Friday, May 14, 2010

Barney Bear & Benny Burro #1 by Carl Barks

Some more Barks for your weekend reading pleasure! Unca Carl did three Benny Burro stories in Our Gang Comics, starting in issue #8. In issue #11, Barney Bear was added to the mix. The two would be featured in each issue until #36, comprising the longest run of a feature by Barks with characters that weren't ducks.

I really enjoy the old-time comedy team approach Barks uses with these two characters. This story would probably have almost worked as a radio skit for Abbott & Costello or Hope & Crosby.

Here is that first story from Our Gang #11 (May-June 1944):

This same issue features the second of only two "Happy Hound" stories done by Barks. Of course, the animated Happy would quickly be renamed "Droopy", but these stories were obviously done around the time of his first theatrical appearance. In fact, they take their whole setup (Wolf as escaped convict, Droopy as police hound) from that first cartoon, Dumb-Hounded (1943).

The backgrounds are very sparse compared to the Barney & Benny story, but it puts a nice focus on Barks' excellent posing and facial expressions (especially on Badboy Wolf). And I love that shot of Happy melted into the sofa at the bottom of page one!


Mykal Banta said...

More great stuff, sir! Looking at that first B&B story, I see again that no one ever drew landscape backgrounds (and characters in perspective to those backgrounds) any better than Barks the Great! Endless panels to choose from! Barks is one of those artists that seem eternally new and surprising!

Great theme (none-duck Barks) and great post!

May 15, 2010 7:07 AM

Gabriel said...

Those were great stories by a master. I've enjoyed them a lot! Very imaginative!

You can tell Barks liked to draw Barney Bear. Besides I always feel touched by his tragic face! He and Benny burro make a very effective couple and a good dumb-clever binomial.

And what can I say about Droopy Dog? He's one of my favorite cartoon characters of all times. It would say that the story posted here were thought for an animation film. You can easily imagine all the gags set in motion.

By the way two consecutive Carl Barks's stories with a cave in them!

It's a total pleasure to rediscover Barks work again and again!

May 15, 2010 1:03 PM

Doug Gray said...

Mykal: That's true, Barks was great at backgrounds, especially in rendering nature. I love his trees, rocks, water, etc. And he was a master of shadows as well. As you say, his characters look like they are physically present in those backgrounds. In that way he really brought a Disney look to his comics.

Gabriel: I agree with you on the Droopy story, it does look like it could have been gags for an animated cartoon! But that is certainly appropriate for adapting a Tex Avery cartoon to comics, isn't it? Both of the "Happy Hound" stories were successful in that respect (bringing the feel of a Tex cartoon to comics), I think.

May 15, 2010 1:49 PM

Gabriel said...


I really admire Barks's ability to transcribe the animation language into comics.

May 15, 2010 2:24 PM

ramapith said...

You know what? I'm happy!

Barks' backgrounds look sparse in the Droopy story because he drew it with 6-panel pages (same format as his Benny solo stories, first Duck stories, and previous Droopy story). But his editors remounted it and shifted art around to make it into an 8-panel story, leaving some rather empty-looking areas around the characters.

May 17, 2010 8:46 AM

Doug Gray said...

Ramapith: Ah, that makes sense. And it explains why the dialogue balloons/lettering are noticably smaller in this story. Thanks!

May 17, 2010 11:40 AM

Gabriel said...


So, someone else had to make parts of new art, right? Or it was Barks himself?

I mean, you can distibute part of the backgrounds over the page, but what does it happen with the action?

I don't know if I understood 100% how it worked...

Great Ramapith's comment!

May 17, 2010 12:01 PM

Gabriel said...


Ok, I got it at last!!

Better late than never!

May 17, 2010 12:12 PM

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

Doug: Did ya know the Barney Bear stories etc by Barks is beeing reprinted in a thick volume with artwork mostly shot from sharp proofs in Scandinavia? Check it out here:

Now, I'd love to see an american edition with Barks lettering intact too...

May 17, 2010 2:12 PM

Doug Gray said...

