Articles from Komix #144
kyrimis at cti.gr
Mon Jul 3 07:46:08 CEST 2000
Here are two articles from last month's Komix, which I believe are of
interest to the list:
From Duckburg to Eldorado, in the company of the Ducks
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE GILDED MAN
In 1952, Donald discovers the whereabouts of the Gilded Man.
In 1996, his rich uncle discovers the gold of Eldorado...
We are in 1952. Carl Barks has laid the foundation for the Duck world,
but uncle Scrooge has not yet become the central character of the
multi-page adventures that send the duck family to distant and exotic
places. Donald's rich uncle has taken a few trips, but he has not yet
become the romantic adventurer that will travel across the world in
search for lost treasure...
On the contrary, Donald has made many travels, and has lived many
adventures in South America. He has already discovered, since 1949, the
weird Plain Awful (*Lost in the Andes*, _Komix_ #1). Three years later,
in *The Gilded Man* (_Komix_ #2), he will discover what became of the
legendary indian ruler, who was responsible for the birth of the legend
THE MYTHICAL GILDED MAN
The motives for Donald's travels are completely different from those
for uncle Scrooge's. In _The Gilded Man_, the nephew of the richest
duck in the world arrives in British Guiana, not in search of a mythical
treasure, but of a rare stamp. His search leads him to the footsteps of
a heroic mailman, who fell into the hands of a mysterious indian tribe a
hundred years ago. In the end, Donald and his nephews manage to discover
this tribe. Almost by chance, the ducks solve a mystery that had been
tormenting historians and adventurers for centuries: always according to
Carl Barks' story, after the invasion of the conquistadores, the legendary
ruler and his tribe abandoned the plateaus of today's Colombia and sought
refuge somewhere in the heart of the jungle of British Guiana...
A LOST DOCUMENT?
In Carl Barks' story, nobody is particularly interested about gold. The
treasure that Donald is seeking is merely a rare stamp. As for the Gilded
Man and his people, they are probably fed up with this precious metal,
since, to them, silver, which is rarer in their parts, is worth a lot more
than gold. It is for this reason that they stole the bag of the heroic
mailman: its silver buckles have made it appear as a precious prize. It is
exactly this preference of the Gilded Man's people to silver which will
allow our friends to escape. Donald's nephews come up with the brilliant
idea to paint the Gilded Man silver, who is now in seventh heaven after
this radical change in his wardrobe. "Oh, we just figured out that if
he'd been wearing that gold outfit since Sir Walter Raleigh's time, he'd
like a new shade in his summer linens", comment the three smart nephews.
We do not know why Carl Barks did not wish to show uncle Scrooge
discovering Eldorado. It is obvious that it would have been rather
awkward to have his beloved character solving a mystery that his nephew
had already solved, and by chance at that...
DON ROSA EX MACHINA
Pity. And this because uncle Scrooge had already discovered a bunch
of mythical places and even more lost treasures that entire hordes of
adventurers had been looking for, from the *Seven Cities of Cibola*
(_Komix_ #3) to the *Fountain of Youth* (_Komix_ #50).
Fortunately for the Ducks' friends, Don Rosa did not hesitate to take
up the challenge. He managed to give us a completely original story,
thanks to a very simple but brilliant idea. He did not have the richest
duck in the world looking for the treasure of a mythical ruler; he had him
following the footsteps of certain historical persons, who had looked for
the same treasure four and a half centuries ago. This time, however, it
is not his foolish nephew who came before him, but three of the greatest
adventurers of all time. nd such a "second place" is no small matter.
_The Last Lord of Eldorado_ is neither one of the sequels of Barks
classic tales that are dear to Rosa, nor is it an exercise in the style
of his predecessor. It is an original "classic" story, with the seal
of an important creator.
[Caption, bottom left]
The birth of a legend: From the first decades of the 16th century, the
first conquistadores had already been talking about a strange custom of a
people in the New World. The ruler of the Chibcha tribe used to cover his
body with gold dust and dive ceremonially in a sacred lake, in the area
where Bogota lies today, while his subjects threw jewels and gold items
in its waters. Don Rosa recorded this particular custom with his pen.
