Review by Frank Plowright
‘The Second Richest Duck’ is one of Carl Barks’ most satisfying Uncle Scrooge stories. It introduces a new character that Barks, and later many others, would use extensively, it provides a fine message on the foolishness of pride, it’s very funny, and as with everything Barks produces, it’s impeccably drawn.
The story begins with Scrooge learning from a newspaper he removes from a sleeping homeless person that he’s no longer the world’s richest duck. That position is now held by South African businessman Flintheart Glomgold. Under Barks the only circumstance guaranteed to have Scrooge loosening the purse strings is being challenged as the world’s wealthiest person, so he and his nephews immediately set sail for South Africa to verify the news. Among the items Scrooge has to bring along is a massive ball of string, necessary as he’ll be able to add to it while aboard the ship. Barks later explained this seemingly whimsical plot device as something people did when he was growing up in pre-World War I USA. In the days before packing tape and plastic bags string had myriad uses.
Glomgold is characterised as Scrooge was in the earliest days after his introduction, lacking the humane qualities enabling some form of audience sympathy, his only concern increasing his fortune. He’s devious, irascible and a match for Scrooge, and as the plot unfolds their competition to decide which of them is actually the wealthiest is riddled with deceit, manipulation and trickery, producing one fine gag after another.
While Scrooge takes immense pride in being the world’s richest duck, Barks underlines just how ridiculous the conceit of this is by reducing the eventual decision to a ridiculous extreme. Both Scrooge and Glomgold pay for their greed, facing not just danger, but their own fears, in what’s a great morality tale.
This version was issued with an accompanying trading card, but for anyone on a budget a better bet is Gladstone’s earlier Comic Album Special 4, which includes several more Flintheart Glomgold stories by Barks and one by Don Rosa. Alternatively there’s the 21st century Fantagraphics collection The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan. There the story is contextualised and accompanied by the contents of volumes 13-14 and 16-18.