Carl Barks

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Barks at San Diego Comic Con 1982
Barks (left) with Burne Hogarth at San Diego Comic Con 1982. Bottom right, Barks' wife Garé

Carl Barks (born March 27, 1901 near Merrill , Oregon , † August 25, 2000 in Grants Pass , Oregon) was an American comic book author and illustrator as well as cartoonist and painter , who is considered the most famous Disney illustrator and numerous comics -Figures of the Disney cosmos like Scrooge McDuck created. Through his comics , he is also considered a culture and political critic, although he always denied this.


Barks was the best-known illustrator and author of the US Disney comics, especially the stories about the Duck family . He differentiated the characters from the cartoons and newspaper comics by Al Taliaferro, some of which were still quite one-dimensional, and added new characters. He is the spiritual father of the richest man in the world Dagobert Duck ( Scrooge McDuck ), the ingenious inventor Daniel Düsentrieb ( Gyro Gearloose ) and the Panzerknacker ( Beagle Boys ). The American name of the home of the Ducks, Entenhausen ( Duckburg ) comes from Barks. Before his work, there was only Donald Duck's girlfriend Daisy Duck . Donald's nephews Tick, Trick and Track ( Huey, Dewey & Louie ) had their first appearance in the Disney short animated film Donald's Nephews from 1938, which is largely from Barks, who worked as an animator and writer for a few years before his comic book career worked at Disney studios.

Carl Barks also invented many other duck figures. Some of these characters, originally designed only for a particular comic, became so popular that they later received their own comic series, such as: B. Grandma Duck .

In the 1950s, his comics were so popular in the United States that he was called "the good artist" by Disney comic readers. Back then, nobody knew his name because all the Disney publishers' editions only bore the “Walt Disney” brand as an author's note. It was only in the late 1960s that stubborn fans managed to find out his name and contact and visit the master, who had long since retired.

“I always felt myself to be an unlucky person like Donald, who is a victim of so many circumstances. But there isn't a person in the United States who couldn't identify with him. He is everything, he is everybody; he makes the same mistakes that we all make. He is sometimes a villain, and he is often a real good guy and at all times he is just a blundering person like the average human being, and I think that is one of the reasons people like the duck. ”

“I have always seen myself as unlucky, like Donald, who is a victim of all possible circumstances. But there is probably no one in the United States who cannot identify with him. He is everything, he is everyone; he makes the same mistakes we all make. He's a villain sometimes, often he's a really good guy, but always, like all of us, he has to deal with the pitfalls of everyday life, and I think that's one of the reasons people like the duck . "

- Carl Barks

In Erika Fuchs , Carl Barks' comics found a brilliant translator into German. Well-known sayings such as “Wherever you look, nothing but the area” or “Nothing is too swear for the engineer” come from her pen. Their language was far more finely differentiated than the American original, in which Barks also used many slang words.


Childhood and youth

Carl Barks was born on March 27, 1901, the second son of the farmer William Barks and his wife Arminta in the US state of Oregon , not far from the town of Merrill on a farm. From an early age, Carl and his brother, Clyde, who was two years older, helped their father with farm work after leaving school. In 1911, William Barks leased his farm and moved the family to Santa Rosa , California , to try his luck with a plum plantation. Succeeded, however, and when Carl Barks' mother was diagnosed with cancer and his father suffered a nervous breakdown, the family moved back to the previously leased farm in Merrill. His mother died in 1916 at the age of 56. Carl Barks, who was just 15 years old at the time, dropped out of school in eighth grade. His hearing began to deteriorate significantly during this time. In the same year he began a correspondence course at the Landon School of Cartooning , which he dropped out after only four lessons. Barks increasingly helped out in the fields, as there was a labor shortage due to the First World War and he was able to quickly finance his move out of his parents' farm with the higher wages he was paid. Nonetheless, according to his own statement, he was able to take away a lot for his later career from the short correspondence course and studying comic strips in the daily newspaper. In December 1918, Carl Barks went to San Francisco with his savings, where he worked as an errand boy for a printing company. He applied to local newspapers with drawings that he made in his spare time, but all of them rejected him. Finally, in 1920, after 18 months without any noteworthy success, he returned to his father's farm in Oregon.

