Don Rosa in Review – Fit to be Pied (1987)

[AR-108] Fit to be Pied (10 Pages, Gag)

The Story: Donald and Neighbor Jones allow their pride to cause mass chaos and destruction in an effort to win a pumpkin-carving contest worth $50.

The Review: Of all the gag stories Rosa did, this one feels the most like a Barks tale. With the simple goal of Donald trying to get a pumpkin and Jones trying to carve a pumpkin, all to win fifty dollars, the conflict escalates to a hilariously disproportionate scale. The gags are well crafted, Rosa has used his art style in a way that doesn’t make the physical comedy look too real or jarring, and the story stands for what it is: a great piece of comedy.

I can’t believe it’s not Barks! (TM)

One of the big differences between Carl Barks and Don Rosa is the former’s satirical tendencies. He used the Ducks to point out the foibles of humans, altering their characterization (subtly, of course) to fit the little message behind an individual story. It never got in the way of his writing, nor were the characters inconsistent. These variations on the characters between stories actually added a level of depth to them when his body of work is looked at as a whole, which was certainly unusual for the time and holds up today as an example of well-rounded characters. They were people, not props.

If you’ve ever seen people who are heavily involved with say, the Parade of Homes or other vanity contests, this story might seem familiar to you. The elements in it are exaggerated, but that level of competition over such a trivial prize and the smallest element of prestige is what rings true to life, and the exaggeration is what makes it ring true as a Duck comic (and Donald’s character). Pride, pettiness, escalation, rivalry are all things that we can relate to and learn from when we see them brought to comical heights. This satirical approach is a very unusual tact for Rosa, but he shows it is well within his wheelhouse if he had chosen to let his career as a Duck artist follow that path.

The moral of the story is obvious: Be nice to your neighbors or your house will turn in to a jack-o-lantern.

I’m not yet ready to discuss in detail the differences between a Barks story and a Rosa one (that will have to wait until I have a better example of a Rosa comic in front of me), I believe it does both artists a disservice to say Rosa’s stories were nothing more than ones made in the tradition and style of Carl Barks. But as I said, that is a discussion best left for another story.

“Trick or Treat”, Neighbor Jones!

Continuity: The only piece of criticism I could lob at this story is the anachronism of the One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple Pumpkin Eater, a gag reference to the comedy song “One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater”, put out in 1958. This isn’t so an issue within the context of the story, merely within the internal timeline Rosa crafted.

Sure looks strange to me!

Rosa would later establish that Donald and the nephews’ adventures with Scrooge began taking place in 1947 (the year that “Christmas on Bear Mountain”, Scrooge’s first appearance, was published), eleven years before that song came out. You could argue that Donald (within the Duck universe) might have eventually ended up somehow inspiring the song, and that would certainly fit Rosa’s Forrest Gump method of inserting the Ducks in to history. It’s actually the method I use to justify it within the continuity of the Ducks, but you can easily take it is a sign of timeline problems that will show up in later stories.

Sadly, it’s time to say goodbye to Neighbor Jones. This story marks his last Rosa appearance, with not even so much as a cameo to come. Bye Jonesy! I will miss you! I see only two possible reasons for this: He moved away to get from that crazy Donald Duck, or he was arrested for the massive property damage he did to Donald’s house.

… or Rosa got bored with him and just wrote other stories that didn’t need to include him in a perfunctory manner. You know, one of the three.


8 thoughts on “Don Rosa in Review – Fit to be Pied (1987)”

  1. I’m interested in the nature of Rosa’s tribute here to “Trick or Treat”, with (a) the Smorgie costume and (b) the nephews’ puzzlement at it. The costume is a shout-out to Barks’ own contribution to the TorT comic version, while the nephews’ lack of recognition (and perhaps the costume itself) are an indication that Rosa doesn’t think the T0rT story “actually happened” in his Duckburg.

    And I love this Rosa story. I think it includes the funniest one-word line I’ve ever read in a comic: when Louie asks the knocked-out Donald, “What’s the last thing you remember?” and Donald replies, “Orange!” I was sad to see that in the Danish dialogue Donald’s reply is apparently, “Pumpkin!”, which is literal and nowhere *near* as funny.

