Carl Barks was interviewed countless times by a great variety of fans and businessmen, and he was always benevolently prepared to oblige whenever a person or a group of people asked him. The interviews, which were far more frequent in his golden years, were mostly conducted for use in fan magazines and biographical books, while others involved whole crews for videotaped sessions.
This page presents you to a few(!!!) of Barks' answers from a selection of interviews. The emphasis has been on more general topics and private observations instead of detailed situations such as comic book stories or painting production. Also, Barks' answers have primarily been placed in a chronological order after the decades when the events took place, although most of them derive from interview sessions made much later.

You should be aware that most of the statements and quotes below are just snippets (appetizers) from longer interviews. Scattered around in this website you will often be able to find the full wordings. So if you wish to see more about a certain topic you should use the Search Engine.





Barks was born on a small ranch outside Merrill:
The ranch house was a lonely place with no close neighbors. My parents had little patience with the yearnings of a small boy, both being old enough to be my grandparents, and my slightly older brother had little patience with my 'sissy' fascination with drawing and reading so, other than the farm animals, I had little companionship. But do not disparage the influence that animals can have on a growing boy's character. In my periods of self-analysis, I get the feeling that I learned good manners from the pigs, my stubbornness from the mules and my gung-ho courage from the chickens.

The first drawing experiences:
From the time I can remember, I was trying to draw. First I'd draw with some charcoal that I'd pick up off the hearth, and write on the walls of the little shack we lived in.

The first interests in comics:
I most clearly remember Winsor McCay's Little Nemo - wonderful drawings! McCay was certainly one of the influences in my life, because Little Nemo was one of the first comic strips I can remember. It used to be published in the San Francisco Examiner, which we got on our farm. Those characters had a great influence on me. I wasn't so much an admirer of the drawings as I was of the story construction. And my favorite of the characters was old Doctor Pill, because he seemed to be a good guy. He was protective, and trying to do the best he could, while the clown-like guy with the cigar was just fouling things up and making trouble and leading the kids astray.

In some way Barks did not become a citizen of the United States until he was 65. On his birth records:
The records were kept in that western homestead country. People lived many miles apart and I guess that when I was born, there was word gotten to a doctor about five miles away to come out and deliver a baby at this homestead. Whether he recorded it or not…? There was no place to record it because the county governments were pretty flimsy in those days. So at the time I got my social security at 65, I had to establish that I was born in the United States.



I remember there in Oregon on the home ranch, there was a dust problem from the wind blowing off the ploughing fields, and my mother got fed up with taking the curtains down and washing them. They had to wash everything by hand in those days. She got the idea of making little stencils like doilies and painting patterns on the windows so they looked like lace curtains. It saved all that washing, because you could look in from the outside and think, well, that house has got curtains up.

Barks was never a keen nor sporty outdoor person but as a youngster he had a dream: I was never a Boy Scout, but oh, I wanted to be one when I was a kid about ten or eleven years old. But there wasn't anyplace where I could ever join the Boy Scouts.

In 1994 Barks was asked which of the 20th century's decades he liked the best (the two hour long, privately videotaped interview has never been published). Here is an excerpt of his answer:
1910 was the best year in Americans' history. It was a time when there was no wars going on, and everybody was quite civil, and we had a lot of churches and people went to those churches ... The dances were all civilized and sedate. The music was all very understandable, and moving on came radio, well, the movies came along first and right away the whole culture of the people - morality and intelligence - began to deteriorate, and radio came along and that speeded up the process, and then along came television and now we are in where we are now, where kids are killing their parents and everything is going to hell...



Barks' girlfriend Pearl Turner had just graduated from high school when they married:
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).

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) 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...

Barks tried his hands in a variety of jobs:
I was a fizzle as a cowboy, a logger, a printing press feeder, a steelworker, a carpenter, an animator, a chicken grower, and a barfly. Perhaps that all helped in writing my stories of the ineptitudes of poor old Donald.

Late in the decade Barks found a more lasting job as a cartoonist at the humourous girlie magazine The Calgary EyeOpener. At first he was hired by a good editor, Henry Meyer, who early on allowed him to practically run the magazine single-handedly, because he was surrounded by several incompetent colleagues:
Meyer was enough of a businessman to see things weren't being run right around there. There was too much drinking and playing around, and not enough production. So he looked over the list of gagmen and decided that hell, I was a hard-working son of a gun.



From 1931 Barks settled in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he continued to work for The Calgary EyeOpener:
I started up there as staff artist and joke writer and eventually wound up as editor.
But his years in Minneapolis was no joke. The new, inept editor Fawcett's attitude resulted in the rapid degeneration of the company to such an extent that Barks was eager to leave:
I was writing and drawing more than half the book, editing it, and composing stalling letters to contributors to gloss over the fact that no money was in the bank to pay for their stuff. Freelancing and work on the EyeOpener kept me out of the bread lines until 1935.

