I’ve already extolled the virtues of Carl Barks, master comic book artist. But I’m gonna do it again regardless, so there! Below is the complete entry on the maestro from the “About the Artists” section of The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics, selected and edited by Art Spiegelman & Francoise Mouly [the link is to a YouTube video of an interview about the book by the renowned authors on WNYC].
BARKS, CARL (1901-2000) is legendary as a master story teller, prolific artist/writer (over 650 stories), and creator of the denizens of Duckburg, including Scrooge McDuck, Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose, and the Beagle Boys, as well as endowing the Donald Duck family with a range of believable characteristics. Born in Merrill, Oregon, Barks left school early, and as a young man held a variety of jobs, including woodcutter, mule driver, prospector, and cowboy. He was hired by Walt Disney Studios in 1935 as a storyboard artist and writer for Donald Duck cartoons. In 1942 Barks left Disney to freelance at Western Printing and Lithographing Co., where over the next thirty years he created and populated Duckburg in a number of comic books under the Walt Disney banner, but was never allowed to sign his own name to his work. In the years following his retirement in 1966, Barks’s anonymity ceased. Fans commissioned Barks to paint fanciful scenes of Donald Duck and friends, even re-creating many of his tableaux from the comics. Barks was inducted into the Eisner Hall of Fame in 1987, and received a Disney Legends Award in 1991.
I’ve admired Barks’ drawing and writing talents since I was a kid so when I needed an extraterrestrial for “Asteroid Stu and the Mind-Duel,” I drew on my subconscious storehouse of Barks’ images of interplanetary aliens. I pulled Edzl, the Nebboid from the Vague Nebula out of my hat without really searching Barks’ work, but I knew that that’s generally (or vaguely) where my ET originated.
Pause & Reflect Comics is my current work-in-progress, and Edzl is the protagonist who is fated to encounter the teachings of an earthling who lived 2600 years ago, a dude named Siddhattha Gotama, better known as the Buddha. Edzl began as a stereotypical goofy “little green man” type of alien, but as I’ve worked with him he’s “complexified.”
He’s still got his goofy aspects (at least from a human point-of-view), but he’s matured. He’s more confident, more reflective. I’ve realized that his spindly, sort of fragile appearance is misleading. The trunk of his body far stronger than humans, temperature-resistant and bullet-proof (yeah, I know that’s a superhero cliche, but that’s the way it is, folks.). His limbs are as flexible and powerful as steel cables. The nature of his species, their evolutionary origin and culture, is just beginning to reveal itself to me.
Out of curiosity, I went back to unearth Edzl’s likely alien antecedents in the Barks’ oeuvre. I came up with two likely influences.
I loved this story so much that I copied some of the “carved” asteroids in “Asteroid Stu and the Mind-Duel.” Scrooge, by the way, shows astonishing generosity despite his characteristic stinginess, by helping other, humanoid asteroid-dwellers migrate to an fertile and bountiful asteroid despite an exorbitant cost.
Muchkale has been stranded on the solid-gold moon without food or a way home until he trades his rights to the gold moon to Scrooge for a handful of dirt. Which, in the course of the story, turns out to be a surprisingly good bargain!
Carl Barks, under the pressure of deadlines, and I imagine for relatively little monetary compensation, produced marvelous, funny and ingenious stories with superb art for many years without even getting any recognition for his efforts. They were labors of love and the love still shows from every page.
Next time: Three more pages of “Renegade Refrigerator” and who knows what else.