When I began to read various Walt Disney comics I gravitated toward stories with Donald Duck and his family–Uncle Scrooge; Huey, Dewey, and Louis, and supporting cast. I didn’t care for Goofy or Mickey Mouse or Pluto, etc. It was the raucous, angry, impetuous Donald Duck I liked, and of his stories I began to discern that one artist stood out above all the rest. I didn’t know the guy’s name, but I sure as shit knew what his style of art was like.
So I’d go into the warehouse or back room where my dad was storing the comics to replenish his stock of used books and I’d pick through them and raid them for the ones I wanted to take home to read. For a while I targeted only Disney books and I’d look for covers I’d never seen and open them up to see if the “good artist” had illustrated them.
Around this time–eight years old–I was also reading books avidly and had realized that some writers were a hell of a lot better than others. I could depend on Ernest Thompson Seton, Ray Bradbury, and Jim Kjelgaard to deliver the kind of story I wanted to read. This had me wondering if the guys who drew the comics I liked the most were actually writing them.
What I began doing was looking through the comics to see if I could find a clue how the stories were produced. I asked my parents, and they didn’t know. Marvel Comics and DC Comics often labeled the creators (sometimes falsely, I later discovered, as in the case of the lying shill, Stan Lee). This was one way that I knew that sometimes one person wrote the stories and another guy drew them. But with the Disney comic books there was no such method and a total lack of evidence. All I knew was that there was one “good artist” who drew the Duck stories and the other guys sucked in comparison.
I remained ignorant of this good artist‘s name for some years, but what I began to do was look for clues to whether or not this same guy was also writing these amazing stories. And then, one day, sitting at the dining room table reading a story that featured Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge, I came to the last panel. Today all I can recall about the story was that it had, as a principle foil, an elephant in the storyline. I seem to recall that Uncle Scrooge ended up with the pachyderm and Donald did not. That final panel featured Donald. Nothing strange about that. The last panel should feature the title character.
…off in the corner of that final scene, on the horizon, was the silhouette of the elephant being led away by Uncle Scrooge using his cane as a kind of tether that the elephant was grasping with his trunk. This image was terribly small. Donald dominated the scene in the foreground, but the panel had been illustrated in such a way that your wandering eye led you to see these tiny silhouettes off in the distance.
And in that instant I realized that the guy who was drawing these amazing images was also spinning these wonderful yarns. No mere writer of scripts could possibly have included such an engaging and funny detail! Therefor, the guy drawing that story was also the man writing it!
It was only much later that I learned that the “good artist” was a fellow named Carl Barks and that he had been hand-picked from the animation department at Disney specifically to oversee the production, writing, and illustrating of all of the Duck stories for Dell Comics (and, later, Gold Key). Walt Disney himself chose Carl Barks, because back in those days Disney comic books published by Dell sold well over a million copies per issue! Each and every month. Disney knew that millions of kids would be seeing these comic books and reading these stories and it was important, almost paramount, that only the best of the best should produce the kind of comic books worthy of the Disney logo and trademark.
So…here’s to Carl Barks, the “good artist” whose work I picked out of the crowd, and who also made me realize that the guy who was drawing those wonderful tales was also writing them.
|Donald Duck, as portrayed flawlessly by the brilliant Carl Barks.|