Barks was a loner for the greater part of his life. This became evident when he started his career at Disney's. When his colleagues went to the nearby pubs to relax he seldom joined in. He usually kept working in the studio. One reason might have been that his hearing impairment became troublesome when he was among a lot of people. This was the reason that he disliked the numerous storyboard meetings he was forced to attend.
But, of course, Barks met a great number of people throughout his life - both personally and professionally. Below you will find some of the more interesting ones.
Disney with fans
|Barks very seldom met his
employer when working at the Disney studios. That was not
unusual as he was just one of hundreds of employees. One
of the few times they did meet was when Barks dreamt up
the famous gag for the animated short Modern
Inventions in which Donald has a hard time with
a barber's chair.
When Walt Disney came to see him to pay a special bonus of 50 dollars for the idea. The amount should be seen in light of the fact that the 'ordinary' gag men received 4 or 5 dollars per idea.
When Disney came to pay the bonus, Barks was in a conference discussing the upcoming cartoon with its director Jack King, and Disney resolutely sat himself down and took part in one hour of brainstorming. He listened with great interest to the many ideas flying around and he contributed the idea of giving the barber's chair the gift of speech and talk just as a barber would talk to his customers. Barks and King agreed to the propostion.
From then on Barks only met his boss about ten times per year in connection with the storyboard meetings before which Disney always announced he was coming. As a whole Barks was content that Disney did not look over his employees' shoulders.
Though Barks met a great number of instructors, gag men, writers and illustrators in his time at Disney's only one was to become a colleague. It was Jack Hannah.
Barks and Hannah in 1982
|Jack Hannah was working
as a cartoonist but he had grown tired of it and now
tried to get into the script department where Barks
already worked. Hannah did not know much about
storytelling but he was a whiz on cartooning thus the two
men quickly became colleagues. Together they dreamt up a
number of good stories.
Finally one day Lady Luck smiled at Barks. The writer Bob Karp presented the two colleagues with a cartoon script which had been shelved long before. It had been given the working titles 'Pieces of Eight', 'The Three Buccaneers' and 'Morgan's Ghost' before it got shelved. After a thorough examination of a synopsis and an overwhelming number of storyboard sketches in which Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Goofy starred, they both agreed to transform the script into a comic book story. Bob Karp rewrote the story, Barks and Hannah illustrated - 'Donald Duck finds Pirate Gold' was conceived.
Throughout the summer of 1942 the two friends used most of their spare time at their drawing boards working on the project. It was done during their own time as they were both still working in the script department at Disney's.
They divided the material, each ending up with 32 pages. It is extremely difficult to pinpoint who did what. In general Hannah stuck to the modelsheets agreed upon while Barks took a more casual approach. In the bubbles Hannah often used bold letters with exclamations. Barks seldom did. But it can be revealed that Barks was responsible for pages 1, 2, 5 and 12 through 40.
One can imagine the sheer terror the two men must have felt when finally contacting Western who carried the licence for the Disney comics. But there were no problems. The publisher desperately needed new material - and new illustrators. They had been reproducing Sunday strips in their comic books for a long time. Barks' and Hannah's work was promptly accepted. Hannah slowly vanished from Barks' life as the latter courageously quit the Disney Studios to concentrate on drawing ducks full-time. One reason for this decision came from Al Taliaferro.
||Charles Alfred Taliaferro had taught himself the art of
drawing through a mail order course and in 1931 he was
employed by Disney in the cartoon studios. The following
year he concentrated on comic stories drawing Mickey
Mouse and others.
Then a new Disney character was born on the silver screen. In the summer of 1934 Donald Duck got his debut in a cameo role in the classic cartoon 'The Wise Little Hen'. Taliaferro was given the opportunity of drawing and developing the duck for one-pagers at Western. He was still active in that capacity when Barks entered the scene.
At first Taliaferro took over an uninteresting and unfinished duck who just waddled squaking about without any interesting features, but in a short time he managed to make Donald into a more facetted figure with both good and bad sides - just like most people. Since his drawings were extremely well-crafted, the readers quickly recognized his talents. Taliaferro also invented a few other characters which later on would enter Barks' duck world.
Both Grandma Duck and the colossal dog Bornworthy would from time to time appear in Barks' stories but Taliaferro's greatest stroke of genius undoubtedly was the introduction of Huey, Dewey and Louie. Without their presence one might suspect Donald Duck to have been a rather short-lived affair.
