Full Name:

Carl Barks

Occupation / Title:

, , ,

Date of birth:


Date of death:



Carl Barks was an American cartoonist who was most well-known for drawing Donald Duck as well as creating the iconic character of Scrooge McDuck. 

Family and early life

Barks was born in Merill, Oregon on March 27th, 1901 on a farm near the Oregon-California border. He was interested in drawing at a young age due to his partial hearing problem, and was a self-described lonely child. Barks spent a lot of his younger years moving as a result of his father’s venture into the feed lot business in 1908, moving to Midland, and then back again to the ranch near Merrill in 1914.

In 1916, Barks reached a turning point of his young-adult life, and was forced to leave school after completing the 8thgrade due to the severe deterioration of his hearing, as he had difficulties hearing his teacher’s talk. That same year, his mother passed away and after being forced out of school, much to Barks’ dismay, he begins taking on odd jobs and trying out various types of professions.

Career outline

In the 1930’s, Barks continued selling gags to magazines, and after the separation from his first wife, he was recruited by Eye-Opener to work as a staff member. Barks moved to Minneapolis for work, and assumed full editorship of the publication a few years later. It was around this time that Barks met his second wife, Clara Balken.

In 1935, Barks applied to an ad sent out by the Walt Disney Studios, and begins his trial working in the Studio as an inbetweener. Supervised by a head animator, his job was to fill in the frames between the “extreme” actions of key poses, creating the illusion of movement. After submitting a gag successfully to the new Donald Duck cartoon “Modern Inventions,” Walt Disney personally moved Barks out of the drawing the inbetweens and into the new story department unit created for Donald Duck in 1937.

After the opening of the new Disney Studio in Burbank, Barks developed a sinus condition from the constant air-conditioning. As Western Publishing owned some of the Disney characters at the time, Barks inquired whether they needed any artists to produce Donald Duck comic books and he was immediately assigned a ten-page Donald Duck story, of which he revised significantly. Moonlighting as a comic book artist, Barks leaves Disney Studios in 1942, and begins working on the first original Donald Duck stories being published under Walt Disney’s Comics.

Bark’s artistic growth during this period had marvelous effects upon his career, as he surrounded the Donald Duck clan with a cast of characters, often expressing his wry, dark humor, born of difficult experiences. In 1949, he was assigned to create the full-length Donald Duck Adventures, for which he drew monthly for many years, creating the Duck universe, and filling it with complex and often interwoven storylines.

After the tumultuous breakup of his second marriage, Barks moved out of his house with Clara into a two-bed room apartment. Working alone, he invented Scrooge’s “Money Bin”, the characters the Beagle Boys, and completes the first Scrooge comic-book in 1951. During this period, Barks met Garé Williams at a local art show, who was an accomplished landscape artist. He decided to try out his hand at fine art for the first time in his career, and soon after meeting Williams began assisting Barks on backgrounds and lettering in his comics. They married soon after.

After the 1960’s, Banks’ identity was no longer hidden to his readers, as he was known longtime solely as “The Good Duck Artist”. Malcolm Willitis, one of the most important Barks comics collectors, was the first fan to learn the name of the artist and address from the comic strip department at Walt Disney Productions. Retiring in 1966, he continued drawing and making art, producing oil paintings of Disney characters with the permission of the studio, and later auctioning them off to fans of the comics. He died of leukemia at the age of 99, seven days after the death of his third and final wife Garé Williams. 

Personal style

Barks has said that Donald’s drifting and wanderings from job to job was inspired by his own experiences earlier in life, marked by a series of temporary successes that are often hindered by frequent misfortunes and ill-chanced setbacks. Scrooge Duck, another of Bark’s most well-known creations, suffered the same type of misfortune and disappointment as Donald Duck, but according to Barks, differed in that he used his cunning and hard-work to get past and succeed in life. Barks signature sense of introspection and satirical humor was imbued into his characters, and he said that his success was possible through his own self-identification with the Duck characters. 

“I always felt myself to be an unlucky person like Donald, who is a victim of so many circumstances. But there isn’t a person in the United States who couldn’t identify with him. He is everything, he is everybody; he makes the same mistakes that we all make. He is sometimes a villain, and he is often a real good guy and at all times he is just a blundering person like the average human being, and I think that is one of the reasons people like the duck.” (21 Lenburg)



  • Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2006.
  • Ault , Donald . Carl Barks: Conversations . Mississippi : University Press of Mississippi , 2003. 286 . Print.

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