Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Barks, Carl

(1901-2000) US artist and writer, the outstanding creator of Comics stories featuring the Disney characters. CB developed an interest in cartooning as a child; in 1928-1929 he sold his first gag cartoons to magazines like Judge and The Calgary Eye-Opener, whose staff he later joined. In 1935 he sent a few sample drawings to the Disney Studio in Hollywood, and was hired as an animation in-betweener, soon moving to the story department, where he started scripting and storyboarding Donald Duck and Pluto shorts. In 1942 he drew his first comic-book story, "Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold" for Four Color Comics #9, modifying an already written script; in November that year he left Disney for Western Publishing, working for this firm exclusively for the rest of his career, contributing to at least 45 different comics titles released under various Western labels (these included Dell and Gold Key), along with some non-comics work for subsidiary firms (including Whitman and Golden Press). Some of the 45 titles are one-offs, or contain miscellaneous contributions. Three are of central importance. CB began to write and draw 10-page Donald Duck stories for the monthly Walt Disney's Comics and Stories in 1943, beginning with #31 (though all CB stories from the mid-1960s on are reprints). Soon he was also creating longer stories (24-32 pages) starring Donald and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie; these ran in Four Color Comics (from 1943). On screen and in the syndicated strips drawn by Al Taliaferro, Donald had until then been rather one-dimensional, but CB's Donald was a multifaceted character with all the qualities and faults of a normal human being, an Antihero with whom the reader could easily sympathize. The nephews were transformed from mischievous little ducklings into, as it were, their uncle's "triple good conscience". During 1943-1952 CB wrote and drew for Four Color Comics a succession of unforgettable, ambitious stories, often set in exotic locales; they include "The Mummy's Ring" (1943), "Volcano Valley" (1947), "Lost in the Andes" (1949), "Ancient Persia" (1950) and "Old California" (1951). At the same time CB gave life to a number of other characters. Scrooge McDuck, Donald's stingy multimillionaire uncle, first appeared in "Christmas on Bear Mountain" (1947) in a Donald Duck one-shot; from 1952 Scrooge starred alongside Donald and the nephews in the third essential CB comics title, Uncle Scrooge, which he wrote and drew until the mid 1960s; stories included "Back to the Klondike" (1953), "Land Beneath the Ground!" (1956), "Island in the Sky" (1959) – CB's own favourite story – and "The Phantom of Notre Duck" (1965). Donald's implausibly lucky cousin, Gladstone Gander, has pestered him ever since his debut in 1948 in Walt Disney's Comics #88; the Beagle Boys, a gang of witless burglars, started trying to rob Scrooge's "Money Bin" in 1951 in Walt Disney's Comics #134; later came Gyro Gearloose (1952) in Walt Disney's Comics #140, a madcap "inventor of everything", and Magica DeSpell (1961) in Uncle Scrooge #36, a Neapolitan duck sorceress whose idée fixe is to steal Scrooge's "Old Number One", the first dime he ever earned.

When CB retired in June 1966 he had written over 500 stories, including a few starring Mickey Mouse, Grandma Duck and Gus Goose (whom CB had created in 1939 for a Donald Duck animated short) as well as Warner Bros's Porky Pig, Walter Lantz's Andy Panda and MGM's Barney Bear and Benny Burro. Until 1973 he continued to contribute scripts (in layout form) to the Uncle $crooge, Donald Duck and Junior Woodchucks comics. In 1971 CB started recreating the best scenes from his Duck comics as a series of oil paintings that now fetch high prices; he was permitted to continue this trade only after legal wrangling with Disney.

Although CB, like all Disney comics artists, worked anonymously, his name became familiar to fans as early as the 1960s, and he is now recognized worldwide. The monumental Carl Barks Library, published by Another Rainbow, has collected all his Disney stories. Western Publishing, Disney and Gladstone have constantly reprinted his stories in their comic books. In 1983 the asteroid (2730) Barks was named in his honour. [AB]

further reading: Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book (1981) by Michael Barrier.

Carl Barks


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.