Early work experience and first marriage

As before he left for San Francisco, Carl Barks was helping his father on the farm. In 1921 Barks married Pearl Turner, the daughter of a sawmill owner, with whom he had daughters Peggy (born January 23, 1923) and Dorothy (born November 26, 1924) in the following years. During this time, Carl Barks also worked in his father-in-law's sawmill because there wasn't always enough work on the farm to support the young family. However, since this was only possible in summer, he continued to look for a permanent job with a permanent income. He finally found this as a laborer in a railway repair shop for the Pacific Fruit Express Company in Roseville . The family moved to the city near Sacramento and stayed there until 1930. During this time, Barks withdrew more and more to the drawing table in his spare time, which his wife increasingly disliked. Although he earned a little extra money selling his first drawings, they separated in 1930. Carl Barks stayed with his in-laws in Oregon for a short time and now regularly sold drawings to the men's magazine Calgary Eye-Opener , so that he could soon rent a small house in Medford . He didn't stay there long, because in November 1931 he took a permanent position at the Calgary Eye-Opener and moved to Minneapolis to work in the editorial office. By 1935 he not only contributed drawings and caricatures for the magazine, but also short stories and poems.

Work at disney

In 1935, Carl Barks applied to the Disney Studios in Los Angeles , which were still looking for cartoonists for their first feature-length cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs . His application was successful, and so he traveled to Los Angeles with Clara Balken, whom he had met in Minneapolis, where he was taken on as an inter -phase draftsman after a month's training . It was at Disney Studios that Barks first came into contact with Donald Duck, for whom he designed a slapstick scene with an automatic hairdressing chair in order to get away from the tedious intermediate phase drawings and to prove himself in the studio despite his hearing loss. Walt Disney liked the scene and then transferred him to the story development department. In 1938 Carl Barks married for the second time and three years later bought a small farm in San Jacinto with his wife Clara . On November 9, 1942, he quit his job at Disney in order to start his own business with a chicken farm and the prospect of becoming a full-time comic artist.

The beginning as a comic artist

After his resignation from Disney at the end of 1942, Carl Barks applied to work as a draftsman at Western Publishing , the publisher that had published two comics a few months earlier that Barks had worked on. The response was positive, and Barks received the script for The Victory Garden (dt. Health vegetables ), from which he would draw a ten-page comic with Donald. Over the next few years, Barks himself wrote other stories for ten-page books and longer Donald Duck adventures. As the publisher in 1947 came up with the desire for a Christmas story of his trip, he designed a rich uncle of Donald: Scrooge McDuck (dt. Scrooge McDuck ) first appeared in December 1947 in the history of Christmas on Bear Mountain (dt. The test of courage ) on. He was followed by other characters invented by Barks such as Gustav Gans , Daniel Düsentrieb and later the tank crackers and Gundel Gaukeley . In 1953 Dagobert Duck got his own series of comics with the same publisher called Uncle Scrooge , for which Carl Barks mainly provided the adventure.

Second divorce and third marriage

His second wife Clara became increasingly addicted to alcohol and then became aggressive. When her leg had to be removed down to the knee during a cancer operation in 1950, Carl Barks tried his hand at caring. But even this effort could no longer save the marriage, especially since she continued to reach for the bottle. They divorced in December 1951 and Barks had to start over at the age of 51, with nothing left but "two blankets, his clothes, the drawing board and the National Geographic editions". But Barks felt as if he was relieved of a burden, drove through the country, collected inspiration and visited exhibitions. At one of these in 1952, he met Margaret Williams again, who had already applied to him as an assistant ten years earlier. Garé, as Margaret was known by everyone, had also been through a divorce and was a landscape painter. The two moved into a house in Hemet, Southern California, and married on July 26, 1954. From then on Garé Barks supported her husband in his work, drew backgrounds, lettered and washed some of his drawings.

"The good artist"

In 1959, Barks began to draw more and more commissioned work for Western Publishing, such as the Daisy Duck's Diary or Grandma Duck's Farm Friends stories, so that he no longer had to think up new actions. From 1960 he received the first fan letters that his publisher, which also kept Barks' address secret, had not forwarded until then. Since his stories always with Walt Disney were signed and not with Carl Barks , who was, knew a long time no one started, the fans with the honorary name The good artist (dt. The good artists ) thoughtful. In the next few years he implemented some ideas that his fans described to him in letters in his comic stories. On June 30, 1966, Carl Barks officially retired as a comic artist for Western Publishing, but this did not prevent him from sending more scripts to the publisher, which were then completed by other cartoonists.

