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Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (3)  | Trivia (6)  | Personal Quotes (16)

Overview (3)

Born in Merrill, Oregon, USA
Died in Grants Pass, Oregon, USA  (leukemia)
Nicknames the good artist
the Good Duck Artist
the duck man
the comic book king

Mini Bio (1)

As the creator of 'Scrooge McDuck', Carl Barks did more than any other comic book artist to widen the popularity of Donald Duck, bringing in the process a vast array of memorable supporting characters into the Disney universe, among them Uncle Scrooge himself, Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose (and his Little Helper), the Beagle Boys, and the Junior Woodchucks.

Unlike many other artists working (all anonymously) for the Disney company, Barks did not mindlessly churn out condescending, forgettable stories of a childish nature during his 24-year stint on the Disney Ducks. He consistently produced delightful top-quality material, both in his scripts and in his art as well as in his dialogues, which echoed with deep human resonance. "I polished and polished on the scripts and drawings until I had done the best I could in the time available", he said. In both types of stories -- the 10-page comedies and the longer adventure stories -- he produced between 1942 and 1966, he managed to convey the intricacies and subtleties of the full scope of human emotions (from envy and cynicism and alarm and desperation to joy and scorn and triumph and smugness) while capturing the essence of exotic locations from the four corners of the world (from scorching deserts and primal forests to humid jungles and freezing snow-clad mountains through the urban setting of Duckburg).

His mastery at this is witnessed to by, among others, Newsweek's homage to his artistry and by Time's conclusion that "Scrooge and his creator Carl Barks belong in the great mainstream of American Folklore." Beyond that is the plain fact that he was known to his readers simply as "the good artist" (a descriptor necessary during a time when the Disney company didn't identify any of its cartoonists). His publishers tried in the early '50s to replace him on the 10-page comedies in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories so that he could concentrate on the longer adventure epics in Donald Duck and Uncle $crooge (these were the three titles that contained the bulk of Barks' output through the years); they were promptly flooded with a barrage of pleading and irate letters from readers demanding that "the good artist" be brought back.

Among his many fans were George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, who were inspired by the adventure comic books. One South American adventure in particular ("The Prize of Pizarro", Uncle $crooge nr 26, June-August 1959) inspired sequences in all three Indiana Jones films (the booby traps both in the lost temple in the opening pre-credits sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and in the final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), as well as the flood through the mines of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)). In an homage printed in Uncle Scrooge: His Life & Times (edited by Edward Summer and published by Gary Kurtz), Lucas writes that when he discovered the McDuck character as a kid, he liked him "so much that I immediately went out and bought all the Uncle $crooge comics I could find on the newsstand. My greatest source of enjoyment in Carl Barks' comics is in the imagination of his stories .... The stories are also very cinematic .... these comics are a priceless part of our literary heritage." Indeed, the titles of his adventures (many of which were inspired by the National Geographic) duly resonate with exoticism and adventure: "The Mummy's Ring", "Terror of the River", "Mystery of the Swamp", "Ghost of the Grotto", "Lost in the Andes", "Sheriff of Bullet Valley", "Trail of the Unicorn", "The Golden Helmet", "The Seven Cities of Cibola", etc...

His stories were constantly reproduced in Disney comics across the globe, after his retirement in 1966 (the same year that Walt Disney, who was born nine months after Barks, died). And soon his 6,371 comics pages (according to one count) from some 450 comic books were being reprinted (by then computer-colored) in impressive coffee-table volumes and hand-sewn hardback tomes, not just in the United States, but throughout the western world (Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, etc...).

Certainly the most widely read comic book artist of all time, Barks is also in all probability, what with Disney being the world's largest publisher of children's magazines and books (every year over two billion people around the globe read a Disney book or magazine, the company claims), the most widely-read author of any type of reading material of the 20th century.

Born to a homesteading family in Oregon on March 27, 1901, Carl Barks left school at 15 and spent the next two decades "in grim and demanding jobs" (to quote Michael Barrier's "Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book". These included rancher, logger, railroad repairman and printer. During the Depression, he went on to become an illustrator for a humor magazine, eventually becoming its most productive member. He joined the Disney studio in 1935, where he became a story man on the animated cartoons of a character created a year earlier (a duck by the name of Donald) and worked with such people as Harry Reeves, Chuck Couch, Jack Hannah, Homer Brightman and Nick George. Health problems eventually forced Barks to leave the Burbank studio during World War II for the dry air of the California desert, where he made the transition to comic books.

And so, it was after the age of 40, in an era when most people had little more than a third of their lives in front of them, that Carl Barks made the fateful jump of his life, the one that would leave his name an immortal one in the annals of what the French call "le neuvième art" (the ninth art form). And yet, it would not be until after his retirement that his name would, slowly but surely, become known to the mainstream public. It was during the 1960s that persistent fans (among them his official biographer, Michael Barrier) finally managed to identify "the good artist" (also dubbed the Duckman and the comic book king), become his correspondents, and proceed to make his name known to the outside world.