But they had all been invented when Barks started his career at Western which gave him a platform to start from.
WDCS0031 'The Victory Garden'
|There is a great deal of
confusion about the publisher that employed Barks for 24
straight years. They had many names, including: Western Printing &
Lithographing, Western Publishing Company, Whitman, K.K.
Publications, Gold Key and Dell - the latter was responsible for most of the
comics containing Barks' material - but it is more or
less the same company. The most commonly used among
Barksists seems to be Western so that is used on this
In 1943 Western decided to stop reproducing Sunday strips in their comic books so they could publish brand new stories. Barks responded to an ad they ran. He immediately received the script for a Donald Duck ten-pager which he finished after having altered a few details. The Victory Garden was the result. And the folks at Western were ecstatic.
From then on Barks did all his work at home. Every month until 1946 he and his second wife made the 400 kilometer long car trip south to the Western office in Los Angeles. All illustrators - and clerks, assistants and secretaries - then gathered around the strong-willed and dominating Eleanor Packer's huge desk to present their work.
At these sessions the versatile illustrator Carl Buettner would normally act as their spokesman reading the stories out loud with great enthusiasm. The purpose of the sessions was that Packer wanted to perceive how a child would react to the comic stories.
adored Buettner's facial expressions and accentuations
and this was especially true for Barks who always placed
himself in the background, enjoying the appreciation he
received from his colleagues. In 1978 he admitted that he
- like any actor - loved to hear his work praised.
One day Packer asked Barks to draw some characters other than the ducks. Western published a great number of comics containing talking animals but many of them had been languishing and she now wanted Barks to pep them up. This was a great recognition of his talents but Barks did not feel that way. He drew Barney Bear, Benny Burro, Droopy, Anda Panda, Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny but he disliked the work. The characters were too restrictive in their storylines and not suitable for the sparkling imagination of Barks. When it turned out that it was necessary to redraw his Bugs Bunny heads, Packer finally gave in and let him continue with his beloved duck universe.
It was very rare for an illustrator to be allowed to work at home. It was also unusual that he worked alone. The normal procedure was for different writers and illustrators to be assigned to work together and be given a synopsis of a story but Barks did it all alone. Until he married Garé...
||Barks designed and built
a studio at his home. He worked every day from 1 to 10 p.m.
His productivity was colossal and he did it all by
himself. Until 1954, when his third wife Margaret Wynnfred Williams would lend him a hand.
Garé (short for Margaret) was born in Hawaii and learned to be a marvellous landscape painter. This was even more impressive as she was born without most of her left arm. She finished art class and for the rest of her life she created grand and colourful paintings which even inspired her husband in his work. By the way, many of the paintings were reproduced as post cards.
She would make suggestions for Barks' backgrounds and she was even co-writer on U$04 'The Menehune Story' which takes place on her native soil. When she learned that her husband disliked doing the text in the speech bubbles, Garé offered to take over this chore, which she continued to do until 1966 when Barks retired. Kind and gentle soul that she was, she even took over the boring chore of inking all the large black areas.
On a few occasions she actually
drew whole panels for her husband. In the early summer of 1955
the couple had arranged for a small vacation and Barks had to
finish two stories before they could leave. These were the long
adventure U$09 The Lemming with the Locket and the ten-pager WDCS182
'Grandma's Bull' in which Donald borrows Grandma Duck's
normally peaceful bull, which then runs amuck in a china display
room at an exhibition.
Several years later Barks shivered as he recalled finishing those two particular stories:
We longed to get away on our vacation but I needed to finish the stories. And of course they were the ones that took longer time to finish than so many others. One frame called for numerous lemmings and in the bull story I had mounts of china to draw. Luckily Garé came to my assistance and when we at long last finished the last damned lemming we cheered so much that our good neighbours came running. They knew we were under a deadline and they congratulated us.
