By Carl Barks and others (Gladstone Comic Album #14)
Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon in 1901, growing up in the rural areas of the West where during some of the leanest times in American history. He tried his hand at many jobs before settling into the profession that chose him. His early life is well-documented elsewhere if you need detail, but briefly, Barks worked as a animator at Disney’s studio before quitting in 1942 to work in the newborn field of comicbooks.
With cartoon studio partner Jack Hannah (himself an occasional strip illustrator) he adapted a Bob Karp script for an animated cartoon short into the comicbook Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold (published as Dell Four Color Comics Series II #9 in October of that year). Although not his first published comics work, it was the story that shaped the rest of his career.
From then until his official retirement in the mid-1960s Barks worked in self-imposed isolation seclusion writing and drawing a vast array of adventure comedies, gags, yarns and covers, creating a Duck Universe of memorable and highly bankable characters such as Gladstone Gander (1948), Gyro Gearloose (1952), Magica De Spell (1961) and the nefarious Beagle Boys (1951) to supplement Disney’s stable of cartoon actors. His greatest creation was undoubtedly the crusty, energetic, paternalistic, money-mad gazillionaire Scrooge McDuck: the World’s wealthiest winged septuagenarian and the harassed, hard-pressed star of this show.
Whilst producing all that landmark innovative material Barks was just a working guy, generating cover art, illustrating other people’s scripts when asked and contributing story to the burgeoning canon of Duck Lore. Gladstone Publishing began re-packaging Barks material – and a selection of other Disney comics strips – in the 1980s and this fabulous and spectacular tome is another of the very best – as they all seem to be.
So potent were his creations that they inevitably fed back into Disney’s animation output itself, even though his brilliant comic work was done for the licensing company Dell/Gold Key, and not directly for the studio. The greatest tribute was undoubtedly the animated series Duck Tales heavily based on his comics output of the 1950s and 1960s.
This album is printed in the large European oversized format (278mm x 223mm) -although dedicated collectors should also seek out the publisher’s superb line of Disney Digests and comics books that grew out of these pioneering tomes – and features one of the most madcap and wryly funny yarns Barks ever concocted.
Taken from Uncle Scrooge #21 (March-May 1958) this is one of the most ingenious campaigns by the Beagle Boys to divest the Billed Billionaire of his ocean of cash and kicks off when the ever-vigilant miser spots the canine crooks attempting to pump his stupendous money-bin dry with oil-drilling technology.
Determined to find a completely secure home for his money Scrooge consults experts and electronic brains but eventually outsmarts himself by hiding the loot in a place where the Beagles can actually take it legally! Happily, Scrooge is mean yet honourable and always ready to take advantage of a situation when the opportunity arises. Therefore he’s able to reclaim his hard-earned horde when the crucial moment comes…
The lead story is balanced by ‘Quest for the Curious Constable’ an anonymous saga produced by Disney’s European packager the Gutenberghus Group and translated and rewritten by Barks historian Geoffrey Blum. Here Donald and the nephews Huey, Dewie and Louie become embroiled in the decades-long rivalry between Scrooge and rival magnate Flintheart Glomgold and find themselves travelling back in time to obtain bragging rights to a lost art masterpiece, courtesy of Über-inventor Gyro Gearloose.
This fast-paced, whacky romp is a fine continuation of and addition to the Barks canon as the ducks rampage in a quest against the clock through the foggy, cobbled meta-fictional streets of 19th century London in search of treasure and adventure. Of course there’s a little sting in this tale too…
Barks’ work – as well as the best of the rest – is now readily accessible through a number of publications and outlets. No matter what your age or temperament if you’ve never experienced this captivating magic, you can discover “the Hans Christian Andersen of Comics” simply by applying yourself and your credit cards to any search engine.
© 1988, 1958 The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved.