The Pursuit of Riches: Uncle Scrooge #399
Continuing the long-running Scrooge McDuck, BOOM! Studios presents an enduring an expansive assay of the mentality that still runs through Wall Street post the 2008 crash.
Publisher: BOOM! Kids
Contributors: John Lustig (writer), Jose Maria Millet Lopez (artist)
Comics: Scrooge McDuck #399
Writer: Christopher Burns (editor)
Length: 22 pages
Publication Date: January 2011
BOOM! Kids continues the long publishing tradition of that Caledonian currency hoarder, Scrooge McDuck. While his print history is not continuous by any means, BOOM Kids! has recently re-launched a number of Disney properties into viable comic series that showcase many of the highly coveted childhood characters of preceding generations. How does Uncle Scrooge stack up in comparison to other endeavors, such as Darkwing Duck and Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers?
Just shy of the #400 milestone, one denied to many deserving comics over the decades, the longevity and appeal of Uncle Scrooge is apparent. Scrooge McDuck is a memento for children of the late 80s and early 90s. Watching Duck Tales, the instigating force behind the creation of the modern “Duck-verse”, I was continually fascinated with how Scrooge McDuck could dive into a pit of gold coins and Michael Phelps his way from end to end without suffering the slightest injury. As a kid it was just a passing interest but now as a “proper adult” I wonder exactly what it means to be awash in money al à Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. I believe Scrooge McDuck is a quintessential American icon due to his capitalistic spirit and irrefutable obsession with cold hard cash.
Uncle Scrooge #399 begins with an auction. Scrooge McDuck has just been bamboozled by his nemesis who auctioned off a priceless artifact from a lost subterranean world. The item in question was so valuable that McDuck is in danger of being unseated from his “World’s Richest Duck” throne. In response, the miserly mallard, not an actual mallard, gathers up the crew and sets off for the hidden world of Arcadia to one up his rival.
Clearly Scrooge McDuck loves money to an unhealthy extent. However, being greedy doesn’t classify someone as an American icon. What makes the grumbling Scottish duck a symbol of pure Americana is that McDuck is a self made man. The origins of Scrooge McDuck are not the purview of this particular comic. Nevertheless, the tale of Uncle Scrooge mirrors his source material, that titan of Gilded Age industrialism Andrew Carnegie.
Both characters hail from humble Scottish origins. Through grit and determination, Carnegie makes his way across the Atlantic at the ripe age of 13 for America where he’s able to pull himself up by his bootstraps and become one of the richest men in the world. Coincidentally, Scrooge McDuck travels over to the United States at the same age and goes on to achieve a similar feat.
The idea of the self made man is the siren song for many immigrants that flocked to America over the past several centuries. Being able to escape poverty and start fresh in a new land is the promise of the American Dream. You no longer have to labor in poverty. Come to America and get rich! Scrooge McDuck is a fictional outgrowth of this urge for financial self improvement. Uncle Scrooge #399 continues playing these beats after decades of economic boom and bust.
What more can be said about Scrooge McDuck other than he reinforces the promise of the American Dream of riches? Coming to America certainly has rewarded Uncle Scrooge with mounds of gold. But what about his character? How has he grown and enriched himself beyond hard currency? As his name implies, Scrooge McDuck is a cantankerous miser, one that’s willing to put his nephews and man servant in dire straits for treasure. Again and again the pursuit of wealth renders his closest friends and family in mortal peril. Isn’t being the “World’s Richest Duck” reward enough without trying to get richer and richer? Can’t Scrooge McDuck settle?
The answer to both is no.
Being an American icon, Scrooge McDuck can never settle for second best. American culture is fascinated with being the biggest and the best in all endeavors. We can never settle to come in second. However, this is not a realistic way of living. Being number one is something every person strives for and it is a worthy endeavor to work towards. But there comes times when one must bow out graciously, thank everyone for their time and accept reality. Its either live reasonably or continue to put those you love on the firing line again and again.
Perhaps Scrooge McDuck should serve as a cautionary tale instead of inspiration for children. He’s able to accumulate a vast treasure trove at the expense of his personal relationships. I have a hard time reconciling why his nephews and niece are so drawn to tramping around with Uncle Scrooge despite his flagrant disregard for their safety. It may be seen as harmless fun for them but surely, in all of Duckburg, there are more sensible adults out there who would object to minors being placed in the line of fire. But the wealthy have the luxury of being seen as eccentric rather than insane.