Carl Barks made a large number of Disney duck comic book adventure stories that starred Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, and the nephews. The main storylines had a loose similarity as they started in Duckburg with an event triggering the beginning of a perilous journey to some faraway location. Often, Scrooge would return loaded with valuables, whereupon the Ducks had to content themselves with a reluctant token of appreciation, sometimes in the form of starvation wages...
The story on this page is one of Barks' earlier Scrooge adventures, and it is groundbreaking in a number of ways that would foretell further brilliant and intelligent stories to come. It was published in Western Publishing's issue U$07 in 1954 without an official title, but it is most commonly referred to as The Cibola Story. The breathtaking epic has since been taken to heart by huge numbers of fans, and it
remains one of the most often published Barks stories outside the USA (see more HERE). This is the story.





Scrooge lacks excitement in his life so he follows Donald and the nephews to the desert in order to collect arrowheads. They also find seven golden cities located in a secret mountain formation.

The story fills 28 pages. It is divided into two major parts:
First, a depressed Scrooge drifts around Duckburg without any purpose, until he meets his nephews. They arrange for a, hopefully, profitable trek collecting Indian arrowheads in the nearby desert. By chance, the Beagle Boys overhear their plans and decide to follow them into the desert.
The second part plays out deep in the desert in which the ducks are digging around and they see themselves as real pioneers as they stride through the unwelcoming and unknown parts of the desert, but with limited results.

Upon finding an ancient galleon they use the Junior Woodchucks Guide Book in combination with inspired guesswork, after which they happen to stumble over a fabled area consisting of no less than seven Indian pueblos containing immense wealth. The area was searched for by the Spanish conquistadors centuries before, but in vain.
The ducks' findings constitute one of the greatest feat in the history of archaeology, but on their way back from the area they, along with the Beagle Boys, get struck by a massive rockslide. This accident causes them to lose their new gotten wealth and it also triggers a case of common amnesia; the intrepid discoverers forget what they have seen as they dig themselves out of the rubbles...

Editorial feature:
Taking two stories for a comparison will offer an excellent insight as to how Barks was able to switch between means of expression. In 1954 he made U$07 'Cibola' and five years later he presented U$26 The Prize of Pizarro. Both stories are closely related in their choice of theme - the ducks are looking for gold from an old Spanish galleon - but they are very different in their construction.
' is a forceful, solemn, archaeological, and almost educational story which starts off with action in a most realistic way. Apart from one single frame in the beginning the story it is completely stripped from gags and the whole thing floats quietly along. All the action that normally characterizes the long adventures is gone. This is not a real adventure. Not even the Beagle Boys contribute very much to the story. They are only there as fillers. As a matter of fact they could be have been omitted.
' is quite a different story. It runs rapidly and in the very beginning Barks presents the plot when Scrooge finds an old treasure letter. The scene is set. The adventure can begin. The story is loaded with gags, for instance as Scrooge stubbornly only reads one sentence from the letter at a time resulting in various dangerous situations for the ducks along the way. As they are closing in on their goal, Barks turns to pure farce in the description of the traps the Indians erected 400 years earlier in an attempt to keep the tall Spaniards away.



This story of a simple desert outing that turned into a dangerous search for fabulous treasures is sprinkled with real settings and dubious historical ones. The Indian trail where the ducks find arrowheads is real. The 'Lost Ship of the Desert' is questionable, although many old-timers claimed to have seen it (see more HERE - Editor's remark).

The plot of Seven Cities of Cibola actually came from local contacts (at the time Barks lived in the San Jacinto area, 120 kilometres east of Los Angeles, California - Editor's remark). My wife, Garé, and I went down to Indio, California, to see Al Koch, the manager of the Riverside County welfare office. He was quite an authority on Indian tribes that had lived around here for generations - their history, the tribal names, the things they did.
He said he would take us to an old Indian trail that went over the top of a mesa out by Thousand Palms. He thought that the Arizona tribes and the tribes on the West coast had used it as a trade route. There was one type of seashell that made beautiful necklaces. The California Indians would carry these shells all the way across the desert, over the Colorado River, and into Arizona, possibly even to Cibola, where these fabled seven cities were. They would trade them there for turquoise and the beautiful things that the Arizona Indians made, then come back. The traffic went on for thousands of years.
Al said: When you see that trail, you'll know that it must have been traveled for thousands of years because you can see the trail in that hard desert soil on top of the mesa, and the Indians had worn it that deep wearing only soft moccasins. So we went up there and looked at the old Indian trail.

