The Good Artist
July 27, 2012 7:23 AM   Subscribe

"Among all who read Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories during the ‘40s and ‘50s, there was one common term for the unknown artist who drew the Donald Duck stories. Comics readers and comics fans all over the U.S. independently applied the same term to him. To fans in Ohio, California, Arkansas and Pennsylvania, he was 'The Good Artist.' His name was never signed to his work, and his publishers—until the early ‘60s—never revealed his name to his public, though many of us wrote (unforwarded) fan letters. His name, as we finally learned, is Carl Barks." How two determined fans found out who the Good Duck Artist was.
posted by MartinWisse (40 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was in a Barnes and Noble earlier this week, and they had a whole Carl Barks shelf (books face out and everything!). I had no idea that he was ever unknown.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:40 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


For more information and to see some of his work, check out this site.
posted by cubby at 7:40 AM on July 27, 2012


Wow, I was just looking up Carl Barks the other day. I used to buy the Gladstone reprints twenty years ago or so, and he's just fantastic.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:42 AM on July 27, 2012


I'd be super curious to see some comparisons of Carl Barks vs. not Carl Barks to understand why he was so obviously superior to other Disney artists of the era.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:49 AM on July 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


I had a big book about him as a kid, but I could never understand why Walt Disney didn't draw the comics himself. Always felt like cheating to me.
posted by muckster at 8:01 AM on July 27, 2012


I grew up with Carl Barks comics and absolutely loved his stuff. My father collected them as a kid. I learned to read with Disney comics.
posted by drklahn at 8:01 AM on July 27, 2012


Carl Barks is my hero. His Donald was always the best. The Golden Fleecing will always be my favourite.
posted by h00py at 8:06 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd be super curious to see some comparisons of Carl Barks vs. not Carl Barks to understand why he was so obviously superior to other Disney artists of the era.

It wasn't just the superior artwork, it was artwork with its own sophisticated sensibility, plus the stories were a step above in terms of being engaging and intelligent.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:08 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I never knew that he wasn't well-known all along. My personal favourite remains Lost in the Andes!. Square eggs!
posted by kariebookish at 8:08 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Square eggs!

"(actually, they are cubic eggs)" -- Wikipedia
posted by theodolite at 8:33 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


cubby: For more information and to see some of his work, check out this site.
Thank you. An article on an artist without even a single picture of his work... and the FPP didn't help.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:39 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you. An article on an artist without even a single picture of his work... and the FPP didn't help.

Actually, there isn't a lot of his stuff online, and it's getting even harder to find the old Gladstone reprints from the late 80's in comic shops.

Anyway, Google Books has a few results.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:44 AM on July 27, 2012


Actually, they are 2D projections of cubic eggs.

/pedantoneupmanship
posted by gilrain at 8:48 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


The other day I was in one of the excellent comic book shops that line a block of Johnson Street in Victoria, BC, and was asking about where to find old Richie Rich digests.

The guy at the comic book store said that it's unlikely Richie Rich will ever be reprinted because Alfred Harvey did not leave his estate in order or something like that.

Which makes me sad.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:49 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


And thanks to Know Your Meme I now know The Bad Artist behind Dolan is Finnish artist Sakolut. That and his many many friends on 4chan and the like.
posted by Nelson at 8:54 AM on July 27, 2012


Reading Carl Barks' Duckiverse stories is like a master class on comic books. The man understood how important the synthesis of art, writing and layout was in creating a comic book as its own media experience. The man was so good at it that its easy for contemporary comics fans to miss the genius of his work due to its subtlety. When you go back amd read the work of his contemporaries output during the 40's & 50's, its obvious that he was light years ahead of almost all of them.

