Il Diabolico Vendicatore!
August 8, 2008 7:50 AM   Subscribe

In the wake of The Scarlet Pimpernel, countless figures have flamboyantly stalked the night. Among them were the scofflaw Arsene Lupin and his more violent contemporary, Fantomas. So influential was the latter that imitators soon arose, plying their merciless wiles on others. Among them were Fu Manchu, the nefarious Dr. Mabuse, the hooded Diabolik, and Matt Wagoner's Grendel. Not even Donald Duck was immune from the seductive lure of crime.

In the late 1960s, Italian comic creators Elisa Penna, Guido Martina, and Giovan Battista Carpi were commissioned by the Walt Disney Company to produce overseas versions of Mickey Mouse's adventures. In seeking ideas for new storylines, the trio conceived of an ode to the Fantomas legend; in their tale, the bumbling, short-tempered Donald Duck was transformed into the sinister, cooly-scheming Paperinik. From his secret lair, Donald's twisted alter ego sowed the seeds of distrust upon his Uncle $crooge and cousin Gladstone, as a humiliating punishment for perceived slights. The comic quickly developed a cult following, as PK (or Phantom Duck), displayed a more anarchic side to the more progressively staid actions of the Disney menagerie.

Alas, in a fate which similarly affected Diabolik, Paperinik was considered too anti-social a character, and was subsequently softened. Instead of using others as pawns for their disposal, both figures instead were recast as protectors of the innocent. It was in this incarnation that Donald would be remembered as a webbed parody of Batman. With Disney's success in licensing the duck as a mascot for the University of Oregon, as well as a brand of orange juice, the last thing the corporate giant wanted was for their windfall to be associated with roughhousing, or even cold-blooded murder.
posted by Smart Dalek (9 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? Is he in hell?
Thad damned, elusive Pimpernel.


Nice post, Smart Dalek. I'd forgotten all about the Disney take-off.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:06 AM on August 8, 2008

Good post, but why include the Scarlet Pimpernel? He was All Good. Not only was he All Good, he was a Duke - ooooooh! - and he made sweet love to the beauteous Marguerite. I know this because I found a Reader's Digest Condensed Book edition in a vacation house when I was 12 or 13 and read it over and over again for years, mooning over the Scarlet Pimpernel and wishing I was Marguerite. Really, there was nothing anti-heroic about the Scarlet Pimpernel - he was on a mission to rescue the poor miserable wrongfully imprisoned aristocrats from the evil, scoundrelly, depraved revolutionaries so the aristocrats could get back to their lives of leisure supported on the backs of the people, whipping peasants and, yeah. . well. . . okay. Maybe he was an antihero after all.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:17 AM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wow, damn interesting post, SD.
posted by humannaire at 8:27 AM on August 8, 2008

While not a true villain, the Pimpernel was perceived (to some capacity by other characters) as a roguish affront to established authority, not to mention a stealthy character of mystery. From those standpoints, the character can be seen as a template for benevolent (Zorro, Batman, etc.) vigilantes, or calculating scoundrels alike.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:27 AM on August 8, 2008

Paging Henry C. Mabuse. Great post Smart Dalek.
posted by tellurian at 8:45 AM on August 8, 2008

The Grendel comic's author is named Matt Wagner, not Wagoner, and he seems a bit anachronistic in the company of these others.
Now that I've vented my comic-book-store-guy spleen, though, I have to agree: great post.
posted by $0up at 11:45 AM on August 8, 2008

The Scarlet Pumpernickel.
posted by Dr-Baa at 1:21 PM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

God, I just love a stylish villain. It takes a special kind of motivation to not only do all sorts of evil and naughty things, and do them with skill and brio, but to get your fop on as well. That shows a level of dedication and craftsmanship you simply must tip your (most assuredly austentatious and amazing) hat to.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:30 PM on August 8, 2008

Quite educational, Smart Dalek! I'd be interested to know if there were any deliberate links between Donald as Paperinik and Disney's subsequent 1990s animated series Darkwing Duck.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:34 PM on August 10, 2008

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