Review by Frank Plowright
This Uncle Scrooge album is unique by virtue of Carl Barks creating two sixteen page stories rather than one long tale with a short back-up.
It’s ‘The Great Steamboat Race’ that’s more fondly remembered, providing far greater visual spectacle. Scrooge is pestered by one Horseshoe Hogg to settle a steamboat race never completed by their ancestors to decide ownership of a Southern mansion. Initially reluctant, given time to consider, the idea has appeal, so Scrooge consents. The snag is that the terms of the wager requires the original boat to finish, and both sank. In order to win the bet, Scrooge must refloat a boat that’s been at the bottom of the Mississippi for seventy years. An ingenious method is devised, and the jokes derive from Scrooge’s tight-fistedness standing in the way of his winning the race. The steamboat theme was one Barks would revisit two years later in a special produced to promote Disneyland, in which he and Gyro Gearloose piloted a steamboat down the Mississippi. It’s reprinted in volume 34.
When considering Barks’ art for the story, the most memorable image is the old steamboat re-surfacing from the depths of the Mississippi, but a pleasing aspect of Barks’ art in general showcased in this story is the incidental detail used at the start. An explanation of the circumstances is required, and to distract from the exposition Barks has Scrooge chasing moths away from his money, and transferring sacks of it into his money bin. The suspense to the plot is maintained toward the end, and a good pair of final gags on the same theme round it off. It’s almost a primer on how to tell a compact story well.
‘Riches, Riches, Everywhere’ isn’t as successful, which is largely down to the art and Barks strangely not making the most of a story taking place in the Australian outback. It’s a randomly selected location to prove Scrooge’s point that he can locate mineral wealth anywhere, but by boasting about this when he arrives in Australia he attracts unwelcome attention. There is a gag depending on kangaroos, and the story comes to life over the final pages in which there’s a lesson about what’s truly valuable, but this is largely Barks on autopilot. Of course, by any other standards it’s a decent adventure cartoon.
Rather than this album both stories are now better purchased along with the content of volumes 7-10 and the next album in the 21st century Fantagraphics collection The Seven Cities of Gold. There it’s contextualised and that volume is available at roughly the price this slim volume now fetches.