Carl Barks is right up there with Jack Kirby as far as I'm concerned, serving as the Yin to Kirby's Yang (or vice versa; I'm always getting Yin & Yang mixed up). Where Kirby made he comic leap off the page.at you, Barks brought you into his comics in a way that nobody else had before him.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:57 AM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


KokuRyu: Actually, there isn't a lot of his stuff online
A mere third of a million hits.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 AM on July 27, 2012


Fantagraphics is reprinting Carl Barks' Duck books.
posted by pibeandres at 9:15 AM on July 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Man, it must have sucked to be any of the other Walt Disney comics artists. "So, you've got your one good artist, and aaaaaaall the other ones."
posted by yoink at 9:31 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


pedantone

The ultimate in colour correction.
posted by zamboni at 9:44 AM on July 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


His Scrooge McDuck epics were my favorites...
posted by jim in austin at 9:50 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'd be super curious to see some comparisons of Carl Barks vs. not Carl Barks to understand why he was so obviously superior to other Disney artists of the era."
I don't have any non-Barks material for consideration but here's an article that gives you an idea of the kinds of things Barks was doing........and who he inspired!

http://www.dialbforblog.com/archives/429/
posted by TDavis at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2012


Barks' Uncle Scrooge epics are my favorite too, but here's a good example of Barks operating on a smaller scale. That short story really highlights Barks' storytelling skills, adept visual gags, and...the only word I can think of is the "humanity" in his Duck stories. They're cartoon animals, and have exaggerated expressions and reactions, but they just serve as great little parodies, riffs, and snapshots of how people think and act.

Barks stands write up there with Eisner, Kirby, Herriman, Foster, and Crumb as one of the greatest narrative artists and writers of the twentieth century ever. His oil paintings aren't bad either.

A good friend of mine subscribed to this thirty volume hardcover slip-cased edition of his work, still the best editions of Barks' Duck comics. What an education reading those volumes was.
posted by marxchivist at 10:14 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Incidently, Fantagraphics is busy starting to reprint all those Barks Uncle Scrooge stories, so if you want new, good quality reprints of them now's the time.

And if you want to see what a real Duck fan's house looks like, take the Don Rosa video tour.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:15 AM on July 27, 2012


I wonder if anyone has pointed out that the artist behind the plutocrat wealth-creator caricature Scrooge McDuck sounds like "Karl Marx" said with a blocked nose.
posted by acb at 10:37 AM on July 27, 2012


My mind is a little bit blown right now - I had no idea he was ever not credited! Donald Duck comic books were huge in Norway when I was growing up, and though I have moved all over the world and gotten rid of most of my stuff more than once, one of the things I could never bring myself to get rid of was my collection of 6 (huge) hard-cover Disney collections (in Norwegian) - one volume each for Donald Duck; Scrooge McDuck; Huey, Dewey and Louie; Super-Donald; Mickey Mouse and Goofy. I have read each of these books so many times, and quickly got to the point where I could tell the individual artists apart. Carl Barks was my hands-down favorite.

Here is the thing though: the comics must have been attributed to him in the books, because I knew his name (actually, I thought it was Carl Banks) and when I was reading this post I thought to myself, it must be about Carl Banks. Disney must have decided to give him credit in future editions.

I don't know why my mind is so blown, but it is! It must have something to do with how beloved this collection was to me, and how weird it is to find out it had been changed from the original. Weird. I know what I'm reading tonight!
posted by widdershins at 10:52 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, it must have sucked to be any of the other Walt Disney comics artists. "So, you've got your one good artist, and aaaaaaall the other ones."

Carl Barks was the best Disney duck comics artist, for sure.

The best mouse comics artist was Floyd Gottfredson.

According to Frank Stack, Carl Barks was the greatest Comic Book Artist Ever.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:21 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd be super curious to see some comparisons of Carl Barks vs. not Carl Barks to understand why he was so obviously superior to other Disney artists of the era.

Here are two Barks pages and two non-Barks pages from around 1950. To me, there's a staggering difference in quality; Barks is a much better draftsman - his characters look more fluid and alive, and are better 'actors'. The other artists' ducks look really awkward in comparison.
posted by martinrebas at 11:58 AM on July 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Mine came in the mail last week. It's really beautiful stuff.
posted by popaopee at 12:28 PM on July 27, 2012


In his book Comics and Sequential Art, Eisner talks about the "acting" aspect of storytelling, giving your characters pose and a sense of tension. Barks does this: his characters bounce, grimace, leap, strut and guffaw. The not-Barks artist seem content merely to illustrate: "Donald looks out a window." "Donald walks from here to there."
posted by SPrintF at 12:31 PM on July 27, 2012


My daughter got hold of some 1980s Scrooge McDuck books recently, one being a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Scrooge McDuck. It told the story of how the character was invented and by whom etc, and devoted the rest of the pages to Scrooge stories as usual. Not one single one was by Barks! WTF, publishers?

