Carl Barks — The Unknown (Still)

Greil Marcus is a bit over the top in denouncing this Uncle Scrooge collection (bottom entry). But I can see where he’s coming from. In its defense, you kinda have to include “Christmas on Bear Mountain,” which introduced Scrooge (as a plain rich asshole, not at all like his later personality). And by any fan’s measure, “The Old Castle’s Secret,” which debuted the extended-adventure format for Scrooge, Donald and the Nephews, is a prime part of the oeuvre. As for the other selections … well, you have to keep in mind that the book was a straight reprint of a volume published in Italy. Barks was every bit as huge in much of Europe as he was in the US, but unlike here, he remained a perennial even after he retired in 1966. And of course the witch Magica De Spell is overrepresented — she did live on Mt. Vesuvius, after all, and had a huge Italian fanbase. I don’t know for certain, but it’s entirely possible that the very long Uncle Scrooge epics were not even published in Italy.

But GM is right to fume that this could blow the one big chance for Barks’s Scrooge. Hard as it is to imagine nowadays, funny-animal comics were all but forgotten by the late ’70s and not all that many people knew who Barks was, even (he was never allowed to sign his work for Disney). The Donald Duck and Scrooge stories had never been published as a book until then! (I was beyond wowed by the occasional comic-book reprints of his ’40s and early ’50s work that turned up throughout the ’60s.) The 1982 landmark Uncle Scrooge McDuck: His Life and Times is almost the book Marcus dreams of in the last sentence — even had an introduction by George Lucas. I’ve always considered it a blessing that Barks lived long enough to get the credit and the adulation he deserved.

Weirdest of all, even today there is no definitive complete collection of Barks duck comics. I have both Another Rainbow collections (marred by ponderous academic essays on comics and dabs of censorship) but they are out of print and pricey. At least Fantagraphics is working on it. (If they don’t go under.)

2 thoughts on “Carl Barks — The Unknown (Still)

  1. Barks is king! Still. Did comics myself before I pretended to be semi-normal. You remember me (and I remember you – positively even!) from Borrowed Times days and before. Sometimes I read your blog when I should be working, especially when I want to remember the old days. If there is a heaven, you will go there (but hopefully not too soon). Dugan.

  2. Yes, this is the very Frank Dugan I mentioned way back when my collection of “Heavy Metal” magazines got water-damaged in February, 2014:

    “the longest review I published before I became a pro was a feature on Heavy Metal for the local leftist rag in Missoula, The Borrowed Times. And the last thing I published before I left the state. Best of all it featured original illustrations by two of my favorite artist buddies, Monte Dolack and Frank Dugan.”

    The original of that illustration hangs in our house to this very day. Guy has his own visual language, kidz — and very few manage that. Now if I could just lay my hands on my copy of the first “Missoula Funnies” …

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