I like Fred’s sudden appearance in Marvel’s adaptation. He walks into the office unannounced as the caption is still talking about how cold and miserable Cratchit is. Fred’s a dapper, young man who looks like a sea captain once he takes off his top hat. He’s not festively decked out, but he’s mostly smiles except for one bit where he loses his temper.
Though Marvel only uses a page-and-a-half for this scene, the dialogue between Scrooge and Fred is pretty much unaltered except for some very minor trimming and a couple of interesting substitutions. Instead of “What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough,” Doug Moench writes, “You’re poor as a door mouse.” That’s just a weird simile and I have no idea why Moench uses it. It doesn’t make anything clearer, unlike another change when Scrooge threatens that Cratchit’s in danger of losing his “job” instead of his “situation.”
The main page of this scene is rather text heavy, but I like how much of Fred’s speech it includes. It’s during the speech that he looks angry, or at least passionate, so that’s appropriate. In general, this scene is a lot better done than the introductory one. I also dig how as soon as Fred finishes his speech, he plops himself into a chair and lackadaisically invites Scrooge to dinner. It creates an almost bipolar Fred, but communicates the character pretty well in an abbreviated way. Fred is generally easy going, but he’s also passionate about Christmas and what it represents. Moench’s script even includes the line that I like so much about thinking “of people less fortunate as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
When Scrooge refuses the dinner invitation, Moench tweaks it just a little to read, “The day I dine with you will be the day we’re both roasting in –” He leaves it as unfinished as Dickens does, but also intensifies it. I wish he’d completed the line though, because there’s no good reason for Scrooge to cut it off. Fred does speak next, but it’s in a different panel, so it doesn’t appear that he’s interrupting. The rhythm sounds like Scrooge was ready to swear, but inexplicably censored himself.
The comic stays focused on Scrooge and Fred, so though Cratchit applauds Fred’s speech and Scrooge threatens Cratchit’s job, it’s only in one panel that shows Cratchit clapping from the shadows of the office. We don’t learn anything more about Scrooge and Cratchit’s relationship in this scene, except for when Fred leaves and says goodbye to the clerk. Moench includes the line (slightly altered), “There’s another lunatic – my clerk, earning fifteen shillings a week, with a wife and family, talking about being merry.”
He closes the scene with another interesting dialogue change. In Dickens, Scrooge says, “I’ll retire to Bedlam,” indicating that all this Christmasing is driving him crazy. Moench changes that to, “He’ll (referring to Cratchit) retire to bedlam.” It doesn’t have as nice a ring to it as Dickens’ line, but it’s actually funnier since Scrooge has just been talking about Cratchit’s wages. The only retirement plan Bob has is the insane asylum.
It also fits well with Dickens’ segue to the next scene when he writes, “This lunatic (again, referring to Cratchit), in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in.” In Dickens, that makes two potential lunatics: Cratchit and Scrooge. Moench condenses it to one.