Saturday, March 27, 2010

The GOOD Duck Artist - Carl Barks!

Born March 27, 1901, Carl Barks would have been 109 years old today!

During my series on the "History of Golden Age Comic Books" I am focusing on the super hero genre, but there were a lot of other things happening in other fields of comic books at the time. Like a lot of comics, they were often published without a byline, especially in the field of humor comics. Even more especially in the line of Disney comics.

Walt was after all working hard to "brand" everything that came out of his studio, so most every thing simply said "by Walt Disney". This was a great way to gain a footprint in the publics' consciousness, but the downside was, allot of great artists went unheralded. The deal was though, that even we feeble minded comics readers could tell one issue was drawn by someone different that another issue, and though he was unidentified, Carl became known for his work on Donald Duck stories as "The GOOD Duck Artist". The public discovered his true identity as comics fandom grew in the 1960's and 1970's, and fandom was able to let Carl know how much he was appreciated.

Carl Barks went to work for the Walt Disney studio in 1935 working as an inbetweener animator and eventually a story man, working closely with Donald Duck director Jack Hannah. So closely, in fact, that when Western Publishing was doing it's first Donald Duck comic book for United States publication, it was Jack who did half the book and Carl who did the other.

By 1942, Carl was becoming unhappy with the war time working conditions at the studio (money was tight and the war department took over a lot of the studio to produce content for them), and he had also suffered from am on-going sinus condition which was aggravated by the air conditioning in the studio. He opted to resign his job at Disney and move to Hemet, CA. (still the arm pit of the Inland Empire) and become a chicken farmer.

He didn't do very well as a chicken guy, so to subsidize himself he contacted Western Publishing again to see if they had any more work. Carl went to work on Donald Duck comics and didn't stop until 1966!

Carl's was influenced by adventure story tellers like Hal Foster's work on Prince Valiant, so his duck stories began to more and more incorporate adventure into the humor of Duckburg. His classic stories of Donald Duck and his nephews going on grand adventures are legendary in the world of comics. At one point he invented a one-shot character for a Christmas story, Donald's Uncle Scrooge McDuck. This one-shot character took off and Carl's Uncle Scrooge is probably the most famous Disney character NOT to be created for animation, but who was really born from a Hemet chicken farmers pen.

There are lots of bigger appreciators of Barks than I who know a lot more about the incredibly detailed stories he did. Lots of folks still talking about him 10 years after he passed away too.

Doug Grey over at his great blog "The Greatest Ape" has done a number of postings about Carl, check them here!

Coincidentally, over at the "Ten Cent Dreams" blog, Lysdexicus is focusing this week on comics with giant robot antagonists and protagonists, and just yesterday spotlighted a Barks Uncle Scrooge/giant robot story! Check it out here!

Here's my contribution to the Barks birthday! Click the pics to won't be sorry!

Lots of stuff to see, but hell man, it's Saturday! Take your computer out to the back yard and sit under a tree and have some adventure with Barks' Ducks!

Thanks Carl! For taking the time to fill your comics with so much!


Lysdexicuss said...

Fantastic, Jeff~! I am adding your blog to my blog list~! This bio of Barks is wonderful~!

Jeff Overturf said...

Mch appreciated Lysdexicuss!

I really have been enjoying your blog too!

Pokey said...

I've noted the strange rhyme of Carl Barks and Karl Marx and the perhaps coincidence of his last name, given his use of dogs (.e.g the Beagle Boys)...thanks..used to read these..:)
SC - a clay pony who hangs out with Gumby and is chased by weird block-headed people.

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