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Scrooge McDuck

Scrooge McDuck or Uncle Scrooge is a fictional Scottish Glaswegian anthropomorphic duck created by Carl Barks that first appeared in Four Color Comics #178, Christmas on Bear Mountain, published by Dell Comics in December, 1947.

Over the decades, Scrooge has emerged from being a mere supporting character to a major figure of the Duck universe, even giving it its popular name Scrooge McDuck universe. In 1952, he was given his own comic book series, Uncle Scrooge, which still runs today. As the character's popularity rose, he appeared in various television specials, films, and video games. Scrooge, along with several other characters of Duckburg, has enjoyed international popularity, particularly in Europe, and his books are frequently translated into other languages.

Scrooge's name is of course based on that of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, the main character from Charles Dickens' 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. Although never explicitly confirmed by Barks, it is theorized that Scottish industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who left his country for America at 13, served as a model for Uncle Scrooge (in Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Scrooge leaves Scotland for the United States at age 13). There is conjecture another potential prototype for Scrooge was a character (with no name) who had many of Scrooge's characteristics including sideburns, glasses and Scottish accent that was featured in the Disney-produced World War II propaganda film, The Spirit of '43 in 1943.

Comics history

First appearance

Scrooge, maternal uncle of previously established character Donald Duck, made his first named appearance in Christmas on Bear Mountain in December 1947, a story written and drawn by artist Carl Barks.

In Christmas on Bear Mountain, Scrooge was a bearded, bespectacled, reasonably wealthy old duck, visibly leaning on his cane, and living in isolation in a "huge mansion". Scrooge's misanthropic thoughts in this first story are quite pronounced: "Here I sit in this big lonely dump, waiting for Christmas to pass! Bah! That silly season when everybody loves everybody else! A curse on it! Me—I'm different! Everybody hates me, and I hate everybody!"

Barks later reflected, "Scrooge in 'Christmas on Bear Mountain' was only my first idea of a rich, old uncle. I had made him too old and too weak. I discovered later on that I had to make him more active. I could not make an old guy like that do the things I wanted him to do.

Recurring character

Barks would later claim that he originally only intended to use Scrooge as a one-shot character, but then decided Scrooge (and his fortune) could prove useful for motivating further stories. Barks continued to experiment with Scrooge's appearance and personality over the next four years.

Scrooge's second appearance, in The Old Castle's Secret (first published in June 1948), had Scrooge recruiting his nephews to search for a family treasure hidden in Dismal Downs, the McDuck family's ancestral castle, built in the middle of Rannoch Moor in Scotland. "Foxy Relations" (first published in November 1948) was the first story where Scrooge is called by his title and catchphrase "The Richest Duck in the World".

First hints of Scrooge's past

"Voodoo Hoodoo", first published in August 1949, was the first story to hint at Scrooge's past with the introduction of two figures from it. The first was Foola Zoola, an old African sorcerer and chief of the Voodoo tribe who had cursed Scrooge, seeking revenge for the destruction of his village and the taking of his tribe's lands by Scrooge decades ago.

Scrooge privately admitted to his nephews that he had used an army of "cutthroats" to get the tribe to abandon their lands, in order to establish a diamond-mining colony. The event was placed in 1879 during the story, but it would later be retconned to 1909 to fit with Scrooge's later-established personal history.

The second figure was Bombie the Zombie, the organ of the sorcerer's curse and revenge. He had reportedly sought Scrooge for decades before reaching Duckburg, mistaking Donald for Scrooge. Bombie was not really undead and Foola Zoola did not practice necromancy.

Barks, with a note of skepticism often found in his stories, explained the zombie as a living person who has never died, but has somehow gotten under the influence of a sorcerer. Although some scenes of the story were intended as a parody of Bela Lugosi's White Zombie, the story is the first to not only focus on Scrooge's past but also touch on the darkest aspects of his personality.

