Don Rosa is drawing
Uncle Scrooge in Comics Convention.
Don in Comics
Convention again, signing his fans' comics.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED AT HIS HOME ON THU, AUG 3RD, 2000
Note: This interview was transcribed from a tapped
interview that was shown on an Evansville, IN local
access channel. Mr. Don Rosa didn't know, and neither
did I at the time, that this interview would go beyond
that format. He has made it known to me that his
answers to my questions would've been tailored quite
differently if he had ever thought that this would be
the case. Nevertheless, I thought the interview was
fantastic. I hope you enjoyed it, I know I did.
Basically, the interview, from where we sat down
and started talking, is transcribed word for word. The
section labeled "Gladstone Comics (Part 2)" was
retooled somewhat near the end to better round up Mr.
Don Rosa's thoughts, which he actually mentioned
elsewhere in the interview (see the tapped interview);
therefore, those were basically the only instances
where statements may have been deleted and/or
rearranged for that purpose.
Finally, if during the interview, any answers
don't seem to sync with my questions, keep in mind
that two cameras were running simultaneously to get
it. At one point, to make sure I would have enough
tape in camera # 1, I switched to asking "only the
remaining questions," on camera # 2, and then re-asked
them over again for camera # 1 to get the answers
down. This may be the reason for any unevenness.
Thanks again for having an interest, and God bless.
F.A. Elliott, 9-17-00.
I and a friend arrived early at Don Rosa's home
on a Thursday morning ahead of schedule. He had told
me a week before to call the morning we left and
inform him of our meeting, so that he could round up
the hounds and open the front entrance. In meticulous
fashion he riddled me with directions, nonchalantly
pointing out his many acres of land! I forgot to ask
him if I should look for a big "K" on the gate opening
up onto a hidden fortress of gothic facade.
We found the place with no problem; gate was
open, "no dogs," and no worry! I shuffled up to the
door and knocked, and waited. No answer. I knocked and
waited again. Still no answer. My friend started to
wander off down a trail leading to an elaborate patio
in the woods. 'Still no problem,' I mentally chided
myself. Then I looked down in the grass, where I saw
the remains of a battered tennis shoe with teeth
marked abrasions. Then, I started to get worried! I
rounded the house from the right and hoped I'd have
better luck around back. 'Maybe's he's hanging his
laundry out to dry,' I thought.
I didn't find Don Rosa hanging up his Sunday
best, but I did find...the dogs; all 3 of them, Basset
Hounds, and I didn't think they were there to fetch my
slippers! Fortunately, a fence separated us! So I
asked the dogs where Mr. Don Rosa was?
About this time I noticed a healthy looking gent,
with ash grey hair and beard, standing framed within a
doorway; his spectacles and a countenance, both casted
a puzzling glare upon our moment of unfamiliarity. He
took a step into the light.
He was wearing a dark blue short sleeve t-shirt
with an impressive silkscreen on front of Donald Duck.
(Later he would tell me how he had to decide just
which Donald Duck shirt he wanted to wear that would
show up better on camera.)"Who are you, he asked?"
"I'm F. A. Elliott, I'm here to interview you, I
replied!" "You're early, but that's ok. Go around
front and I'll let you in, " he told me.
By this time my friend had found her way back to
the house and we were invited in. We followed Don Rosa
upstairs. I nearly swallow my tongue. In the room were
several beautiful ornate glass faced wooden cabinets
filled with duck figures. It boggled my mind how he'd
amassed his king's ransom. The last count was 600-700.
Now, with the help of Ebay he'd improved his
collection by 1/3.
Before the interview I freshened up in the studio
bathroom. I was shocked, but not too much at that
point, and saw a Donald Duck inflatable through the
frosted finished door of a stand-in shower. I walked
back into the studio and basked in the memorabilia.
Glancing across the room I took in a sizeable laser
disk collection. Don Rosa could see I was impressed,
"I love my laser disk collection. When DVD players
came out many people had no problem buying them. I
don't see why I should switch completely over to DVD
when my laser disk player works just fine."
First Don Rosa showed me an overflowing box of
Disney Comic books from other countries. "They just
keep sending me this stuff. I have so much I don't
know what to do with it. I'm going to take this
particular box to a library this weekend and donate
it. Grab a couple of arm fulls if you want...
please," he said! Then he motioned me over to a loose
pile of papers, magazines, and trade journals. "See
this stack? This is all one weeks worth from Finland,
with articles about me; some with my photo on the
cover. Look, this one, it's similar to an American
ladies journal - yuck!"
We then went over to his work area and sat down.
He sat in front of his drawing table, and tried to
stretch; complaining about tendinitis in his left
shoulder. Directly above him were two Eisner awards,
gold in appearance, on wooden bases. One was for Best
Continuing Series in 1995, which was the serialization
of The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck in Walt Disney's
Uncle Scrooge comics. The second was for Best Writer &
Artist in Humor in 1997. Currently he was working on
penciled pages for The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck
10b. (Throughout the interview he'd occasionally tweak
the page in front of him.)
The story involves Scrooge, his Sisters, and
Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 Panama during the construction
of the canal. Teddy has had to come down to see what's
stalling excavation on the canal, since somebody had
bought up land it had to go through. I made a mental
note to ask Don Rosa why it was foreseeable this story
wouldn't see print in America. I wasn't a little
surprised with what your about to learn.
DISNEY COMICS IN EUROPE
ME - One reason why I'm happy to interview you is
that you're happy in doing what you do. You love to
draw and you worked really hard to get where you are
today, but today you're enjoying what you do, and you
truly enjoy your work. And, that's how I feel in life.
If one can do something and enjoy it, and it can be
your work, and a labor of love, then one is very well
off. So, I'm happy to interview you.
DO - Thank you, thank you.
ME - What really surprises me is that there are Disney
Comics in Europe, North America, South America, Afr...
DR - Nope, nope, there are no Disney Comics in North
America. That's the only place in the world that there
are no Disney Comics.
ME - No North America! Well we have to get to that
here. All these great comics, and we also got them in
Australasia and the Middle East. Let's talk a little
bit about Europe. I wanted to mention that, "One of
the most flourishing publication markets is Europe.