[Caption, top right]
Oil painting by Carl Barks inspire from his story *The Gilded Man*
A Croesus in the footsteps of the conquistadores
SCROOGE IN ELDORADO
In _The Last Lord of Eldorado_, Don Rosa sends the richest duck in
the world on the footsteps of some of the greatest adventurers of
The legend of Eldorado was born just a few decades after the discovery of the
New World by Christopher Columbus, in 1942. Already, since the first decades
of the 16th century, some of the first conquistadores would talk about a
strange custom of a people of this new continent. The ruler of the Chibcha
tribe would cover his body with gold dust and dive ceremonially n a sacred
lake, in the area where Bogota, the capital of Colombia, lies today, while his
subjects threw jewels and gold items in its waters. Initially, the name "El
Dorado", which means "The Gilded Man" in Spanish, referred to this local
ruler. Later, however, it was considered to be a place name. Thus, El Dorado
became a new Promised Land for all sorts of greedy or dreamy adventurers, who
sailed for the new World in search of gold, glory or ideal cities.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE CONQUERORS
Don Rosa places his story in this historical framework that is both strange
and appealing. As usual, his historical references are very precise, and, most
important, to the point. The three historical persons mentioned in the
story have many similarities with the richest duck in the world. Sebastian de
Belalcazar (1490-1551) was a typical conquistador. He was a rough, illiterate
soldier of low birth and had proved many times that he had been something more
than "tougher than the toughies". On the Contrary, Gonzalo Jimenes de Quesada
(1499-1579), a man who had studied law and who had already taken certain
important positions of state office in the Spanish colonies in the New World,
had been one of the few educated conquistadores. Don Rosa's Scrooge, however,
has plenty of historical knowledge. As for Nicolaus Federmann (+1546), he
worked for the Welser Bank, one of the first large banks in Europe, which
could enthrone and depose kings. As a financier and banker, he is almost a...
colleague of uncle Scrooge. Exactly as the tycoon from Glasgow contributed
definitively to the history and the development of the fictional Duckburg,
Quesada and Belalcazar founded cities, while the Welser house played a
definitive part in the history of modern Venezuela.
These three adventurers were neither the first nor the last to search for the
legendary city of Gold. Gonzalo Pizarro tried again in 1539 and Francisco de
Orelana searched for Eldorado in the Amazon area, in 1541. In 1560 it was the
turn of the Basque Lope de Agire[sp?] (his adventures were put to film by
Werner Herzog), while Sir Walter Raleigh, who is mentioned in _The Gilded
Man_, tried his luck in the area of the Orenoco river in 1595.
In his story, Don Rosa gives us more historical references than those we have
just mentioned. However, they are not dull didactic interventions. Organically
incorporated into the story, they give us reason for wondering and dreaming.
A characteristic sample from the ingenious Don Rosa: the truck that Donald
drives in the _Last Lord_ has an amazing resemblance to that driven by Yves
Montand in Henri Georges Clouzot's _The Wages of Fear_.
IN SEARCH OF THE ELDORADO
The enjoyment of Don Rosa's stories does not end at their last page. Full
of all sorts of references from the most diverse sources, his stories
become of themselves the reason for other travels to our library.
The first stop in this journey is of course, the old issues of _Komix_;
The _Last Lord_ has whetted our appetite for another reading of the
classic stories, such as *The Gilded Man* (_Komix_ #2), *The Seven
Cities of Cibola* (_Komix_ #3), *The Prize of Pizarro* (_Komix_ #24)
by Carl Barks and *Son of the Sun* (_Komix_ #89) by Don Rosa.
After comics, it is the turn of other writings. The legend of Eldorado
has become the source of inspiration for numerous writers, poets and
intellectuals with a galloping imagination, but a less adventurous
character than the old conquistadores. To limit ourselves to the
classical writings, we could leaf through John Milton's _Paradise Lost_
or some collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe to read _Eldorado_, a
small melancholy diamond. An equally classic--but more amusing--tale
is _Candide_ by Voltaire. There, the Eldorado discovered by the main
character of this hilarious philosophical fairy tale is a small utopia
or, rather, a small parody of a utopia, too beautiful, unfortunately,
to be true.
After the books, movies. The atmosphere of the _Last Lord_ brings to
mind pictures such as _Treasure of Sierra Madre_--which Don Rosa must
like a lot--or John Huston's _The Man Who Would Be King_. For those
who want to feel a more intense excitement, we suggest the thrilling
_Wages of Fear_ by Henri Georges Clouzot (the movie was filmed in 1953,
a year after the publication of Carl Barks _The Gilded Man_...) if for
no other reason than because uncle Scrooge's truck in the _last Lord_
has an amazing resemblance to the truck that Yves Montand drives! For
even more intense thrills and a more authentic period atmosphere, there
is, of course, Werner Herzog's _Agire_[sp?] with Claus Kinski playing
the part of the familiar conquistador.
Finally, we could refer to Dreamworks' new movie, _The Road to Eldorado_.
Although we have not seen it yet--at the time that these lines are
being written--the fact that some film critics compare it to Carl Barks'
classical stories can only make us curious!
Impressive frames from Dreamworks' movie, titled _The Road to Eldorado_.
Kriton (e-mail: kyrimis at cti.gr)
"The trick to banging your head against a brick wall is knowing when to stop."
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