LOS ANGELES – Carl Barks, the most famous of all Disney comic book artists and the creator of Scrooge McDuck, passed away at his home in Grants Pass, Oregon on Friday (8/25) after a long illness. The legendary Barks wrote and illustrated almost 500 Donald Duck comic books between 1942 and 1966. At its peak in the 1950s, Barks’ Donald Duck stories as featured in Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories sold over three million copies a month in the U.S. Another 20 million copies a month were sold in foreign editions.
Commenting on Barks’ passing, Roy E. Disney, vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company, noted, “Carl Barks was one of the most gifted artists and inventive storytellers ever to work for Disney and the undisputed ‘Comic Book King.’ When it came to creating imaginative tales for Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and the other classic Disney characters, no one ever did it better.
He challenged our imaginations and took us on some of the greatest adventures we have ever known. His prolific comic book creations entertained many generations of devoted fans and influenced countless artists over the years. Carl’s joyful humor and stylish storytelling will certainly be missed but his timeless tales will stand as a legacy to his originality and brilliant artistic vision.”
Born on March 27, 1901 and raised on an Oregon farm, Barks worked at various vocations before becoming a freelance artist in the late 1920s. In 1935, he started at The Walt Disney Studios as an in-betweener, drawing frames between action in animated cartoons. Within a few months, he was transferred
to the story department, where he helped create stories for the animated shorts. His favorite character was Donald Duck and he went to work providing animation for some of “the duck’s” earliest films. In all, Barks collaborated on three dozen Donald Duck shorts — including “Modern Inventions,” “Good
Scouts” and “Timber” — and helped the temperamental duck skyrocket to superstardom.
Donald’s popularity extended to comic books. In 1942, Western Publishing, producer of the Disney comic books, hired Barks to draw the first original Disney comic book, “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold.” The following year, Barks illustrated the lead story for Western’s monthly Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. For the next 24 years, he wrote and drew almost every Donald Duck
story in that publication. He focused on the everyday adventures of Donald and his nephews — Huey, Dewey and Louie — and added a colorful cast of supporting characters that included Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose and the unforgettable Scrooge McDuck.
Uncle Scrooge, the eccentric globetrotting “jillionaire” first appeared as a bit player in the 1947 story, “Christmas on Bear Mountain.” Barks recalled, “Scrooge’s wealth generated so many gag situations he was soon upstaging Donald.”
In 1966, Barks retired from full-time comic book work but continued his association with Disney’s ducks. Five years later, in 1971, The Walt Disney Company granted him unprecedented permission to paint Donald Duck in oils,
bringing the Duckburg clan to the world of fine art. At age 70, the artist attempted his first oil painting and went on to paint nearly 150 works.
Barks’ work has been collected in several hardbound coffee-table books — “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” (1981), “The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck” and the 30 volume “Carl Barks’ Library.”
His comic book creations took on a whole new life when they became the basis for the popular Disney animated television series, “DuckTales,” which premiered in 1987 and ran for many years in syndication and on network TV. A feature film starring Scrooge McDuck, called “DuckTales: The Movie, Treasure of the Lost Lamp” was released in 1990.
Barks was honored by the Studio in 1991, when he became part of select group to receive the “Disney Legends Award.”
Barks is survived by his daughter, Dorothy, from Bremerton, Washington; as well as a granddaughter, a grandson, a niece and several great, great grandchildren.