Kids Stuff > Literature
The Duck family appears to have found its way into everyday language, the names of Donald's nephews are presumed common knowledge, as we would discover during a lecture on IT Certifications and Standards. The expert in IT Service Management destroyed our hopes for a comprehensive 'one size fits all'-ITIL guideline, by using Disney's Ducklings for an illustrative example: "It is not like with Huey, Dewey and Louie, where there is just 'one smart book' that tells you how to turn a matchstick into a nuclear weapon."
"Nothing is too severe for the engineer -
Dem Ingenieur ist nichts zu schwör!"
("Inventor of Anything", Carl Barks / Dr. Erika Fuchs, 1958)
And the Duck became... Human?
Common Literature. In the 1970's, the TV guide of the Austrian newspaper "Kurier" contained full-page prints of "Asterix and the Big Fight (of the Chiefs)," Lucky Luke's "Western Circus" or Walt Disney's "Robin Hood," which hit the local cinemas in 1974. In the 1980's, newspaper extracts of "Prince Valiant" and the local Batman-parody "Flutterman (Flattermann)" were meant to whet one's appetite for the eponymous album series by the Viennese publishing house Pollischansky. But what motivated a German quality paper like the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" in 2005 to collaborate with the Italian publisher Panini on issuing a 20 volume book series titled "Milestones in the Comic Literature"? The normativity of the factual, an acknowledgment that the same trivial literature genre could not be further ignore for its far-reaching influence? Or was the decision based on purely economic considerations in competition with the Axel Springer publishing house, which had just launched a "Bild"-comic library? As part of the same project, well-known and proven material including Siegel & Shuster's Superman, Schulz'es Peantus, Foster's Prince Valiant, Barks' Donald Duck, Hogarth's Tarzan and Morris' Lucky Luke was heated up once more like an open-faced sandwich - a panini so to speak - and served to another young generation. The ingredients should be examined more closely...
In the meantime there are exhibitions about a new form of "popular culture" - such as a Barks exhibition at the Caricature Museum on the Art Mile in Krems.
The Golden Age of Pulp Fiction
Swinging Evolution. Let us start with pictures - not movies, not paintings, but simple cartoons showing all those characters that could spread so much fun. The first comic strips were funnies, by definition of course. There was not too much comic and comedy in adventure cartoons, which came up in the newspapers of the 1930's, when during economical crises imaginary heroes were stepping in. The period is now referred to as Golden Age, when comics were still young and therefore less repetitive, with the fascination of something completely new to readers (while the term "Golden Age" itself originates from Ovidius' Metamorphoses, describing the lost paradise with the infamous line "Aurea prima sata est etas"). Among the first influential and classic artists there were Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Burne Hogarth and of course for the humorous sector Carl Barks. Their creations from Tarzan, Prince Valiant, Flash Gordon to Donald Duck, only to name the most popular, are often regarded as the crème de la crème among the classic stories, milestones for later development on the sector. The Evolutionary chain on the other hand, started by Tarzan as the first adventure hero, can be directly traced to the Phantom as first costumed hero still located in the jungle, up to Batman as the adult City Tarzan until Spider-Man as teenage City Tarzan took over. History repeats itself, too, as some could say. And it was Helnwein, Austrian shock-artist of the 1980's (and nowadays being interviewed on Schwarzenegger's victory in California), who regarded Carl Barks' work - influenced by the other artists mentioned - as part of the modern art history of the 20th century.
Museum Exhibition. Helnwein, who would later organize exhibitions under the title "Donald Duck ...and the Duck became Human - The Works of Carl Barks," grew up in grey post-war Vienna. Decades later he would still remember the magical moment of opening up his first Disney comic book. In a way by reading the colourful story, he could escape dull everyday life and enter an entirely new world: "I squinted cautiously because my eyes hadn't gotten used to the dazzlingly bright sun of Duckburg yet, and I greedily sucked the fresh breeze into my dusty lungs that came drifting over from Uncle Scrooge's money bin." Visiting the same Barks exhibition at the Caricature Museum in Krems, the local "Art Mile" would be destabilized by the Beagle Boys (and us). Their cut-out figures were taken from the 1954 Uncle Scrooge story "The Mysterious Unfinished Invention." While literally referring to the same invention, it's German title "The Cabbage-Steam Island" added another comic element by using a phrase otherwise associated with great hunger ("Kohldampf"). The original panel text had been: "We Beagle Boys will be Emperors of the World! We'll have Kings and Presidents groveling at our Feet!" Again, the congenial German translation by Dr. Erika Fuchs seems to be better than the original, here's an approximate back-translation: "We are the Beagle Boys and do as we please! The cabbage-steam island is ours today, the whole world tomorrow with ease!"
A Kurier-Newspaper clipping from 1979 compared the translation with the original text and came to the conclusion: Original Donald-story "The Golden Helmet" without room for wordplay... and its German translation: "Subversive joke, uninhibited amusement and spirit."