Gabriel: Yeah, it looks like someone else added details to fill out panels. If you look at page four, second panel, you can see where the table line was extended to the right of "Mom", and it isn't even a straight line (the table looks bowed where mom leans on it). Also at the bottom of the page (panel 6) you can clearly see where a piece was pasted in on the left side. Man! I need to look at these old stories more closely for this stuff before I post 'em!

Joakim: Thanks for the link! I like the fact that someone is printing these stories in a color collection. I'd definitely consider buying an English edition, especially since the new coloring doesn't look too bad!

May 17, 2010 3:03 PM

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Thanks for these--this particular Barks obsessive had never seen this old stuff before. It's super-neat!

May 19, 2010 11:16 PM

Doug Gray said...

I'm glad you enjoyed them, GeoX!

May 20, 2010 1:47 AM

Paul Tumey said...

The non-duck Barks stories are fascinating. While his art had solidified into a coherent style, I think barks was still developing as a writer in these stories. The non-duck stories were collected into one book that published in the late 70's or early 80's called "The Barks Bear Book." Even though the reproduction was only in black and white, and not so great by today's standards, it is still fun to read all the stories together. I acquired my copy off of eBay for about $10, but that was a few years ago.

June 23, 2010 10:19 AM

Doug Gray said...

Paul: Seeing the early work of a creator like Barks is fascinating for that reason, I think. For a comics aficionado, it's no different than a film buff studying the early work of, say, John Ford to gain a sense of his evolution as a filmmaker. Your own Cole Comics blog is fascinating for the same reason!

I got my own copy of the Barks Bear Book for about $25, so you got a great deal! But even at the price I paid, it's still the best deal you'll get for a nice reading copy of all the Our Gang stories.

June 23, 2010 5:40 PM

Mesterius said...

First time reader of the blog, but I just gotta say I love all these early non-Disney Barks stories! Is there any chance you could post the only Andy Panda story Barks drew for Walter Lantz (from around 1942-1943, I think)? Would love to read that one :)

And, oh, could you pleeeease post the complete "Three Caballeros" story by Walt Kelly?

July 8, 2010 12:10 PM

Mesterius said...

Found some more information about Carl Barks' Andy Panda story, by the way: It was printed in New Funnies #76, 1943 and reportedly features Andy as a lion tamer.

July 12, 2010 12:35 PM

Doug Gray said...

Hey Mesterius!

I don't have a copy of the Andy Panda story; it is included in the "Barks Bear Book" reprint trade that has been mentioned on this blog and in the comments before. The reprints are in black & white, but are very readable. The book binding is too soft for me to scan the story from the reprints, though; the pages will just come loose if you bend them too far. But copies of the book aren't too hard to come by, and well worth picking up a copy.

My dilemma with the Three Caballeros is more the fact that I have a very nice copy of that comic, and I don't want to ruin it in the scanner. I intend to get a reader copy someday and finish posting the story. Ditto for Kelly's wonderful Donald Duck and Pinocchio issue of Four Color.

July 13, 2010 2:40 PM

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Porky Pig by Carl Barks

This particular non-duck Barks story was a "Holy Grail" for me for years. When I was collecting books in high school, there was no internet...and big conventions weren't really an option. So I had never seen a copy of this book, and I just assumed I couldn't afford a copy anyway. I eventually got to read it when I obtained a copy of the Barks Bear Book (Editions Enfin, 1979), reprinting (in B&W) all the non-Disney Barks material.

This story was published between Four Color #29 (Donald Duck and the Mummy's Ring, 9/43) and Four Color #62 (Donald Duck in Frozen Gold, 1/45), so Porky of the Mounties is probably Barks' second (solo) long adventure story.

Barks' use of Porky and Bugs is reminiscent of the Mickey Mouse comic strips of Floyd Gottfredson (and his various scripters) fact this story would work just as well with Mickey, Minnie, and either Horace or Goofy replacing the Looney Tunes cast. Barks considered his drawing style a mix of comic book and comic strip artists, most notably the styles of Gottfredson and Roy Crane, so he was probably very familiar with the Mouse stories.