The ducks in oil

Like his wife Garé, Carl Barks tried again and again to paint landscapes with oil paints. His paintings had little commercial success, but fans who saw these paintings asked him to immortalize the Ducks in oil as well. In 1971, Barks officially applied to Disney and was the first artist to get approval. Since then he has been painting cover motifs or scenes from his comics as oil paintings for his growing fan base on request and selling them. Some of the particularly popular motifs were painted several times by him in different variations. When a dealer sold illegal reprints of one of his paintings at the San Diego Comic Book Fair in 1976 , Disney revoked Carl Barks' license to paint the Ducks in oil. Barks then limited himself to oil paintings without Disney characters, which, however, did not find as much approval with the fans.

See: List of paintings by Carl Barks

The last few years

93-year-old Barks in Finland, 1994

In the following years, Carl Barks was mainly occupied with answering his fan mail and with advice and assistance to those publishers who wanted to publish anthologies with reprints of his comics or oil paintings. In 1983, the Barks moved to Grants Pass, Oregon, to get some distance from the increasingly intrusive fans in California. Garé Barks died there on March 10, 1993 at the age of 75. In the summer of the following year, Barks went on a trip to Europe for Donald Duck's 60th birthday and, in addition to the Egmont Ehapa publishing house in Stuttgart, also visited Erika Fuchs in Munich , who did all of his comics had transferred into German. In July 1999 he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and Barks became increasingly weaker, partly because of chemotherapy. Almost a year later, in June 2000, he decided to end his medical treatment. On the night of August 25, 2000, Carl Barks died in his sleep at his home in Grants Pass, aged 99.


Carl Barks was married three times in his life. His first wife Pearl, from whom he divorced in 1930, died in 1987. Barks had little contact with their daughters, Peggy and Dorothy. Peggy, who had a son and two daughters, died of lung cancer in 1963. Dorothy has one son and lives in Washington state . His second wife Clara died in 1964, 13 years after her divorce from Barks, who paid her alimony until her death . His brother Clyde lived in Tulelake, California, where he ran a hotel. He died in 1983, leaving behind the children William and Maxine and his wife Zena May Dillard, who died in 1986.


Barks' life's work is unmanageably large, unforgettable comic stories as the product of decades of creative work on behalf of various publishers between 1942 and 1966. The Inducks catalog lists over 850 Disney comics for Western Publishing in which Barks was involved, not counting covers and illustrations. The spectrum ranges from his debut Piratengold ( Pirate Gold , 1942) to his last drawings in the short story Just the Right Job ( The Dainty Daredevil , 1968). The high point are the years around 1950, after the introduction of the figure of Uncle Dagobert . The latter was initially designed as a rather unsympathetic figure in the style of his literary role model Ebenezer Scrooge by Charles Dickens , but Barks later made his character milder and occasionally with a soft heart under a rough shell. Barks himself called in interviews often as his favorite stories in the land of the square eggs ( Lost in the Andes! , 1948) and in the old California ( In Old California! , 1951). Many fans cite Christmas for Kummersdorf ( A Christmas for Shacktown , 1952) as their favorite story .

The numerous users of the Inducks database can submit marks for all the stories entered there. Here, Barks classic Reunion with Klondike is currently in 1st place out of over 25,000 listed stories. Barks also holds positions 2–21 at the moment, although the stories keep pushing each other out of the top positions. In total, 50 of the top 100 stories are from Barks.

Barks also drew some comics that were not based in Duckburg, including for the series Barney Bear and Benny Burro (published in Germany from February 1989) or Droppy .


  • 1970: Shazam Award from the Academy of Comic Book Arts (ACBA) for Best Humor Writer
  • 1973: Hall of Fame award from ACBA
  • 1977: San Diego Comic-Con Inkpot Award
  • 1985: Induction into the Hall of Fame for the Kirby Award
  • 1987: Induction into the Hall of Fame of the Eisner Award
  • 1991: Disney Legends Award in the Animation & Publishing category
  • The asteroid (2730) Barks , discovered in 1981, was named after Carl Barks in 1983. Peter Thomas of Cornell University suggested his name because Barks inspired many scientists with his space adventures.

Barks Comics in German-speaking countries

Already in the first German-language Micky Mouse issues (since September 1951) and in the Micky Mouse special issues (No. 3, 8, 10, 16, 18, 21, 23, 24 and 31) from 1952, Barks- Stories, the reprints of which first appeared from May 1965, especially in the issues of the series The Greatest Stories by Donald Duck - special issue (these were also reprinted in the 2nd edition). From 1979 Goofy magazine regularly published Barks' Ten Pagers (ten-page stories) in the Nostalgoofy section .