By 1966 Barks was ready for retirement and he and Garé prepared for his golden years. Barks was also becoming interested in the enchanting world of painting.
||Barks did not get the peaceful retirement he was planning. In 1981, two of his fans, Bruce Hamilton and Russ Cochran, formed a company by the name Another Rainbow Publishing which aimed to show the world the genius of Barks' paintings. The pensioner had been producing one colourful and detailed painting after another for fans for more than a decade and the two men - who had become good friends of Barks - had helped him with the sales. The result was the imposing art book with the equally imposing title The Fine Art of Walt Disney´s Donald Duck by Carl Barks. The book lavishly reproduced all of the 122 paintings he had finished by that time. To obtain the splendid results, no fewer than 50 photographers from USA and Canada were asked to photograph the paintings. The photos needed extra attention to secure the best possible reproduction as the normal printing process only consists of 4 colours. They succeeded and Barks was satisfied. The book had a run of 1,875 copies - all signed by Barks personally!|
|Another Rainbow also
began producing fine lithographs of many of the paintings
and Barks - the gentle man - signed them all carefully.
What a retirement...
Front for Cassette No. 1
|But there was to be more.
In 1983 Another Rainbow launched an even more ambitious
project. They were about to publish all of Barks' stories
and front covers in a monumental opus of unequalled
dimensions. It was called The Carl Barks Library (CBL) and consisted of 30 voluminous luxury books
in 10 boxed sets (i.e. 3 books to a set). They also
contained numerous new contributions from both Barks and
other artists. Furthermore the books were filled with
many sketches and modelsheets. It took a good 7 years to
finish the giant undertaking but it was certainly worth
waiting for as the comic stories are perfectly reproduced
- mostly in black and white. They also incorporated vast
amounts of Disney material unknown to the public until
The books have left Barks with undying fame. Could anybody ever follow him?
THE NEW GENERATION
Even before Barks
retired, other Disney artists were using the characters he
invented in the duck universe. Disney did not allow its artists
to sign their work but sharp eyed fans could distinguish Barks'
work from the others and he became known among the fans as 'The
Today a few notable artists are carrying on in the master's tradition. This page only has room to mention a few of them...
||Keno Don Hugo
Rosa was born in Kentucky in 1951. He grew up
with Barks' comic stories. He got an education as an
engineer but he was already known for his cartoon
drawings which began in the school years and continued in
comics fanzines. Although he considered it to be a hobby
he telephoned Byron Erickson, the editor of Gladstone
Publishing, in 1987 and asked if he could create a story.
(Gladstone's had taken over the American Disney-licence
from Western the year before - confusing, isn't it?).
Anyway, the editor was positive and Rosa produced his
first duck story The Son of the Sun.
In early 1990 Rosa went to the Danish Gutenberghus Group, originally named Gutenberghus but nowadays called Egmont (Danes can be confusing, too!). Shortly after, the same Byron Erickson joined as editor...
was born in 1942 in the north Italian city of Milan. At
29 he was employed at the Italian Disney's named
Montadori but his approach to illustrations was
contradictory to the standard format for duck comics in
the country. The Italians like a violent, chaotic and
unprecise style but Rota's drawings were detailed, serene
His method of work is similar to that of Barks as he starts off with a basic idea. If it looks promising, he writes a synopsis supplemented by storyboard drawings, and then plosihes the story. However, sometimes he finishes a few pages in ink before he fully scripts the story. Occasionally he is given a finished script that he is asked to illustrate.
||The man who perhaps is
closest to Barks' drawing style is the Dutch artist Daan
Jippes. His drawings are very clear and have a
nice elasticity. But unfortunately he spends much of his
time re-working old classics for the Dutch comic books.
Some of this work are restorations as the original
material have been lost in the Disney archives.
Unfortunately they decided during the fifties to transfer
vast amounts of drawings on to microfilm in order to save
storage space - the originals were then destroyed. And
that was most unfortunate because the microfilm was not
as durable as hoped.
In 1975 Jippes started a collaboration with Danish Milton and this partnership resulted in some highly praised duck stories.
|Jippes' frontcovers are gems - both in imagination and technique. They bear a strong resemblance to the brilliance of the legendary Mickey Mouse illustrator Paul Murry. Unfortunately for Barksists, Jippes is now working in many other genres, but nevertheless it will be exciting to follow his career.|
||Even Denmark has its
share of competent Barks followers and the versatile Freddy
Milton who was born near the Jutland city of
Viborg in 1948 is a most worthy successor. His drawings
are as clear and elastic as Jippes' but they are not
'muddled' with details. It is too easy to loose
control then, he once stated.
Milton's forte is his scripts which are carefully written. He works in his own style - as does Jippes - and they both are expanding their horizons, which Milton finds invigorating, yet they are always following the format of the duck universe has been designed by Barks.
Milton was also the driving force behind the much praised Danish fanzine Carl Barks & Co.