Later, he and I had several martinis and got to talking about all the possibilities. The ducks could follow the trail and find the Seven Cities of Cibola. The more we drank the more grandiose the idea seemed. When Garé and I came home that night, I thought of it for a while, and it still seemed very good. But the next morning, when I thought it over, I felt I had only enough for a 10-page story. Just the ducks following an old trail across the desert, and what did they get into? Lizards? I decided I couldn't use rattlesnakes very well. The ducks could get cactus thorns in their feet, they could get thirsty - I was trying to think of things they could do. They could come to the Colorado River and maybe get half-drowned trying to get across. Then they could go into the mountains on the other side. Well, so what? I thought there had to be something more to go in there to fill up the spaces and make it more interesting.

It happened that I was in a restaurant a couple of days later having a hamburger. There was an old hillbilly type of rancher in there. He was telling some guy about the 'Lost Ship of the Desert', a wild legend I'd heard of before. I was really cupping my weak ears to try to hear everything he had to say (Notice that, in the story, the Beagle Boys are doing just that when they hear the ducks talking in a café - Editor's remark). He told of deck railings that were still sticking up. The wood was very well preserved from having been covered with sand. He said it wasn't a very big ship, just a small galleon that could have sailed up the Colorado River. He thought that perhaps a tidal wave had washed it so far in from the sea and that in the four hundred years since then, the river might have changed its course.
It seemed worthwhile to go to the library and see what I could find on that 'Lost Ship of the Desert'. There was evidence that a Spanish expedition did lose a ship up the Colorado and evidence that a great tidal wave had once roared up the river. It was a nice gimmick to have the ducks find this ship and tie it in with the Seven Cities of Cibola by having the bowsprit point right to the cleft in the rocks.

But even with all the material I had assembled up to that time, I still needed something. I needed a menace. The Beagle Boys being in there constantly created suspense and danger. Their finally pulling over the booby trap was just the thing I had to have. So all these elements were the result of walking along an old Indian path and later hearing a long-winded old guy talking in a restaurant. And since Al Koch had suggested the whole idea, I drew him into the 12th page of the story, booting the Beagle Boys out of his office.



This early story offers quite a lot of interesting texts and intriguing pieces of information as well as novel types of panel ideas, many of which Barks would take up in later stories. Here are some diverse examples:

In the 1980s Barks was asked to give titles to some of his untitled adventure stories. He suggested The Seven Cities of Gold. Maybe he inadvertently chose the title from a film release by the same title from 1955?

In one single panel Barks divulges the whereabouts for some of the story by drawing a road sign marked Thousand Palms, a well-known resort just north of Indio. Barks lived to the west near the area.

The ducks' findings constitute one of the greatest feat in the history of archaeology, as they find numerous large stone tubs filled with sorted gems such as diamonds, opals, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds...

The story offers several pieces of new information about Scrooge: He owns oil wells, railroads, gold mines, farms, factories, steamships, theatres, sawmills, stores, radio stations, canneries, fisheries, race horses, newspapers, auto factories, and peanut wagons.
Also, Barks supplied him with one of his many eloquent word labels to illustrate Scrooge's wealth in a convincing and overpowering way. He is called a fantasticatrillionaire...

Of course, the nephews brought their Junior Woodchucks Guide Book along to read from. Examples:
On trying to find their way through the Mojave desert: Travelers afoot in hot deserts should set their course toward shade! On finding a Spanish galleon in the sand: might be the 'Lost Ship of the Desert', which has been seen several times in the last centuries. It is believed to be a real ship that is uncovered at times by desert wind storms!

In a few stories Barks used almost totally blackened panels in order to get a message across to the reader. Mostly, he wanted to make sure that the reader was as much 'in the dark' as his characters at a given point!
In this sort of panel Barks was often helped by his wife Garé who always inked the large, black spots (and the dialogue) for him...
Above is an example of these not often seen blotted panels.

Barks would sometimes experiment with silhouettes, but they were not well received by his publisher Western, as they preferred clear renderings (see more HERE).

When Barks drew Spanish galleons on a number of occasions he used the British explorer Sir Francis Drake's ship Golden Hind as his reference.

