Wednesday, 26 August 2015

"My Favourite Duck"

One afternoon at "Marion Carson Elementary" I had a minor scuffle with a student during a soccer game. When I came back from school I felt a sense of melancholia. Later I went to the “Nose Hill Library” with my father. I was browsing for a book about my favorite comic book artist, Carl Barks. Unable to locate what I wanted, I went to the information counter and asked the woman if there were any books on Carl Barks. She was not knowledgeable about comic books, however she redirected my query to Joey one of her associates who was on an expert on that field. 

Immediately we struck up an enlightening conversation about Carl Barks, that I recall to this day. He had told me how Barks’ identity remained a mystery to his readers. However many readers recognized Barks’ work and drawing style, and began to call him the “Good Duck Artist”. One way I could verify that it was his story, was how his wife Gare Barks, when lettering his stories would leave the circle on exclamation marks closed. We talked about how both Don and the nephews differed from the cartoons and the comics. He could not stand how the character was constantly squawking and there was no rationale to his anger. It was very difficult to understand him and the nephews. We had talked about Paul Murry's creation of Super Goof who would eat goobers to attain his powers. How adventurous Mickey Mouse was in Floyd Gottferdson's comic strips. He told me about non related comic book series i.e. Marge’s “Little Lulu and Will Eisner’s “The Spirit”.

My knowledge of the creations Carl Barks was known for lacked. I assumed he had created, Donald’s nephews, Daisy Duck, Grandma Duck, and Ludwig Von Drake. He told me that comic strip artist Al Taliaferro was responsible for their creations, but he was not sure about Ludwig. One of his goofs was in certain comic book panels, was to draw a fourth nephew. We came up with names for him like Phooey and Ratatouille was a suggestion that we both chuckled at. He asked if I read the infamous “Square Eggs Story”. It was a comic that I was not familiar with. Before the library was closing, Joey asked if I could wait for him while he went to the workroom. I waited at the counter feeling happy at how I had a friend who shared a mutual interest. He returned with a light blue hardcover book, which was … volume 3, set 1 of “The Carl Barks Library”. He asked if I would like to borrow it for sometime. I was surprised that he had trusted ME a person that he recently met.

Right then and there I pictured this scene from "Moaning Lisa" of Lisa hearing the soothing tones of a saxophone.
I gravitated to how it must feel of meeting a friend who shares  a mutual interest.  
The diverse elements that collate in creating a cool comic-book cover. 
I was bursting over with euphoria, similarly as how Uncle Scrooge would feel when swimming through his money as I held that book. The front of the book reprinted Carl Bark’s splendid cover for “Lost In The Andes” (FC#223) I liked how Donald’s pose with him holding one of the square eggs. Hewy, Dewy, and Louie look excited about their discovery. The vibrant coloring from Donald’s sky blue shirt to the nephews yellow and red added to the aesthetics. Barks simple yet effective covers pique the reader’s interest in the story.

On the way home, when I skimmed through the book I found it odd that the comics were printed in black and white. Before each story, the cover that originally accompanied it, was reproduced on a glossy paper, usually one of Carl Barks’ paintings was on the reverse side. I vividly recall how it was a treat seeing the covers for the first time.

I previously read “Christmas on Bear Mountain” (FC#178) in Abeville Press’ compilation of Uncle Scrooge stories. I compared the two versions side by side; I discovered that several panels were removed in Abeville Press’ Scrooge book. For the first time I saw how the story was originally presented. When I went to bed I would have read most of it if it were not for school the next day.

Having not finished the book I took it with me to school that day. We were forced to stay inside during recess due to it raining heavily. Many of my peers complained about staying indoors for recess, but it did not bother me one bit. I soaked in the artistry of “the Good Artist” while others were playing. “The Old Castle’s Secret” was a tale that suited the somber weather that day. The ethereal elements from the abandoned castle with dark halls, the old McDuck cemetery, the misty moors, and the threating “ghost” matched the ambience of the rainy weather that day. It was printed in black and white; The shading of the castle’s bricks added to the moodiness.

The order in which the stories were printed was commendable. Everywhere Don, the nephews, and Uncle Scrooge trekked to they were calling me for a new adventure. Who could resist it? Except for being paid 30 cents an hour.I was intrigued with the concept of square eggs. What would they feel like?  When I arrived home from school I read “Lost In The Andes”.

The Plainawfulians spoke English with a heavy Southern Accent was written very well. The design of the little square chicks was cute. The nephew’s description of the square chicks soft as sole leather made me feel as if I held them. After all he endured it was revealed that the roosters used for breeding were both male. Defeat was written all over him with his slumped shoulder, and a tear from his cheek. The riled expression on his face was priceless when the chef asked mentioned “Ham and Eggs? Cheese Omelete? Roast Chicken?” It was clever of Carl Barks of having a police car proceeding to the diner. Instead of illustrating the aftermath he wreaked upon the diner, he left it up to the reader’s imagination of what may have occurred. There were supplementary materials like a storyboard from an unproduced cartoon about square eggs.

