including one where Donald goads him into competing with the Maharajah of Howdyustan at building statues. At the end, the Maharajah goes broke, but Scrooge still has plenty of money left. Royalty just can’t compete with businessmen in this day and age, I suppose. Another has Scrooge being forced to spend money because it won’t fit in his money bin, with Donald helping him by making reckless and extravagant purchases, and an ironic ending. The most expensive food item he can find is broiled bosom of Caledonian chickadee, which apparently isn’t a real bird, unless Donald and Scrooge just ate all of them. I know people have been disturbed in the past at seeing Donald eating turkey (and, in fact, one of the stories in this volume is about him trying to win a raffle for a free turkey), so I have to wonder what they’d think of his eating chickadee. This volume also features the earliest appearances of eccentric inventor Gyro Gearloose, and quite a bit of Donald’s lucky but lazy Gladstone Gander.

Gladstone is essentially a villain, because even though he generally isn’t actively trying to be mean, the fact that he gets everything he wants for nothing is both irritating to others and often results in Donald losing out. In one comic, we learn that Gladstone’s secret shame is that he once actually worked a job, demonstrating that in his mind his luck and laziness are linked. Gladstone also features as a foil in the adventure story “The Gilded Man,” in which Donald meets El Dorado in his search for a rare postage stamp. The other main adventure comic in this volume is “The Golden Helmet,” which has Donald racing a guy named Azure Blue in a search for a Viking helmet that could theoretically enable its owner to rule all of North America (at least if the crooked lawyer Sharky has anything to say about it). It’s definitely worth a read, but you probably already knew that, right?

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