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Comic Legends: The Odd Delay of Carl Barks' First Published Interview

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the seven hundred and sixteenth installment where we examine comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

Click here for Part 1 of this week's legends.

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COMIC LEGEND:

Disney wouldn't let Carl Barks give a published interview until Walt Disney was dead.

STATUS:

True

Last week, I wrote about the amazing story about the fans who found a way to discover the identity of Carl Barks.

I'll first just repeat the preamble from that piece about how great Carl Barks is...

Nowadays, the name Carl Barks is held in very high esteem (he recently was voted by CBR readers to the Top 50 of both the Top Comic Book Artists of All-Time list AND the Top Comic Book Writers of All-Time list, as you can see here).

That acclaim is for good reason, as Barks was one of the most inventive comic book artists ever, consistently delivering action-packed yarns as he would send Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and their young nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, on outlandish adventures....

These adventures, though, would always come with a good deal of character work, as well, especially with Barks' original creation, Uncle Scrooge, who he had the most freedom with developing as a character...

But back in the day, Carl Barks' name was a mystery. Disney and Dell Publishing intentionally would not give out Barks' identity to people and they would also not send fan letters to Barks, so he had no idea he was beloved around the world (his stories were reprinted EVERYwhere).

So fans found out the truth of Barks' identity through subterfuge (as noted in the previous Legends), but that was not the end of the problem.

According to this amazing MousePlanet article by Jim Korkis, even after fandom began to learn the identity of Carl Barks, Disney specifically fought them on making his identity public.

Malcolm Willits was one of the fans I wrote about last week. In 1962, he did the first interview with Carl Barks. Guess when it was published? 1968!

As Korkis noted:

The 1962 interview was not published in full until six years later in Don and Maggie Thompson’s comic fanzine, Comic Art No. 7, in 1968. The printing of the interview was delayed because in 1963 the Disney Company not only refused the use of any artwork to illustrate it, but did not approve of the interview being published at all while Walt Disney was alive. Fearing the wrath of Disney lawyers, the Thompsons just held on to the interview. After Walt’s death, the conceit that Walt did everything including writing and drawing all the Disney comic books would have been improbable to sustain.

“Since you seem determined to produce a piece about me, and since I feel that such a piece might help to entice some of the other hacks of comicdom from their dark caves of anonymity, I’ll do my bit to push it along,” wrote Barks to the Thompsons. “Who knows? The guys who drew Sheena and Millie the Model may start thumping their chests and bellowing, ‘Hell, if a lousy duck artist is worth all that wordery, us bosom and leg men should rate a whole book!’ I hope it starts a trend toward better public relations for the unknown mystery men whose pens and typewriters changed the reading tastes of most of the world.”

Barks knew that most kids still believed Walt drew the comics, since that was how they were credited...

It's obviously very similar to how Bob Kane was the only artist credited as drawing Batman until right around this same point in time.

Once the interview was out there, Barks' anonymity was gone and he was rightly celebrated the rest of his life, with his Duck oil paintings becoming particularly successful...

I love the idea of Disney hiding his identity so late into Walt Disney's life. The dude was already pretty famous, it's not like he needed the comic book fame, as well.

OK, that's it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week's covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo, which I don't even actually use on the CBR editions of this column, but I do use them when I collect them all on legendsrevealed.com!

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See you all next week!

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