Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Pirate vs.... Duck?
The Disney Comic Book Universe is a weird place--a reality in which characters from different points in history and geography simultaneously exist in the same time and place.
For instance, there's a story where Uncle Scrooge visits Snow White and the drawfs simply by taking a walk in the woods. Never mind that these characters shouldn't exist on the same continent or in the same century. Chip and Dale teamed up with Dumbo--which itself is reasonable--but then had an encounter with the giant from Mickey and the Beanstalk. Jiminy Cricket once thumbed a ride from Pluto while trying to find Pinnocchio.
I'm not complaining about this weirdness. In fact, I think its wonderful. Many fictional universes need a firm continuity for their stories to be properly told. But the Disney Universe is a silly, loose-knit and amorphous place, allowing for continuity to step aside so that we can have really cool team-ups.
Which brings us to Donald Duck #119 (May 1968) and the story "Voyage to Azatlan." (Written by Vic Lockman and drawn by Tony Strobl.) Donald is at the library--trying to come up with a way of impressing his nephews--when he encounters his sea-faring cousin Moby Duck.
Moby is researching the Aztecs, which seems like an odd thing for a salty whale-hunter to be doing. But Moby is on the trail of a treasure--he's found out that the Aztecs used to live on an island called Azatlan before moving to Mexico. He thinks there still might be gold cached on the island.
So its off to Azatlan, with Donald tagging along. To find the old Aztec settlement, they have to reach the island's central lake. Moby comes up with the idea of using his harpoon gun to fire dynamite-equipped lines ahead of his ship, blasting out a waterway that he can then sail through to the lake.
I'm not entirely sure why they didn't just walk across the island, but then, I'm not a salty, sea-faring duck with years of experience at this sort of thing, so what do I know?
Anyway, they get to the lake and soon find the gold. They also find some Aztecs whose ancesters moved back to the island to excape the Spanish.
I really enjoy the fact that both Moby and Donald immediately realize that they can't simply take the gold. It doesn't belong to them and neither are thieves. If this had been a Scrooge story, he would have gotten angry and/or struggled with his conscious for a moment before doing (as he always does) the right thing by refusing to steal. But our protagonists here aren't Scrooge and, though disappointed, their casual acceptance of the situation feels true to their characters.
Moby jumps to Plan B and offers trade goods to the Aztecs. It turns out that the locals really, really like the taste of hardtack, so a food-for-gold deal is quickly struck.
But when the ducks return to the sea, they find Captain Hook waiting for him.
I realize I was just saying that the Disney Universe has room to ignore logic in order to bring characters together, but... well, I can't help it. I've got to come up with a "logical" explanation for this even if no such explanation is needed.
According to Peter Pan (the orginal novel), Hook was a cousin of Blackbeard. So he once sailed under the black flag in the real world (which in this case is populated by anthropomorphic animals as well as humans). Then he somehow finds his way to Neverland. If we assume that adults don't age in Neverland (just as children never grow up), then he could have lived there battling Peter for centuries. In the Disney version of the story, we don't actually see him eaten by the crocodile (as he is in the novel), so we can presume he escaped and then eventually found his way back into the real world in time to encounter Moby and Donald.
There you go. It all makes sense now. Right?
Anyway, never tie a sea-faring duck to his own harpoon gun. Especially when that harpoon gun is STILL loaded with dynamite. It's not just a harpoon gun--it's a Chekov's gun!
There's one more plot twist to go, though. When Donald gets home, he discovers that the "gold" was actually goat butter. So Donald isn't wealthy. But that's okay. Hardtack dipped in melted butter tastes great and Donald has finally impresses his nephews.
"Voyage to Aztalan" is fun to read and fun to look at. I often praise comics on this blog for having strong plots AND cohesive continuities, but there are time when a silly plot and a silly continuity does the job just as well.
Next week, we'll look at a comic book in which DC Comics gave us an absolutely epic pulp hero team-up.