As I read this on a rainy day I imagined what it would be like stumbling your way amidst the fog.  The thin lines as the fog and the Ducks in silhouette adds to the mysteriousness.  
The perspective as the Ducks gaze on the hamlet (egglett) of Plainawful is impressive.
A series of humorous one-page Donald gags followed the story. One where he undergoes an extreme physical regimen that allows him to fit into his tuxedo. To indicate the rapid pace he worked out, he drew a series of swirls amongst the bodybuilding arsenal, as he exclaims “Three more days of this I can squeeze my middle through a doughnut!” When Daisy asked him how the tuxedo fits. “It fits like a dream, toots – my waist that is.” In the last panel, we see him wear a tuxedo that is now too broad for his shoulders.  

After reading I was inspired to recreate the drawing of Donald as seen below. In order to verify the accuracy of the length of his bill from his face, I looked back and forth between the cover and what I was drawing. I was satisfied by how similar it appeared. I went over the blue pencil drawing with pastels. I remember the pride that sent me racing upstairs to show my mother the final work. 
My first attempt of drawing Donald Duck. I made sure to capture the small details as the wrinkles in his bowtie. 
“The Golden Christmas Tree” was a “tree-mendous” story of Hewy, Dewy, and Louie wanting a golden Christmas tree. Testosterone trickled through me when I viewed Donald cross the chasm using a snowball. I was invested in the safety of the kids when the witch had them. Carl Barks development of Donald into a complex personality was impressive. He has always appealed to me for how his emotions would momentarily change. For example, initially he was doubtful and scared from being under the clutches of the witch. Upon retreating from her cabin, he realizes how he has not thwarted the witch, and his nephews are still in danger. He was resolutely determined in rescuing the kids. It was an interesting dynamic between the characters as in the cartoons they quarrelled. The sequence where he had a battle with the witch was clever.
Notice how Donald is not distracted by the advances of the Witch as a snitching siren.  As archaic as his response is in the upper right corner it was a good line. 
It was a fine time where my love for the Disney Ducks was flowering. There was no looking back once I had crossed the infamous… “Duck Zone”. I could not get enough of the Duck be it in the cartoons and comics. I borrowed,  "The Disney Studio Story", a book on Disney short subjects that I religiously looked at. It was a treat to see pictures of cartoons that I never saw before. I was making one of my archeological discoveries in the basement, where by chance I would unearth a recording of a Disney cartoon. Ho! What luck! As I found “The Mad Hermit Of Chimney Butte” an installment of “Walt Disney Presents”. The eponymous Hermit (Donald Duck) has cut of all ties of human existence, due to his inability of finding peace and quiet (as depicted with clips from earlier cartoons). The cartoons included in this special were a treat, as I saw many of them for the first time. Of the shorts showcased here "Beezy Bear" and "Hook, Lion, and Stinker" were memorable.  
"Slide Donald Slide" (1949) another in a series of battles between Donald and Spike the Bee was included. Spike the Bee locking Donald in his shower allowing him the opportunity of listening to classical music.
Him conducting the classic music to Donald's squawking as he tries to unlock the door was funny.
Of the shorts excerpted “Beezy Bear” was a honey of a cartoon. There were many mirth-inducing moments among them, Humphrey’s anguish while he witnessed Donald tasting the honey. The vocals expressions provided by sound-effects man Jimmy McDonald enhanced his suffering. 
"Oh boy.. oh boy.. 100% pure" exclaims Donald as he is delighted by the sweetness of the honey. A year later, when I would have pancakes for breakfast I drizzled honey and whipped cream on them, as it would not seem odd that I would quote this line. 
One of his attempts of crossing the barbed wire fence was using a sign for a fencepost, to gain access without being unscathed. He then threatened the bees through a series of grunting sounds; meanwhile the Ranger removed the fencepost. When the bees were chasing our bruin he attempted to dive underneath the fencepost, only to be distressed that it no longer existed. The figure, the frazzled face, and the skidding sound effects as he prevented breaking through the barrier were well executed by the animator. The aftermath of this scheme proved to be unsuccessful as a tuft of fur was snagged onto the broken barb fence, the Ranger placed it on his head was hysterical. Lastly Humphrey acted as a snake charmer using a hose in order to acquire the sticky substance from far away, however Donald’s observation of it disappearing caused him to suck from the other end of the hose. I was impressed by the synchronization of the music to the rate of the honey travelling through the tube.
“Hook, Lion, and Stinker” followed it, where Louie the Mountain Lion and his cub as they attempted to purloin the fish Donald caught. It was good seeing Donald having the upper hand in thwarting of the mountain lions in each of their schemes. For instance, he saw Louie's paw reach out of the window for the fish only to move it and instead to grab a flaming lump of coal from the stove. The cartoon showcased  Donald to exclaim my favorite catchphrases of his "Oh, yeah!" when he discover the cub stealing his fish, and "So!" when he hears them knocking on the door. The unforgettable running gag of Louie the Lion’s son plucking pellets from his posterior much to his discomfort was amusing. The metallic clinking sound as his son put the pellet in a bowl enhanced it. 