Precursors to later stories

"Trail of the Unicorn, first published in February 1950, introduced Scrooge's private zoo. One of his pilots had managed to photograph the last living unicorn, which lived in the Indian part of the Himalayas. Scrooge offered a reward to competing cousins Donald Duck and Gladstone Gander, which would go to the one who captured the unicorn for Scrooge's collection of animals.

This was also the story that introduced Scrooge's private airplane. Barks would later establish Scrooge as an experienced aviator. Donald had previously been shown as a skilled aviator, as was Flintheart in later stories. In comparison, Huey, Dewey, and Louie were depicted as only having taken flying lessons in the story "Frozen Gold" (published in January 1945).

"The Pixilated Parrot", first published in July 1950, introduced the precursor to Scrooge's money bin; in this story, Scrooge's central office building is said to contain "three cubic acres of money." Two nameless burglars who briefly appear during the story are considered to be the precursors of the Beagle Boys.

Scrooge as a major character

"The Magic Hourglass", first published in September 1950, was arguably the first story to change the focus of the Duck stories from Donald to Scrooge. During the story, several themes were introduced for Scrooge.

Donald first mentions in this story that his uncle practically owns Duckburg, a statement that Scrooge's rival John D. Rockerduck would later put in dispute. Scrooge first hints that he was not born into wealth, as he remembers buying the Hourglass of the story in Morocco when he was a member of a ship's crew as a cabin boy. It is also the first story in which Scrooge mentions speaking another language besides his native English and reading other alphabets besides the Latin alphabet, as during the story, he speaks Arabic and reads the Arabic alphabet.

The latter theme would be developed further in later stories. Barks and current Scrooge writer Don Rosa have depicted Scrooge as being fluent in Arabic, Dutch, German, Mongolian, Spanish, Mayan, Bengali, Finnish, and various dialects of Chinese. Scrooge acquired this knowledge from years of living or traveling to the various regions of the world where those languages are spoken. Later writers would depict Scrooge having at least working knowledge of several other languages.

Scrooge was shown in "The Magic Hourglass" in a more positive light than in previous stories, but his more villainous side is present too. Scrooge is seen in this story attempting to reacquire a magic hourglass that he gave to Donald, before finding out that it acted as a protective charm for him. Scrooge starts losing one million dollars each minute, and comments that he will go bankrupt within 600 years. This line is a parody of Orson Welles line in Citizen Kane. To convince his nephews to return it, he pursues them throughout Morocco, where they had headed to earlier in the story. Memorably during the story, Scrooge interrogates Donald by having him tied up and tickled with a feather in an attempt to get Donald to reveal the hourglass's location. Scrooge finally manages to retrieve it, exchanging it for a flask of water, as he had found his nephews exhausted and left in the desert with no supplies. As Scrooge explains, he intended to give them a higher offer, but he just could not resist having somebody at his mercy without taking advantage of it.

Final developments

"A Financial Fable", first published in March 1951, had Scrooge teaching Donald some lessons in productivity as the source of wealth, along with the laws of supply and demand. Perhaps more importantly, it was also the first story where Scrooge observes how diligent and industrious Huey, Louie and Dewey are, making them more similar to himself rather than to Donald. Donald in Barks's stories is depicted as working hard on occasion, but given the choice often proves to be a shirker. The three younger nephews first side with Scrooge rather than Donald in this story, with the bond between granduncle and grandnephews strengthening in later stories. However, there have been rare instances where Donald proved invaluable to Scrooge, such as when the group traveled back in time to Ancient Egypt to retrieve a pharaoh's papyrus. Donald cautions against taking it with him, as no one would believe the story unless it was unearthed. Donald then buries it and makes a marking point from the Nile River, making Scrooge think to himself admiringly "Donald must have swallowed the Encyclopedia Britannica!"

"Terror of the Beagle Boys", first published in November 1951, introduced the readers to the Beagle Boys, although Scrooge in this story seems to be already familiar with them. "The Big Bin on Killmotor Hill" introduced Scrooge's money bin, built on Killmotor Hill in the center of Duckburg.