Here Disney magazine publishers create over 160
periodicals each year in 24 different languages and in
34 different countries. Europe maintains the Disney
world record for weekly circulation figures and
highest per capita annual spending on publications. In
Europe and the Middle East over 40 million people
regularly read a Disney Comic magazine, many of them
being adults. Disney magazine publishing is also the
#1 printed media for children in Europe. - The Walt
Disney company Italia publishes Topolina, the 3rd most
popular family magazine in Italy." - (Worldwide
webpage http://www.wolfstad.com/dcw) That's
incredible! Why are
the duck books so popular in Europe for and across the
DR - In Europe just reading in general is much more
popular than it is in America. Reading has been on the
decline in America for the last 40 years, and I think
it's... beginning to decline in Europe too because
they're now getting all of the commercialism, they're
getting their video games, and satellite television
and so forth. But, it's still a huge reading public in
Europe and Asia. And plus, Europeans, as far as
comics go, well, as far as anything goes, Europeans
like more variety than Americans do. Americans more or
less like everything to be pretty much the same. They
like to watch the same TV shows that they think
everybody else is watching; and read the same books;
and read the same comics. But, in Europe comics in
general are a wide range of different genres. Disney,
just being one of them.
Now, as far as why the Disney Comics are so
incredibly popular in Europe I'm... I'm still trying
to figure that out myself after having visited there
so many times. You were saying that the Disney
Topolina is the 3rd biggest selling, I think you
stipulated, family magazine in Italy. Italy is one of
the most popular places for Disney Comics, but that
doesn't compare it to Norway. For instance, where the
weekly Donald Duck comic is the best..., it's not
simply the best selling comic book, it's the best
selling anything! Nothing sells anywhere near as many
copies as the weekly Donald Duck comic in Norway, or
Finland, or some of the other Scandanavian countries.
Now, why this is, as near as I can tell, it's because
after WWII the very first form of entertainment,
popular entertainment, that came out across Europe
in..., depending upon on which country, between '48
and 1951, was the Donald Duck comic book. It started
out as a monthly and soon became a weekly, a weekly,
in all of these countries.
And, as a result, Donald Duck became literally a
national hero in Europe. Every single kid rose up
reading Donald Duck. When somebody finds out their
wife is pregnant the first thing they do is buy a
Donald Duck subscription. It's like a tradition. It's
something that's passed on from family...father to son
or from mother to daughter etc. But, it's a tradition
that's carried on through the decades, which is
something lost in America. Americans not only... are
not so... don't have that sense of tradition. But we
lost the Disney Comics back in the 70s, and broke any
possibility of a tradition to be carried on. So I
think that's one of the reasons, as near as I can
figure out why Donald Duck is so unbelievably popular
For instance, a weekly Finnish edition, or
Norwegian edition, sells about 300,000 copies a week.
And that's small countries. Now, for capita, for an
American magazine or comic book or anything to sell
that many copies it would have to sell I think about
70 million copies; and where as an American comic book
sells about 20,000 copies to be considered to be a
good selling comic. They can still make money because
there sold through these direct sales stores. They
by-pass the normal magazine distribution, which eats
up most of the profits. So that means that Donald Duck
is not simply twice as popular in Europe, he's
something like a thousand times more popular in Europe
than in America.
ME - Did your family have any influence on you getting
into art or what you're doing today?
DR - How it's influenced me? Not at all because they
never encouraged me. They always discouraged me and
told me it was a waste of time. I shouldn't say that!
My sister, who was 11 years older than I was, and she
still is somehow, but she was a comic book reader, and
when I, again, as soon as I got out of the craddle, or
the crib or whatever I was in, the house was filled
with comic books. And, so, I was looking at them long
before I could read them. These characters Donald Duck
and Uncle Scrooge, that I liked so much, one of the
reasons I like them is that there're alive to me as my
parents were. They have always existed. It's hard for
me to imagine these are just comic book characters the
way that I sense... I started reading Superman comics
for instance when I was 11 or 12, or The Spirit comics
when I was 15 or 16. Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge had
always existed. So I guess I can thank my sister for
that. I may not be doing this (we're it not) because
of her. But, after that everything was... my father
always discouraged me from doing this because I was
going to go into the family construction company.
There was no future in doing this.
LANCE PERTWILLABY & CAPTAIN KENTUCKY
ME - During college years at the University of
Kentucky you worked on the school paper, The Kentucky
Kernel, where your work consisted of editorial
cartoons, advertisements, graphics, and eventually a
daily strip, the Pertwillaby Papers, which you
eventually transitioned into Captain Kentucky for the
Louisville Times. Let's talk a little bit about that.
DR - In college, the first day I was on campus, I went
to the newspaper and asked them if they needed an
editorial cartoonist. And, I was surprised to find out
that that's the hardest thing for a newspaper to find
is an editorial cartoonist of any value. So I was as a
freshman..., I had an illustration, I had a cartoon in
the very first newspaper of my freshman year. I was
there for..., I did that for 5 years, the University
of Kentucky, doing editorial cartoons because that was
the only thing they needed at the time. I was not so
politically oriented or opinionated as I might of been
in those days in the late 60s early 70s.
But, finally, I got a chance to do what I really
wanted to do. And, that's do a newspaper comic strip.
A daily comic strip. Well, I wanted to tell a story!
Not necessarly in a newspaper because that's kind of
limiting, but that's the only venue I had open to me
at the time. And, that's when I created the Lance
Pertwillaby, which was just a generic character. He
was me! He looked just like...didn't act like me...I
hope, but at least looked liked me just for the... Any
artist or writer wants to identify with his main
character. So I figured if I was my main character
that would make it even easier. But, I think, yea I
remember, the editor didn't like the strip because it
was not radical enough; wasn't anti-establishment at
all. So he discontinued it after the first series, and
I sat back and waited a year until a new editor came
And then I continued with the second series,
which is always what I had in mind, which was that Son
of the Sun plot, where I had my character Lance
Pertwillably acting out an Uncle Scrooge adventure,
which would always be an Uncle Scrooge adventure in my
mind. The Son of the Sun, quickly explained, that's
the S-o-n of the S-u-n, which is an Incan god you
would of thought to be a decendant of the sun in the
sky. So that's a catchy title, The Son of the Sun.