While living in a furnished apartment hotel Barks met his next girlfriend Clara Balken:
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 Barks landed a job at the Disney Studios 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!

Barks worked in several of the studio departments beginning in the tedious in-betweener section, but he was more interested in other facilities:
I began turning in scripts, or gags, for the Donald strip, and selling those to the comic-strip department, as a sort of a sideline. I was attracting a little attention that way. The story department would send over a little outline of a story, just an idea of a story that they were going to try to make into a seven-minute short subject, and ask us guys for gags. Any little situation on these stories that we could think of. So all of us guys would turn in gags. I was beginning to turn in some pretty good gags, and finally I turned in the gag of the barber chair in Modern Inventions. Walt paid me 50 dollars for the gag. He seemed to get the idea that I should be working in the story department, rather than over in animation.

Memories of Walt:
I remember Walt Disney as a genius. All of us respected and feared him. The only time I would ever see Walt was on the story conferences, when he'd come in and look at our stories that we had on our storyboards. He would always let us argue a story point. He'd even let us have the last word in these arguments. We said 'Yes, Walt'.

When did you draw the first duck in your life?
I think in grammar school, I scribbled one into a notebook. I drew the first Donald in 1935, when I came to Disney.



On the 1941 strike at Disney's:
Well, I was in the story department and we didn't strike. The animators and in-betweeners were the ones on strike. We in the story department went through the picket line every morning. I was against the strike. I had the feeling that something was being destroyed. The Disney studios were a place where there were no time clocks - we were able to come to work whenever we wanted to. If you went to work, did a good job and had something to show for your efforts, you got paid damn well. If you were shirking and complaining all the time you didn't get a raise, and it was these shirkers and complainers who had organized this strike. Disney was fair - of course, he could have been more considerate and humane to his employees, but those were hard times. He brought a bunch of us, who, if we were lucky, could earn 10 dollars a week doing whatever job - and he gave us twenty. I know many who were not grateful to him for that. They thought that if a Disney film brings in 100, 000 dollars, they should get half of it. But Walt invested the entire amount in order to make a new film.

On other Disney characters:
Goofy was simply a half-wit. I could never understand what was supposed to be funny about a half-wit. I liked Mickey for his purposes. He was good in adventure-strips. But the thought of having to draw something like this did not appeal to me. I enjoyed working with the duck because I could knock him around, have him get hurt - I could let him fall off cliffs. It was lots of fun with Donald. With Mickey it would have been kind of dangerous, because Mickey always had to be right. With the duck I had a comedian that I could treat badly and who I could make fun of.

Before leaving Disney and plunging into comic book work, Barks had actually participated in a story with the ongoing war as the main topic:
'Pluto Saves the Ship' was written by Jack Hannah, Nick George, and I in 1942 in our evening hours. It was not an adaptation of a cartoon story. Eleanor Packer of Whitman Publishing may have dreamed up the basic plot. It was only a one-shot special designed to take advantage of the wartime jitters. Anyway, we three did the final draft in rough sketch form in my den room in North Hollywood. The post-Pearl Harbor blackouts were in effect, and we had all window blinds closed and taped shut. It was hot and stuffy, and we consumed many beers. The story shows the effects. One of Disney's layout men with a flair for drawing panel after panel of shipyard scaffolding did the artwork.

Barks officially moved from Burbank to San Jacinto a few days before his resignation in order to start as a chicken farmer. He had actually bought the place a couple of years earlier, but kept the purchase a secret:
I left the Disney Studios in November 1942 because I was in poor health and had to leave. I had found that the hot sunshine of the desert areas east of Los Angeles cleared up my allergies. It was a reckless gamble to leave a 100 dollars a week for the fragile security of a chicken farm, but I hoped to get into comic book work on a freelance basis as a sideline occupation.
Choosing chickens was a matter of economics. I mean, I didn't care much for chicken farming. I wouldn't have gone into the dairy business, for instance, because that is really tying you down. You've got to milk cows at a certain hour of every day. With chickens you're pretty much tied down, too, but you needn't be there at a specific hour to get the eggs. You can leave them to lie there until the next day and gather them up. It doesn't cost very much to go into raising a few chickens, but going into any other type of farming is very expensive.

Margaret Williams, 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.

On Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon):
There was a man who could combine craftsmanship with emotions and all the gimmicks that went into a good adventure strip. He was a master.
I could just sit there and look at the drawings and be inspired. Of course, I couldn't use those drawings very much in doing the duck stories later on, except for the background or the atmosphere of the places the ducks had to go. That inspired me to do some nice drawings in there, and it helped to put those duck stories over and make them popular. Because they appeared to go to real places.

At the start of his career Barks often gave precise instructions as to which colours should be used in special circumstances but Western just did what they pleased. So Barks gave up:
If I asked for a yellow desert, you could be sure it turned out red.

On giving that little extra to the stories:
If you have a story to tell, a story that somebody is going to read over and over again, you have to put some substance into it. It takes more than just a bunch of pratfalls and bumps on the head. There had to be motivation for the different things the characters did, and revenge for their mistakes (laughs). It took a lot to write a ten-page story. A lot of the guys didn't take the time to go into it that far and as a result there were a lot of the comic book stories that never lasted for very long. With my stories, because I worked so hard to make the story plausible and give it a reason for having been written, people would read it over and over again. They didn't throw the comic book away. So these stories are still alive today, while many others are gone and forgotten.



For a number of years Barks regularly visited the publishing office (he was working from his home) to deliver his latest stories. At the time it was traditional for the creative staff members to assemble and read out the stories:
I think the reason for the showings were that Eleanor Packer and Buettner and those people were new at their business of editing comic books, and they felt that the best way to see how comic book stories were put together was to read them out loud. If they would read well, as you read them out loud, they would read well to the children.
The new stories were assessed. Carl Buettner read them, and Eleanor Packer examined the pages. I never had problems, because my dialogues were always very short and simple and Carl Buettner read them always with correct intonation. Then I was complimented for providing an acceptable story.
I cannot say that I ever felt euphoric. But sometimes, if I had been pleased about a story, and they had given the impression that they found it good as well, then I would sometimes stop on the way back at a Chinese restaurant or such to celebrate.

Barks was a second-to-none funny animal artist, and for a brief period of time (1950-1951) he tried to sneak real humans into his duck stories. But Barks ventured out on thin ice when he began to show real humans instead of humanized ducks and similar animals in his stories. This started with FC0291 The Magic Hourglass, went on in FC0300 Big Top Bedlam, and ended with FC0308 Dangerous Disguise:
As soon as I took 'Dangerous Disguise' in, and Carl Buettner (Western Publishing editor at the time) took a look at it, he said, 'That doesn't go good, having real humans. It takes the ducks out of their own world'.
On FC0328 In Old California!:
I would have preferred to have drawn the characters as real humans, but I was warned for using humans when I submitted 'Dangerous Disguise' four months earlier.

On The National Geographic Magazine (titled 'National Geographic' today):
It was my best reference. If I didn't have something like the Geographic, I wouldn't have any means of making things realistic.

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, and they got to talking:
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.



On the whereabouts of the original story drawings:
The original artwork was destroyed at the publishing house. They simply couldn't store all the drawings that came in for all their 15 or 20 comic books and none of the editors, none of the artists felt that the stuff was ever going to be worth anything anyway, so all these thousands of pages of drawings were taken out to the incinerator and burned.

On other types of comic books:
The comic books of the 'golden years' of the 40s, 50s, and 60s were all escapist reading in my opinion. The kids who read Superman, Plastic Man, and Tales from the Crypt were all taking a trip. The fad for that form of escape is now almost defunct. Comics have been replaced by pot. I am pleased that I was able to be of some value to the young trippers of those years.
As for Superman and all those type of stories, they were quite an artificial thing. They did have a little bit of the human element in them, where Superman was trying to keep his identity secret from Lois Lane. In most of the fighting and the menaces and all, it was just complete fabrication. It didn't seem to me to have much depth.
I began seeing the first comic books come along, Superman and some of those, and I would read those and think, well, these are lousy stories.
I thought of doing Superman type of stuff, but I didn't like Superman much. With my natural bent of humor I found I'd be better off doing Duck comics.

In 1962 Barks came up with a novel idea that started a new franchise. He suggested that the popular Swiss family story should be changed into a space odyssey. His publisher at Western Publishing, Craig Chase, filed the letter but later he decided to give the idea a chance. Since the comic book series Space Family Robinson ran from 1962 to 1984 in a total of 59 issues:
Often I'll be dwelling on words, and I'll come up with puns and so on, association of words, and somehow or other the words Space Family Robinson just clicked into my head out of nowhere as a takeoff on Swiss Family Robinson. So I began thinking up a whole series of adventures for a space family Robinson. I would have loved to have done it. I wrote and told Chase that I thought that would be an awfully good idea for a comic book. Of course, he just put the letter in his file! He couldn't talk the company into doing anything like that at that time.
I would have very quickly wrecked the Robinson family's spaceship on a distant planet, and I wouldn't have had all that mechanical stuff to draw. I would have had the space family Robinson in this jungle-like place meeting all these strange animals like in Swiss Family Robinson. The characters they met, the animals and the things that they had to tame, and the way they had to make it a comfortable place to live. That's what I would have done with the space family Robinson. I would have had them meeting these strange animals and finding ways to adapt to all these new problems, so I could think of a lot of different angles.

