“[T]hey broke my spirit,” Don Rosa wrote in an epilogue to his autobiography in comics, explaining why he retired from the job he so dearly loved. The whole tale is heart-breaking but also beautiful in the cartoonist’s abundant gratitude and humility.
“They” of course are Disney and its publishing licensees who don’t pay their comics talent any royalties whatsoever despite the incredibly healthy exporting of Disney comic books around the world. Rosa created Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics for almost 20 years and only ever received a flat page rate, as though it were the 1940s. His rate was better than other Disney comics artists at the time because he was so popular, but his wife was still the primary provider for the family. She was a school teacher, a profession not typically known for financial excess.
Whenever I hear about these kinds of stories, I always wonder why the creator doesn’t turn to creator-owned comics, which allow freedom on many levels, and a greater potential for financial benefit. The Walking Dead, anyone? Rosa, the internationally beloved cartoonist, doing his own comic book series or graphic novel would be an event. It seems like a no-brainer. But it’s easy to forget that for some creators, despite the opportunities, that option is a non-starter.
Don Rosa, who drew Disney’s Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck comics for many years has written a lengthy and fascinating piece on why he gave up creating comics.
Rosa, who started working on the series in early middle age, gave up making comics entirely in 2012 for a variety of reasons, including vision problems caused by a detached retina, depression, and frustration that the studio pays no royalties on his comics — a situation that he says is unique to the comics, as other Disney creators do get royalties. (One possible reason for this is that the Disney comics are produced by freelancers working for third-party companies, not for Disney itself.) That became particularly galling once Rosa was well enough known that the collections featured his name in the title — but he still didn’t see a dime. His response was a clever one: He copyrighted his name so publishers would have to ask his permission to use it to promote the books.
Rosa also explains why he didn’t make the switch to creator-owned comics:
The University of Kentucky has developed an awesome tool for making the periodic table of elements fun. The Periodic Table of Comic Books allows users to click an element and discover comics that talk about it, while also reading analyses of how scientifically accurate those comics are.
It’s still a work in progress, so there aren’t yet entries for say, meitnerium or astatine, but there are a surprising number of references for elements like hafnium and lutetium in addition to expected ones like oxygen, nitrogen, and – of course – krypton. As an example, below is Scrooge McDuck talking about lithium, but there are also fun examples of Jimmy Olsen looking for germanium and the Beyonder turning an office building into gold. A fun, educational way to kill some time.
Carl Barks’ 1974 painting “The Sport of Tycoons,” which features the iconic image of Scrooge McDuck swimming in his gold-filled vault, sold at auction last week for a record $262,900.
The painting is based on Barks’ often-reprinted 1952 tale “Only a Poor Old Man,” the first story in which Scrooge was the main character (in which, while swimming in his money bin, he says, “I love to dive around in it like a porpoise, and burrow through it like a gopher, and toss it up and let it hit me on the head!”). “The Sport of Tycoons” debuted in print in 1981′s The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck by Carl Barks.
The piece, part of the Kerby Confer Collection, was accompanied by the Heritage Auctions sales of two other Barks originals — “Sheriff of Bullet Valley” ($107,550), and “McDuck of Duckburg” ($101,575).
The auction also saw Jerry Robinson’s original cover art for 1942′s Detective Comics #67, the first Penguin cover, fetch $239,000, which Heritage dubs the second-highest price for a piece of American comic-book art.
Close readers of this weekly interview column will realize that I have interviewed Roger Langridge a couple of times. And I never tire of chatting with Langridge about his storytelling approach. Next Wednesday, November 2, marks the release of the second issue for his Kaboom! creator-owned Snarked series. The series has been building its audience, first through the $1 #0 issue,and then Snarked 1 sold out of its first printing–warranting a second printing. In addition to discussing Snarked, we also got a chance to discuss his recently released The Show Must Go On (BOOM! Studios) as well as his writing the Marvel five-issue limited series, John Carter: A Princess of Mars. If you want evidence why I love interviewing Langridge, the man revealed a slight connection between his work and musician Robyn Hitchcock’s The Soft Boys. After reading the interview, please chime in with which current Langridge projects you’re enjoying the most.
Tim O’Shea: What was the most enjoyable aspect, in the run-up to Snarked’s premiere, of building up the potential reading audience through the Snarked website (Snark Island)?
Roger Langridge: Partly just to see if I could do it, and to try to be creative about what could be done with it. I’m planning to continue putting content up on the site each time a new issue comes out, so it’ll be a constant, evolving thing – but mainly, I wanted to do a letters page, and having somewhere to direct people so they could e-mail us was essential. It helps if there’s some other stuff to look at when they visit, of course!