And, that is the same plot I used for my first Uncle
Well, anyway, the Pertwillaby Papers I did that
as a daily newspaper strip in the Kentucky Kernel, the
University of Kentucky newspaper. And, then when I
graduated, as a hobby, I would write and illustrate
fanzine articles on the history of comics and
television. And, after a few years of that, I got
around to doing comic book style stories of Lance
Pertwillaby. The same cast of characters, and the same
types of stories, and adventures; Uncle Scrooge type
adventures and quests for treasures and so on. And
that's what I did after college, and I eventually even
got tired of doing that.
It got, uh...because I really, I don't like to
draw. Actually, I don't like to draw like a real
artist should like. I'm a cartoonist. I like to tell
stories. But if there's no one publishing the story, I
can't tell it; whereas, an artist could sit and draw
himself pictures, and entertain himself, if that's
what he liked. I couldn't do that, because drawing is
just tedious work! But, telling a story is what I
enjoy doing. So since nobody seemed to really liked to
read the kind of stories I liked to draw, which were
not superhero comics, like most americans wanted by
then, this was the mid to late 70s, I stopped doing
that and think I found that the local large newspaper
in Louisville, The Louisville Times, wanted me to do a
weekly comic strip.
So then I took the same Lance Pertwillaby...just
cause...it was fun to do a character that looked like
me, and turned him into a comedy superhero called
Captain Kentucky. And I did that for 3 years, once a
week, and got tired of doing that because it didn't
seem to... Louisville's not hip enough a town to...
Kentucky's not hip enough a state, I think to
appreciate something like that. It might of gone over
bigger in Chicago or LosAngeles, but it was a comic
strip based in Louisville using actual people and
locations. And I really thought it would be an
overnight sensation, but it just never got much
attention. And, since it wasn't paying anything...
Fanzine work, and newspaper work, and the
college, it's all done for free. Just for fun. Now
the Captain Kentucky strip in the Louisville Times I
was paid $25.00 a week, which is what they would pay a
writer to fill-up that same amount of space with like
a movie review. Now $25.00, if you can write a movie
review in a half hour or an hour, thats pretty good
money. But, it took me 12 to 15 hours to do each
week's strip. That's pretty bad money! I think I can
can collect pop bottles along the expressway and make
more money than that.
ME - [Some of these "fanzines" we glossed over: The
Collector, The Buyers Guide for Comic Fandom, Rocket
Blast Comic Collector, Comic Reader, and Amazing
Heroes, most of which contained some early form, of
what eventually became, Don Rosa's Information Center.
I sincerely suggest you try and dig them up.]
GLADSTONE COMICS ( PART I)
ME - Now, I want to talk about Gladstone. In 1986 you
were in the back of a bookstore and saw a Disney Comic
with the Gladstone logo, which was the first company
to license new Disney Comic books in America since the
70s. Looking inside you found Gladstone's then editor,
Byron Erickson. Calling him you said, "...I was the
only American who was born to write and draw Uncle
Scrooge comics, and it was my manifest destiny."
Knowing your connection to fandom he hired you and the
next day you were working on your first duck story,
The Son of the Sun. How did you feel about that?
DR - Well, you told my best story though; that's
absolutely true! We had not had Disney Comic books in
America since, not on the newstands anyway, since say
the mid 70s. They were selling them sometimes in toy
stores in little plastic bags along with a coloring
books. But those were hard to locate, but they were
really bad anyway. So there was no reason to buy them.
Then, they disappeared totally for about 5 years.
Then, like you said, I saw in, just going through
a bookstore, when they were still selling comic books
on newstands in America, rather than those direct
sales stores, a Disney Comic book. It was by the
Gladstone company in Arizona. Not a huge publisher;
just a group of about 3 or 4 comic collectors like me,
who managed to get the Disney license for comics, I
guess simply because nobody else wanted it. The
original publisher knew there was no money in comic
books anymore in America. So they let the Disney
Comics license go. So those were the publishers of the
Dell Comics and the Gold Key Comics I grew up with.
So I saw this, and not only were they
Comics, but, as opposed to those awful Gold Keys of
the 70s, these were obviously comics done by people
who loved the material, and understood it, and knew
it, and respected it! And I called them up soon
thereafter, and I did tell them exactly... What I told
Byron Erickson, those very words. I said, "I was the
only American who was born to write and draw Uncle
Scrooge comics, it was my manifest destiny."
I'd known it my whole life. I just never thought
about it because they didn't exist. How am I going to
realize my manifest destiny if there was no comics
being published anymore. But he said ok, and like just
immediately I found myself writing and drawing one
Uncle Scrooge adventure, which I'd dreamt of since I
was a child. I never planned to do more than one. I
thought it was just going to be one just to do it.
Just to live out that dream and then I was going to go
back to the construction company.
And then, after I did it, it ended up I did
another one, and then another one... and I liquidated
the construction company, and eventually went to work
for Europe. And, now, I'm being interviewed by, like
you... or there's news crews that travel from Europe,
just to come to America to set this camera up, just
where you got your camera setting (ME - I'll explain
later), and interview me. I Just never expected
anything like this to happen.
GLADSTONE COMICS (PART II), DISNEY TELEVISION, &
ME - You went to work for Gladstone in 1987 and quit
in 1989 when Disney told them not to return art. A
year later you found that Egmont, a Danish publishing
house, had been reprinting your Gladstone stories and
wanted more. So then you went to work for Egmont at
the same time that Disney took over from Gladstone in
1990. I had thought you did do at least 1 or 2 stories
for Disney just to show them you were willing. I also
think you dabbled in writing plots for Disney
Television about this time. Explain this period and
the problem you had with Disney not returning art.
DR - Well, ok! Yea, there was an initial run of
Gladstone Comics from 1985 to 1989. That's when I went
to work for them in about 1986. I had it all worked
out on paper. I knew I wasn't going to make much
money. With what they paid, combined with what I could
sell the original artwork to art collectors, comic art
collectors, I could make about 2/3 of what I use to
make with the construction company. And I figured that
would just barely pay the mortgage, and the electric
bill, and so forth.
Now, my wife has a job! So I knew I wouldn't starve.
She would be there for an emergency. But I figured I
could just barely get by, that I could live the dream
of my life, and I figured, well, it's worth a try.
And, that worked surprisingly well for about 3 or 4
And then suddenly, of course I'll never know the
exact circumstances, but somebody at Disney found out
that I was getting my artwork returned, and they won't
tolerate that. There's no question it's my property.
It can't be Disney property because money never
travels in that direction. Gladstone would only pay
Disney money for the rights to use the royalties; they
would pay for the share of the profit sharing, or etc.
