Full circle



At last it happened! Forty years ago, I was proud to present a 31 page Donald Duck comic to the local Disney office Gutenberghus. It was executed from the finest recipe I could think of learning from the one-shot masterpieces of the giant master Carl Barks. I had started publishing a fanzine ‘Carl Barks & Co.’ and regularly mailed it to him.
I also sent ‘The Big Sneeze’ to him, and he did answer me. Oh, lucky me receiving a reply from the old master himself! Here it is:

I will now try to comment upon your story, The Big Sneeze. It does use a number of my old tricks, like running gags and mysterious menaces. I find the continuity hard to follow in places. You tell things that happen to a character AFTER the businees has happened... One of the tricks of comedy, as taught at Disneys, is that the reader should be tipped off in advance that something awful is going to happen to a character. Then the reader is allowed to see the suspence and watching the unsuspected character bungle his way into the difficulty. Then the reader is allowed to WATCH the action of the event happening.
Another criticism is that you go a little strongly for dialogue gags and play on words. For instance, page 25 when we see 'the patient stuck with the cure' where the important thing is what happened to Donald. We do not know until panel two of the next page. The reader should be able to see how such sling-shot gags are manipulated. Also, the reason for the ducks' effort to cure the dragon's sneezes was not built up enough to create suspense.
Such criticism however is merely technical. I have no doubt your story will sell as is. All writers use different methods of relating a tale. The readers quickly adapt to a new style, so perhaps it is not very important that your story should be like mine in style.
I hope you have success with the publishers and can continue to work for them for a long time
Carl Barks

I eagerly presented this story to Curt Smed at the Gutenberghus Disney office. Now wasn’t this something to go for? It was a heavy disappointment when he refused. For that cost he could produce six short stories instead, and that was more to his liking.

Heavily let down I stammered if I could then change the characters into non-Disney characters and publish it elsewhere since I felt the story idea was too strong to go to waste, and Curt Smed answered that he saw no problem in that. What happened after that you can read at my homepage in the 'English Stuff' column under ‘Milton or Chaos’. I became blacklisted, a curse reigning to this day.

However, some months later I came to do 10 page stories for the dutch Disney office, Oberon, together with a brilliant visual artist, Daan Jippes, and we did a number of stories before Daan went off to California, but no more 30 page epic stories. So, this one became my first and only long Donald Duck story.

From here my doing longer stories with funny animals were with Woody Woodpecker and The Family Gnuff, 44 pages even, or more. And my guardian angel Paragon perhaps did me a favor blacklisting me with Gutenberghus, for the ideas I executed later were quite controversial. With the Woodpecker alone I featured breakdown of the financial sector, threats of narcotics, misuse of third world population plus environmental issues. I would never have gotten away with that at Disney’s.

To prove that point I heard, that the US editor even today had trouble presenting a Donald Duck taking pills as he does in ‘The Big Sneeze’. He had to change it into licorice drops, supposedly having some effects on sneezing, and the reference to drinking and smoking in the end of the story also made the top brass at Disney frown in 2016… However, in the Trala-La story, Barks let Scrooge consume bottle after bottle of nerve medicine. The point is, that Barks never asked Disney about these trifles.

But now the US publishing is here in September. After 40 years in waiting The Big Sneeze at last has its premiere in the country spawning Carl Barks. A full circle has been drawn, and with much pleasure I can look back upon a career with funny animals, but particularly the part outside the Disney universe.

And one more thing: For the first time, I have been allowed to draw a cover for a Disney publication. Will wonders never seize!

If you want more details you can read the ‘Milton or Chaos’ article under 'English Stuff'.