In his 25
consecutive years as a comic book artist Carl Barks had no means
of knowing that the preliminary work for his stories would
someday be of interest and value to a lot of fans. As any other
artist, Barks had to do a certain amount of drafts - in his case
synopses, texts and sketches - in order to develop the finished
product. And he never saved any of his drafts for posterity. Why
should he? At the time comics were simply a reading matter with
no special value. We do not save our quickly scribbled notes of
today, thinking that they might be of interest to someone in a
distant future, either.
Had Barks' multiple drafts been saved, they would have presented us with a valuable source to understanding how he was working and thinking. Instead we were only left with a few scattered pieces of information about his stories that Barks remembered when asked later in life.
Barks was approached by his former publisher, Western, in the
1970s to make drafts for a handful of Junior Woodchucks stories,
and he agreed. This time things were different; Barks was now
seen as a very special artist, and everybody who knew him - or
knew of him - was interested in everything he made, even rough
drafts. So Barks saved his drafts for these stories, undoubtedly
shaking his head over the publishers, biographers and fans who
could not get enough of his work. A few times he even sold some
of his sketches, but then he would always insist on touching them
up a bit rendering them more presentable...
Most of Barks' drafts have since been published several times, and this website would also like to present you with a few to give you a little bit of insight in how the man worked, how he changed things during the process, and how he slowly reached the final stages. The JW story Wailing Whalers, published in 1972 in HDL15, has been chosen as an example. Common for all Barks' JW stories from the 1970s is that he did not ink, i.e. finish, them. To give you an idea how they looked in the published comic books, at the bottom of this page you will be shown two different artists' finished drawings based on Barks' work.
Officer: Great "Blubber Tub"
JW's + Officer are in an open boat at sea to
observe passing of gray whales.
A whale comes up under the boat, capsizes it.
Rough skin of whale "sandpapers" O's bottom.
JW's in sea - sharks. A ship (Uncle
Argument develops with S
over morals of killing off
Suddenly a "whale"
surfaces nearby. A crewman
|Barks wrote an 18-pager titled Wailing Whalers about protecting endangered whales from hunters. Above you see a small part of the beginning of the first synopsis he scribbled down. Barks wrote his synopses on yellow paper with a pencil, which accounts for the relatively poor reproduction shown here. A transcription, line by line, is to the right.|
T U B B A...B L U B B E R
as well as
bellwether of Brobdignagian
is no doubt, that Barks got a great kick out of inventing
lengthy and bombastic titles for the JWs, titles that
would always fit the situation and locale. This story is
no exception. Observe how Barks played around with the
officer's title in order to get just the right one. In
this case it ended up being:
Towering, Unperturbable Bellwether of Brobdingnagian Adventures and Belchfiring Larruper of Unsavory Beachrats, Buccaneers, and Ecology Ravagers.
A complete list of all the JW titles (from the comic book years as well as from the 1970s) can be enjoyed HERE.
1-2-3-4-5-6. Wailing Whalers
Officer + troop are at sea
in an open boat.
7. Officer: "Not
quite, General Dewey! .. At least
|When Barks had finished the synopsis for his story he began to break it down into panels (a so-called shooting script), in which he described the changing locales and prepared the exact dialogue for the speech bubbles. Again, you are presented with the beginning of the story. Observe how Barks has erased some words and passages in paragraphs 7 and 8.|
|Now came what Barks used to refer to as the fun part. He began sketching the pages and the panels. This is the story's first half-page panel. Although it is just a very rough outline you can already make out details in the composition such as the officer's stern look and the six JWs consisting of no less than four kinds of animal characters (from left to right: chicken, pig, bear, ducks).|
did not ink any of his 1970s JW stories himself. That was
the agreement Barks made with Chase Craig, the publisher
at Western at the time. Barks knew from Day One that this
part of the job would have taken him far too much time,
and he was already heavily engaged with his paintings. So
Western let different staff members do the inking. Tony
Strobl is the most well-known, but in this case Kay
Wright did the job (above left). Observe how he generally
failed to give Barks' vivid and strong sketch full
justice; the officer has more of a dumb look on his face,
and the waves have rounded tops rendering them more
The Dutch artist Daan Jippes later redrew the story (above right). In the past years he has redrawn several of Barks' stories and his art is exquisite. Observe how the officer and the waves now are back to Barks' outlines. Jippes even pays homage to Barks by adding a mouse family sitting on a bottle, a gimmick that Barks himself used in several of his own stories.