Money never traveled from Disney to Gladstone. So
Gladstone could not own the physical artwork that I
was producing, but they could bully Gladstone into not
returning it... or else! So Gladstone had to keep my
artwork. So I had to quit, cause then my income was
reduced to below poverty level.
For about a year I... that's when I actually took
up an offer with Disney Television who had been
reading my comics. They were doing DuckTails at the
time, which is their counterfeit version of Uncle
Scrooge. As for TV cartoons it wasn't Uncle Scrooge,
but it was a good TV cartoon as those awful things go.
So I didn't have any choice but to accept an offer
they had made to me a year earlier. Of course, shows
like that only last a year or two! DuckTails was
history, but they had a show called Tail Spin, which
was a pretty interesting show. It was like based in
the South Pacific in this 1930s kind of a fantasy
uninverse. But I did the first two episodes. I wrote
the first two episodes of that series. Not the first
two that were shown, but the first two that were
animated in Korea or wherever they were having this
But soon after that I found out that, like I
think you said, that the European publishers, that I
didn't even know existed... I was slowing learning
they existed, were reprinting my stories I had done
for Gladstone, and they were very popular with their
readers despite my weird artwork. They liked the
stories I guess. And, I was contacted by them. They
wanted me to go to work for them, and... also about
this same time, like you said, Disney had taken the
license away from Gladstone. Because Gladstone was so
successful they figured they could do it themselves or
even better! And they wanted me to work for them, but
they of course would not return artwork or give
artists even a shred of... even the most basic rights
that the freelance artists have by law. So I refused
to work for them, but I did do one story for them to
show them I was willing to work for them if they
rewrote their contracts.
Then, I went to work for Europe cause the
European pay was good enough, because they're so
successful over there, that just from the flat page
rate alone I could at least make about what I was
making with the construction company. So I was back to
at least the same income, but a more interesting job.
So that's how I ended up working for the European
In the meantime, Disney Comics were just a dismal
failure. Disney, as we call Disney, Disney Comics, the
ones actually produced for the first time by the
Disney company, they didn't understand the characters.
They hired all the wrong sorts of people to be their
editors. They hired Marvel Comics editors and DC
Comics editors. People who didn't understand what a
Disney Comic was. And they demolished the circulation
that Gladstone had so successfully built up with a
loyal readership. They dropped from about 80,000 per
issue, which was very good for those days for an
American comic book, down to about 20,000.
When Disney finally gave the license back to
Gladstone several years later, the circulation was so
demolished; to such a point that Gladstone was never
able to build it back up, because it was getting even
increasingly more difficult to sell the comic books in
the American market. And the readers that liked the
old Gladstones, some of them have told me that they
were so disillusioned by the Disney version that they
just didn't want to get interested in the stuff again
for fear the same sort of sitiuation would develop
again, where Disney would take the license back.
Gladstone, 2 years ago, more or less threw
license back in Disney's face in disgust! Disney was
making more and more demands on the royalties, and the
micro management sort of things, that Gladstone...
there was no way for them to make a profit pubishing
Disney Comics in America any longer. And they dealt
with this corporation, valiantly I thought, so long
that finally Bruce Hamilton, Gladstone's publisher,
just got sick of it and gave it up.
I think the final nail in the coffin was the
National Magazines Distributors put another demand per
issue, a price for their fee, in distributing the
magazines. And, again, Gladstone was faced with the
fact they could not make a profit! Hamilton was still
making money off the license. Not as much as he could
have under better circumstances, but he was still
making money. But, he just got tired of dealing with
them. And, he gave it up.
So, as of now, we are the only nation in the
world without Disney Comic books. And, as far as the
prospects, I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think you'll
ever again see Disney Comics in America because I
think Disney knows that this is a nation of people,
where there's no money in reading.
Disney is really not interested in giving a
license for Disney Comic books in America because it
promotes nothing that makes them money. Characters
like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are dead to them
except as t-shirt symbols. Comic books do not promote
their newest movie or their theme parks or whatever.
So, they make the ability to get a license too
difficult for a publisher to get; the royalties to
high to pay.
For example, the Western Publishing House is the
biggest publishing company in the world; one of them,
along with the company I work for in Denmark. They
are... they were the worlds oldest Disney licensee.
They started in the late 20s publishing Mickey Mouse
books. Last year they too threw the license back in
Disney's face after 80 years because Disney was doing
the same thing to them. They were making the
stipulations of having the license, what they had to
pay for it, and the stringent policies they had to
work under... They could not make a profit.
So, there're currently aren't simply not any
Disney Comics in America, there are no Disney story
books, coloring books, puzzle books, there's nothing!
And, that might change because Disney has their own
publishing companies. And to produce a coloring book
is simple! I mean, there's no story, you just get some
cute pictures, and put it between a couple of covers,
and sell the same book for a couple of years; at
least. That's one thing Disney probably could do, but
Disney is never going to be able to produce comic
books. So, even if we do get back Disney coloring
books and story books, still I expect well never see
comic books in America again; Disney Comic books,
which means I'll never again be able to read one of my
stories myself because my work is all published in
languages I can't read. So there would be Disney Comic
books in America, except for the Disney corporation.
But, anyway, I'm now comfortable working for the
European market. And, I still do to this time. I work
not only for Egmont, that biggest publisher there in
Denmark, but I work for France, and Germany, and
Italy, and Finland. In other words these are countries
that are not included in the big Egmont corporation,
which covers about 20... 25 different countries.
ME - I guess we really should talk about Carl Barks.
For anyone who doesn't know, he's The Grandad of the
duck books. The gentleman's 99 years old right now,
and just a few years ago he actually wrote a script.
He drew and wrote the books in the 40s, 50s, and even
into the 60s. He retired in 1967. After that he went
into doing paintings; very beautiful oil paitings and
Talk a little bit about him; why you respect him,
and what you drew from his work?
DR - Well, Carl Barks, the fascination that I have for
his work, and that I'm sure most all his fans do, if
not all his fans, is that he... he wasn't paid any
more than anybody else in those days. He saw comic
book work, as anybody who worked in it in the 40s or
50s, as just hack work; low paid hack work. He was
doing this work just... I think he really just wanted
to get a job doing a newspaper comic strip. An
adventure strip like Terry & the Pirates or something,
which is where money was in those days. Comic book
work was just hack work. But the difference between
all the other artists, and writers, and Carl Barks
was... Well, first of all he wrote and drew his own
material, which is incredibly rare.
