Comics: The Return of the Good Duck Artist

Fantagraphics to reprint Carl Barks’ complete Disney comics run

By , Columnist

He’s widely regarded as one of the most skillful storytellers to have worked in comics—or any medium for that matter—over the course of the past century.

His stories have influenced and inspired the work of an uncounted number of his fellow creators from across the globe, including such notable celebrities as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and yet his name remains largely unknown amongst his countrymen, and even amongst some of his fellow practitioners.

And yet elsewhere in the world his name and accomplishments are widely known and celebrated by young and old alike.

His name was Carl Barks, and he was known by millions of readers of all ages as “The Good Duck Artist” in those long-gone heady heydays of buying comic books from a well-stocked newsstand or spinner rack.

Carl was the second son of William and Arminta Barks, born at the turn of the previous century in Merrill, Oregon. Reportedly, he was a lonely child, and one who drew almost obsessively from an early age. Barks also suffered from progressive hearing loss from an early age, an ailment that eventually led to his decision to quit school at 16 and make his way in the world.

After years of trying his hand at a variety of professions, Barks decided to turn his hobby into an occupation. By late 1935 he landed a job at Disney’s animation studios, where he worked until 1942, when he quit. Soon thereafter, he began drawing Duck comics.

Beginning in 1942, Barks wrote and drew a series of tales that infused the escapades of Walt Disney’s creations with a strong dose of adventure, danger, and a sense of wonder. More importantly, these same stories fully fleshed out the previously two dimensional characters of Donald Duck, his Uncle Scrooge McDuck, and the other denizens of Ducksburg. By the time he retired thirty years later, Barks had totally transformed the way the world viewed Disney and his beloved creations, and endowed Walt’s ducks with an uncanny sense of emotional life.

And yet, despite his undeniable gift for crafting  elegant and vibrant storytelling that transcends all genres, sadly there has never before been a comprehensive, affordably priced reprinting of Carl Barks Disney work…until now.

Fantagraphics Books recently announced that it will begin reprinting the entire catalog of the master’s Disney material, beginning with the release of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: “Lost in the Andes” by Carl Barks in October, 2011.

A 240 page hardcover, this first volume reprints material originally published between 1948 and 1950, capturing Bark at the peak of his powers. Readers will once again be able to enjoy such classic stories as “The Golden Christmas Tree,” “Race to the South Seas,” “Voodoo Hoodoo,” and the titular tale, alongside a dozen-plus other strips. Every panel on every page in this handsome collection has been meticulously restored and re-colored to best present these timeless treasures to fans of old, and those newly won.

There’s never been better opportunity or reason to discover why Will Eisner—the acknowledged godfather of the graphic novel—called Carl Barks “The Hans Christian Andersen of comic books.” 

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A veteran journalist who has covered the comics medium since 1998, Bill Baker is also the author of Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and seven previous books featuring his extended interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and other notable creators. You can learn more about Bill’s work…

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