I had faithfully published my magazine 'Carl Barks & Co.' for twenty years when Carl Barks finally visited Europe. I collected contributions from people in each country Barks visited and it became a 56-page Europe Tour issue in 1994, number 22 in the series, this time published in English.
I even wrote the Danish report myself.
'Among the press clippings from Barks' visit to Denmark, I particularly remember one. 'Donaldists would say that a visit by Carl Barks ranks up there with H C Andersen suddenly popping up, apart from the fact that the element of surprise would be bigger in the latter case'. Both are storytellers on a world scale.
At the age of 93 you would not believe that he dared to embark on a Europe tour that would last two months, particularly because Barks was never a person who traveled a lot.
When asked, what he considered to be one of his biggest weaknesses, he said 'reclusiveness'. When I asked him, he replied, 'It is only now I can afford to travel'.
It made me smile and think 'This is definitely the creator of Scrooge McDuck'. The missing money could only be valid considering lost work income in the period, for everyone knew that this triumph ride, worthy of a king, was entirely paid for by the Disney Group, which for years had tried to persuade him to do this trip. They had probably calculated and assessed what it was worth in increased PR and marketing value. In this regard, I am sure that marketing people were not disappointed.
The local branch drove a hard but well organized schedule. Yet, it did not deter Barks from an utterance in a well-attended meeting in a comic book store 'This I think is the coziest meeting I have experienced so far'.
I know the dedicated fan who arranged the session, and I think he in that moment felt at least an inch taller.
Barks has always been good at expressing great and simple feelings in just a few words, and this was also evident during another meeting at The Copenhagen Comics Library, where Barks was to meet selected guests and give a signing round.
He came in through the back door and was suddenly present in the room where people stepped aside to make room. An almost reverent mood occurred for a moment when one would have been able to hear uncle Scrooge's first dime drop to the floor if it had not been for a humming of camcorders that quickly were put in shooting position. The silence lasted only a moment, but perhaps long enough for somebody to see it as a bit embarrassing.
Then Barks went around shaking hands with everybody. I summarized the common joy we all felt about Barks finally having come over to see us, which not surprisingly gave Barks the opportunity to answer that he was glad he had come.
Then he looked around and said, 'I guess I may have more friends right here in this very room than back home'.
In this simple way, he made us feel a little sentimental and that we had something special going. The remark seemed spontaneous, and it is true that from a marketing point more efforts are made in Europe than in the United States.
One of Barks' comments on some of the gifts was 'I can hardly wait to get home and show this to my cleaning lady'.
A story also went about a lady from a charitable institution who had been sent to him to determine whether he was a worthy victim for fundraising. She looked around in his study and said, 'It seems that you are quite taken by ducks, Mr. Barks?'
Before his arrival in Denmark a reporter phoned me, since he was supposed to interview Barks on national TV. Where was it, he had seen the egg that Donald had come from? I went fast through my Donaldist trivia but had to give the answer, that it was not by Barks.
In the broadcast, Barks said 'I think he came from an egg that was bought in a grocery store'. Now journalists are smart people, so another question popped up 'Has Donald and Daisy any sex life?' Barks replied 'Oh, I would say that at Disney thay have done what they could to keep them apart'. The tone was clearly humorous and ironic.
The journalist when phoning me would also like to know, that if Barks really was the father of the comics version of Donald Duck, who was then his mother? There I had the right answer. It was without doubt Sonja Rindom. And who was she? Well, it was she who for many years had translated the Disney comics into Danish. But some of additions to the Danish language she owes to Barks. Langtbortistan is called Farawaystan in the original version.
Luckily the local branch remembered to invite her to a reception at the publishing house, and she arrived dressed all in white. We usually do not mention a lady's age, but she was three years younger than Barks, and like him she looked quite well.
They told Barks who she was before the presentation, and when they met Barks looked up and down on her and then he exclaimed, 'You're looking GOOD!'
Now Barks always appreciated a fine chick and the journalists would also dig into that. The year before Barks had buried his third wife, and they would like to know if he was still chasing girls. He replied, 'Oh, still turn to look at them, but I have stopped running after them'.
The interest in Barks was noticeable in many ways, but not surprisingly, especially in the mid-aged generation that had grown up with comics as the main source of entertainment when they were children. So, to be sure that there were also some ordinary children to welcome Barks when he arrived at the Oslo boat, Egmont had been prudent and run a few buses with children down to the dock, so they could wave flags and celebrate the King of Duckburg. In the bus, they had certainly been briefed on who the aged American guy really was.
No question, we all regarded this a historic moment and felt the blow of the wing feathers of fate when Barks passed by on his triumphant tour.