By this point, Scrooge had become familiar to readers in the United States and Europe. Other Disney writers and artists besides Barks began using Scrooge in their own stories, including Italian writer Romano Scarpa. Western Publishing, the then-publisher of the Disney crafty comics, started thinking about using Scrooge as a protagonist rather than a supporting character, and then decided to launch Scrooge in his own self-titled comic. Uncle Scrooge #1, featuring the story "Only a Poor Old Man", was published in March 1952-1953. This story along with "Back to the Klondike", first published a year later in March 1953, became the biggest influences in how Scrooge's character, past, and beliefs would become defined.

After this point, Barks produced most of his longer stories in Uncle Scrooge, with a focus mainly on adventure, while his ten-page stories for Walt Disney's Comics and Stories continued to feature Donald as the star and focused on comedy. In Scrooge's stories, Donald and his nephews were cast as Scrooge's assistants, who accompanied Scrooge in his adventures around the world. This change of focus from Donald to Scrooge was also reflected in stories by other contemporary writers. Since then, Scrooge remains a central figure of the Duck comics' universe, thus the coining of the term "Scrooge McDuck Universe".

Later stories

After Barks' retirement, the character continued under other artists. In 1972, Barks was persuaded to write more stories for Disney. He wrote Junior Woodchuck stories where Scrooge often plays the part of the villain, closer to the role he had before he acquired his own series. Under Barks, Scrooge always was a malleable character who would take on whatever persona was convenient to the plot.

The Italian writer and artist Romano Scarpa made several additions to Scrooge McDuck's universe, including characters such as Brigitta McBridge, Scrooge's self-styled fiancée, and Gideon McDuck, a newspaper editor who is Scrooge's brother. Those characters have appeared mostly in European comics. So is also the case for Scrooge's rival John D. Rockerduck (created by Barks for just one story) and Donald's cousin Fethry Duck, who sometimes works as a reporter for Scrooge's newspaper.

Another major development was the arrival of writer and artist Don Rosa in 1987. Rosa considers Scrooge to be his favourite Disney character. Unlike most other Disney writers, Don Rosa considered Scrooge as a historical character whose Disney adventures had occurred in the fifties and sixties and ended in 1967 when Barks retired. He considered only Barks' stories canonical, and fleshed out a timeline as well as a family tree based on Barks' stories. Eventually he made The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, a full history in twelve chapters which received an Eisner Award in 1995. Later on he included additional chapters. Under Rosa, Scrooge became more ethical, he never cheats. He owes his fortune to his hard work and his money bin is "full of souvenirs" rather than full of money since every coin reminds him of a specific circumstance. Although his work is scarce, Rosa remains the foremost contemporary duck artist and was nominated for five 2007 Eisner Awards. His work is regularly reprinted by itself as well as along with Barks stories for which he created a sequel.

Daan Jippes, who can mimic Barks' art, is currently repenciling the Barks' 1970s Junior Woodchucks stories. Other notable Disney artists who have worked with the Scrooge character include Marco Rota, William Van Horn, and Tony Strobl.

Characterization

Wealth

Scrooge had worked his way up the financial ladder from humble immigrant roots. Born in Glasgow, Scotland he made a living shining boots, and was enraged when a ditchdigger paid him with a US dime. However, the coin inspires him to take a position as cabin boy on a Clyde cattle ship to the United States to make his fortune. Scrooge is now the richest duck in the world, rivaled only by Flintheart Glomgold, John D. Rockerduck and, less prominent, the maharaja of the fictional country Howdoyoustan (play on Hindustan).

He keeps a portion of his wealth, that money he has personally earned himself, in a massive Money Bin overlooking the city of Duckburg, which he explains to his nephews, in the short Scrooge McDuck and Money, is "just petty cash." In the Italian version he regularly forces Donald and his nephews to polish the coins one by one in order to pay off Donald's debts — Scrooge will not even pay them much for this lengthily, tedious, hand-breaking work. As far as he is concerned, even 5 cents an hour is too much expenditure.