But aside from that, he's the sort of person who,
no matter what his job was, he did it to the best of
his ability. He didn't worry about who was reading it,
or if it didn't get respect. It was his job and he was
going to do the best job he could at it. Not
necessarly, because he thought there were people
watching. He didn't think anybody was reading these
stories as he could figure out! He was never told
about any fan mail that he might have gotten through
all those years. But, he still did the best job he
Now the difference between the job he did and
other people, was that he had a respect for his
readers. He told stories that he thought he would
enjoy reading. He put characterization into the
personalities of Donald Duck and all the characters
that Barks created to go with Donald Duck. They had
real human personalities. They had their human
foilables, an you know, they weren't perfect! They all
had... they were flawed personalities, which is a
reason I think his characters were so popular. And
they weren't goody-goody like Mickey Mouse. They had
bad tempers! They had all the 7 deadly sins of man I
think. And yet, they would always suffer for whatever
imperfections they had.
Aside from that, he would build his stories on
real history. He would build his quests for actual
treasures. He didn't treat the kids like they were
little idiots, and make up all sorts of phony facts.
He would build his stories around actual facts. And
that's how I try to do my stories, and I found out
it's a bigger challenge. First of all, it's more
interesting for me to do the story. I think it's a lot
more interesting for people to read the story. But,
it's also quite a challenge to create a hopefully
entertaining story out of actual facts.
But, yea, like you were saying, Barks retired in
1967 at the age of 66; he was born in 1901. Five or 10
years after that he began another career doing
paintings, which would be turned into lithographs by
publishers, and sold for... The lithographs alone
would sell for hundreds of dollars apiece. And, he
would get up to a quarter of a million dollars for
some of these paintings. So he had a secondary career
that completely eclipsed his first career, and finally
was very well paid for his legacy.
Still, which is not to say he made as much money
as he should have because of the system being what it
is. He created the entire Donald Duck universe. What
the publisher Dell, that he worked for, licensed from
the Disney corporation was simply the name Donald Duck
basically. Donald Duck was a very simple character
that just made little slap-stick cartoons. He was
actually like an actor. He was a different character
in each cartoon. A comic book has to be based on an
actual character with a history. So Carl Barks took
the name Donald Duck and created a... well, a
character that didn't even look exactly like the
Disney Donald Duck because animation has to work one
way; whereas, a character on a flat piece of paper has
to look and behave in a different manner. But, he
created an entire history around this duck; a family,
Uncle Scrooge, Duckburg, Gladstone Gander, etc. These
were all creations of Carl Barks. This is the universe
that all the other duck writers and artists based
their stories on.
And, then, I don't even know if Barks was aware
of this, anymore than I was, but this spread over into
Europe, and around the world, where even more writers
and artists were creating more stories about this Carl
Barks' Donald Duck universe. So it's uncalcuable how
much money Barks should've made in these years?
Billions of dollars? I don't know! Decades! Fifty
years! Sixty years of Donald Duck comic books all over
the world are based, not on Walt Disney's version of
Donald Duck, but on Carl Barks' version of Donald
Duck. But thankfully, even though he didn't make much
money while he was doing the stories, after he retired
he started making plenty of money doing limited
edition work and selling original oil paintings and
And he just began to slow down a year ago at the
age of 98. He's 99 years old now. His health, I think,
is failing a little bit now. We're not too sure how
he's doing. We're concerned about it currently! But
still, he's not doing bad for being 99 years old.
LIFE & TIMES OF SCROOGE MCDUCK
ME - Your Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck, serialized
in Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge #s 285- 296, is a
literal tip of the hat to Carl Barks. We follow
Scrooge as a young boy in 1876, up to striking it rich
in the Yukon in 1897, and then witness his decline
until Bear Mountain in 1947. Sprinkled throughout the
12-part serialization are references to just a
plethora of Barks' stories. In fact, the storyline
ends about the time in the duck universe where Carl
Barks began his stories. You even added a number of
notes yourself. Particularly, to old movies and
Eventually Lo$ was collected into hard back, made
it onto real best book sellers list, and became one of
your most popular works to date. Even now, every year
or so you'll do an additional fill-in- the-gap
chapter; including your most current one, Chapter 10b,
which involves Scrooge and his sisters bumping heads
with Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 Panama during the
building of the canal. And all this grew out of a
one-shot story, which was eventually used as Chapter 0
in U$ 297?
DR - Well, we...I had the idea of doing Life & Times
of Scrooge McDuck... uh, it was in the back of my mind
for several years. I never thought I'd get around to
it. It was always the idea of Scrooge fans like me, we
would always notice in the old stories when Barks gave
some sort of clue about what Scrooge's early life was
like. And, we'd mentally file these away.
I had done a story about Magica DeSpell going
back in time to when Scrooge was a little boy. He was
a shoe shine boy. She was going to steal his number
one dime; first dime he ever made. She's a character
who's always trying to get that one coin because he's
held it... had it the longest, and it would have a lot
of his power. Whatever power it is that made him rich,
it would be in this coin. So she was going to steal it
But, I did that story and during... while I was
doing that story we came up with the idea that they
would allow me to write and draw this 12 part series
of Scrooge's entire life. So, I mention that story
because once we started this bigger project we had to
sit that story aside. It wasn't published for about 3
years until the other 12 chapters were completed. And
then we, uh... or they published it I think and called
it Chapter 0. Just for the fun!
But, anyway, I first assembled all of the facts
that Barks had ever mentioned. All these little clues
he'd... these references he's made to what Scrooge had
done early in his career. And I charted it out, and
then decided which chapter would deal with which era,
and figured out different actual historical people or
places or events that Scrooge could interact with.
When I got into it, that took me about 2 ½ years to do
those 12 chapters, and it was very popular. What
surprised me is it was popular when it was reprinted
in America in those Uncle Scrooge issues that you
mention. It was popular even with people who had never
read an Uncle Scrooge comic, which puzzled me. I
thought this was done just for old fans who would
understand what all these secret references were to.
