Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mar 27: Birth of The Duck Man

On this day in 1901, Carl Barks - a Disney Studio illustrator and comic book creator best known for his 3 decades of Donald Duck work, was born in Merrill, Oregon. Creator of Duckberg (a city in the fictional U.S. state of Calisota and home of Donald Duck), Barks also created such characters as Scrooge McDuck and Gladstone Gander.
The Duck Man (as he would come to be known) grew up on a farm in a rural area of Oregon. In November 1935, Barks learned that Walt Disney was seeking artists for his studio. Barks applied ... and was approved for a try-out (which meant leaving Oregon and moving to Los Angeles, California). He was one of two in his class of trainees that were eventually hired (at $20 a week).
Like many rookies, Barks began an an "in-betweener" working with Disney's top animators. By 1936, he was moved to the story department. The following year, Donald Duck became the star of his own series and Barks contributed gag ideas to some of the early shorts.
Unhappy at the emerging wartime working conditions at Disney (plus bothered by an ongoing sinus problem made worse by the studio's air conditioning system) Barks actually quit in 1942. But just before leaving he moonlighted as a comic book artist, contributing to a one-shot comic book titled Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold.
Barks moved out of the Los Angeles area and began working for Western Publishing ... who had published Pirate Gold and was looking for a Donald Duck illustrator! The Victory Garden, a 10-page Donald Duck story first published in April 1943, turned out to be the first of some 500 Duck stories Barks would draw and script.
He "retired" in 1966 but was persuaded to continue to write for Western. At the urging of a fan, Barks requested and obtained permission from Disney to produce and sell oil paintings of scenes form his stories. To Bark's astonishment, his career went into high gear.
Barks began to attend comic book conventions and licensed a series of art prints of his Duck work. He toured Europe and attended Disneyana conventions. The Duck Man had become a worldwide sensation! He was even inducted as a Disney Legend in 1991.
Sadly, Barks died from leukemia at his home in Grant Pass, Oregon in 2000 ... just short of his 100th birthday.

Click HERE for more March 27 Disney history.

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