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Friday, June 5, 2015

American Invents Manga - No, Really

I must admit that I recently saw this in, but can honestly claim to have known about the following for many a decade prior.

Uncle Scrooge McDuck... the cantankerous, lovable richest duck in the world was created in 1947 (of course) by master comic book creator Carl Barks, who based him on Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge character from the 1843 novel A Christmas Carol.

When I was a kid in the last century, before the Internet and video games, I used to read Disney comic books - particularly Walt Disney's Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge.

Although creator credits were never given in the old Dell and Gold Key comic books, I - and a lot of other readers - was always keenly aware that there were some issues drawn and plotted out far better than the others. These were the grand full-length adventures from the pen of Carl Barks.

So... I didn't know who he was, but I sure as hell was a fan - even as a pre-teen.  
After retiring from writing and drawing the Disney Ducks, Carl Barks began painting oils capturing covers and scenes from the many adventures he had created over three decades of work. These paintings are highly valuable and highly collectible. In this scene, you can see Donald steering the boat (he was the real money maker for Disney comics), nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie (Donald's sister Ella or Dumbella is the boy's mom), and Scrooge McDuck himself snagging a treasure chest with his fishing line.
Unca Scrooge, as written and drawn by Barks became soooo popular, that he actually inspired Japanese manga legend Tezuka Osamu ( - surname first - 手塚 治) who was the creator of the uber popular Astro Boy and other famous characters. 

Tezuka is known as the father of manga as well as the grandfather of anime in Japan.  

His works after WWII basically created the whole manga look for Japan, which in turn helped create the anime industry as well. 

Even I have about 20 collected books of Astro Boy and one Japanese language book of art by Tezuka Osamu - plus maybe 50 comic books and a collection of anime. I need help.
Using Barks' Uncle Scrooge for inspiration, Tezuka created that whole Japanese look of the large eyes and small mouth thing to make the characters seem cuter.

While I would argue that Uncle Scrooge might be curmudgeonly popular, but cute he ain't. 

Still, Tezuka openly admits the inspiration. 

In fact, he and Carl Barks were always friendly to one another, as the top most greeting card pictured above from Tezuka will surely attest. 

Although Barks lived to be 99 (dying in 2000), I never got a chance to meet him, much to my chagrin, but if I did, I would have told him how he inspired me to be a writer.... something I do for money during the day, and for fun in blogs like this in the evening. 

It's also refreshing to know that he was able to inspire a great creator such as Tezuka as well... can you imagine a Japan without manga or anime as it is now? 

It would be boring. 

Everyone should go out and find a collection of Carl Barks Disney Duck comics and pay homage. 

Every night when I read to my son, Hudson, I pull out one of those fantastic Barks masterpieces and relive my childhood again and again and again. 

I collected the Dell, Gold Key, Whitman, Gladstone, Disney, Gemstone and Kaboom! publications and Big (and Better) Little Books from the 1940s through the 21st century - once, 20 years ago, paying $750 for a book I wanted - and own collected works, hardcover editions, even journals discussing the anthropomorphic Disney Ducks.

I never miss a chance to pick up extra copies of the oldies, but am always disappointed when I crack open the covers to not find a Barks story - you can tell immediately... even Hudson is aware, and he's not nearly as nerdy as I am.

I can only hope Barks and Donald and Scrooge will continue to inspire people... now if only someone would publish those duck tales again...  there's a generation of kids out there who are missing out. 

I got lucky... my comic book collection was so vast - now at 35,000 books, that my mother never had the arm strength to thrown them out. At least my kid can retire when I die. I mean... I could sell them all fix the leaky roof... but's my childhood, and it's still going on. Maybe when I become an adult.

Here's a page drawn (and written) by Carl Barks from Uncle Scrooge #7 from September 1954.... an adventure titled The Seven Cities Of Cibola. You know that famous opening scene from Indiana Jones - Raiders Of The Lost Ark, with the booby trap and the giant boulder rolling around... here's part of the scene (an early page describes the booby trap in greater detail) that director Steven Spielberg acknowledges inspired him to create such a monumental mark in cinematic history. Carl Barks, baby. Image copied from Uncle Scrooge McDuck His Life & Times, Trade Edition 1987 (it cost $34.95 then), published by Celestial Arts... it's a re-colored version of the original story. I read it to Hudson this evening. Again.
Carl Barks - the inspiration behind Japanese manga and anime

Andrew Joseph 

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