His work has been comprehensively reissued in The Best Stories with Donald Duck (58 albums from 1984 to 1999) and the Donald Duck Klassik Album (6 bound 4-volume volumes of the same series), and - for the first time systematically - in Barks, which was published between 1992 and 2004 Library that comprises 133 albums in several sub-series and is now mostly out of print. The 51 albums of the main series were also published in 17 bound volumes of 3 as Barks Comics & Stories , and since May 2009 the 38 albums of the Barks Library series Carl Barks - Onkel Dagobert have been reissued in 13 bound volumes of 3.

As a high-quality, 30-volume collector's edition, the large-format Carl Barks Collection on 10 slipcases of three bound half-linen volumes has been published in German-speaking countries and some other northern European countries since summer 2005 , which contains all of the Disney comics written and drawn by Barks along with many commentary articles and other documents about Barks and was completed in December 2008. It is currently considered "the ultimate edition" of Carls Barks' oeuvre in the German-speaking world.

The cultural critic

Barks watched the development of the mass media in the United States with great unease. In interviews he gave his followers and journalists, he repeatedly pointed out the dangers of watching television, especially in the forms it appears in the United States. This attitude is also noticeable in some of his comic stories, for example in the ten-page Die Zugkatastrophe .

“With us [in the USA] the television set never stands still, and what is then offered is 99 percent absolute trash! The influence of American television on the population cannot be stressed enough, it really destroys people and poisons them! "

- Carl Barks : quoted from Klaus Strzyz / Andreas C. Knigge: Disney from the inside

Background of his works

Barks denied any political or social intentions in his works, but with some stories, e. B. The city of golden roofs , difficult to overlook the criticism of (US) imperialism .

Furthermore, in some works he exposes the professions of psychologists, lawyers, secret service agents etc. to ridicule or integrates Hitler's Mein Kampf into the depiction of a garbage dump.

Barks also dealt critically with the Vietnam War in his story The Treasure of Marco Polo . On the one hand, the story is consistently anti-communist, on the other hand, Duckburg (which represents the USA) does not do well either.

This type of criticism ensured that some of Barks' works were heavily censored or not even published for a long time because they were considered politically undesirable by Walt Disney Studios . Another example is the story In the Land of the Dwarf Indians , in which Barks draws attention to environmental problems and the problems of indigenous peoples.


The following films were made with the participation of Carl Barks:

  • 1937: The wonders of technology (Modern Inventions)
  • 1937: Donald and the ostrich (Donald's Ostrich)
  • 1938: Self Control
  • 1938: Donald's Better Self
  • 1938: Short visit to Uncle Donald (Donald's Nephews)
  • 1938: The Good Scouts
  • 1938: Donald plays golf (Donald's Golf Game)
  • 1939: Donald's Lucky Day
  • 1939: The Hockey Champ
  • 1939: Donald's cousin Franz (Donald's cousin Gus)
  • 1939: Donald on a long journey (Sea Scouts)
  • 1939: Donald and the Penguin (Donald's Penguin)
  • 1939: Donald on the hunt for celebrities (The Autograph Hound)
  • 1940: A dance with Daisy (Mr. Duck Steps Out)
  • 1940: The seizure found ( Bone Trouble )
  • 1940: Trip to the Lake (Put-Put Troubles)
  • 1940: Donald's Vacation
  • 1940: Pluto, the Window Cleaners
  • 1940: fire alarm! (Fire chief)
  • 1941: Donald the Lumberjack (Timber)
  • 1941: The Golden Eggs
  • 1941: Sleep disorders (Early to Bed)
  • 1941: Donald and the truants ( Truant Officer Donald )
  • 1941: Mr. MacDonald has a farm (Old MacDonald Duck)
  • 1941: Donald, the head chef (Chef Donald)
  • 1942: Donald, the Village Smithy (The Village Smithy)
  • 1942: Donald's Snow Fight
  • 1942: Donald in Uniform (Donald Gets Drafted)
  • 1942: The Army Mascot
  • 1942: The Vanishing Private
  • 1942: Unwilling parachutist (Sky Trooper)
  • 1942: Donald the Page (Bellboy Donald)
  • 1943: Half Donald (The Old Army Game)
  • 1943: Donald finds no rest (Home Defense)
  • 1944: Trombone Trouble
  • 1944: The Plastics Inventor

Documentary film

  • Duckburg is everywhere - the world of Carl Barks . Documentary by Michael Maschke and Joachim Müller, Germany, 43 minutes


