Robot 6

Collect This Now! The Complete Carl Barks

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Someone please explain to me why, in this golden age of reprints, when every 20th century cartoonist under the sun and their dog is getting the lavish, fancy-shmancy book collection treatment, do we still not have a decent, definitive collection of Carl Barks’ work?

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It’s kind of frustrating and more than a bit confounding. Here is an artist who, if you believe all that’s been written about him (and there’s been quite a lot written about him over the years), was one of the finest and most influential storytellers to come out of the comics medium (despite, it should be noted, the fact that he was working on an already well-established licensed property). He is beloved the world over (that’s not hyperbole, he really is). He has had streets and asteroids named after him. Virtually every funny animal and all-ages comic (and beyond) that’s come down the pike since bears his mark. Certainly every Disney comic since then follows his basic blueprint. George Lucas and Steve Spielberg have cribbed from him. That whole DuckTales TV show was based on his stories.

One of his few contemporaries equal in stature, John Stanley, has been undergoing a renaissance of late thanks to handsome editions from Dark Horse and Drawn & Quarterly, but Barks remains, in my opinion, ill-used and ill-treated, at least in his home country, if not abroad.

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It’s not as though attempts to collect his work haven’t been made before. The best known is probably the Carl Barks Library, published by the long-extinct Another Rainbow back in the 1980s. These enormous, slipcovered volumes collected Barks’ work in black and white. They were rather costly at the time and have become even more so now,  assuming you can actually track down a volume or two off of eBay they’re scarcer than hen’s teeth.

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Gladstone attempted a more affordable version of the Library in the ’90s, this time in color. These were slim, comic book sized arranged according to the various titles Barks worked on (Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, etc.). At the time I found the series to be somewhat flimsy in appearance — I wanted something that would sit sturdily and nicely on my bookshelf. Now I’m sorry I didn’t attempt to collect them at the time, as they’ve since become, again, rare and gone up in price (though not completely unaffordable).

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Since then, the only way to experience Barks’ work is through reprint anthologies. Gemstone, Steve Geppi’s publishing company, made a final go of things in 2006 with two volumes of The Greatest Duck Tales Stories, which reprinted Barks tales that the TV directly adapted from, before they lost the Disney license altogether. They’re decent enough books — a good intial primer for newbies and kids — but I’m looking for something more authoritative and definitive, that makes good use of modern printing technologies.

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Really, what I’m looking for is something along the lines of The Collected Works of Carl Barks, a lavish series from Scandinavian publisher Egmont that was published a few years back in Europe. It contained every single story Barks did, even those where he only served as writer or artist, along with tons of supplementary material  Gemstone had plans to release an American version of the collection, but it never made it past the Amazon.com preorder stage, as Gemstone lost the Disney license soon after.

Egmont’s garish, overly-PhotoShoped coloring job has been widely criticized, but it still remains the shining city on a hill for North American Barks fans who would like to his work receive the treatment and respect it deserves. I don’t know why his work hasn’t been collected in such a fashion yet (I suspect there are legal reasons) but some publisher somewhere needs to get a new collection of Barks’ Duck stories out to he public and soon. He’s late enough to the party as it is.

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19 Comments

From your lips to some enterprising publisher’s ears…

The first comic I ever bought with my own money was a Gladstone Donald Duck comic. I knew from the moment I saw his work that he was my favorite cartoonist, and he still is to this day.

I totally agree with you. i would also like to have a similar collection with the works of Barks only worthy sucessor, Don Rosa. But who am i kidding? this will always be a dream…

I am equally astounded. It seemed like Boom Kids was getting ready to do something like that. They released at least one hardcover of Carl Barks material, sort of a greatest hits. I figured that an exhaustive collection would follow.

I would actually prefer a series of more affordable trade paperbacks. I understand the collectors’ desire for high end archival hardcover omnibus editions, but Carl Barks should be as affordable and accessible as possible. Release a chronological reprinting of the entire Uncle Scrooge/Donald Duck universe by Carl Barks in affordable soft cover trades.

I kick myself on a regular basis for not buying those Gladstone albums. (Although weren’t they magazine-sized, not comic-sized? I could have sworn they were that slightly larger size.) And while I’d also love to see a gorgeous archival set released, like Corey I would be pleased with a series of affordable softcovers, too. My wallet would probably be more pleased, for that matter.

I couldn’t agree more. Since first learning about Barks a few years ago, I’ve been on a constant hunt to find a decent collection of his work…to no avail. This post is helpful, on the one hand, because now I can be completely sure that there’s nothing I missed. But on the other hand, the fact that there really hasn’t been anything to miss is disappointing in and of itself. I guess all we can do at this point is hope that Boom will eventually see fit to release this material, in one way or another.