Apart from one long trip to Europe, Barks rarely left his native country. Still, his name is known outside Earth because he had a small asteroid named after him. In 1982 Ted Bowell of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona discovered an asteroid which was officially called (2730) Barks by the Cornell University:
In one of my later stories, called
Island in the Sky, sometime in the sixties, the ducks try to find a place to hide Uncle Scrooge's money, and they passed a bunch of these small asteroids on the way there. One of the men there at Cornell University, where they had a whole laboratory for the study of the asteroids, read that comic book and thought that was quite a thing, that these ducks could run onto a bunch of peculiar asteroids on their way to the asteroid belt.
Anyway, they thought that was pretty good. My stories made the asteroids interesting, and opened a possibility that there might even be some among them that would have a few vegetables growing on it. And so they named one of their discoveries after me. He wrote to tell me that the surface was approximately 100 hectares
(nearly 250 acres or 1 square kilometer) in size. In any case it would be big enough for a money bin...

When you had retired you were not allowed to paint your ducks, since the copyright belonged to Disney?:
Yes, for five years I painted and drew little landscapes and sold them at exhibitions. Those were meager years, I didn't earn much.



Why did you use such extremely bright colors, especially in the more recent oils?:
In the animated cartoons, Walt Disney wanted us to use very bright colors as he felt that was what really attracted people to them. I'm using bright colors for the same reason. I try to get them as bright as possible. When I'm finished I often feel they are not yet bright enough.

In 1973 Barks hired a versatile man to manage the sale of his paintings:
Recently a collector in Iowa, Russ Cochran, contacted me with an offer to advertise some of my paintings in his collector's catalog of original comic strip art for $500 each, just to see how the market would go at that price. I hurriedly did two paintings for him. They sold immediately, and he could have sold several more. Now I am doing four paintings in a hell of a hurry for Cochran to take to conventions to see what comes out of them pricewise...

When asked if he was not disappointed that Disney withdrew his special - and quite unique - permission to paint the ducks in 1976:
Try to think of any one time that General Motors gave an ex-employee permission to make Chevrolets!

Barks had strong opinions about the mistreatment of the environment. He once said, Clean air, clean water, clean environment. We think of those things as part of our birthright. They were long ago, before we overran them with our brand of civilization. Now, what have we got? Air so polluted that we have to grind it before it will filter through our gasmasks. Water so undrinkable that it is safer to die of thirst. Environment so littered that we cannot see the ground, and ground so caustic with chemical spill that it eats through the soles of our shoes.



In 1983 two of the greatest Disney legends, Floyd Gottfredson (mouseman) and Carl Barks (duckman), were interviewed together and asked to name the favourite story they had written. Gottfredson explained that his favourite was Island in the Sky (it ran as a newspaper strip from 1936 to 1937), a story based on a secret atomic-power formula. Then Barks astonished everyone present by announcing:
The one I like best now after all these years in looking back over the whole chain of them that I did, was Island in the Sky!
Barks was referring to his own story in U$29 which, by pure chance, had the same title as Gottfredson's story...

Casual remark from 1981:
My age is 80 and I don't look a day over 79˝...



Remark from the acceptance speech for the Disney Legend trophy in 1991:
I want to thank the Disney Studio. Not for myself, but for all those comic book fans - the kids who used to buy my comic books for a dime and are now selling them for $2,000.

In 1994, Barks was asked who would inherit Scrooge's money:
Probably Donald's nephews because they are so much more practical than Donald. And I'm sure they will do a lot of good in the world, their Junior Woodchucks organization, they will save all the birds and all the whales.

In 1994 Barks was asked if he would like to make another story:
I certainly hope that I do not have to write another one. There is a temptation to try. People beg me to write more stories. It is difficult for me to keep turning people down. But I know that it is an awfully hard job to write those stories. An other thing is that I know that any story I write will be examined and criticized by everybody all over the world and if that story is not of very superb quality, they are going to say: 'Well here is this old hack coming back trying to make money on his reputation; he can't write and here he is getting paid for this kind of rubbish.'

Cemeteries and funerals are for the living. When I go out to visit Garé's grave, I can almost feel her presence, but to visualize what's really there - by now a bunch of bones in a coffin - I feel that's none of my business.   Date 2011-06-18