Anyway, I too have fond memories of the large-format books widdershins mention. I used to read them all the time at the library. I've toyed with the idea of finding a set somewhere to give to my kids. They're probably collector's items by now, though.
posted by Harald74 at 12:46 PM on July 27, 2012


That USA Today article is a complete mess.

It's too bad, because the story is really good.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:47 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bark's stories have spilled out into the real world, as well:
One Red Paperclip was a project based on a story about his nephews.

A mythbusters episode verified another old Barks story. There is some legal language with reference to 'prior-art'

He also predicted Methylene.

Really, not a bad haul for a guy who just wrote some funnybooks!

(also it appears that Cornell named an asteroid after him).

/barkist
posted by lkc at 4:51 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The "good artist" phenomenon isn't limited to Disney. I was surrounded by kids' comics when I was growing up, mostly '60s/early '70s stuff -- almost no Marvel/DC, just titles/comics digests from Disney/Gold Key, Archie, Harvey, Fawcett, etc. And there were a number of "anonymous" artists beyond Barks who stood out, whose stories I preferred reading, and whose identities I wasn't able to find out until much later. Among them: Many of these artists share a sense of adventure that distinguished their work from what other folks were doing with the same characters. This was absolutely explicit for Barks and Bolling, and Colón did some fun globetrotting action stuff with Richie Rich and Cadbury (as linked). Even Wiseman & Toole's "travelogue"-style Dennis stories have this sensibility to some extent.
posted by Lazlo at 7:44 PM on July 27, 2012


TDavis gave a URL to a blog essay about what Barks' work inspired. Here is a link to it.
Nothing against TDavis; for some of us, writing "a hrefs" is second nature, but for some it's not.
posted by JHarris at 8:47 PM on July 27, 2012


I grew up on Donald Duck comics, Uncle Scrooge, and Casper / Richie Rich. For some reason, I never really got into superhero comics, but I couldn't get enough of the classic Disney comics.

I used to tag along with my parents to antique shows / flea markets on the weekends, and a lot of vendors would have dusty boxes full of cheap old comics, including many Barks and Don Rosa era Disney comics. I'd usually spend the rest of the day stumbling along behind them with my nose embedded in the comics, engrossed in the globe-trotting adventures of the Ducks.

I didn't know their names until the past few years, when I started searching for collections of the old comics I used to love. Turns out, they're really hard to find. I had to resort to some kind soul who had uploaded a torrent of them. But if Fantagraphics is printing them out, woo-woo! Shut up and take my money!
posted by formless at 12:26 AM on July 28, 2012


"I have no interest in Walt Disney's Donald Duck I just like Carl Barks' Donald Duck."
Don Rosa.

This is exactly how I feel, like they're two completely different things.
posted by jeffen at 7:22 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the risk of being spammish, I know a guy who is looking to sell original Carl Barks comics. Unfortunately (for those who might wish to pick up one or two), he wants to sell them in sets. The following are links to the eBay pages:Even if you're not in the market to buy, these might be fun to browse — good quality scans from the covers of each book.
posted by rochrobbb at 1:51 PM on July 28, 2012


Actually, there are 12 scans per set (not one for each book). Sorry for the misinformation.
posted by rochrobbb at 8:24 PM on July 28, 2012


Oh God, don't tell me how much they'd be worth. My dad collected these comics throughout the 50s. We had a huge box of them in really good condition. I was barely allowed to touch them, but would sneak down into the room and open the box and pull out pile after pile and read them for hours when I got a chance. I loved the ads in them, and would try to work out what "Twinkies" were, and was thrilled and ultimately disappointed when I finally got to try one on my first visit to the States last year.

My dad died very suddenly when I was 14, and we moved to a small apartment when I was 18, and we had to get rid of a lot of stuff. As part of that shedding, mum sold the box of comics for $300.

I just about cry whenever I think of that.
posted by jonathanstrange at 7:46 PM on July 29, 2012


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