Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Comic World 1955

Dana Gabbard is back, and he's got another fascinating discovery to share with you. Enjoy!

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Through the assistance of Betty Uyeda at the Seaver Center for Western History Research at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, here is the Holy Grail of Barkdsom (never before posted on the internet!): the May 1955 Fortnight Magazine article "The Comic World" by Charles Beaumont that has the first description in print of Carl Barks as a Disney comic book creator for consumption by the wider world (this followed a 1951 profile in his local newspaper).

It was Michael Barrier is his groundbreaking book Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book that first made wider Barksdom aware of this singular article. I recently asked Barrier how he became aware of it (Fortnight is a fairly obscure magazine, a sort of Time Magazine for California that didn't survive the 1950s). The explanation isn't surprising: "Barks had a copy of the magazine, and I borrowed it to copy the Beaumont article".

Beaumont's familiarity with the ins and outs of Western Publishing was due to his briefly (in collaboration with William Nolan) crafting scripts that resulted in about two dozen published funny animal stories for Western including two Mickey Mouse adventures. And besides Barks several other Western writers and editors are given prominent mention, decades before most of us became familiar with the names Del Connell, Chase Craig and Alice Cobb.

One can sense Beaumont using the article to vent some of his frustrations at the peculiar requirements he encountered in adapting to what he evidently felt were often nonsensical dictums one had to accommodate to successfully sell scripts to Western. Soon after the piece appeared Beaumont moved on to more mature venues for his work as he cracked the slick magazine market for short stories and started his brief but celebrated career as a fantasist whose stories graced such venues as Playboy and The Twilight Zone along with scripting movies such as The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao.

It is rather amazing Western cooperated in this almost unprecedented peek behind the curtain of their operation. I say almost because (and I credit David Gerstein via Joe Torcivia first making me aware of this) Western actually published credits in Little Lulu #49 (July 1952) and New Funnies #183 and 184 (May and June 1952). But generally Western didn't reveal the names of its creators outside the pages of its Annual Report and house organ The Westerner. It would only be in 1974 that Western referred to Barks in print in the introductions to the three deluxe Best of Walt Disney Comics volumes reprinting his work.

For more peeks at Fortnight from the same year you can check out scans posted of an article and ads from the August issue on a Disneyland fan blog.
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 A pfd of "The Comic World" article can be found by clicking this sentence.

2 comments:

Brent Swanson said...

This is a treasure! Thank you Joakim and thank you Dana!

Anonymous said...

Very nice article! "The Dalai Lama of scriptsters, Carl Barks" indeed! Can you say "scriptsters" three times in a row?