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Dell Tarzan cover strip Dell Tarzan cover strip
Dell Tarzan #85 through #100 shown above.
Tarzan is a TM Trademark of Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc.
All text Copyright 2010 Michael Tierney


Comics History and a Collector's Guide to Carl Barks' Disney Ducks

by Michael Tierney
Donald Duck's 1st Book
Donald Duck's accepted 1st appearance in comics was in this rare 1935 oversized (9&1/2" X 13") comic, printed on Linen paper.

Walt Disney and the Good Duck Artist

Adventures of Mickey Mouse 1 Mickey Mouse UK annual 1930 Walt Disney was on his way to fortune when he created Mickey Mouse, an anthromorphic character who was an animal that talked and acted like a human. The success of Mickey Mouse is why Disneyland is referred to as a house the mouse built.

U.K. publisher Dean & Son Ltd released the first Disny book in 1930 with Mickey Mouse Annual, shown right.

The first U.S. Disney book was The Adventures of Mickey Mouse. Released in 1931 by David McKay, Co., Inc., these two issues were half the size of today's comics, and featured Mickey Mouse along with early incarnations of other Disney characters, including a duck named Donald Duck.

This prototype of Donald Duck bore no resemblence to the character that later debuted in the animated feature Wise Little Hen.
It is generally assume that he can be seen on the back lower left of the wraparound cover of issue #1. shown to the left.

As we all know -- the real Donald Duck never wore pants, and certainly not lederhosen.

There are two McKay versions with green and red bindings. There is also a larger format version of The Adventures of Mickey Mouse that was made by Angus & Robertson in Australia, which is unique in that it features Mickey and Minnie with flesh-toned skin, and recolors the lederhosen-wearing Donald Duck with dark purple pants and a dark blue hat. All three versions came with dust wrappers
Adventures of Mickey Mouse-Australia Adventures of Mickey Mouse-detail

Two other things discredit that the Donald Duck in The Adventures of Mickey Mouse might have been THE Donald Duck of film and comics is that his appearance inside of Adventures is even more 'wrong' than the lederhosen-wearing duck on the cover. Shown above is the actual two-page spread with the reference to a duck named Donald, who comes running out of a pond. So, either Donald Duck was practising nudism along with Clara Cluck, or this is a completely different Donald Duck. Plus, the worldwide accepted first appearance of THE Donald was in the cartoon Wise Little Hen, which was adapted into a landscape-format graphic novel in 1935, shown below.


Between 1931 and 1934, McKay also released a Mickey Mouse Comic in a larger, cardboard covered format and numbered 1 through 4.

While Donald Duck was gestating in the minds of the Disney animators, Disney continued to experiment with print. From 1933 through 1935 Disney released a monthly 16-page self-covered promotional pamphlet in a 5-inch X 7-inch format, which in modern times we would call ashcans. These promotional ashcans were distributed by different milk companies, and you will find many variants with different imprints at the top. The March 1935 issue featured a print appearance of Donald Duck on the cover and interior. I cannot say which of the Wise Little Hen and the Mickey Mouse Magazine appearances came first.
MickeyMouseMagMarch1935 MickeyMouseMagMarch1935detail

Mickey Mouse Magazine 10 As the dawn of the comic book industry continued into its Golden Age, Dell's commercially-minded revamp of the Mickey Mouse Magazine continued Disney's record of success. But, over time, another group of Disney anthromorphics began to take front and center stage, as Donald Duck took over the covers of the magazine.
Mickey Mouse Magazine Vol. 1 #1

Mickey Mouse Magazine Vol. 1 #1 Donald Duck detail 40 Page of Mickey Mouse 1936 While the oversized Donald Duck comic shown at the top of the page is currently accepted as being Donald Duck's 1st comic book appearance, this book had an indefinite 1935 release date. Released in the Summer of 1935 was the 1st issue of the aforementioned Mickey Mouse Magazine (shown above), which included an even more primitive version of Donald Duck on the cover.

Something to keep in mind when considering cover dates is that for the old newstand distribution model, the cover date was more of an expiration date. If a book was labeled with the current month, then it was time to pull it--so a Summer date really meant a release date closer to Spring.

It is probable that Mickey Mouse Magazine Volume One #1 is Donald Duck's actual first appearance in a commercial comic book. Donald was one busy Duck in 1935.

In 1936, another early version of Donald Duck appeared on 40 Big Pages of Mickey Mouse from Whitman (#945). While being a reprint of Mickey Mouse Magazine #1, under a new cover, clearly this version of Donald from a year later is closer to appearance shown on the cover of the oversized Linen edition at the top than it is to the 1935 cover for Mickey Mouse Magazine Volume One #1, which further validates my hypothesis about which came first.
Donald's increased prominance on the reprint's cover also indicates how quickly Donald Duck was increasing in popularity.

Mickey Mouse Magazine 6 Eventually, Mickey Mouse Magazine was replaced in 1940 by the new Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, also published by Dell. On this publication, Mickey would make few appearances on the cover, and even then he would always be accompanied by Donald. In fact, the only Dell issues that did not feature a Donald Duck cover were solo cover appearances by Goofy on #5 and when Clara Bell watered her garden on the 8th issue.

After that, Donald was front and center on every Dell, Gold Key (with a few rare Whitmans sprinkled in, and distributed mainly to Australia), and later Gladstone and Gemstone cover until 2010. There was only one exception during the Gemstone run, where a cover featured Mickey in drag. Then there were years with no Disney comics, until new publisher Boom! took over. At first, Donald was once again sharing covers with the Mouse. But issue #703 broke Donald's 694 issue run a second time, as Mickey Mouse took his revenge for what Donald had done to him 70 years before. In 2010, Mickey finally pushed Donald off the cover of the title he had always dominated, but Donald soon pushed back.

Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #1 Other cover patterns also appeared in the first years of WDC&S during the early Forties, when the numbering of the books in 12 issue volumes began. With the second issue, a holiday featured cover first ran. This, and other themes like that of Patriotism, became traditions that continued throughout the Dell run.

The earliest Walt Disney's Comics and Stories can be valuable. But even the first issue isn't as key as the 32nd one (Vol. 3 #8, April 1943).

This issue broke the trend of reprinting newspaper strip funnies, and featured the first new material and a new creator, the legendary Carl Barks. In an age with no credits, his writing and art were easily identified by readers as being that of:

Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #32 The Good Duck artist.

These stories by Carl Barks were products of the age, steeped in references to World War II and the rationing of gas and other essentials. One non-Barks short strip has nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie stalling their uncle Donald from working on a mysterious project while they search frantically across town for camera film. Unable to locate any for sale, they finally tell him to continue, and watch as Donald saws off a branch while he sits on it. In today's consumer economy, it's inconceivable to contemplate being unable to buy film.

But issue #32 wasn't Carl Barks' first published work with Donald Duck.

In 1942, Dell's Four Color line featured Carl Barks book length tale of Donald Duck and Pirate Gold in issue #4, another key issue with the same kind of Collector's demand as WDC&S #1 and #32.

Four Color #9 Many more solo Donald Duck tales followed in Four Color. Most were by Barks, but not all.

In these one shots and WDC&S, Barks introduced many original characters of his own creation, but perhaps his greatest creation was in the 1948 WSC&S #98 (Vol. 9 #2), where Donald's rascally tightwad Uncle Scrooge appeared.

Four Color #178 Uncle Scrooge's first appearance anywhere was in 1947 with Four Color #178's Donald Duck tale; Christmas on Bear Mountain, but it wasn't until his own series debut in Four Color #386 (which also serves as Uncle Scrooge #1) that he made his first cover appearance in "Only a Poor Old Man."

By now, Carl Barks had fully defined both Uncle Scrooge as a character, and his style. Other new creations included the Beagle Boys, who first appeared in WDC&S #134, but would become a regular nemesis for Uncle Scrooge.

The stories Barks produced from this point on were classics whose constant reprinting fueled Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and WDC&S to long histories, all of them still being published today.

Of the many others who followed in the footsteps of Carl Barks, in my opinion Don Rosa was the only other to truly capture even a spark of the essence of the craft which Barks displayed so skillfully on every page.

Four Color #386 The stories of Carl Barks are rich in their character interaction, and their simplicity of concept. Whether is was the battle to bathe his nephews who'd vowed to forever remain the 3 Dirty Ducks, or helping Uncle Scrooge hide his fortune in exotic locales, or a space ride to mine gold on other planets, Carl Barks' imagination saw no boundaries, geographical or otherwise, as he explored everything from daily life to the fantastic.

I have never read a bad story by Carl Barks. I loved them all and still do, every time I read one again. His stories are always fun.

That's why, in the age before credits were posted, Carl Barks (1901 - 2000) was always called The Good Duck Artist.

Michael Tierney -- July 13, 2010
Uncle Scrooge #49 Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #2 Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #22 Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #33 Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #134 Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #708
Walt Disney Comics & Stories, Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge and the images shown in this article are TM and Walt Disney Company.

If you enjoy the high adventure present in many of the Disney Ducks by Carl Barks, and stories that include travel to exotic locations, then you'll probably enjoy the Wild Stars! No funny animals here, but people found the bicycle stealing bear in Volume 3 #5 to be pretty funny. He generated more fan mail than any other character.
Click here to learn more about the Wild Stars History.

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