Carl Barks was married three times. Just as in all marriages he experienced good and bad days with his wives, who were all quite different in their approach and support to their husband. This page will focus on a few essential and domestic events that had profound bearings on Barks' life - primarily as told by himself. You can see more detailed and 'statistical' information on Barks' immediate family HERE.

Important: Most of this page consists of bits and pieces from Barks' many interviews. In order to present them in a more readable and fluent manner some of the quotations have been slightly edited.




Birth name: Pearl Emmeline Turner.
Born 1904 - Died 1987.
Married to Carl from 1921 to 1930.

Carl's first wife, Pearl, was the daughter of William Turner, who managed the sawmill in Merrill, Oregon, close to Carl's homestead. Undoubtedly, Pearl and Carl must have met on several occasions during their childhood, but they first got to know each other much later.

Pearl had just graduated from high school when she married Carl: I was 20 and she was 16 when we got married, and neither of us should have gotten married. We did and had no intention of having any children, but accidentally we got one and then we got another one a little later on (Peggy Phyllis was born in 1923 and Dorothy Louise was born in 1924 - Editor's remark).

After their marriage in early 1921 Carl worked in a logging camp all summer. Then they bought a second-hand Ford (it was a real rattletrap, Barks later reminisced - Editor's remark) and headed for Coalinga's oil fields, where Carl hoped to find work. But immediately on arrival he realized that this kind of work was not for him. Instead, Pearl knew a married couple where the husband worked in a train assembly plant in Roseville and he got a job for Carl.
There he stayed for 6 grueling years hating every second, but he spent his spare time at his drawing board at home: I was always trying to figure out a comic strip or something I could do. That's what used to irritate my wife at that time. She was perfectly satisfied just to be the wife of a laborer on the railroad. That's all she wanted out of life. I was using our evenings and all of our spare time working at this darned stuff, and she would rather have been socializing, and so we gradually got to fighting all the time. Instead of socializing with my wife - play cards with the neighbors or something like that - I was sitting at the drawing board thinking up gags that I could write or draw. And she just couldn't stand that! She wanted a life like the other people around there had. She just got so hard to get along with. It got really awful...

They separated and Peggy and Dorothy went to stay with Carl's in-laws on their farm outside Merrill.

Soon after the split up Pearl found another man whom Carl later met: He was a wonderful man, but he was really taken. She just socked him for the amount of money to send her over to Reno to get a divorce, and she never even rewarded him by living with him for one day. Poor old guy! Lost all that money...

Later on, Pearl became a waitress for many years, and she ended her life in a nursing home suffering from some form of dementia. She died of breast cancer in 1987.


  Birth name: Clara Balken.
Born 1897(1898) - Died 1964.
Married to Carl from 1938 to 1951.

From 1931 Carl settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he worked at a girlie magazine named The Calgary EyeOpener: I met her when I was living in Minneapolis. She was a telephone operator in the apartment hotel where I lived. I was still married to my first wife.

In 1935 Carl landed a job at Disney's in Los Angeles, California: My girlfriend, who came with me from Minneapolis, quickly got a job in a printing plant. She was a very beautiful woman, who in Hollywood circles could have been a stand-in for Marlene Dietrich! (Later on, Clara unfortunately developed nerve damage to her nose, which distorted her features somewhat - Editor's remark).

In 1942 the couple moved to San Jacinto, and Clara worked with Carl when he began his comic book career: I taught her to black in my stuff, that is, put in the solid blacks with the brush, and she did that for me for several years (she also inked the borders around the panels - Editor's remark). But as she became more and more of an alcoholic, she got to where she would get on belligerent spells and try to tear up a bunch of my drawings. In fact, that first Uncle Scrooge (FC0386 Only a Poor Old Man - Editor's remark) I drew that in a motel down in Los Angeles, where I had taken refuge. She would have torn up my drawings - and probably chopped me up with a meat cleaver or something - on one of her big drunks.

But Clara's drinking problems progressed: She had a lot of talent for cooking, sewing ... and drinking. She came from a family that had a long record of alcoholism. And she just loved the taste of liquor. And so she kept drinking more and more, and finally she just got to the point that she was hostile and half crazy. And she would tear up my comic books and my drawings if I didn't get them out of sight. I had to just be walking on eggshells around her, because you never knew what time she would start being hostile and want to tear something up. She did tear up one or two pages that were just in the beginning stages, the pencil sketches. But she did take one of my whole 10-page stories after I'd practically finished it and threw it outside. Thank God, it was not muddy or wet out there; they all landed in the dirt.