  • Michael Barrier: Carl Barks. The biography . Brockmann and Reichelt, Mannheim 1994, ISBN 3-923801-99-8
  • Donald Ault (Ed.): Carl Barks conversations (Conversation with Comic Artists Series). University Press of Mississippi, Jackson (Mississippi) 2003, ISBN 1-57806-501-1 (numerous interviews with Barks)
  • Uwe Anton and Ronald M. Hahn : Donald Duck - A life in Duckburg . Munich 1994, ISBN 3-910079-55-5
  • Johnny A. Grote: Carl Barks. Catalog raisonné of the comics . Egmont-Ehapa, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-7704-1898-0
  • Gottfried Helnwein : Who is Carl Barks. Neff, Bayreuth 1993, ISBN 3-8118-5341-4
  • Gottfried Helnwein and Carsten Laqua: Donald Duck ... and the duck became human. The graphic and poetic work of Carl Barks , Caricature Museum Krems, 2007, ISBN 3-902407-04-2
  • Michael F. Walz et al .: Carl Barks, the father of the Ducks (OT: Carl Barks - l'uomo dei paperi ). Ehapa Comic Collection, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-7704-2792-0
  • David Kunzle: Carl Barks. Dagobert and Donald Duck. World conquest from a duck's perspective . Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-596-23949-4
  • Klaus Strzyz and Andreas C. Knigge : Disney from the inside. Talks about the empire of the mouse . (With a foreword by Carl Barks). Ullstein, Frankfurt am Main and Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-548-36551-5
  • Author collective: Thanks, Carl! In memoriam Carl Barks 1901-2000 . Egmont-Ehapa-Verlag / Ehapa-Comic-Collection, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-7704-0434-3
  • Henner Löffler : How ducks live - the Ducks from A-Z . Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51608-4
  • Donald was my savior . In: Der Spiegel . No. 24 , 1994 ( online - in conversation with Carl Barks in 1994).

Web links

Commons : Carl Barks  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Arminta Barks (1860-1916) Grave Site Cemetery: Mount Laki Cemetery | BillionGraves. In: BillionGraves. Retrieved April 12, 2016 .
  2. ^ Cf. Carl Barks, in: Carl Barks Collection , Volume I 2005, p. 23
  3. ^ A b Peter Kylling: The Wives ,, January 30, 2007, accessed on August 2, 2010
  4. ^ Cf. Carl Barks, in: Carl Barks Collection , Volume I 2005, p. 27
  5. Cf. Carl Barks, in: Carl Barks Collection , Volume I 2005, p. 28 f.
  6. ^ Letter from Carl Barks of November 9, 1942 to Hal Adelquist
  7. Cf. Carl Barks, in: Carl Barks Collection , Volume VIII 2005, p. 13
  8. ^ Cf. Carl Barks, in: Carl Barks Collection , Volume XXI 2005, p. 9
  9. Cf. Carl Barks, in: Carl Barks Collection , Volume XXIX 2008, p. 265 f.
  10. See Carl Barks, in: Carl Barks Collection , Volume XXX 2008, p. 20
  11. Donald Ault (ed.): Carl Barks: Conversations . University Press of Mississippi, 2003, ISBN 978-1578065011 , pp. Xlvi.
  12. Peter Kylling: The Family ,, July 18, 2003, accessed August 3, 2010
  13. INDUCKS: Carl Barks Statistics ,, July 27, 2010, accessed on August 9, 2010
  14. ^ Sébastien Durand; Didier Ghez: Interview with Carl Barks , July 7, 1994 ( Memento of July 24, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  15. The Best Stories: 100 ,
  16. ^ Cf. Carl Barks, in: Carl Barks Collection , Volume XXI 2005, p. 154
  17. Minor Planet Circ. 7621
  18. view drawing
  19. Summary of contents: Dagobert is expecting a life-size jade elephant from Unstetistan (which is inspired by Vietnam). But the box only contains the elephant's tail - and the farmer boy Kambaluk. When a document from the 13th century is found in the tail, the Ducks fly with Kambaluk to Unstetistan to look for the rest of the elephant and the fabulous treasure of Marco Polo . There you get caught in the turmoil of a civil war that was instigated by a rebel army led by Budak. Later, Dagobert and Donald are captured by the rebels. But as it turns out, Kambaluk is actually Purruk, the lost prince of Unstetistan. With the help of the jade elephant, which is considered sacred in Unstetistan, he can prove himself to be the rightful ruler and end the uprising of Budak. Dagobert finds Marco Polo's treasure, but donates it to the needy population of Unstetistan.