February 1, 2009
University Press of Mississippi
Donald Ault
Helnwein speaks with Carl Barks
Helnwein (about Donald): "But before you took him on, he didn't have much of a personality. Only in your stories did he become a real human being." Barks: "It seems that way. If you have a story to tell, a story that somebody is going to read over and over again, you have to put some substance into it. It takes more than just a bunch of pratfalls and bumps on the head. There had to be motivation for the different things the characters did, and revenge for their mistakes (laughs). It took a lot to write a ten-page story. A lot of the guys didn't take the time to go into it that far and as a result there were a lot of the comic book stories that never lasted for very long. With my stories, because I worked so hard to make the story plausible and give it a reason for having been written, people would read it over and over again. They didn't throw the comic book away. So these stories are still alive today, while many others are gone and forgotten."
Helnwein and Carl Barks
Barks may be history's most widely read anonymous storyteller. When he wrote and drew the Donald Duck comic books in the 1950s, they had an estimated monthly readership of more than 10 million, and the only real person's name that appeared on the comic was Walt Disney. The lovingly drawn stories, encompassing uproarious comedy and rousing adventure, also expanded Donald's one-note animated-cartoon personality and introduced Donald's magnificent skinflint uncle, Scrooge McDuck. In keeping with Barks' obscurity, the 24 interviews collected here come from small-circulation fanzines or are first publications. The earliest was conducted in 1968, after Barks' retirement; he lived another 30 years, painting fine-art renditions of the Disney ducks. In the interviews he veers from seeing himself as a nameless hack to revealing how seriously he took his work. His anonymity allowed for no reader feedback, and when he received his first fan letter in 1960, he thought it was a fellow cartoonist's joke. He probably would have been bemused yet impressed by this tribute to his work's lasting significance.
Chronology (excerpt)
Gottfried Helnwein conducts an extensive interview with Barks (11 July) at Grants Pass
Helnwein organizes the first retrospective museum show, “Die Ente ist Mensch geworden – Das zeichnerische Werk von Carl Barks” (And the Duck Became Flesh – The Art of Carl Barks), consisting of more than 400 original art works, 290 from the collection of Helnwein, which opens in Münchner Stadtmuseum, in Munich; the exhibit appears in ten different museums in Europe and is seen by more than 400, 000 people.

University press of Mississippi, books and catalogues
FEBRUARY, 6 x 9 inches, 248 pages (approx.), chronology, 25 b&w illustrations, index
ISBN 1-57806-500-3, unjacketed cloth, $46.00S
ISBN 1-57806-501-1, paper, $18.00T
Conversations with Comic Artists Series
BISAC SOC022000 Photo credit: Courtesy of Barbara Boatner

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