Uncle Scrooge by Carl Barks: The Golden Nugget Boat

Writer / Artist
Uncle Scrooge by Carl Barks: The Golden Nugget Boat
Uncle Scrooge Golden Nugget Boat review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Fantagraphics Books - 978-1-68396-565-7
  • Release date: 2022
  • UPC: 9781683965657
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Adventure, All-Ages, Humour

This seventh hardcover volume of Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge stories picks up with Scrooge material from 1961 and early 1962, although resequenced to begin with the title story, before ending with a selection of Gyro Gearloose shorts from 1960.

The Gyro Gearloose tales have never been accorded the critical acclaim of Barks’ duck stories, which is puzzling. Perhaps people just prefer the adventure and miserly character to excellently crafted short stories with an injection of the absurd. Gyro creates the impossible, and his creations work as intended, but the consequences are often problematical. At its simplest it’s the one page gag of an invented shoe shiner inducing a tickling effect when the absent-minded Gyro’s forgets to put his shoes on. Also charming, and increasingly a plot device, is Gyro’s little helper having the common sense to end a calamity.

Toward the end of the Scrooge stories we have ‘The Midas Touch’, in which Barks introduces the last of his great recurring characters. Magica De Spell arrived because Barks realised the threat to Scrooge’s hoarded cash couldn’t always come from the Beagle Boys. As a witch Magica represents a different type of challenge. In order that there’s some possibility of stopping her, Barks establishes her magic is dependent on preparation, and her desire isn’t for immediate wealth, but to distil a potion using coins from the world’s richest in order to have everything she touches turn to gold. Scrooge has always been protective of the first dime he ever earned, and Magica believes it has a magical power simply from the number of times Scrooge has handled it. Further neat touches are her hideout on Mount Vesuvius, and her glamorous appearance, and although that doesn’t always withstand a temper tantrum, it makes her a different type of witch.

Elsewhere the stories are a mixed bag. From any other creator they’d be seen as inventive, and appealing, but Barks is more frequently recycling old ideas, and the increasing SF adventures have now dated more than his earlier travelogues. Yet there are gems here. ‘Clothes Make the Duck’ is a delightful farce about Scrooge avoiding social events as he’d have to replace a coat he realises would be seen as too shabby. Scrooge, Donald and the Beagle Boys shrunk smaller than ants in ‘Billions in the Hole’ is glorious, and the title story is the best here. By turns great comedy and great adventure, Scrooge’s insistence of a work ethic fails again and again when set against Gladstone Gander’s supernatural luck.

Critics providing generally insightful short accompanying essays occasionally point out minor lapses in the art, which really is going the distance to find something to complain about. More enlightened is Francesco Stajano’s comment about how it’s possible to pull entire model sheets for the characters from single stories, covering all necessary poses and expressions.

Although the quality swings up and down, this should be recognised as referring to one of the all-time greats, and even the weaker material is of a standard many all-ages creators never achieve. However, Barks would only rarely hit the heights of this volume’s peaks post 1962. The next selection is found in Cave of Ali Baba, while these stories were earlier available in album sized paperbacks as Uncle Scrooge Adventures 32, 33 and 35, and Gyro Gearloose 4.