In many stories Barks placed fun written statements in the backgrounds such as this example from the story (see more HERE).

During the story a total of 9 Beagle Boys are seen according to their prison number signs, but only 6 are kicked out of the welfare office, 4 are present at the diner, and 5 are travelling the desert. So how many were really in that story?

A light graphics panel would typically be one in which no characters are present. In the story Barks made this illustration of the beginning of a rockslide. Notice how he strengthened the actions by adding an 'appropriate' word.

It would seem that Scrooge from time to time suffers from diverse ailments as well as physical or mental predicaments. The first was disclosed in FC0456 Back to the Klondike in which he suffered badly from amnesia. In this story he has depression.

A little known fact is that it was one of the few stories that Barks' wife Garé inked in greater parts!



The idea for the story came about in 1954, when Barks' imagination was triggered by a visit to his good friend Al Koch, who actually was a welfare officer in the nearby town of Indio in the Mojave Desert, not far from Barks' Californian home in San Jacinto. They walked about the neighbourhood where they stumbled on the remnants of an ancient Indian trail leading out onto a mesa. This was all Barks needed for a story about arrowheads and long-forgotten Indian cities. In gratitude Barks rendered Koch in one of the panels in which the Beagle Boys are unceremoniously kicked out of the local welfare office...

The Spanish explorer Francisco de Ulloa (?-1540) travelled the west coast of present-day Mexico and USA under commission from the Spanish King's envoy, Hernán Cortés. Supposedly, de Ulloa's ship was swept inland in 1539 with a tidal wave, and it has since become known as The Lost Ship in the Desert.

The ducks find the ship and its log and start reading from it (the account fills almost a whole story page). At one point Scrooge says: It seems he'd been exploring the mouth of the Colorado River, seeking a route to the seven cities! He gave up and sailed away, but later decided to return to the river for one more try: 'At the bar we were caught in a great tide, which swept us up the river forty leagues or more!'.

Among the legends that propelled Spaniards into the far reaches of northern New Spain (Colonial Mexico) was the legend of the so-called Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. The most famous journey was led by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (1510-1554), who was seeking the fabled cities, but only found poor Indian villages.

But the ducks managed to find the place and the fabulous treasures in the story, but then Barks deviated from the historic facts (besides the overall fact that the cities are indeed fabled) by letting the Beagle Boys find and dress up in conquistador armoury and weapons...

The world-famous visual filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have been dedicated fans of Carl Barks and his comic book stories since childhood, and they have used some of Barks' ideas in a number of their films. My greatest source of enjoyment in Carl Barks' comics is in the imagination of his stories. They're so full of crazy ideas - unique and special, Lucas once said. In the Indiana Jones trilogy 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981), 'The Temple of Doom' (1984), and 'The Last Crusade' (1989) the filmmakers used several booby traps from Barks' stories U$07 'The Seven Cities of Cibola' and U$26 'The Prize of Pizarro'. Examples are flying darts, a decapitating blade, a guardian idol, a huge rolling boulder, and a tunnel flooded with a torrent of gushing water.

See more HERE.






In 1987 Barks made a painting titled First National Bank of Cibola which was later distributed as a lithograph in 345 ordinary issues. It was given the number 133 in Barks' own numbering system and measures 20x25" (510x635mms). It was the 10th lithograph in a new series, of which the first one was titled Wanderers of Wonderlands (Barks' number 123). It was printed in 5,000 copies for the elaborate book Uncle Scrooge McDuck - His Life and Times. The latter painting is remindful of the Cibola painting on several points.
The painting rendered above as preliminary and finished artwork was sold at 22,500 dollars, and if you 'dive' into them on a comparative level you will be able to see just how much Barks changed his work during the creation process...

But Barks had made his first painting featuring a motif from Cibola in 1975. It is coded and titled 23-75 Golden Cities of Cibola - #113 in Barks' system - and measures 16x20" (405x510mms). It is reminiscent of his second painting shown above and sold for 2,968 dollars to a married couple who were incidentally ardent collectors of Indian jewelry, which led the wife to compliment Barks on his detailed and thoroughly correct rendering of the valuables. Barks later admitted that he had just 'lifted' the stones from certain illustrations in the Arizona Highways magazine...

  Date 2016-08-14