Carl Barks (Carl Barks)

Carl Barks

Cartoonist, artist and painter. Born to William Barks and his wife Arminta Johnson. Carl had one older brother named Clyde. Carl always admitted he had a lonely childhood, only 10 students including himself in the small schoolhouse two miles away from his home that he walked every morning. In 1908 Carl and his family moved to Midland Oregon to be closer to the railway. This was all new to Carl who up until this time had never been in crowds and the crowds made an impact on the young impressible seven year old.  By 1911, they had been successful enough to move to Santa Rosa, California. There they started cultivating vegetables and set up some orchards. In 1916 Carl was at a turning point in his life for various reasons. First, Arminta, his mother, died in this year. Second, his hearing problems, which had already appeared earlier, had at the time become severe enough for him to have difficulties listening to his teachers talking. The family had returned to Merrill, Oregon and his hearing problem was why he stopped the advance of his education. Carl started taking various jobs but had little success in such occupations as a farmer, woodcutter, turner, mule driver, cowboy and printer. From his jobs he learned, how eccentric, stubborn and unpredictable men, animals and machines can be. Carl later declared that he was sure that if not for a little humor in their troubled lives, they would certainly go insane. It was an attitude towards life that he would adopt.  According to Carl, this period of his life would later influence his best known fictional characters: Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and his own Scrooge McDuck. Donald’s drifting from job to job was reportedly inspired by Carl’s own experiences. As was his usual lack of success. And even in those that he was successful this would be temporary, just until a mistake or chance event caused another failure, another disappointment for the frustrated duck. Carl also reported that this was another thing he was familiar with. Scrooge’s main difference to Donald, according to Carl, was that he too had faced the same difficulties in his past but through intelligence, determination and hard work, he was able to overcome them. Or, as Scrooge himself would say to Huey, Dewey and Louie: by being “tougher than the toughies and smarter than the smarties.” Even in the present of his stories Scrooge would work to solve his many problems, even though the stories would often point out that his constant efforts seemed futile at the end. In addition, Scrooge was quite similar to his creator in appearing often to be as melancholic, introspective and secretive as he was. At the same time Carl had started thinking about turning a hobby that he always enjoyed into a profession: that of drawing. Since his early childhood he spent his free time by drawing on any material he could find. He had attempted to improve his style by copying the drawings of his favorite comic strip artists from the newspapers where he could find them. As he later said, he wanted to create his own facial expressions, figures and comical situations in his drawings but wanted to study the master comic artists’ use of the pen and their use of color and shading. By December 1918, he left his father’s home to attempt to find a job in San Francisco, California. He worked for a while in a small publishing house while attempting to sell his drawings to newspapers and other printed material with little success. While he continued drifting through various jobs, he met Pearl Turner. In 1921 they married and had two daughters, Peggy and Dorothy. In 1932 he met and married Clara Balken, that ended in divorce in 1951 with no children. His third and final wife was Garé Williams, they married in July 1954 and she died in March of 1993. In 1923 he returned to his paternal farm in Merrill. He continued searching for a job while attempting to sell his drawings. He soon managed to sell some of them to Judge magazine and then started having success submitting to the Minneapolis-based Calgary-Eye-Opener, a racy men’s cartoon magazine of the era. He was eventually hired as editor and scripted and drew most of the contents while continuing to sell occasional work to other magazines. In November 1935, when he learned that Walt Disney was seeking more artists for his studio, Barks decided to apply. He was approved for a try-out which entailed a move to Los Angeles, California. He was one of two in his class of trainees who was hired.  He started at Disney Studios in 1935, more than a year after the debut of Donald Duck on June 9, 1934 in the short animated film The Wise Little Hen.  His first story sale was the climax of Modern Inventions, for a sequence where a robot barber chair gives Donald Duck a haircut on his bottom. In 1937 when Donald Duck became the star of his own series of cartoons instead of co-starring with Mickey Mouse and Goofy as previously, a new unit of storymen and animators was created devoted solely to this series. Though he originally just contributed gag ideas to some duck cartoons by 1937 Carl was originating story ideas that were storyboarded and put into production. He collaborated on such cartoons as Donald’s Nephews (1938), Donald’s Cousin Gus (1939), Mr. Duck Steps Out (1940),Timber (1941), The Vanishing Private (1942) and The Plastics Inventor (1944). Unhappy at the emerging wartime working conditions at Disney, and bothered by ongoing sinus problems caused by the studio’s air conditioning, Carl quit in 1942. Shortly before quitting, he moonlighted as a comic book artist, contributing half the artwork for a one-shot comic book the other half of the art being done by story partner Jack Hannah titled Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold. Carl retired in 1966, but was persuaded by editor Chase Craig to continue to script stories for Western. The last new comic book story drawn by Carl Barks was a Daisy Duck tale “The Dainty Daredevil” published in Walt Disney Comics Digest. To make a little extra money beyond what his pension and scripting earnings brought in, Carl started doing oil paintings to sell at the local art shows where he and Garé exhibited. He moved to Grants Pass, Oregon near his childhood home. Later living in a new home which he and Garé had built next door to their original home, Carl passed away at the age of 99. (bio by: Shock)  Family links:  Parents:  William Barks (1858 – 1940)  Arminta Johnson Barks (1860 – 1916)  Spouse:  Margaret Wynnfred Williams Barks (1917 – 1993)*  Sibling:  Clyde Hobson Barks (1899 – 1983)*  Carl Barks (1901 – 2000) *Calculated relationshipCause of death: leukemia


  • March, 27, 1901
  • USA


  • August, 08, 2000
  • USA

Cause of Death

  • leukemia


  • Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery
  • Oregon
  • USA

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