 It was interesting seeing Walt interacting with one of his creations.
Preceding it was an episode of “The Woody Woodpecker Show” consisting of “Robin Hoody Woody”, “Rock-A-Bye Gator”, and many others. From watching the credits I became aware of voice artist Daws Butler, a regular player in the Walter Lantz cartoons. He did a great job supplying a haughty British voice for the Sheriff of Nottingham. A line that delighted me was the Sherriff exclaiming, “I hate blackbirds pie!” as he shooed away the blackbirds that were fleeing from his mouth.
In “Rock-A-Bye Gator” a running gag was when Woody would play “Rock A Bye Baby” to surrender him into sleep. A clever gag was when he used semaphores to conduct the song to render Gabby Gator sleepy.  “I’ve been tricked,” he says before dozing.  I laughed my head off, when Woody accidentally mentioned a word that rhymed with food (“Now he’s in a sleeping mood.) would arouse him (“Did you say food?). Laverne Harding’s model of Woody Woodpecker was appealing. He looked cute with his small stature and his topknot facing upward.  I deduced that Daws also voiced Huckleberry Hound, as the voice he provided for Gabby Gator was in an almost similar register. I would be seen at either home or school mimicking Woody’s laugh and pretending to peck people.
When I saw his name listed  as director in the credits of "The Mad Hermit of Chmney Butte", immediately I saw his name as director of "Rock-A-Bye Gator". I was surprised that he was "that guy" who directed the Donald Duck cartoons. The first individual in animation I identified, you could call him a "Jack Hannah" of all trades.
A zany gag after Donald reaches the top of the branch where the Aracuan is he hits him with a mallet, then
inserts a cigar that once is lighted skyrockets him down.
On another day I found “CLOWN OF THE JUNGLE” (1947) a fascinating Donald entry, as it was unlike any Disney cartoon I had seen. My curiosity had been kindled after having seen a snapshot of this cartoon from a book on Disney short subjects. My father told me that this cartoon was hardly ever aired on T.V. The zany Aracuan Bird irritated Donald as he interfered in his photographic attempts made for an interesting pairing.The gags had an air of Tex Avery diffused through them, for instance when he repeatedly extended the legs of a camera tripod to see the Aracuan Bird on a tree branch. One scene of his prey painting a door onto a rock with Donald ramming towards it echoed a gag used frequently in a Warner Bros. cartoon. 
How I loved the song of the Aracuan Bird provided by Pinto Clovig. The animation of him going through a series of hysterics before being obliterated was done well.
The music added to the frantic efforts of Donald taking a picture of his prey. Donald with his incisors out annihilating the Aracuan Bird with his machine gun was an intricate display of his primitive instinct. Donald appeared to have been elated by his demise was short-lived, as he discovers him unscathed by the blasts. The shock was too intense for him that he acted like the Aracuan. It seemed frightening at first seeing him fumbling his lips, popping in and out, and running in circles but was amusing in later viewings.  The ending of the straight character replicating the zany behaviour of his foe had Tex Avery written all over.  

Around this period I was among several students as announcer reading the events occurring in our school. It was a great time when I was one of the students in charge of deciding what music to play before starting the announcements. Most of them complained about playing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” repeatedly to Mr. Stewart, the vice principal. He suggested that they follow my lead of selecting their favorite artist then asking for his approval of it being played. It was awesome playing a snippet of Jean Michel Jarre an artist in the electronic genre, and The Carpenters. I would read a brief blurb about the artist after playing their song. My friends Ian and Spencer were thrilled to hear my voice on the speaker.

A Father's Day card made by yours truly. If I had more time to scour for images I would have selected better comic book covers.  


  1. Adel:

    The tales you tell, of finding a library “friend-in-fandom”, others of your friend Ian, interactions with your father, etc. are always a delight for me – especially as I went through my “parallel-youthful period” without anything like this, not meeting or corresponding with others until my mid-twenties. Imagine, going through as fertile a creative period as the Silver Age of Comics, and the Golden Age of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons in total isolation from anyone else who also enjoyed it.

    …Though, I guess I’ve more than made up for that since.

    “Clown of the Jungle” was pretty amazing, as I wrote as part of THIS LONG AGO POST

    Just curious about your “archeological discoveries in the basement”… What did you find there? Some VHS tapes? Home recorded (?), as Donald Duck shorts (actually an episode of “Walt Disney Presents”), were followed by an episode of “The Woody Woodpecker Show”?

    My house doesn’t have a basement but, if it did, I’d want one full of treasures like that! :-)

    1. I am glad you really enjoyed it Joe! I had an inkling that you would. I have many posts in the works as this one. Isn't ironic that his name was Joey and years later I comment regularly on your blog.

      I found it hard to talk about Barks' work for a story as great as "Lost In The Andes". What else was left for me to write write about?

      The "archeological discoveries" were home recorded tapes. A nifty find for the day.

  2. The title of your article when I first saw this a year ago made me think that it was about Chuck Jones's underrated 1942 Porky/Daffy classic "My Faovirte Duck".:) SC

    1. Welcome to the blog! I had in that very cartoon in mind for the title of my post. :)