  2. Welcome Elaine! Always a fan of your comments on Duck Comics Revue.

    I personally interpret it as the nephews being baffled why their lunatic uncle has a costume of the monster who helped them terrorize him, but I think both interpretations hold equal weight since it’s in one panel, never mentioned again, and has no dialogue associated with it from the nephews. It’s very much a drive-by reference, like Azure Blue and Sylvester Sharky from Nobody’s Business.

    I know Rosa held the any Barks tales that actually took place IN space as non-canon, at least according to Susan Daigle-Leach. (Source: ). But whether there were any other stories he found to be non-canon… well, I’m afraid I have absolutely no clue. I don’t have access to very much supplementary information, so this is very much all my interpretation (and to be honest, Death of the Author is in full effect during all of these reviews), though I promise if I do have any supplementary information that’s pertinent I will include it.

    Those gat-danged translators again, huh? Yeesh. I don’t understand how it’s possible to screw up a one-word translation… maybe the word itself is funnier in Danish, or some kinda pun? I can only hope it’s that rather than just a botched job.

    … but it’s probably a botched job. It usually is.

  3. Well, we know “The Magic Hourglass” is non-canon from Rosa’s POV, as an early view of Scrooge’s fortune being based on luck and not on “being tougher than the toughies” etc. And “Flour Follies” is non-canon (I think I can find the reference there, either from DCML or from a message to me), not only due to its fantastic conclusion construction-wise but also due to its premise, which didn’t accord with Rosa’s view of the true Barksian Scrooge. (Flour Follies is part of *my* canon, though; I love Penny Wise.)

    In any case, Rosa would have no trouble in ruling out TorT, since the basic storyline is not from Barks, anyway.

    1. Another very interesting interpretation: Donald has the suit from the CUT pages of “Trick or Treat”. The pages that were deleted ! So the nephews only remember the cut version and are puzzled at references to something that has been retconned to not having happened !

  4. Impressive. Most impressive.

    Thinking about it more I know Bolivar, the dog from some early Barks appearances, isn’t canon to him. Pretty much exclusively because he didn’t grow up reading Bolivar. He intended to have an ‘introduction’ story for the pooch, which I think might have been part of “Return to Xanadu”, but it was denied by the publisher. Seems a little silly to me.

    “Flour Follies” is part of my canon too, because I see no reason NOT to include it. It’s funny, there’s nothing wrong with it, and we’re never told that it’s something to reclaim his fortune. Just a ‘note’. And I especially am happy to include it since I’ve got a sequel in mind that explains it all very nicely.

    I’ve got one Barks story off the top of my head that I don’t see as wholly canon, “The Magic Hourglass”, but I haven’t read it in so long I couldn’t say whether I am capable of justifying its existence… but I DO have a Barksian justifiable reason for “Voodoo Hoodoo” as it was originally printed that I’ll bring up when we get to The Life and Times.

  5. Jones’ last Rosa appearance? Well, I never! …would have realized that, though when you say it, it becomes obvious. Perhaps we are to assume that Rosa’s later stories take place in the time after he moved out of the neighborhood but before he moved back in in “Feud and Far Between?” Sounds reasonable to me!

    All this talk about canon is making me want to shoot someone out of a cannon :p I am disappointed, though, that Rosa never made use of Bolivar. I’m quite fond of that crazy beast! He could even have gone crazy and included Bolivar’s puppy Behemoth, who appeared in one Barks story and therefore “counts,” by some metric.

    1. There’s going to be a LOT more canon talk as we move forward. Mostly in the form of timeline stuff, character consistencies, character growth/changes… there’s a beautiful sort of order that falls in to place when it’s all looked at in perspective (and with a sharp eye that’s probably seeing things that aren’t there).

      There are still stinkers for stories and inconsistencies though. We just haven’t gotten to the bad stuff yet.

  6. From what I recall, he said that he wanted to use Bolivar but couldn’t just ‘have a dog appear where there was none before’, so he devised the origin story, then it was nixed, so he just used General Snozzle instead whenever he needed a dog. It sounds a little weird to me, but what do I know?

    He counts Ludwig von Drake for appearing in like two or three panels of a Barks one pager, no reason he couldn’t have included Behemoth! Comics would be significantly improved with more puppies in them.

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