This story suffers in comparison to Barks' best, of course. But it impresses me that even this early effort, with characters he probably wasn't attached to at all, was still a fun and engaging read.

Here is Porky of the Mounties, from Four Color #48 (July 1944):

My copy of this comic book has date stamps on the cover, right on Porky's face! And since the only credit I've seen for the art is "not by Barks", I decided not to post it. Instead, here is the cover of the Overstreet Price Guide #7 (1977), featuring Barks' oil painting based on his story:


Mykal Banta said...

Great post, Doug. As you say, even youthful, early Barks - not even drawing his favorite characters - still ain't bad at all (to say the least).

I remember reading somewhere that Barks didn't enjoy drawing Bugs for some reason. I seem to recall that he found the bunny boring. I could (God knows) be wrong on that, and of course I can't seem to find the source now (I had a collection of Barks non-duck work, which reprinted this very story, in which I seem to recall reading that bit about Barks not liking Bugs - but it must have gotten lost or loaned). -- Mykal

May 5, 2010 8:55 PM

Mykal Banta said...

Oh, and PS: I love the new Banner!!

May 5, 2010 8:55 PM

Doug Gray said...

Mykal: I'm glad you like the banner! It was time for a change, and I wanted some color up there.

I hadn't heard that Barks disliked Bugs Bunny; maybe the work of some of the crazier directors (esp. Clampett and Avery) didn't appeal to his own sense of comedy. In the price guide I posted he mentioned not enjoying drawing Porky Pig ...he had to adhere so closely to the model sheets he felt he was just using other people's drawings. I'll bet he had the same issue with Bugs. Although, in my opinion, his Bugs and Porky look really good!

May 6, 2010 2:39 AM

Mykal Banta said...

Maybe it was Porky. Either way, I agree, his stuff always looks great. Boy, you can really see Barks in the other characters in this one. Seeing Barks always puts you in the mood for more.

May 6, 2010 3:46 AM

Doug Gray said...

I agree, the "world" sure looks like Duckburg in all other respects!

I have some more Barney & Benny comics from Our Gang, maybe I'll put some of those up next!

May 6, 2010 12:46 PM

Mykal Banta said...

Oh, hell yes!

May 6, 2010 12:49 PM

Chuck Wells said...

Great story. Thanks for posting it, becasue one can never have enough Pig.

May 6, 2010 1:13 PM

Doug Gray said...

Chuck: True! And it's nice to see some friendly pigs in a Barks story...he usually reserved them to play villains in his Duck tales, right?

May 6, 2010 1:30 PM

Thad said...

Have to note that this story was not written by Barks, but Chase Craig, if I remember correctly. I love all the stuff you're posting here!!

May 7, 2010 8:32 AM

Doug Gray said...

Thanks, Thad, I didn't know that!

It's hard to find info on some of these old stories. The GCD doesn't have anything, not even a credit for Barks.

May 7, 2010 10:48 AM

Gabriel said...

Great post, Doug!

I didn't know Barks didn't enjoy drawing Bugs or Porky. Always learning from you, guys! Thanks for this!

I did´nt read either this story until now and I had a great time doing: the story develops smoothly and it's beautifully drawn, as usual taking into account is a Barks work. No wonder it got the Holy Grail range for you for years. Damn it! I deserves it!

Certainly Porky Pig looks "suffer" a little bit every time he has to express a feeling. I mean, as if Barks was contending himself trying to give him the suit expression or some such a thing. But looks great anyway! Barks is Barks, needles to say. I wish I had the talent of his little finger!

By the way, looks like you take your time scanning and clearing these stories you post, and it is something really praiseworthy. Thanks so much!

Take care--

PS.- I liked when Porky confess he needs the costume coz it's the only clothes he has on panel 3 page 7. Brilliant touch!

May 9, 2010 10:03 AM

Doug Gray said...

