Saturday, December 06, 2014

"If Quite Convenient, Sir" | Marvel Classic Comics #36 (1978)



Writer Doug Moench and the various artists he worked with on Marvel's version have already shown us a Christmas street scene in their introduction to Scrooge. It wasn't a very good one, because the art looked neither Christmasy nor even wintery. I complained about it at the time, because the scene looked so sunny and pleasant while the text claimed that it was "cold, bleak, biting weather." It's still a horrible mistake and bad comics, but if I was feeling charitable I could make a case for its being an intentional juxtaposition between the facts (it's miserably cold outside) and the way people feel about it (it's Christmas, so the weather doesn't bother us and we're acting as if it's beautiful).

As the solicitors leave Scrooge's office though, there's no contradiction. Moench tells us how cold it is and sure enough the artist for that page has some snow. The people on the street still look happy though, which is Dickens' point.

There's no sliding scene, but Moench does include the carolling boy and has him singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Scrooge even grabs a ruler, which is a detail I expect most adaptations to change or skip over.

This version hasn't given us a clear vision of Scrooge and Cratchit's relationship yet, so I looked to this scene would give me some clues and sure enough I think it does. Scrooge brings up the day off in the same word balloon where he's still complaining about the singing kid. Maybe he's just on a roll and wants something else to complain about. He looks smug as he gripes, so he doesn't get any sympathy points for that.

Cratchit looks timid as he replies that it's only once a year. Unlike the Classics Illustrated version, there's an imbalance of power between these two men. Scrooge is going to let Cratchit take the day, but he's also going to make the process as uncomfortable for Cratchit as he can.

He also leaves first, making Cratchit stay behind to lock up. And since the comic leaves Cratchit there so that it can follow Scrooge, there's no indication that Cratchit is leaving right behind his boss. As far as the comic is concerned, Cratchit could have another hour or two of duties to perform while Scrooge runs off to begin his evening. As Scrooge exits, Cratchit is running his hand through his hair with an expression that reads mostly like he's perturbed.

That's a weird transition for Cratchit, from timid in one panel to perturbed in the next. But it's no less flighty than Fred was during his visit, or than Scrooge was while talking to the solicitors. The Marvel artists continue to have a hard time with consistency in their storytelling, so all the characters feel manic. Earlier, Cratchit looked cowardly when Scrooge fussed at him about the coal, but then had the bravery to clap and shout, "Bravo!" after Fred's speech. It's like he doesn't really know how to act appropriately around Scrooge. Which makes total sense if Scrooge is also prone to sudden mood changes (something that might run in his family, if Fred is any indication).

If we take Marvel's portrayal of these characters seriously, their Scrooge may actually be mentally ill. That casts a disturbing light on the whole story then as Scrooge has visions and experiences a dramatic change in personality, but it's a fascinating take, even if it's unintended by the storytellers. I'm going to use that as my working theory and see if it holds up as I keep reading the Marvel version.

2 comments:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Great post on this version. I have to wonder if you put more thought into understanding and appreciating their work here than maybe even they did.

Michael May said...

I wouldn't be surprised. In fact, I have no doubt that's the case for the Marvel version where the inconsistencies are the result of lots of different artists rushing to get the thing produced.

But it makes it a lot more fun for me if I overthink it and come up with in-story explanations for the weirdness. :)

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