But it was... it seemed to be popular even with people
who had never read an Uncle Scrooge comic, which was
very gratifying. The stories have been collected in
hardback books all over Europe and in the United
States. And, they do sell pretty well. They were
But I enjoy doing it, and so many people enjoy
reading it that I still keep adding new chapters to it
about once every year and a half or so. I think I've
done about 5 additional chapters to the original 12 by
now. And each time, I'll call it like chapter 3b or
chapter 10b or something. I just keep slipping them in
in-between these original 12 chapters.
And, I'm working on one right now! This current
story is taking place in 1906 at the Panama Canal.
Uncle Scrooge is again meeting his old buddy Teddy
Roosevelt, which is a great cartoon character of
history. He was quite a character. He belongs in a
comic book! I like him though I mean. I don't mean
that in a derogatory way even though he was a
I'll never be able to read it, but I hope... so,
why am I doing a story about Teddy Roosevelt?
Europeans don't even know... if they know him at all
they think he's a maniacal imperialist! By European
standards that's what he would be. American standards,
he's the guy we needed at the time.
ME - I know early on you were involved in submitting
reams of information to Robert Overstreet's Price
Guide. Considering the impact the guide contributed to
the hobby, I'm not a little interested in any
hindsight you may now have concerning this.
DR - Yea, I helped extensively in the first several
editions of the Price Guide... because I was stupid! I
didn't realize what a price guide would do to the
hobby because I had never been in a hobby that did not
have a price guide, and then had a price guide. A
price guide takes the hobby away from the collectors
and gives it to the investors. An investor is not
going to put money into stamps or coins unless there's
a price guide to show, to prove to him, that they're
worth that much.
Comic books rose in values over the first years
that people like me were collecting them because we
just bought and sold them between ourselves. And, we
would have dealers who bought and sold strictly to
comic book fans. So, naturally, the price would go up
a little bit. A comic book that sold for a dime, and
should now sell for half of cover price, might be
selling for a few dollars apiece. The really rare ones
were selling for several hundred dollars apiece. And
it would've increased gradually from that point on.
But, then there was a price guide! And, that
meant there was a central spot where once a year all
these prices were all recorded nationally. But, more
importantly, there was a place where an investor could
look and see what somebody supposedly was definitely
was going to pay for this; therefore, prices just
went... skyrocketed. Now, you got comics selling tens
of thousands of dollars apiece.
I guess the only good part about that situation
is that the prices have gone up the highest on the
ones that are in mint condition; perfect condition.
And there are comics from the 40s and 50s in that kind
of shape, believe it or not. And, those are the ones
that sell for the highest. Now, people like me, want
them just in nice shape, they're certainly a lot
cheaper. There still not real cheap!
But if you want comments about a price guide,
that's what the price guide did. But, it's inevitable!
It's going to happen. If it hadn't been Bob
Overstreet, it would've been somebody else. So it's
just, uh, there's nothing you can do about it.
ME - Interesting hobbies seem to be your forte,
including the Charles Foster Kane Collection of comic
books; enough duck figurines to make Disney Stores
cringe; an infamous tv guide collection; a quest to
find an authentic factory radio for either a '47 or
'48 Dodge; an extensive classic movie and laser disk
collection; and an uncontrollable soft spot for Basset
DR - There suppose to be, but they don't look like the
one's in the slipper commercials. Well, I recently
finally found the radio. I found that on Ebay too! But
I had to get it fixed; then I had to buy original
tubes for it; and, in the end, it only plays one
station. And, that one station doesn't come in clear!
Things you mentioned that are hobbies, I look on
them as just interests. But, I pursue an interest
rather intensely... maybe... more... I guess the
average person, when they pursued an interest as it
intenses, I pursued mine... They called them hobbies,
but these are just things I'm interested in and I
would gather books on or assemble, I'm not going to
use the word collection because I see that as
something completely different... Like I accumulate
copies of old movies that I like; laser disks or DVDs
or video tapes.
Now, the difference though, with the comic books,
that's a collection! In other words, I'm trying to
fill in a set. I'm looking for issues of comics...
even issues I don't especially like maybe because it's
part of a set; whereas, a movie I would just buy the
one's that I like.
And of course the tv guides, I aim to get a full
set of those. The Donald Duck toys, that would be a
collection because I'm looking for every example of a
certain type of toy; figural toy. And, still, that's
just sort of a side hobby. That's something I just do
for fun, if that makes since. Comic books is more
serious. But, Donald Duck, because you can't read a
Donald Duck toy, it just a toy. Comic books you can
appreciate on so many different levels like a movie or
like music. But, Donald Duck toys is just kind of a
little visual gag to have around the studio.
But, I do have more interests than I can keep
track of. I find that the problem in life is the
longer you go through it... I... at least me, I never
lose interest in any of my hobbies. I just see more
and more things to be interested in. So, it gets
pretty cumbersome after a couple of decades.
WHAT THE D.U.C.K.?
ME - I think it's really neat how you hide the acronym
D.U.C.K. on every cover and splash page. Occasionaly,
you'll also hide little Mickeys, inside jokes and
references to movies and what not. So what the
D.U.C.K. is all that about?
DR - Oh, yea, I'd love to talk about that, the
D.U.C.K.! I put that in the very first Uncle Scrooge
story I did, that Son of the Sun story. It stands for
Dedicated to Uncle Carl from Keno. Uncle Carl, which
lots of his fans call him because it's always Uncle
Donald and Uncle Scrooge. So, he's Uncle Carl. Keno,
that's my first name. Don's my middle name. Keno comes
from my Italian grandfather.
So, I hide D.U.C.K. in the splash panel of each
story. Actually, I started out writing it. I just
wrote it out, but Disney wouldn't allow that because
it looked like a signature. And, these artists are not
allowed to sign their work in a Disney Comic. So, and
I said, well heck on them, I'll just hide it cause
they don't look very closely at this stuff. Actually,
the European work Disney does not even see until it's
But, anyway, then I put it in each cover. Or, any
other single illustration I do; pin-ups or posters or
so forth. The problem there, is, well, it's fun to do,
and it's a fun little game to play with my fans or
readers or whatever, but occasionally I'll forget to
put it in there. Maybe I'll pencil it in, but then
when it comes to inking I won't see it myself, it's
hidden well, and I'll ink over it. And then, that's
when I drive people crazy. (Laughter from - ME)
Sometimes I get e-mail from people who say they just
can't find the thing, they've been looking for days
and days and days and their pulling their hair out.