A shrewd businessman and noted tightwad, his hobbies include diving into his money like a porpoise, burrowing through it like a [], and throwing coins into the air to feel them fall upon his skull. He is also the richest member of The Billionaires Club of Duckburg, a society which includes the most successful businessmen of the world and allows them to keep connections with each other. Glomgold and Rockerduck are also influential members of the Club. His most famous prized possession is his Number One Dime.

The sum of Scrooge's wealth is disputed. According to Barks' The Second Richest Duck as noted by a TIME article, Scrooge is worth one multiplujillion, nine obsquatumatillion, six hundred twenty-three dollars and sixty-two cents. Don Rosa's the Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck notes that Scrooge amounts to five multiplujillion, nine impossibidillion, seven fantasticatrillion dollars and sixteen cents. In 2007, Forbes listed his wealth at a much more modest $28.8 billion. Whatever the amount, Scrooge never considers it enough: he has to continue to earn money by any means possible.

Education

Scrooge is not formally educated, as he quit school at an early age. However, he has a sharp mind and is always ready to learn new skills.

Because of his secondary occupation as a treasure hunter, Scrooge has become something of a scholar and an amateur archaeologist. Starting with Barks, several writers have explained how Scrooge becomes aware of the treasures he decides to pursue. This often involves periods of conducting research in various written sources in search of passages that might lead him to a treasure. Often Scrooge decides to search for the possible truth behind old legends, or discovers obscure references to the activities of ancient conquerors, explorers and military leaders that he considers interesting enough to begin a new treasure hunting expedition.

As a result of his research, Scrooge has collected an extensive personal library, which includes many rare written sources. In Barks's and Rosa's stories, among the prized pieces of this library is an almost complete collection of Spanish and Dutch naval logs of the 16th and 17th centuries. Their references to the fates of other ships have often allowed Scrooge to locate sunken ships and recover their treasures from their underwater graves. Mostly self-taught as he is, Scrooge is a firm believer in the saying "knowledge is power".

Scrooge is also an accomplished polyglot, having learned to speak several different languages during his business trips around the world, selling fridges to eskimos, wind to windmill manufacturers in the Netherlands etc.

Morality and beliefs

Both as a businessman and as a treasure hunter, Scrooge is noted for his need to set new goals and face new challenges. As Carl Barks described his character, for Scrooge there is "Always another rainbow." The phrase later provided the title for one of Barks' better-known paintings depicting Scrooge. Periods of inactivity between adventures and lack of serious challenges tend to be depressing for Scrooge after a while; some stories depict this phase to have negative effects on his health. Scrooge's other motto is "Work smarter, not harder."

As a businessman, Scrooge often resorts to aggressive tactics and deception. He seems to have gained significant experience in manipulating people and events towards his own ends. As often seen in stories by writer Guido Martina and occasionally by others, Scrooge is noted for his cynicism, especially towards ideas of morality when it comes to business and the pursuit of set goals. This has been noted by some as not being part of Barks's original depiction of the character, but it has since come to be accepted as one valid interpretation of Scrooge's way of thinking.

However, Scrooge does seem to have a personal sense of honesty that offers him an amount of self-control. As a result, he can often be seen contemplating his course of action, while divided between adopting a ruthless pursuit of his current goal and using tactics which he considers more honest. At times, he can sacrifice this goal in order to remain within the limits of this sense of honesty. Several fans of the character have come to consider these depictions of him as adding to the depth of his personality because based on the decisions he takes Scrooge can be both the hero and the villain of his stories. This is one thing he has in common with his nephew Donald Duck. Scrooge's sense of honesty also makes him different from his rival Flintheart Glomgold, who places no such limitations on his own actions. During the cartoon series DuckTales, he could at times be heard saying to Glomgold, "You're a cheater, and cheaters never prosper!"

