Monday, January 05, 2009

Single Issue Review: Uncle Scrooge #15

Before there was Richie Rich, there was Uncle Scrooge. Originally a supporting character in Donald Duck comics, Uncle Scrooge quickly became so popular that he received his own magazine. Scrooge was of course based partly on the famous Charles Dickens character, but whereas every showing of the Christmas Carol ends with him repenting his miserly ways, Donald's uncle remained a confirmed tightwad.

The benefit of this was that Scrooge was immensely wealthy, with a fortune that would undoubtedly dwarf those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined. A running gag in the series had Uncle Scrooge swimming around in his money like it was a pool. A deep pool:

The lead story in this issue (Sept-Nov 1956) is one of the most famous Scrooge tales, The Second-Richest Duck. Uncle Scrooge starts out lecturing Donald, who plans to blow some money on a soda. Scrooge observes that he's still got the first dime he ever made, on a string in his pocket. Shortly later, while saving money perusing old newspapers in the park, Scrooge learns that a South African duck claims to have a larger fortune. He checks with his own accountant:

Uncle Scrooge sets sail for South Africa, bringing along with him one of the symbols of his hoarding nature: a large ball of string that he's been saving over the years. He finds a piece of string on the ship and starts to wind it onto his ball, only to discover that the string is connected to another duck's ball of string. Of course, it is Flintheart Glomgold himself, although Scrooge does not discover that until he confronts Glomgold in his offices:

The two ducks compare their fortunes and eventually come to the conclusion that they are tied, with only their respective balls of string left to be valued. They resolve to unwind their string as they walk across Africa.

This leads to some hair-raising adventures. Both Glomgold and Scrooge sabotage the other's ball of string during the contest. When Scrooge offers the South African a cup of coffee, the latter suggests that Scrooge secure his ball atop a mound. Of course, the coffee was drugged, and the mound turns out to be an anthill, with the ants chewing up a sizeable portion of the string.

Eventually the two tightwads turn out to have exactly the same amount of string, so it appears that the contest will be tied. But Scrooge remembers the small bit of string that his #1 dime is attached to, and this proves the winning difference in the contest.

Comments: Many Carl Barks' stories are generally acknowledged as classics, and this is clearly one of his best stories ever, with many amusing situations and a terrific plot, introducing a longtime rival to the lead character.

The filler comic is Gyro Gearloose, the genius inventor. He discovers that he can't concentrate on his latest invention due to the racket one of the neighborhood cats is making. He decides to try to understand what the cat is saying, and creates a cat-human translating machine. He learns that the cat is lovesick, but that another cat in the neighborhood is muscling in on his gal. Gyro is annoyed to learn that cats' lives are every bit as petty as human lives, and throws a shoe at the cats. But they start singing to him. The noise gives him an idea and he creates a Gyro to cat translator and sings to them, which scares them away and gives him the quiet he needs to resume inventing things.

The second Scrooge story is shorter. Uncle Scrooge has been proud to see Duckburg grow up around him, but he's dismayed when the progress results in a freeway through his property. He moves his vault to a river valley, but now Duckburg needs a reservoir which requires him to move his vault again. He moves to the top of a mountain, but it turns out that now he's blocking the launch of a rocket. So he decides to make his vault permanently mobile:

Comments: Cute little story with an interesting message that even Scrooge can't stop progress. Of course, one assumes that by greasing the right palms he could have avoided much misery, but Scrooge didn't get rich by using his money to get himself out of a jam.

There are two one-page gag strips in the book, on the inside covers. In the first, Scrooge is so cheap that he only offers a famous sculptor $1 to create a bust of him. When the sculptor throws him face down into the mud, Scrooge makes a mold from the puddle and voila, he has his bust for nothing! In the second, Donald and Scrooge want to see the orchestra, but neither is willing to part with the money required for the show. They sneak in inside some of the instruments, but Uncle Scrooge wonders if it was worth it, since he ended up inside one of the kettle drums.