1951 was a very turbulent year for the couple: My wife developed a little mole on the bottom of her foot (it was actually situated on her shin - Editor's remark), and she insisted that that was a cancer! She hunted up a doctor who was easy to convince, so he arranged for me to take her down to that big Scripps Institute in La Jolla, and there they took her into the operating room to remove this mole, and when she came out of there, she had the leg off (to the knee - Editor's remark), and all the leg glands taken out up in the groin. The doctor said as soon as they took the tissue out, well, they took a test on it and found out that it was cancerous tissue, and so they just went up the leg looking for where it would stop and cut it off.
The couple had no medical insurance: I was making enough money with all my cartoon work and doing those stories to pay all those doctor bills as I went along (FC0318 No Such Varmint was one of them - Editor's remark). Doctor bills weren't so high in those days; the bill for all that operating was only 800 dollars.
After the amputation and the recovery Carl constructed an artificial leg for his wife.

The year ended with a painful divorce: She divorced me in 1951, took everything I had except two blankets, my clothes, my drawing board, and my Geographics (Barks' copies of the National Geographics magazine - Editor's remark). And I paid her 250 dollars a month alimony for 13 years! Always paid her every month, and she used it to buy more booze.
Eventually she just died of cirrhosis of the liver. It was alcohol that killed her and it took 13 years to do it.


  Birth name: Margaret Wynnfred Barletta Williams.
Born 1917 - Died 1993.
Married to Carl from 1954 to 1993.

Margaret, who already from her school years was known as Garé, first met Carl briefly in 1942: She had seen a newspaper article about a nearby chicken farmer who dabbled with the drawing of some comic books and she went out there to see if he might have any work for her.
Little did she know that she met her future husband that day, because the farmer was Carl Barks: She came over to see me at a time when my second wife and I were in San Jacinto. I was drawing the comic books and a little article had been printed about me in the newspaper, about how I was working on duck comic strips, and I guess Garé had heard about it, and she thought, maybe I might have some work that she could help out. She was a graduate of art school in Boston and she needed some kind of employment, so she could use some of her talent.
She came over and talked and asked about it. I thought it all over, and I thought, well, do I want to take on the responsibility of an assistant, and how much work could I provide for this girl, if I did? And so I handed her a bunch of duck model sheets and told her to practice on those and see what she could do in the way of inking and so on. She tried it out and let me know that she found it much too difficult.
Shortly after that she got a job down at McDonnell Douglas, where they were building airplanes. The war was on, and she was in the drafting department, lettering the drafting pages.

In 1952 Garé had gone through a painful divorce and she happened to meet Carl again. By coincidence he visited a country art show of which Garé was in charge (she was an extremely gifted landscape painter all of her life - Editor's remark) and they got to talking.
This time she was given work doing lettering (which Carl detested), drawing and inking some backgrounds for the comic books. A task she would carry out for him until he retired.
I persuaded her to try out on the lettering. She had been working at an aircraft office during the war, doing drafting of these big bombers and so on, so she had gotten to have a wonderful lettering style. Garé started doing lettering and inking in all the background details in about October of 1952. She'd ink in all those things. And she would put in the solid blacks in the ducks' jackets, and the eyeballs, and so on.

She kept doing more and more of it, and I was paying her more and more, and finally we decided, hell, what's the use of going on like this? We might as well get married and pool the money all in one bundle. The couple was married in Reno, Nevada, in 1954.

Throughout her husband's remaining comic book career Garé would make suggestions for his backgrounds and she was even co-writer on U$04 'The Menehune Story' which partially takes place on her native soil in Hawaii. She was also his only sparring partner in his work, and her opinion and suggestions were very valued by Carl.

Later, in their golden years, Garé introduced Carl to the world of painting and, again, she turned out to be a valued help and critic.

From the early 1980s Garé experienced growing health problems from cancer, but she was still working long hours at her beloved easel almost every day. Garé's deteriorating health and the fact that she eventually needed to sit in a wheel-chair caused her husband to design the couple's last dwelling. But she died just a few days after they moved in.

See more about Garé's life HERE and her work HERE.   Date 2007-01-30