Scrooge has a nasty temper and rarely hesitates to use violence against those who provoke his anger; however, he seems to be against the use of lethal force. On occasion, he has even saved the lives of enemies who had threatened his own life but were in danger of losing theirs. According to Scrooge's own explanation, this is in order to save himself from feeling guilty over their deaths; he generally awaits no gratitude from them. Scrooge has also expressed his belief that only in fairy tales do bad people turn good, and that he is old enough to not believe in fairy tales. He also believes in keeping his word and never breaks a promise once it is given. In Italian-produced stories of the 1950s to 1970s, however, particularly those written by Guido Martina, Scrooge often acts differently than in American or Danish comics productions.

Carl Barks gave Scrooge a definite set of ethics that was in tone with the time he was supposed to have made his fortune. The robber barons and industrialists of the 1890–1920 era were McDuck's competition as he earned his fortune. Scrooge proudly asserts "I made it by being tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties! And I made it square!" It is obvious that Barks's creation is averse to dishonesty in the pursuit of money. When Disney filmmakers first contemplated a Scrooge feature cartoon in the fifties, the animators had no understanding of the Scrooge McDuck character and simply envisioned Scrooge as a duck version of Ebenezer Scrooge— a very unsympathetic character. In the end they shelved the idea because a duck who gets all excited about money just was not funny enough.

In an interview, Barks summed up his beliefs about Scrooge and capitalism:

This is Barks' most outright defense of capitalism and the indictment of any political system that "tries to make everybody exactly alike", which is the Marxist philosophy of equality in all things. Accordingly, Scrooge McDuck is both morally righteous and has to exploit people (such as his nephews and Donald at 30 cents an hour) to accumulate his fortune. Scrooge McDuck is a noble capitalist as conceived by Barks. Other cartoonists have generally failed to capture the nuanced morality and ethics held by Scrooge.

However, although Scrooge will go to great lengths to defend his wealth, he has always shown that he values his family more, trading his wealth for their safety (although he manages to get it back in the end).

DuckTales

In the DuckTales series, Scrooge has adopted the nephews, and, as a result, his rougher edges are smoothed out somewhat. While most of his traits remain from the comics, he is notably more jovial and less irritable in the cartoon. In an early episode, Scrooge credits his improved temperament to the nephews and Webby, saying that "for the first time since I left Scotland, I have a family." Though Scrooge is far from heartless in the comics, he is rarely so openly sentimental. While he still hunts for treasure in Ducktales, many episodes focus on him attempting to thwart villains. He remains, however, just as tightfisted with money as he has always been. Scrooge displays a strict code of honor, insisting that the only valid way to acquire wealth is to "earn it square," and he will go to great lengths to thwart those who gain money dishonestly. This code also prevents him from ever being dishonest himself, saying that "Scrooge McDuck's word is as good as gold."

Europe

Many of the European Scrooge comics have created their own version of Scrooge McDuck, usually involving him in slapstick adventures. This is particularly true of the Italian comics which were very popular in the 1960s, 70s and 80s in most parts of Western continental Europe. In these, Scrooge is mainly an anti-hero dragging his long-suffering nephews into treasure hunts and shady business deals. Donald is a reluctant participant in these travels, refusing for the most part to get involved and only agreeing to go along when Uncle Scrooge reminds him of the debts and back-rent Donald owes him, threatens him with a sword or blunderbuss or offers a share of the loot. When he promises Donald a share of the treasure, Scrooge adds a little loophole in the terms which may seem obscure at first but which he brings up at the end of the adventure and uses to deny Donald his share, thus keeping the whole treasure for himself. After risking life and limb — something which Scrooge shows little concern for — Donald tends to end up with nothing.

On other occasions the treasure is lost but Scrooge uses some equally obscure reason for taking it out on Donald. It does not necessarily have to be Donald's fault, he simply has to make a suggestion which Scrooge then acts on and then uses to blame Donald for everything that has gone wrong: even though it was unforeseen and unintentional. The resulting punishment can be Donald being chased all over the place by Scrooge, who is using the most threatening language imaginable, or having to work for Scrooge for endless hours on measly pay, which means that Scrooge won't be compensated for years (something he is probably counting on).

Scrooge has also threatened to strike Donald off his will, and has done so on occasions when he decided that, rather than love and cherish his money like he does, Donald would simply spend it.

