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 Carl Barks  (1901 - 2000)

About: Carl Barks
 

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Lived/Active: California/Oregon      Known for: illustrator-cartoonist, wildlife

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Ad Code: 2
Carl Barks
from Auction House Records.
The Sport of Tycoons Painting Original Art (1974).
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Carl Barks established his reputation as a comic book artist, and the work that ultimately won him the most distinction was done anonymously from 1942 to 1966 when he drew and wrote the first original Donald Duck comic book stories.  Along the way, he created such characters as Gyro Gearloose, Gladstone Gander, the Beagle Boys, and Uncle Scrooge.

Barks was born in Oregon, and "by the time I was sixteen, I had become pretty well assured that I wanted to be an artist or a cartoonist." It took him some time to realize his ambition. "I had to go out and be a cowhand and a farmer, a muleskinner, lumberjack, anything that happened to come along that would furnish me with a living," Barks once said. "I'd worked in a printing ship, been a cowboy and a whole bunch of other things, with practically no success whatever."

Finally, in the late 1920s, he started to sell his cartoons to magazines such as College Humor and Judge. His more risqué gags, featuring sexy ladies wearing a minimum of clothing, found a home in a Minneapolis-based magazine called The Calgary Eye-Opener, and in 1931, they offered him a staff job. In 1935, Barks decided he wasn't earning enough and applied for a job with the Walt Disney Company. He sent examples of his works and was hired at the salary of $20 a week to be an in-betweener in the Southern California animation studios.

Bark's talents as an apprentice animator waned, but "I turned in so many gags to the comic strip department and the story department that I was placed in the story department on a permanent basis." After working nearly seven years, Barks made up his mind to quit and relocated in the desert country. Just before he left Disney he worked on a one-shot comic book entitled Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold. Based on an abandoned movie, it was the first original Donald Duck comic book. Later in 1942, Bakes was hired by Dell-Western to do original, 10-plate Duck stories in Walt Disney's Comics & Stories. His first job appeared in #31 (April 1943), and soon he was writing as well as drawing the stories.

The character of Donald Duck changed as Barks began to think of him as his own. "Instead of making just a quarrelsome little guy out of him, I made him a sympathetic character," he once explained. "He was sometimes a villain, often a real good guy, and at all times he was just a blundering person like the average human being." The three nephews were modified as well. "I broadened them like I did Donald, started out with mischievous little guys and ended up with little scientists."

Barks started doing full-length Duck books in 1943 as well. It was in these, The Mummy's Ring, Frozen Gold, Volcano Valley etc., that he really began to shine. He started doing graphic novels filled with adventure, comedy, satire, and some of the best cartooning to be found in comics. In 1947 came Christmas on Bear Mountain, which introduced Barks' major creation, Uncle Scrooge.

Barks' forte was the mock adventure tale; he put his ducks into handsomely rendered locales where they could experience every sort of action, intrigue, fantasy, and mystery situation. He built his settings carefully, often using such reference sources as The National Geographic magazine. He drew his characters so well, in every kind of situation, that they became close to real. The Barks dialogue was just about the best to be found in a kid's comic book, equaled only by that of Walt Kelly. He was especially good at the invective sprouted by the avaricious, and short-tempered, Uncle Scrooge. The current, successfully animated television show, Duck Tales, owes much to ideas and approaches done earlier, and usually much better, by Barks.

Barks retired at the age of 65 to devote himself to painting. As his identity became known, he became the object of increasing attention in both fan circles and in mainstream publications.  His entire output on the Ducks, as well as his work on other characters such as Mickey Mouse and Barney Bear, has been reprinted. Since Barks did all of it as a worker-for-hire, he did not become rich, but he has most certainly grown famous.

(Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, "The Encyclopedia of American Comics," edited by Ron Goulart.)


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Merrill, OR on March 27, 1901. Barks went to work in 1935 at Disney Studios where he brought to life the many Disney characters. In 1942 he joined Western Comics and created the first Donald Duck comic book along with Uncle Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey and Louie. After retirement in 1966, he began capturing the Duck family in oil paintings. In 1993 Diamond Comics awarded him their Lifetime Achievement Award. He died in Grants Pass, OR on Aug. 25, 2000.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Interview with the artist or his/her family; NY Times, 8-26-2000 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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