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

1 comment:

  1. It is perfectly brilliant that you published the story of Happy the dog and his opponent wolf on your page! An all-time classic which deserves eternal life!


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