This is such an obvious choice for getting collected that I imagine that there’s something preventing Boom from doing so, like a convoluted ownership disagreement or perhaps they’re working on it right now as we speak and the delay is due to them trying to make it the most amazing collection the world has ever seen. Fingers crossed it’s the latter.

Chris Mautner

June 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Corey — I’d be happy with either at this point

Greg — Now that I think about it, you’re probably right. They probably were a bit larger than the standard comic book size.

Mike — I hope you’re right.

I know that at one point in time, some of his works were lost, thereby making a complete library next to impossible. That may not be the case now, IDK.

But I would be interested in an Almost complete set if BOOM was willing to print it.

A partial reason why there hasn’t been a serious collection of Carl Bark’s works is that he created a lot of stories. A site that has every Duck story he ever wrote & drew comes to an astounding total of 658 titles. Even if only 100 of these were one-pagers, that’s still a lot, considering some of his stories could go from the range of 8-32 pages. Even Don Rosa’s impressive output only amounts to 86 stories.

Trying to compile & organize these stories would be a daunting task. What I would’ve liked to have seen was a stronger push for the collaboration between Barks & Rosa’s works, Barks being the original, with the Don Rosa sequel as a follow-up. It’d also give some better context on what Rosa was defining his story from.

I’m also a little disappointed with the re-release of the Life & Times of Scrooge book – it was perfectly fine as one volume. Releasing it as two books is counter-productive for repeat business, and is one more book that’s now being hiked up on Ebay.

I won’t say where the online Barks & Rosa comics are, but they should be available to anyone willing to do a little searching.

Augie De Blieck Jr.

June 19, 2010 at 4:22 am

Yes, those Gladstone albums were gloriously oversized I have a box full of them and live them. I just wish I had collected all the series now, but I’m happy with what I have.

I’d love a serious HC series to collect Barks’ work, even if it was to be 30 volumes long. It would be worth it. Mostly. Some of the 1960s stuff isn’t all that attractive to me.

Know what else I’d like? An art book showing all his Duck paintings. Geppi owns a bunch of those. But I’d like to see as many as possible in an oversized art book. Can we get Dark
Horse or IDW in that, ya think? ::sigh::

the best and complete barks collection is the last italian version.
was edited last year in collaboration with one of the big italian newspaper.
is composed by 48 books and collect every barks story, also the non duck family stories, all in chronological order, with great articles and essays by the most important disney italian critics.
actually in italy the complete floyd gottfredson is on going.

As much as I’d like everything to match, I’ve been hodgepodging a Barks collection for some time out of the B&W slipcases and the Gladstone “Carl Barks Library in Color.” The latter is not especially hard to find (well, the Scrooges are) in shops. Lots of places stocked up, it seems, and never really moved them, which is great for me but may explain the financial concerns with a mass reprinting.

So disappointing– Gemstone was right on the brink of both a definitive Barks AND a definitive Rosa collection, and now it doesn’t look like Boom has plans for anything like that. Their collections seem more like “kid stuff” and I can’t say I care for their hardcover reissue of the Life Of Scrooge– it’s more expensive than the Gemstone (since it’s chopped into TWO hardcovers where Gemstone was one trade paperback) and it’s not even a particularly NICE hardcover. I have very little faith that they will be the ones to do a Complete Barks series, and if they do, based on the quality of the Disney books they’ve done so far, I doubt they would do it right.

At this point, if Boom truly has no plans to do a definitive Barks series, I wish they’d allow some other publisher to handle it and do it right. Certainly, Fantagraphics or Drawn & Quarterly or even IDW would know how to truly collect Barks (and Rosa) in a way that would satisfy old Barks fans and attract new ones.

(And I agree that while there is an upside to a hardcover slipcase edition, a series of nice trade paperbacks would probably be even better. If I had to choose one or the other, I’d prefer that these would be books that more people would buy and read rather than ONLY catering to diehard fans and collectors.)

I hope this happens. It makes no sense that some of the most acclaimed and entertaining comics of all time would remain uncollected while so many obscurities are getting the “complete works” treatment…

I cannot wait for the appearance of an original non cencored full color hardcover edition of all the Barks stories, one-pagers and coverpage artwork. Why has it been done in other languages like italian, danish, swedish, german and dutch, but not in the original language?? I would expect that the there would be a much bigger market for such an original edition, also internationally.

I completely agree. I would love an affordable definitive collection of Bark’s work in color nicely hard bound. The man was a genius and this needs to be done !

I have thought about this and the only answer I can come up with is that Carl Barks had a way of thinking that is both funny, entertaining and strangely truthful. It is this last part that makes me think that there is some plot to submarine any type of individual thinking. We are all being robotized in our day to day lives and as it was said in Dr. Who’s episode “The Day of the Dalek’s”

You Will Be Assimulated

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