Tuesday, December 11, 2012
'Merry Christmas, Uncle!' | Classics Illustrated #53 (1948)
I did this last year, too, but I forgot Classics Illustrated #53. I think I've got that fixed so I won't do it again next year, but here it is, out of chronological order.
Classics Illustrated devotes two pages to Fred's introduction.The nephew is drawn young and cheery; carrying a Christmas wreath and wrapped packages. He's not overly jolly, but he's obviously enjoying the holiday season and doesn't seem to resent the duty of coming to visit Scrooge. The text says that he "suddenly" announces himself, so there's the abrupt entrance.
The conversation is true to the text for a while, with only minor edits, until it gets to Fred's speech, which is trimmed way down to fit into a single panel. Cratchit's reaction to the speech is pretty funny, but unintentionally. He claps, Scrooge threatens his job, and it's at that point that Cratchit starts poking the fire and accidentally makes it go out. Unlike Dickens' version, the fire's going out isn't what's funny in the scene. In fact, because of the way the panel is colored with bright yellow and orange filling the fireplace, it's impossible to tell visually that there's not a raging fire in there. Only the caption box explains what's going on, so the joke is lost. What's funny is Cratchit's humbly poking the fire and thinking to himself, "When will I ever learn to control my emotions?" Indeed, Bob.
It doesn't look like Cratchit's genuinely afraid for his job though. Scrooge is unpleasant, but he's already threatened Cratchit a couple of times in this adaptation, so one would think that those threats are pretty toothless by now.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Scrooge does finish the "I'll see you in Hell first" line in response to his nephew's invitation, though he substitutes "Hades." It's kind of odd that they choose to keep it, because the rest of their conversation is severely trimmed down in the last part of the scene. There's no discussion of Fred's wife or any hints as to why Scrooge dislikes his nephew. It's just, "Come to dinner," then, "Go to hell." Fred takes off right after that.
Without any other clues, Scrooge's refusal is all about Christmas and not about his nephew. That's the second time we've seen this in an abridged version, and I bet it won't be the last.