This version of Scrooge would wallow in self-pity (showing little for anyone else) especially where money was concerned, describing himself as a wretched and poor old man at just the loss of a single cent.

He also reminisces a lot about when he was a gold prospector in the Klondike, a subject his nephews find dull and repetitive.

In France he was known as "Balthazar Picsou", but was referred to by everyone as Picsou or Oncle Picsou. "Pic-sou" means "coin pincher".

Impact

Scrooge McDuck universe

The popularity of Scrooge McDuck comics spawned an entire mythology around the character, including new supporting characters, adventures, and life experiences as told by numerous authors. Based on writer Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, a popular timeline chronicling Scrooge's adventures was created consisting of the most important "facts" about Scrooge's life. See Scrooge McDuck Timeline according to Don Rosa.

In addition to the many original and existing characters in stories about Scrooge McDuck, authors have frequently led historical figures to meet Scrooge over the course of his life. Scrooge has most notably met U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt and Scrooge would meet each other at least three times: in the Dakotas in 1883, in Duckburg in 1902, and in Panama in 1906. See Historical Figures in Scrooge McDuck stories.

Other media

The character of Scrooge has appeared in various media aside from comic books. Scrooge's first appearance in animated form (save for a brief cameo appearance on the Mickey Mouse Club television series) was in Disney's 1967 theatrical short Scrooge McDuck and Money, in which he teaches his nephews some basic financial tips.

He later appeared as Ebenezer Scrooge in Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983), an animated version of the Dickens classic. He appeared as himself in the television special Sport Goofy in Soccermania (the only time when he was voiced by Will Ryan).

Scrooge's biggest role outside of comics would come in the 1987 animated series DuckTales, a series loosely based on Carl Barks's comics, his character being voiced by Alan Young. In this series, of which a two-hour premiere aired on September 18, 1987, and the regular episodes began September 21, 1987, Scrooge becomes the caretaker of Huey, Dewey and Louie when Donald joins the United States Navy. Scrooge's persona in DuckTales is considerably softer than in most previous appearances; his ruthlessness is played down considerably and his often abrasive personality is reduced in many episodes to that of a crotchety but lovable old uncle. Still, there are flashes of Barks' Scrooge to be seen, especially in early episodes of the first season.

He has appeared in some episodes of Raw Toonage, two shorts of Mickey Mouse Works and some episodes (specially "House of Scrooge") of Disney's House of Mouse, as well as the direct-to-video films Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas and Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas. He also makes an appearance in Disney's and Square Enix's video game Kingdom Hearts II as a minor non-playable character in Hollow Bastion, where he is trying to recreate his favorite flavor of ice cream (sea-salt, which is known to be extremely popular among many people). His other video game appearances include the three DuckTales video games (DuckTales, DuckTales 2, and DuckTales - the Quest for Gold), and in Toontown Online as the creator of the Cogs.

In 2002, Forbes magazine named Scrooge McDuck history's fourth richest fictional character at $8.2 billion but moved him down to sixth place in 2005. In 2006, Scrooge was moved back up to third place, with a worth of $10.9 billion, trailing only Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks and Charles Montgomery Burns. In 2007, the self-made Scottish businessman finally got on the top of the Forbes Fictional 15 with a net worth of $28.8 billion.

Also in 2007, Glasgow City Council added Scrooge to its list of "Famous Glaswegians", alongside the likes of Billy Connolly, Sir Alex Ferguson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Notes

References

  • Uncle Scrooge McDuck, Carl Barks, Edward Summer, Walt Disney Productions 1981 ISBN 0-89087-290-2
  • Carl Barks Library, Another Rainbow Publishing 1984
  • Scrooge McDuck Capitalist and Proud of it!, Goldbrick & Bond, USA-International Publications 2004
  • How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic, Dorfman & Mattelart, International General 1975
  • Carl Barks and the Disney Comic Book, University Press of Mississippi, Thomas Andrae 2006

See also

External links

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