And, I say, "Sorry, well, it's not there!"
The hidden Mickeys; I got a question just last
week, somebody was wondering if I put one in every
story the way I hide the D.U.C.K. in every splash
panel. And, no, I just, it pops into my head while I'm
drawing. It's just some little irreverence to sneak in
Mickey Mouses. It's not like an actual Mickey. It's
something that looks like him; something shaped like
the famous Mickey Mouse icon symbol. It's... I just
poke fun at Mickey Mouse. I think I... people think I
hate Mickey Mouse. I don't hate him! Well, I'm
indifferent to him; there's nothing there really to
hate or not to hate, but I think I resent him because
in America he's more popular than Donald Duck because
Donald Duck was always more popular than Mickey
Mouse years ago when people were more interested in
reading, and more interested in the character of
the... the personality of the character. Now days,
Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are just t-shirt symbols
that you buy in Disney World or in the Disney Store.
And Mickey Mouse has got a cuter face than Donald
Duck, so he's more popular. And I resent that, but I
don't have to worry about it because in Europe Donald
Duck is still immensely, immensely, more popular than
Mickey Mouse is... same way it was here in America
years ago. But, I still, I think that's why I like to
poke fun at Mickey Mouse by putting little irreverent
things in the back grounds of some of the panels.
ME - I know you're regularly deluged with fan mail;
fans expressing why they think Son of the Sun is your
best work, when any true duck fan should know it's in
fact a tie between Reurn To Xanadu and The Lost Charts
of Columbus. Then, again, my favorite moment is the 4
panels in Uncle Scrooge # 292, when Scrooge strikes it
rich! (Laughter) See, now I'm doing it! But isn't it
this rapport; that which binds together the creative
spirit between writer/artist/fan? I mean, how do you
deal with the attention you generate?
DR - The thing that I've definitely found out in
the... what... 13 years that I've been doing this is
that no matter what story I do, no matter what type of
story it is, no matter what the story is, there's one
person who will think it's the best story I've ever
done, or the best comics story he's ever read
anywhere, and there's one person who will think it's
the worst story he's ever read, and then there's
everybody else that's going to be somewhere in-between
It's different... there's different things in
different stories that mean different things to
different people. I've learned that you can't make
everybody happy, which is actually good! I think
there're two good things about this system I'm in, but
that's not really part of the system. That's just...
you realize that you can't make everybody happy.
And, the other thing in this particular system is
my pay is not based on my popularity. I'm just paid
the same no matter how well these things... this
Disney system... no matter how well they sell, no
matter how many times there reprinted. I mean,
there's no royalties involved in this!
So those hardback book collections you mentioned
that were best selling books; you'd think I'd be
wealthy, but I don't get a cent out of that! Disney
gets all that money; although, they had nothing to do
with producing the material. But, in a sense that's
good? At least I try to tell myself it is because then
I'm not swayed by what the majority of the readers
might want. And the majority of the readers might be
little kids, that I don't really want to do stories
And, I don't have to try to keep a chart of what
sorts of stories I do that are most popular with the
people who write me letters because everybody likes
something different. So I look at that as a good thing
in both respects because then I do just the stories
that I wanna do. I don't have to worry about what
readers want. I respect what they tell me, but I've
learned that I can't decide what to do based on those
opinions because there're too varied. So I just do a
story always that I think I would enjoy reading, and
just hope for the best!
The one you mentioned though that I'm delighted
by... I like the Son of the Sun... that was a pretty
good one. Many of my stories I don't like; mainly,
because they take me so long to do and I stare at
them, the same story, for 3 months straight day after
day. And, by the time I'm done with it I'm sure it's a
dreadful mistake! And I really can't judge it until
about 2 years later, when I look back at it. That's
one reason it's tough on me now that I can't read my
stories when there're published. I can't look back on
them at all!
But the Return To Xanadu, I was real proud of
that one! That might be one of my 2 or 3 choices for
my favorite of my own stories. You mentioned the scene
where Uncle Scrooge decides... pauses for a moment to
decide if he really wants to be wealthy or not. That's
one of the things I do that is an indication, I guess,
that I'm doing these stories for adults. Not, for
I never hesitate to put some sort of, what would
you call it, some psychodrama; some more adult; more
sophisticated, not that's it's brilliant, but
obviously I'm not pandering to some 3 year old when I
do this! I'm writing a story that I think... well, as
far as my audience, I just think is another person
like me. So, I guess I'm doing stories for adults. And
I don't really worry about it! I don't think about it
by doing a story for a 7 year old or a 14 ½ year old,
a 19 and three quarters year old. I just do stories!
So that might be why I find myself putting those
little elements of more psychodrama in it!
Lost Charts of Columbus is one of the stories I
get kind of carried away with that historical
references. I get so fascinated by looking for
history, and so fascinated by how interesting actual
facts are throughout history. When you get past all
the names and dates you have to learn in school, and
that's all you have time to learn in school, but when
you have more time to investigate the stories behind
these people, it's honestly, I don't want to sound
like some spinster teacher or something, but it's
really interesting! And I'm not trying to make a
public service announcement for libraries or
something, but it's really interesting stuff.
And, I actually limit myself too much now because
I refuse to base a story on anything but absolute
facts of history. Just cause it's more fun and it's
more of a challenging. And, the important thing is
that it's more interesting to do! I have to keep
myself interested in this job. The pay doesn't keep me
interested, but the reception the stories get around
the world; and the type of people who I know I'm
working for, people who like the same kind of comics
as I do. And as long as I can write and draw the
comics the way that I want to, that's the thing that
keeps it interesting, and never gets boring.
ME - What's your current output these day?
DR - Well, it is still dropping! I don't turn out as
much as I use too; partly, because the longer I do
this, the more I recognize how, well... inadequate the
way I draw is compared to the people who have been
trained to do this. And the only answer I have for
that is just to go slower and slower, and be more
perfectionist in trying to get the stuff the way I
really want it to look.
But, the main thing that hurting me I guess is
the popularity of my work! I'm being called on to do
pin-ups for publications... for instance in a French
addition of Uncle Scrooge, every month I have the
inside front cover. It's called the Don Rosa
something; I can't read the French word, but I got my
name on it. And, it's like my position in each issue,
I do a pin-up page for them.
