Life’s Good for the Multiplujillionaires

Uncle Scrooge: The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan, by Carl Barks – The library system now has another volume in Fantagraphics’ series of reprints that I hadn’t yet read. I’m not totally sure whether I should keep the ones I check out from the library on my Amazon wishlist or not. It’s not unlikely that I’ll want to reread them someday, and I have a bit of a collector mentality with things like this; but I’d rather get something I haven’t already read as a gift. I guess I’ll just give it a lower priority. Anyway, these comics, originally published in 1956 and 1957, recount more exploits of the world’s richest duck, and showcase Barks’s inventiveness. In the title story, the Abominable Snowman steals the crown from Scrooge’s employees, and he takes Donald and his nephews to the Himalayas to get it back. I believe this story was made into a DuckTales episode, but I can’t recall seeing it. I know it was referenced in the video game, but here Scrooge doesn’t use his cane to pogo jump on the Yeti’s head. Instead, he plays a trick to make Gu (apparently the Snowman’s name, based on one of the sounds he makes) think he has the upper hand, and then strikes a deal with him, which is very much his style.

Barks has a clever explanation for why Gu doesn’t leave tracks: he covers them by dragging animal hides. “Land Beneath the Ground” is one where I know I saw the DuckTales adaptation, and while I don’t remember it that well, I think it left out some of the best jokes. When Scrooge fears an earthquake might hit his money bin, he has the ground underneath excavated, and he and his family end up in Terry Firmy, the subterranean home of the ball-shaped Terries and Firmies, distinguished by the Terries wearing bow ties and the Firmies four-in-hands.

Scrooge’s fears (which turn out to be well-founded, although fortunately the Terries and Firmies don’t have any use for his money) drive home the danger of keeping so much money in one place, a recurring problem in these comics. This story was also referenced in the DuckTales video game, with the boss of the African mines being the King of the Terra-Firmies, who could turn into a buzzsaw for some reason. “The Second-Richest Duck” introduces Scrooge’s rival Flintheart Glomgold, and while the accompanying essay states how he differs from Scrooge in being dishonest and a loner, that really isn’t shown so much in this particular story. As portrayed here, Glomgold is almost exactly like Scrooge, making their criticisms of each other hypocritical.

Glomgold does end up cheating, but so does Scrooge, and only after they’ve fairly compared their assets and come up even. And Donald and the boys are mostly just bemused by the whole thing.

Barks would write two other Glomgold stories that I haven’t read yet, and his dishonesty and misanthropy might come into play in those. They definitely do in later stories by other writers. Another story, “A Cold Bargain,” has Scrooge buy a rare element that turns out to be invaluable for ice cream production, and he’s pursued by a spy from Brutopia, Barks’s equivalent of the Soviet Union.

There are a few tales here where Scrooge doesn’t win out in the end, and two of them involve his trusting in fads. In “Faulty Fortune,” Scrooge’s belief in reading fortunes in coffee bubbles leads to his buying a lot of land that turns out to be useless, and his recklessness seems a bit out of character. The impetus for the plot has the tycoon finding a deed to a square inch of land in a cereal box, then proceeding to buy more. Was this an actual thing at one time? Another plays on the contemporary craze for regressing to past lives through hypnosis, leading both Scrooge and Donald to pursue pirate treasure. This time, the vision is actually true; it just doesn’t indicate what the treasure actually is.

“Land of the Pygmy Indians” has Scrooge relocate to the region north of Lake Superior to find peace and quiet, and runs afoul of a tribe of tiny (and stereotypical) natives who speak in the rhythm of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” who eventually succeed in scaring him off. The last full story is a flashback to Scrooge’s younger days as a steamship captain on the Mississippi River, accompanied by Gyro Gearloose’s grandfather Ratchet, who shares his grandson’s penchant for weird inventions and tendency to come up with his best ideas after being hit on the head. Scrooge races Blackheart Beagle, the Beagle Boys’ patriarch, for a shipment of gold. Don Rosa would later expand on this part of Scrooge’s back story (as well as the rest of it).

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