Monday, November 17, 2014

Canvas: Carl Barks

The Canvas

The Adventures of Uncle Scrooge

I wish I could say that I was one of those precocious sorts of kids who whiled away their days thumbing through the pages of their favorite novels, oblivious to the universe of children hopping, skipping, and fighting through the lackadaisical afternoons of childhood. While I was never much for the company of others, even during those tender formative years, books with big blocks of text that offered no respite from the deluge of words with a picture or two left me cold. Comic books, on the other hand, were a completely different story. Comics trained me to acquire the patience to sift through blocks of words in order to fully comprehend the fantastic scenes of derring-do that spread our before me in my grubby little hands. And one of the earliest comics to do this were reprinted old stories from Disney's hey-day starring the miserly Uncle Scrooge McDuck. 

I didn't know it then, but Uncle Scrooge was primarily the creation of comic book legend Carl Barks. It would take a few decades before Uncle Scrooge broke free from the inky pages of Disney comics to become one of the most cherished characters in the vast stable of Disney Studios, but for the comic-book enthusiasts, Barks's Uncle Scrooge was a well-spring of inventiveness and adventurous storytelling that would influence everyone from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (the boulder scene from Indiana Jones was lifted straight from an Uncle Scrooge adventure) to Christopher Nolan (whose Inception inadvertently riffs on a similar heist from nefarious Scrooge foils, the Beagle Boys).

Uncle Scrooge has been on my mind quite a bit recently. As my wife and I are expecting our first child, my mind is racing with all of the art, film, and literature I look forward to sharing with my son. Certainly, most of it will have to wait a number of years (I don't know that David Bowie or the films of Wes Anderson resonate well with the crawling set), but I think I can start indoctrinating my son pretty early on with the work of Carl Barks.

And why not? Indie publishing house, Fantagraphics is currently in the process of releasing a handsome library of collected works from Barks (similar to their painstaking production of the complete comic strips of Charles Schulz's Peanuts a few years ago) that reveals the artistry and detail that went into every panel with a vivid re-coloring process on sturdy paper stock.

Indeed, through these stories, I want to impart on my son a sense of adventure, joy, and fun. The comics typically tend to center around Uncle Scrooge's ridiculous treasure hunts that take him and his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, all over the world and beyond! The stories that take place in their hometown of Duckburg (of course!), and lean toward humanistic morality tales that often castigate Uncle Scrooge for his miserliness while advocating for sympathy for one's fellow man... er, duck. I can't wait to share these collections of exciting stories and gorgeous art with my son.

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