I'm called on by other publishers than the one I
work for. When they reprint one of my stories, in
their editions, they'll contact me, and hire me to do
a cover, a special cover for them. Or they'll hire me
to write a text, or annotate the story for their older
readers, cause some of these other publishers work for
an older... they're not aiming at an older audience,
but they recognize that they can put additional
material in the issue for the older readers.
But, that doesn't get in the way of the younger
readers enjoying the story. The younger readers can
just ignore those text sections and go right to the
story. So I think they have a great idea of how comics
should be done in such a way that they can appeal to
several different age levels or sophistication at the
But the more I'm called upon to do these extra
things, the less time I have for doing the actual
stories. And, I see myself as a storyteller. I like to
do these pin-ups, and these covers, and these texts
because they pay better... heh, heh... they pay better
than the writing and drawing of these stories. But,
still, these people wouldn't be asking me to do this
if it weren't for those stories. So, I worry about
that I'm producing fewer and fewer stories. And,
that's what I enjoy doing the most. So, I just have to
keep maximizing my time and making sure it all works
ME - Recently there was an interest by Steve Geppi,
CEO, Diamond Distribution, to rescue the Disney Comics
license from hiatus and publish books under his
Gemstone Comics label; while hiring on some of the old
Gladstone staff to run the ship. Does it concern you
that he may be maneuvering himself to create a
monopoly on comics publishing in general?
DR - Well; whether or not he has a monopoly on what
his company does, which is distribute just about
everything that these direct sales stores sell, which
is comics, but also gaming material, and toys, and
anything that's in that sort of hobby. I don't know if
what he does is a monopoly? I guess the government has
to worry about that.
But he would be the only savior Disney Comic
books would have in North America, because he is the
only person who would be willing to publish Disney
Comic books at a loss! He would do it as a hobby out
of his love, as an old collector, out of his love for
the material; and his respect for Carl Barks, which
these comics are all pretty much based on as a
foundation. He would support these out of profits from
his other businesses, and he would operate at a loss!
And, he's also the only person who has
connections with Gladstone publisher, Bruce Hamilton.
Bruce Hamilton's people being, as far as I know, the
only people in the country who could produce these
comics. You can't... not just anybody can produce
Disney Comic books; you have to know the characters;
you have to understand the history of the characters;
you have to know all of the stories that exist in
order for you to pick the correct stories to print.
I mean, there's no way they can afford to hire
people to write and draw new stories because there not
going to sell that well. And why should they, because
these new stories are being produced all over the
world top quality. But, you have to have a company
that knows; that has connections with all of these
people; who knows their output; who knows the history
of their output. And, only Hamilton and Geppi's people
would know how to do this.
ME - Alright, last but not least, I think I can say
you're happy now. We talked about that at the
beginning. You're happy, you're doing what you enjoy,
and that's the point! You gotta enjoy this labor of
love here. And I know your good friend and editor from
Gladstone in the old days, Byron Erickson, is now the
editor at Egmont. So it's like a team back together
again, and has been for awhile now! So, that's really
DR - Byron Eirckson is the same guy I called up 13
years ago, and told him, "...that it was my manifest
destiny" to do these comics. I went to work for Europe
there about 1990. And when Gladstone lost the license,
he went off and was working for another comics
company. And, I found out about 1992 that they needed
a new editor. They had a position open for a new
editor over at Egmont. So, I told them they should
talk to Byron. And they liked what he told them, and
he moved over to Denmark.
So, now, yea, I'm working again for the same
person that I worked for at this little tiny, like 3
man, comic book company in Prescott, AZ 13 years ago.
And, I work for them the same exact way I did then. I
do all my work directly for this one guy. He's the
only person I talk to, and yet, now, he's the editor
of the biggest comic book company in the world.
I mean there's lots of other editors doing lots
of other things; it's such a huge company, cause like
I say, it's not just for Denmark. What he edits, what
he produces, with his other managing editors, is
printed in companies owned by Egmont in 20... 30 other
countries. And, then, reprinted by other publishers.
But, I'm still, again, working for Byron Erickson.
And, it's just wonderful! It's just like... just the 2
ME - What is your favorite color?
DR - Uh..., red... No, blue! Isn't that what they
said, in the Monty Python movie I think?
ME - Alright, Mr. Rosa, I don't know if anybody else
will enjoy this, but I know I did! Thank you very
DR - Yea, thank you.
On my way out Don Rosa beamed as he showed me a
black hardbound book, with an inset gold embossed logo
with the phrase "Pro Gradu," in Latin adorning the
cover. Included on the cover was a woman's name, a
student getting a masters degree in Literature. Inside
were typed pages, and panels from Don Rosa's work.
"What this is is somebody's doctorate
dissertation that they wrote about my work; about the
intertextualality." "... I never heard of what that
is. It's some sort of modern literary theory. It deals
with what you were talking about. It deals with your
hidden references to other works. What she's talking
about is my references to Barks stories, or my
references to a movie, or my references to some other
work of literature or art or whatever you call it.
Little did I know, I thought I was just having fun!
But, this is actually a literary, a modern literary,
There you have it - Don Rosa a literary theory.
These are some of the best sites one can find on
Disney Comics, Don Rosa, Carl Barks, and more, which
include links to keep you busy: Disney Comics
Disney Comics Mailing List <www.dcml.stp.ling.uu.se>.
The above interview was transcribed from a
interview tapped for local access tv in Evansville,
IN. The actual interview was a slightly longer
version, which also included sequences showing off Don
Rosa's duck figurine collection matched to an Indiana
Jones theme, penciled pages w/ explanation of The Life
& Times of Scrooge McDuck 10b, and an audio and visual
synopsis of my favorite stories. The video is
available "at cost" to fans, which means I'm not
making "any" profit. For more information write to:
O'Little Mouse Productions, "Don Rosa Interview," P.O.
Box 2286, Evansville, IN 47728. Phone# 812-467-0278
e-mail: [email protected]
P.S. - If anybody finds my friend from earlier in
the interview, please write me immediately. Gb.
The 'one' who has a finger on 'it'... scratches against the mahogany
lining of a coffin crying, "I am Jonah! I am Jonah! Spit me back out
so I may see and feel the light of day again." And, the levithan does
not heed for it knows every great epic must come to an 'end.'
A tasty morsel known as... "understanding." (F.A. Elliott)
Well, that's a big interview.
I'm thanking Mr. Elliott for giving me that interview.