Librarians of General Education
Political Book. Since the mid 1960's an affordable institution collected "The most fantastic Stories of Donald Duck (Die tollsten Geschichten von Donald Duck)," a first Barks Library so to say. It included epics like "The Golden Helmet," a parable on corrupting hunger for power, which was later recommended as a political book by the spokesman of the Austrian Green Party, University Professor Alexander Van der Bellen. Translations into German were performed by language specialist Dr. Erika Fuchs, who among others invented the sentence: "We want to be a people of united brothers, in no distress washing ourselves and danger (Wir wollen sein ein einig Volk von Bruedern, in keiner Not uns waschen und Gefahr.)" Which is no less than a variation of the Ruetli Oath, the legendary pact establishing the Swiss cantons' independence from Austria, an altered literary quote from "Wilhelm Tell" of Friedrich Schiller! And so over the years, those little stories would extend the German vocabulary, while on the other hand a degeneration of the traditional reading behaviour and manner of expression could have been expected due to the addition of plenty illustration. In the meantime, Barks' creations established a modern art form. The aggressive stylization und eccentric graphical simplification with a few strokes created codes, which could be understood all around the globe.
Sociology Lecture. One has probably heard jokes like: "What did the chicken say when it laid a square egg?" - "Ouch!" The same inspired Barks in 1948 to develop the Duck story idea "Lost in the Andes", in German titled "In the land of the square eggs". The Austrian sociolgist Univ.Prof. Roland Girtler noticed that the inhabitants of the hidden valley of the square eggs were singing student songs, such as: "Gold and silver I like much, have good use for it, too. Had I just a whole sea of such to dive right into. But much nicer is the gold that in two blond braids rolled down from my maid's curly head." The friendly natives approach their first visitors in years: "Oh please, are there now new student songs?" But they have to be informed: "No, our students don't sing any more." Professor Girtler would point out the pedagogic value of trivial literature in a speech on the "Sociology of the Duck Family," an audio book I received as a present from an old friend. Truely, Donald Duck is the archetype of a likeable loser! Many, many years ago we had listened to the Professor's findings on poachers, pimps and bums. Whom he used to live among as part of a field research on fringe groups and marginal culture, performing his authentic studies on living object. Quite a character himself, he would bring to light distinctive attributes such as "Gaunerehre (reputation among crooks)" and "Sandlerstolz (pride among the homeless)," highlighting patterns of behaviour and codes of conduct among those, who live in different social layers and communities. Among those, who are too often much worse off than others in the midst of a wealthy society. While we may call ourselves "loser" over little things, really, and are still blessed to live a more or less normal life. But what is normal, anyway?
Unlimited reading fun with indisputable educational value including the archeological discoveries of the young Indiana Jones jr., nerve-stretching negotiations on Formula 1 sponsoring and matching car colour with Enzo Ferrasi, up to dauntless time travel to the far-famed stagecoach to Lordsburg with J.Wayne himself.
Due Diligence to Goof Up. Some stories stand out for being full of allusions to real-life situations and events, in which case they transport both fun and knowledge. "The Dream Factory (Die Traumfabrik, La fabbrica dei sogni)" is not only a synonym for Hollywood, but also the title of an Italian Mickey adventure by Giorgio Cavazzano, where the famous mouse travels movie history. In the first scene he co-stars John Wayne in his signature role as the Ringo Kid hitchhiking the "Stagecoach" to Lordsburg, NM. Another story, released in time for Indiana Jones' return to the big screen, parodies the adventures of young Indy and reveals, how even a famous archeologist can goof up. "Indiana Goof's forced relaxation (Sturz ins Abenteuer, Indiana Pipps forzato del relax)" features a flash back from his long-forgotten childhood: While playing hide and seek, Indy usually surprised everybody with his discoveries, which were not always particularly antique, like that piece of pottery made in China.
Racing Armpit Advertisement. The favorite Duck tale of a friend is a mid-1980's parody on the Formula One car racing business with many variations on real driver names, racing teams and courses. Uncle Scrooge, the richest man (duck) in the world, gets the idea to promote his products via advertisements in car races. His search for available advertising space on the drivers' overalls (such as "McLallen"-pilots with similar names to Lauda and Prost) explores the more affordable areas from armpit to shoe sole. But even these ad spaces, which nobody can see, turn out to be way too expensive. Next he tries to advertise on the racing cars directly and is about to get in business with the "Ferrasi stable" (Perrari, or was it Terrari?). But then he suggests to Enzo Ferrasi to change the traditional red colour of the car coating to something that would better suit the advert lettering for his strawberry syrup. As a result of this sacrilege, they compliment him out. "The Grand Prix of Drakehomering (Der große Preis vom Erpelheimring, Zio Paperone e l'avventura in Formula 1)" ranks among the funniest title stories of the German Disney pocket book series.
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