This years english language reprint from my Gnuff universe is a specialty. It could be seen in comparison to this years “The big Sneeze” one-shot to appear someplace else in this column. As usual the translation has been made by Dwight Decker, and that should exclude the pidgin like lingo, you might have noticed occuring in “The big Sneeze” where I myself back in 1974 wrote the dialogue.
The original story was my first attempt with storytelling in the Barks tradition, and developments made it so, that it came to be the only long adventure story of mine using his characters. The outcome of this attempt was a mixed blessing, and at first it seemed traumatic enough. But following the first cruel fate I soon after came to do 10-page stories for Oberon in Holland together with Daan Jippes, and that was a step upwards for me and almost a blessing sent to me from above.
This albumlength version displays my first dragon character, and though the ducks lost the battle with me, the dragon prevailed! It came to be the inspiration for my development of the Gnuff family, and doing albumstories of my own most certainly has been the right thing for me. Had I stayed in as a Disney hack artist and writer, I would have undoubtedly come across severe difficulty with the standards and story telling regulations existing around Disney comics, especially back then in those restrictive days. As you may have found out by now, I often go for a “questinable” angle in my contemporary story subject matters. If you for instance take a look at the “Journey to Ramashanka” story elsewhere on this site there are several motives, that would have blocked it from being produced with ducks under the Disney umbrella - or within the Comics Code as such. First of all I have a main motive, where unscrupulous western firms take advantage of innocent people in the third world and use them to make their profits and on the same time degrading their manners and their culture. I also depict western tourists as mere naive seekers of the exotic. Furthermore I make fun of a hospitalized person with an unpleasant personality. Disabled persons were not to be shown at all under the Comics Code, and that scene would have been a severe no-no. Furthermore there is the overall allusion to religious subject matter, and that would have been felt uncomfortable no matter what.
That this story works so well with interchangible characters is basicly because it holds such a strong fantasy motive. The otherwize difference in personalities are not so important when the fantasy element is dominating. Lewis Carroll had an explanation to that, when once asked, why Alice was presented with such an normal and general personality. He said: “To let peculiar persons experience peculiar things is a peculiarity too much”. He hit the nail right on the head there. If the readers are asked to follow a strange story, it is too much to expect that they should also digest the descriptions of special personality traits. There simply isn’t room for that when the set-up and strange adventures attracts all the attention.
However I must have had a genuine fondness for the story concept in this epic, since I have remade it in different versions. I am a big sneeezer myself, and my family often smile, when I start sneezing loudly and continue 6-8 times before the heavy attack is over. I still think this idea has fine potentials as a fairytale and an adventure comic. Also I had a comment upon this story from Carl Barks when sending it to him. The creator of “No such Varmint” liked the blasted critters, and his only worry was, whether or not the kids would understand the mechanisms of the catapult saving Donald or Gnuff in the process. The Fountain of Youth also plays an important part, and that element was used again, when the Gnuffs returned to the island years later. These days I am writing a number of novels focused on the the conditions for life and death under the mutual headline “Between life and Death”. It strikes me that I more than three decades ago already had preferences towards the same motive. And being forced to balance a diet on old man’s potatoes and water from a fountain of youth to stay alive is still my funniest vision based on the conditions for life and death.
Using the story divided into four chapters for magazine publication before ending up as an album made it necessary for me to expand the total pagecount with 50%. But since the story from the very start was so concentrated, it could be rearranged to fit a larger amount of pages with no difficulty. In fact I felt the longer version turned out to be an overall improvement of the whole script. And the reference to an acclaimed norwegian adventurer of The high Seas was an extra attraction, that pleased me. I managed to find room for him in other adventures as well, both with the woodpecker and the Gnuffs.
The pilot in this album ought to be the character I used for a similar role in the other story of mine “Journey to Ramashanka” but as I did not own the rights for Buzz Buzzard I had to change the design.
The latest reappearance of Gargantua is in the new album in the Gnuff series, where she saves Gnicky from some haunting sideeffects of his drugabuse. Yes, the Gnuff universe encompasses motives from way back with quite contemporary ones. Maybe you won’t even notice, that she has changed her sex after her first appearance. In “The big Sneeze” she is referred to as a male critter. She also lost a couple of legs in the process and her looks were upgraded.
As for the island in the story, it is part of the realm of the black fowls, that inhabit the country Ramashanka, you meet in the Woody Woodpecker album reprinted this year on this site. So actually there is a number of crossreferences within this years addition to my homepage.