A Spicy Tale

Searching for a safe locale

Dell's censorship rules were, as the "Pledge to Parents" claimed, more stringent than the Comics Code. By the early 1960s Barks was having trouble finding subject or locales that he hadn't used before, or that he felt were safe to use.

In a January 17, 1962 letter to Malcom Willits, Barks wrote:

"The Uncle Scrooge 18-pager I've just finished takes a gentle poke at the Peace Corps - but gentle. I'm running out of nations which aren't fighting or rioting or committing aggression. So this story's locale was the Jivaro Indian country, which I've used to death, along with their head-shrinking gimmick. Next story I will try to use the Sorceress Magica de Spell again. She's strictly non-political in any language!"
Notes: "
The Carl Barks Library - Set III" contains some information on the Comics Code (page 3B-523).

Lettering and nutmeg addiction

In a December 11, 2000 e-mail sent to the Disney Comics Mailing List, Donald Ault wrote about the "fibber" lettering, and about nutmeg:
Regarding US #39 Daniel van Eijmeren wrote:
The lettering of "fibber I am!" looks slightly different from the rest of the balloon's dialogue. Is this coincidence or could there originally have been something else? Does the lettering look like being done by somebody else than Carl or Gare Barks? The story is about Scrooge being addicted to nutmeg tea. If the dialogue has been changed, could it originally have contained a reference to his addiction (instead of a reference to his fibbing in the previous panel)? To me, the chain and the collar looks like a visualization of Scrooge's addiction: he's happy having his nutmeg tea again, but by pulling the chain he hints that he rather would get rid of being dependent of it. (At least before somebody discovers he's an addict.) What do you think of that?
The lettering of the word "fibber" and the spacing before and after it indicate that the published text differed from the original text Carl wrote for that panel (I've checked the original printing of US #39, and the text is identical to the reprinted versions, so the change must have occurred before the story went to press). The lettering looks to me as though it was probably done by Gare Barks, but that doesn't settle the question of WHEN it was done or for what reason. There may indeed have been some kind of reference to Scrooge's addiction, but in an interview with Carl on 5-29-73 I asked him about dimensions of his characters that showed up only once and then disappeared (like Scrooge's bad memory in "Back to the Klondike" or the addiction to nutmeg tea). Here is what Carl said at that time:
"Each was a gimmick, each was the vehicle or the running gag of the story. Like the story in which he was addicted to nutmeg tea. I've been beginning to get some clippings out of this underground comic called Cream that implies that he was a drug addict because he was addicted to nutmeg, because nutmeg taken in sufficient quantities can have an effect on your mind. The reason I chose nutmeg was that it was something that grew in the tropics and gave him an excuse to go to the tropics. Otherwise I could have said, 'codfish tails,' and sent him to Iceland."
This statement implies strongly that he didn't know about the actual addictive properties of nutmeg. That doesn't rule out the possibility that he may have wanted to close out the story with a reference in that final panel to the situation on the first page of the story and to Scrooge's feeling (financially) vulnerable if other people found out about his addiction that tea. Daniel's insight that the chain and collar symbolize Scrooge's addiction seems brilliant to me. I believe it's the kind of thing that (as Carl told me many times) "crept into" his stories without his being consciously aware of it. It's the kind of amazing "unintentional" meaning that pervades Carl's stories and contributes to their depth.

Donald Ault
Dept. of English
University of Florida

In a December 12, 2000 e-mail sent to the Disney Comics Mailing List, Stefan Dïos wrote about the "fibber" lettering:
I've also noticed this, as well as several other instances where the lettering seems different. Offhand, and without any further information, I'd say that the new lettering often looks like the one used in Tony Strobl stories. I think it's obvious that Barks' dialog was changed now and then... not too often, but it must have happened. I don't expect that the original wordings can be restored, but it would be very interesting to find out.

In a December 11, 2000 e-mail sent to the Disney Comics Mailing List, Kriton Kyrimis wrote:
> On internet, I found a page on nutmeg being a drug:
> "http://www.erowid.org/plants/nutmeg/nutmeg_faq.shtml"
Aaargh! I'd better throw away those numeg-flavored mashed potatoes that I made, before I get arrested!!!

If I remember correctly, these were supposed to be a special variety of nutmeg, which is why Scrooge could not simply get his nutmegs at a local store. The page you mention says that "the name nutmeg is also applied in different countries to other fruits or seeds", which means that these special nutmegs could be almost anything. However, the soothing (and possibly addictive?) effect that nutmeg tea had on Scrooge would seem to suggest that it was a bit less innocent than soda pop.

> Browsing through its contents, I'm surprised that this story got past the
> censors (concerning their standards).
I would assume that the people who okayed the story were not aware of the addictive qualities of nutmeg. I wonder if Barks knew, however, and used nutmeg on purpose.

In a December 13, 2000 e-mail sent to the Disney Comics Mailing List, Owen James Heitmann wrote about the "fibber" lettering:
My instant assumption is that the original dialogue had Scrooge referring to himself as a "liar". Since this is bad behaviour for a Disney character to promote, it was changed to the weaker "fibber". I admit that this is only a guess, but it does seem to fit with some of the type of changes that are known to have been made in Barks' stories.

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