Gabriel: I enjoyed it too; as I said it loses when compared to the later stuff, but still holds up as an enjoyable little story.

I am surprised to find that Barks didn't write this, and it changes some of my assumptions about it. It seemed reasonable to assume it was Barks; touches like Porky's righteous outrage toward animal traps, and the "Aesop's Fables" bit where the bear returns his kindness, feel like things you would find in a Barks story.

I try to clean the scans as much as possible; this story had such inconsistent coloring though... some pages seemed to just use primary colors!

May 9, 2010 2:48 PM

Gabriel said...

I know what you mean. I'm not at all a connoisseur of Barks' work precisely, but looks quite one of his stories, even the way each element of the plot finds its logic compensation in the end. I'm unknown about Chase Craig's work though.

I read somewhere these stories were redrawn by other artists, mostly the main characters, so the secondary characters were rid of Warner control, clearly barkian here. That certainly could explain Bark's discomfort at the time of drawing these characters. Do you think possible the yarn you've posted here had one or another Porky, Bugs, Petunia redrawn? Or on the contrary his work remains untouched here?

(Barkian sounds good to refer Barks style in comics?)

May 10, 2010 2:26 AM

Doug Gray said...

I can believe some heads were redrawn on the main characters. I had chalked it up to Barks adhering closely to model sheets, but it could have easily been a second artist going through and pasting in new art (especially on Bugs). Most of the poses look pretty right, though, so I'm thinking maybe just some heads got redone (especially closeups). What do you think?

May 10, 2010 10:53 AM

Gabriel said...

It's really hard to know!

Porky's body looks quite natural on these pages, but his facial expressions though... Well, he looks in a more "realistic" way than usual: looking closely on some panels we can see solutions a little bit awkward (page 2 in full, or page 5 when he's eating the cracker or when he's facing the reader on panel two, etc.) I think Porky in this story comes out unharmed from the retouches. But Bugs, as you well say, I'd swear his head was redrawn on several panels. For instance, look panels 2 and 3 of page 16. There's a thin black line on his neck, very typical of the "cut and paste" way, Petunia too on this same panel three. And so on...

"Barksian" sounds much better, I think... Or "Barksonian", I don't know... :)

May 10, 2010 11:27 AM

Doug Gray said...

Gabriel: Good catch! I didn't even notice the thin line cutting through the necks in those panels! Pretty clear those heads were pasted on! Now looking back, I can see a lot of odd line work that is most likely just the visual edges of pasteups:

Page 2, in panels 1 and 7;
Page 7, panel 1;
Page 9, panels 8 and 9;
Page 10, panels 3 and 6;

I like "Barksian"!

May 10, 2010 1:22 PM

ramapith said...

Barks' Porky has smaller eyes and a slightly larger snout that's flatter on the bottom. Carl Buettner's Porky—for I'm certain it is Buettner's style in the redrawing—has larger, more reflective eyes and a smaller snout.

On Page 1, I think we see Barks' Porky in pics 1 and 5, and Buettner's elsewhere; on the other hand, I'll bet money on both Petunias being Barks' work.
On Page 2, I think we see Barks' Porky in pic 2 and again on the bottom row (all three pics).
On Page 3, I believe the first three Porkys are Barks and the others Buettner's.
Skipping ahead to Page 22, we've got a Barks Porky in pic 1 and a Buettner Porky in pic 2. Both are nice, close shots, so the difference is easiest to see.

Bugs is a little harder; much more of him is redrawn—Barks recollected that all was, but I wouldn't say so. Look through the story and you’ll see that Bugs has an uncolored nose most of the time—but occasionally a black nose, and the black nose always comes along with a more WILD HARE-like facial design... and a more Barksian line art style.

Page 7 has two of these Bugses, in pics 5 and 8. Page 8, pic 1 has what I think to be Barks' Bugs as well.

May 20, 2010 11:57 PM

Doug Gray said...

Wow, thanks David! I can really see the difference in those Porkys! I appreciate you posting your analysis here!

May 21, 2010 1:34 AM

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