Despite having retired (and as his name was slowly becoming famous), "Unca Carl" did not remain inactive. He turned to painting, specifically signed oil paintings of his Disney Ducks, paintings that today easily fetch thousands of dollars and whose prices have occasionally topped $100,000. Indeed, it is easy to forget that Barks' retirement years lasted far longer than his comic book career and he spent many more years before the canvas than he did over the drawing board. In fact, Barks lived to the ripe old age of 99, and it is somewhat amazing to realize how vast an amount of time this actually means. His life spans such an extensive amount of time that his date of birth is further removed from that of his death than it is to the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the untamed wilderness west of the Mississippi (including Oregon, the region where the Barks family would eventually settle).

He was sprightly and active until the very last. People half his age reported that he could remember events they had long forgotten. His pace was such that during his 1994 trip to Europe (his first outside North America) to celebrate Donald's 60th birthday, young Disney handlers and PR staff (imagine yuppies in their 30s) at Paris' Euro Disneyland had to quicken their pace to keep up with the then-93-year-old man. His philosophy could be summarized in these words: "I worked hard at trying to make something as good as I could possibly make it... I always tried to write a story I wouldn't mind buying myself."

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Erik Svane

Spouse (3)

Garé Williams (26 July 1954 - 10 March 1993) ( her death)
Clara Balken (1938 - 1951) ( divorced)
Pearl Turner (1921 - 1930) ( divorced) ( 2 children)

Trivia (6)

Most famous for his numerous humorous adventure comic books featuring Donald Duck and his relations, most notably his own creation, Uncle Scrooge McDuck.
Named a "Disney Legend" [1991]
Two daughters, Dorothy and Peggy.
Has been named "Disney legend" in 1991 (October 22) and so put his name and hand prints on the sidewalk around the theater of Disney Studios (California).
In 1999, Comic's Journal published a list of top 100 comics in the 20th century. Carl's Donald Duck stories ranked #7 on the list. His Uncle Scrooge stories ranked #20.
One of his Donald Duck comic books - "The Sunken Yacht" (1949) - was the inspiration for a maritime salvage operation fifteen years later. In the comic, Donald and his nephews re-float Uncle Scrooge's sunken yacht by pumping it full of ping-pong balls. In 1964, the freighter "Al Kuwait" sank with approximately 6000 sheep in its cargo hold in a fresh water harbor near Kuwait City. Since the harbor was the source of most of the city's drinking water, it was feared that the rotting sheep would poison the city's water supply. A Dutch engineer named Karl Krøyer remembered the comic and suggested pumping 27 billion polystyrene balls into the ship's double hull to re-float it. The plan worked and the city's drinking water was saved. Later, when Krøyer applied for a Dutch patent for this process, he was denied because it was deemed that the idea belonged to Barks.

Personal Quotes (16)

Recognition is fine if the rewards are high enough to repay me for loss of privacy and freedom of expression.
I have no cartoonists in my ancestral tree whatsoever, no artists that I know of, no writers that I know of. I was just sort of a mutant that came along.
Donald [Duck] is my favorite character, because he's like all my friends, my neighbors, myself, he's just Mister Everyman.
One of the greatest difficulties in handling characters is in figuring out how each character is going to react to a certain situation. In that respect, Uncle Scrooge is fairly easy to keep in line. He will always choose the cheapest way to meet an emergency.
I've always looked at the ducks as caricatures of human beings.
I finally decided to do a watercolor to show that I'm really a hairy-chinned rebel at heart.
"My age is 80 and I don't look a day over 79 1/2." (1981)
Some of the main people who influenced my drawing style were Winsor McCay, Opper [Frederick Opper], and Hal Foster. Roy Crane, who drew 'Buzz Sawyer', also had a direct, simple style.
It wasn't genius or even unusual talent that made the stories good, it was patience and a large waste-basket.
Errors and boo-boos bother me years after I've forgotten every other feature of a story.
I polished and polished on the scripts and drawings until I had done the best I could in the time available.
If you were a prima donna down at the Disney studio, if you went in thinking you were a genius and then you had to work with a bunch of geniuses, why you soon got the ego knocked out of you.
I was a fizzle as a cowboy, a logger, a printing press feeder, a steelworker, a carpenter, an animator, a chicken grower, and a barfly. Perhaps that all helped in writing my stories of the ineptitudes of poor old Donald.
I visualized stories in plot sequences.
Writing stories is a lot like writing poetry. It all has to be set to a certain tempo. Everything has to be in its right place at the right time.
"I want to thank the Disney Studio. Not for myself, but for all those comic book fans -- the kids who used to buy my comic books for a dime and are now selling them for $2,000." (Disney Legend trophy acceptance speech, October 22, 1991)

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