While on hiatus, I have guests doing a few posts for me. Enjoy, and see you when I get back! ~CAN
Carl Barks created Donald Duck as I know him. He created an entire universe around this character, who was smarter, more goodhearted, and didn’t even look completely like the original version, a character people still write today.
As his identity was not known for the first 18 years of his career as a comic book writer/artist, he was nicknamed “The Good Duck Artist” or “The Duck Man” for his high-quality drawings and inventive plots which captivated so many children, which are reprinted to this day. The 1954 tale The Seven Cities of Cibola is an example of such an impact: The famous rolling boulder scene from Indiana Jones was admitted by George Lucas to be directly inspired by that story. I was not lucky enough to have experienced this impact back then, to hold deeply in my core as a writer with those others whom I hold in such high regard.
But boy do I ever know someone who did.
Don Rosa was a civil engineer and part-time cartoonist, and full-time Barksist. He grew up on the man whom I have so briefly touched upon (Part 1 & 2), and whose work I have feel I could never stress the importance of enough. He had no formal art training but his time tracing Barks drawings as a child, no training as a writer whatsoever, and the only work he ever had as a cartoonist was for fanzines and college newspapers.
But his love for the character of Scrooge in particular is purer than any I have ever known. When Disney Comics were licensed in the United States after a long hiatus, Rosa contacted the editor of the publication (which reprinted Barks Duck stories, and Gottfreddson’s Mickey Mouse newspaper strips) and proclaimed that he was the only American alive born to draw new Donald Duck comics, and that it was his manifest destiny. He was allowed to send in his treatment, and a new legend was born with the publication of The Son of the Sun.
Barks had always made efforts to seem believable, but Rosa was an odd duck to say the least. He found real treasures for Scrooge to hunt, with a strong sense of history and utterly realistic detail in his work. His style wasn’t nearly so loose and organic as the other Disney artists, nor was it as good on a technical level, and he tended to have more panels on the page despite only being paid by the page. And the detail he crammed in to them!
But oh, my oh my, did he do something that no one else had ever taken seriously as a Disney author.
He had a canon!
Regarding (almost) all tales by Barks to be canonical and any other to be apocryphal, Rosa’s stories take place within that same continuity rather than the loose framework that other writers had taken. The first three pages of this story have more shout-outs to original Barks tales than I know how to cite, and I can think of no stories that do not in some small way refer to a previous Barks story’s plot. They even took place in the 50s like many Barks stories did! This was the Scrooge McDuck of the modern comic book era, using previous stories to enhance the reading experience without requiring the encyclopedic knowledge that Rosa clearly had of his childhood experiences.
Rosa eventually liquidated his company in order to devote his time fully to writing and drawing comics. The work quickly caught on with many comic-goers who understood the deep love he had for Barks, and his art quickly evolved. But fate had more in store for him than to simply know the Barks canon…
Final post goes up tomorrow!
The DeRider is a 20-something Minnesota-based comics fan currently studying television production and writing. You can find his awesome Review or Die blog here: http://reviewordie.wordpress.com