Another Barks acticle

George D. gedia at
Mon Sep 25 01:59:48 CEST 2000

Hi everyone!

I was asked to write an article at the Jounior Journal and so I thought that
Carl Barks, whom I admire anyway would be a good subject. However here's the
final outcome and I cannot say I am even satisfied with it :-(. I cannot
understand why I had so many problems expressing my feelings and opinion.
Moreover my english is awful! I feel awfully :-)..

Anyway any suggestions/recommendations are more than welcome...

The Man Behind the Ducks

I have had many inhibitions about whether or not I should write this
article. I doubted (and still do) as to whether I could fit the reverence
and admiration I feel for the "Duckman" into words. However, I felt that
this is the only way to express my respect for the person whose stories have
guided me though my childhood until now.


For those of you who do not know, Carl Barks is the creator of some of the
most important Disney Comics characters, and the person to form the
personality of other already existing heroes, such as Donald Duck.
He passed away nearly a month ago (on August 25th). Born on March 27, 1901
in Merrill, a small town in Oregon, there were only a few months left until
his 100th birthday. Despite having had a rather lonely and least creative
childhood, mainly due to the isolated location of his home and the
economical state of his family, Carl evolved to become the greatest comic
creators of the 20th century. What differentiates him from the other artists
is that Barks is not just another designer who regards comic-creation as a
means of livelihood. Creating comic stories for Barks was the highest level
of self expression, which renders his "profession" an art, a fact that he
hadn't probably realized, but which can be deduced by closely examining his
works and finding out all these elements that make it so special; something
MORE than just another comics story.
Carl's father lost his parents at an early age, so he had to leave from his
homeland, Missouri, in order to try his luck elsewhere. He traveled to
California as a stowaway in trains, a few years after the civil war. Carl's
mother though, Armida Johnson, stayed back to take care of her disabled
parents. It was not until the end of the 1890s when Bark's parents got
married, both over 40 years old. Carl was their second son. He was born in a
"grain ranch", as he likes to call his father's farmland.
When Carl's mother passed away (he was 15 by then) who managed to keep the
family united despite the difficulties, Carl left school in order to help
his father with the ranch. The end of the First World War found Barks living
in San Francisco with his first wife, without a permanent job or residence.
For the next six years he worked as a coachbuilder for the "Pacific Fruit
Express" in Roseville, California, under very difficult conditions, as you
can imagine.
Of course Carl's dream had always been to become a cartoonist. While still
in school he had been greatly impressed by the drawings of a classmate, who
was satirizing contemporary politicians such as Theodore Roosevelt and
Woodrow Wilson. As a result, he started taking correspondence lessons at the
"London Schools of Cartooning". At the end of the 1920s, Carl managed to
publish two drawings at the "Judge" magazine, and soon became a permanent
Art Director of the "Calgary Eye Opener", another satirical magazine
published in Minneapolis.
In 1935, Barks left Minneapolis and returned to California, where he was
hired by the Walt Disney Company. At first he worked on animation, but he
soon switched to the story department. There, he took part in the creation
of more than 35 short films, but he soon found out that this kind of job did
not suit him. Animation was very limiting for him, and entailed cooperating
with other people, a fact which made him quit after a few years. His first
comic story appeared in "Four Color #9" and is called "Donald Duck Finds
Pirate Gold". Barks left Disney on November 6. He then moved to San Jacinto
east of Los Angeles, where he continued selling drawings to various
Barks started to draw Disney stories for Western Publishing, the first one
being "The Victory Garden" which appeared in WDC&S #31. The turning point of
his career though, was the year 1947. This was when Carl invented Uncle
$crooge McDuck, a character who soon dominated the world with his complex,
eccentric (?) personality.
Barks retired voluntarily at the age of 65 in 1966. By then he had created
nearly 400 Stories, and during the next years (after his retirement) he
painted more than 120 oil paintings, some of them sold for hundreds
thousands of dollars.

The educational Barks

Of course Barks' work would not be so important if its only aim was to evoke
laughter. Even Carl insists his stories never hid an ulterior meaning, one
can find enough elements in his stories to compare his work with Homer's!
In "The Golden River", Carl extols selflessness in a way that is completely
transparent to the reader and can help younger people develop their own
values. The nightmare of a world without intelligence is presented in "The
many Faces of Magica De Spell" and "Flip Decision", in conjunction with a
dispute of the factor chance.
The relation between man and wealth is explored in "Adventure in "Tralla La"
and "The Philosophic Stone". A characteristic of Barks' stories is that Carl
does make references to the problems of the society, but never recommends
any solutions. Instead, he lets people figure out their own.
Environmental concerns are exposed in "The land of the Pygmy Indians" in a
unique way through a very good plot, whereas in stories such as "Financial
Fable" and "Only a poor old man", values such as hard work are glorified and
questioned in the same time.
In the "Black Valley" and "Old California" Carl expresses nostalgia for the
old times, and in "Forecast Follies" the ability of a machine to substitute
a man is questioned, where the weaknesses of artificial intelligence are
largely explored.
A more subjective look at our world can be found at "Microducks from outer
space". Concepts like power are discussed in "The golden helmet" and even
references to Iliad can be found in "Horsin' around with history".

I would need hundreds of pages to analyze Bark's stories and the moral
teachings presented through them. However no more than four words would be
needed to express my true feelings for him:

Thank you Unca Carl!

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