Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Good Artists

“I was a fizzle as a cowboy, a logger, a printing press feeder, a steelworker, carpenter, an animator, a chicken grower, and a barfly.” -- Carl Barks, born 1901, recalls the first forty years of his life.

In the forties Barks drew 33 stories for Dell Comics outside the Disney family. They featured Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Andy Panda, Happy Hound (Tex Avery’s Droopy), and Benny Burro and his partner Barney Bear. The Barney Bear stories foreshadow in story and situations a lot of the content of the Donald Duck stories from Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, such as the idea of neighbors feuding over the fence.

He also used characters which seem to be poking fun at the famous Disney Mouse, Mickey, when Barks drew a mouse he was usually a thug and a thief.

Like most artists Barks was not allowed to sign his work, although it was obvious to fans that Walt Disney was not drawing the various ducks, thus Barks was referred to as “The Good Artist,” until his identity was sussed out by comic fan John Spicer in 1960.

The other “Good Artist” of course, was Floyd Gottfredson, shining light at the helm of the Mickey Mouse comic strip, and his identity was uncovered by Hollywood book dealer Malcolm Willits in 1968.

*Barney Bear illustrations from The Barks Bear Book, Editions Enfin, 1979.


  1. Knowing Barks' early work, I wonder why he was called a 'Good' artist. He used to draw some saucy (and racist) stuff for the Calgary Eye Opener in the 1920's and 30's.

  2. Very nice. At the time these cartoons were printed I believe that the Eye-Opener was being published in the United States and that the only thing Calgarian about it was the title.

  3. Another great post of many recently, John. Full of interest.