Without a doubt, he was one of the few truly great creators from the golden age of narrative comics still alive. Spending time with Barks made even the most highbrow bureaucrats as children again. After conducting thorough interviews, they were happy to get a signature in one of their old comics treasures from their childhood in the fifties.
A newspaper editor specializing in literature from a leading newspaper tried to get Barks to draw a small duck for him and promised that it would be printed on the front page of the newspaper, but Barks' manager politely refused, although Barks himself would have been game.
When a Barks painting can be sold for $ 200.000 and sketches bring additional potage, then it would be disloyal to investors giving away free duck drawings! It was that kind of rumors that showed that Barks had finally gone from a position of Donald Duck to the status of Scrooge McDuck. I developed the idea of a philosophical question to Barks, if imagining the creation of a Barks fund, what good purpose could we imagine it to promote?
It was a question, it was difficult to get an answer to, so it was instead diverted to a playful reference to the old notion of a home for homeless homing pigeons. Although it seems like Barks ends up being a wealthy man, it is still others who have scored the big profit on his creativity.
Frankly, Barks would have preferred that the production of duck comics was discontinued when he retired, and the addition of new series that mainly owe their attention the reputation Barks has built, certainly was not Barks' glass of lemonade!
Neither does he want to be caught in a PR situation that could be interpreted as if the old master hands the torch to any named successor.
However, he is also aware that this whole hullabaloo on copyrights is a matter of give and take. His paintings with non-Disney characters have not achieved the same appreciation as those with the ducks.
Should a Barks fund be created, it should probably rightfully be done by the money men who have earned large sums of his art over the years, teaming up to implement it.
In this context, I asked if it had not been difficult to put together the exhibition of 30 Barks paintings in the National Museum's foyer at the occasion of the Barks' visit?
Well, it had not been so easy, but not as I thought because the pictures were scattered around. These paintings were owned by only two tycoons! I took the opportunity and dragged my own three children in to admire the paintings and they were dutifully satisfied from this gallery visit not belonging to the boring kind.
And the paintings did in fact exhibit this particular glow, which I had heard of and not being included in the reproductions. Now other artists have also experimented with designs from Disney without black border lines where you're looking for a three-dimensional effect but without catching the same glow and crispness and verve as Barks has managed.
I told Barks that if he had been in business in the seventies or eighties, he may have been pressured to let his sketches become inked by some slick Spaniard in the holy name of a uniform design. Barks shuddered at the thought and was grateful that he had been allowed to follow his creative process all the way from idea to finished cleaned up and inked originals. I could assure him that there were plenty of fans who were also eternal thankful for that.
Denmark was the country blessed by the biggest number of days on the tour, and Egmont had invited other Disney artists to meet Barks. They were Marco Rota from Italy, Vicar from Chile and Tello from Spain. They had made greeting drawings for Barks to celebrate the occasion. Barks looked at a drawing from Vicar, where a divine Barks gives life to an indolent duck on a neighboring cloud, not unlike a famous fresco by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
Barks chuckled about the idea, and Vicar, who was just a young guy around sixty, lit up from this appreciation and several times uttered his 'Maestro Barks' across the Anglo-Spanish language barrier. Barks commented 'So you're the guy who draws the ducks better than I?'
The fans who did not manage to get a signature from Barks, then had to settle for one from the other artists at a subsequent meeting at the Comics Library. And here they might perhaps manage to get a little duck drawing? But no, the Egmont managers were present and checked that it did not happen. You could get a signature, nothing else. Maybe Egmont saw possible future boom in the price of drawings from these 2nd generation duck men?
The greatest experience for me was that Barks had personally wanted to meet me, and it happened at a breakfast meeting at the Hotel Phoenix on the last day he was in Denmark. I had been allowed to bring a guest, and it was Gorm Transgaard, who himself had begun supplying manuscripts to Egmont.
There we sat, three generations of duck men talking smoothly for over an hour, completely relaxed and cozy, since we did not need to have any tape recorder running.
Gorm and I had agreed that we would not behave like simple fans, so we kept the cameras hidden. Eventually we were then asked by Barks if he would be allowed to take a few pictures of us to his photo album, and yes, indeed he could!
Then we had no trouble taking up our own cameras and having a few snapshots with The Good Artist. The pictures he took of us together with the master were quite good, so now he also had those he could show to the cleaning lady back home.
Now a picture of me and Barks adorn the banner on my Facebook page. I have evidently dared to put my arm on Barks' shoulder and I am smiling. The same goes for Barks. I have probably been able to come up with a wisecrack, but I cannot remember what it was.