Originally published in Amazing Heroes 129, 1987.
While anthropomorphic comics—including the seemingly immortal Disney line—died
a lingering death in the U.S. during the ‘70s, they thrived in Europe.
In fact, they thrived to such an extent that European publishers had
to commission new licenses work from local artists to keep up with
the immense demand. Thus, while American funny-animal cartoonists
had virtually nowhere to go in the comics field, dozens of Europan
cartoonists were paying their rent with page after page of ducks,
geese, and woodpeckers.
Freddy Milton, a Barks fan from his earliest days, was thus able to
honor the master with a stream of skillfully realized Donald Duck
and Woody Woodpecker stories. But his ambitions have always extended
beyond occupying the top rung of the Disney and Lantz franchies—and
thus, during his 15-year career, he’s kept up a major workload on
other fronts. In addition to working as a translator (credits: stories
by Harold Foster, Andre Franquin, EP Jacobs, Barck/Cauvin, Segrelles,
Jodorowsky, Varenne, Bretecher, Gillon, Margerin, Victor de la Fuente,
Hans Kresse among many others) the 39-year-old Dane’s comics resume
includes close to three thousand pages of work in a variety of genres,
of which more than half comprise his "Gnuff" saga.
This interview is based on a written series of questions-and-answers
between Gladstone editor Geoffrey Blum and Freddy. I asked Freddy
an extra half-dozen questions, translated the new answers (in deference
to his Gladstone editors, Freddy had written his first batch of responses
in English). The results are what follows. Another note: The spread
on this page (based on an original layout by Daan Jippes) was originally
slated to be the wraparound cover for this issue. While Woody Woodpecker’s
copyright holders were willing to let us use the character on the
cover, we ran into a stone wall with the Disney folks. Resisting a
temptation to run the cover with "censored" blocks over
the Disney faces (Freddy’s suggestion, and a funny one), we’ve chosen
to publish it here (Disney is more lenient with running interior illustrations
of their characters)—and Steve Gallacci helpfully stepped in on a
short deadline and producing the eyecatching piece that fronts this
iddue as it stands.
Freddy Milton and Geoffrey Blum, the Barks expert
AMAZING HEROES: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
MILTON: I was born on April 1948 in Viborg, Jutland, Denmark, where I
spent my childhood and youth. I attended grammar school and high school there
and got my degree as a public school teacher in the neighboring town Skive.
AH: When did you start drawing your own comics?
MILTON: Like most adolescents, I was very critical toward my own
drawing for a period, but I guess I turned to comics making when I was about 17
and by the age of 20 I made up my mind to try seriously to make a career out of
it—but not with funny-animals from the start. I drew realistically, or
semi-realistically until I met with Daan [Jippes] in 1975. Later I have used
realistically drawn characters, but the public prefers my funny-animal style.
AH: Did you or your parents originally plan a different career for
yourself? And did you attend an art school?
MILTON: No, my parents believed that my only brother Ingo and I should
be free to choose our careers. While Ingo attended an art school, I never did. I
guess a kind of urge toward "security" made me attend a construction school for
a year when I was 20, but that mistake was rapidly put behind me. At least the
education as a public school teacher had something to do with kids. But as I
said, I never got to use it. In the run for the degree I of course specialized
in art, and there I got the highest grades.
AH: At what point did you become aware of Barks’s stories and art as
being different or better than other Disney comics?
MILTON: When I read the issue that featured the waterhose-concertina
gag cover, with the cabbage-growing/giant kite-flying disaster story! From the
start I had a weakness for the epic scale. Later I went through a period of
fondness for the Paul Murry adventure stories with Mickey Mouse—especially his
railroad stories, which led me to construct a model train in the cellar with all
the facilities of his stories designed to be just as "cartoony" as in his Mickey
train stories—all the way down to the bulging red and purple caps! Also, I had a
genuine fondness for the Carl Buettner Li’l Bad Wolf stories.
AH: How did you start up your fanzine Carl Barks & Co.?
MILTON: Carl Barks & Co. Was inspired by my reading the article
"Vacation in Duckburg" in the early issues of Funnyworld, plus an article by
Malcolm Willitz and Don and Maggie Thompson. Also, I was in contact with Glenn
Bray and Thomas Gibson. I ruthlessly stole the Barks index wherever I first saw
it and printed the corresponding Scandinavian version alongside some articles.
It became an instant hit, as there was the same kind of interest in knowing
about "the good artist" over here as in the USA. A former editor at Gutenberghus
[the Danish Disney comics publisher], Curt Smed, even used it in ordering
missing proofs from Burbank, so in the mid-‘70s we saw late "premieres" of Barks
in the Scandinavian Disney magazines. Oddly enough they now display his name
even on covers, but the names of other artists and writers are still hush-hush
at Gutenberghus. An internal memo from Disneys to all licensees some years back
stated that Disney was no longer against crediting artists, so Gutenberghus is
now carrying out that policy purely on its own.
AH: How did you enter the field of comic books?
MILTON: I had contacted a Swede, Janne Lundstrom, who was working as a
freelancer for the big publishing house Semic in Stockholm, doing scripts for
The Phantom. He had seen some samples of Zenit, a daily adventure strip that I
had done for the large Jutlandish newspaper Jyllands-Posten during 1972 and
1973. It was a point of some pride to me that thepaper had cancelled the
Goodwin-Williamson Secret Agent Corrigan for my strip. But then again, I got
only what they paid the syndicate for the strip: 25 danish crowns. It was only
about an hour’s pay back then, and I could barely draw two strips a day, since I
was using the same large scale as Alex Raymond did on his early Rip Kirby!
Anyway, through Janne I got an open invitation from the management to come up to
their publishing house and work in their studio, which I then did from 1974 to
1976. The job, however, merely consisted in rearranging and retouching newspaper
strips that were being recycled in comic books.
I did do some material of my own, though: a Sherlock Holmes spoof drawn in a
humorous style, openly inspired by the style in an album I had gotten ahold of
and was deeply taken by at the time: Tea For Two, drawn by One Daan Jippes, whom
I eagerly tried to contact with a couple of fan-letters. He responded kindly to
them, and it led to our first meeting in Stockholm in 1975. He was up there on
holiday with his Swedish girlfriend, and we met at the most colorful place one
could think of in Stockholm: "Wasa- varvet"—the dock with the exhibition of one
of the best-preserved 16th century vessels.
At that time, Daan was already working as a freelance art director for the
Oberon publishing house, especially for Donald Duck. As I had always had this
fondness for Disney animation and Barks storytelling, we had much to talk about,
and my intreest in switching back to funny animals grew.
From 1976 to 1982 we did 18 stories together. I’d do the first draft of the
story and rough out the art, which was then altered and added to and improved by
Daan, at which point it went back to me for inking. Exceptions to this include
the first four stories, of which Ben Verhagen inked three. The fourth. "A Clean
Case of Competence" [Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories #515] was done at a holiday
session in Viborg where Daan and I worked closely together.
Around 1980 I moved to Copenhagen, and aside from my licensed production with
the ducks I had jobs at the local Danish Semic Press translating and relettering
French comics albums, for which there was a growing market. I also did a couple
of albums with Woody Woodpecker for them, and later in 1981 picked up the
production of more Woody stories for the monthly Woody Woodpecker comics, to
which I contributed regularly, alternating Woody stories and "Gnuff" stories up
until the end of 1985. That magazine was co-produced [ in order to cut costs] in
a Swedish , a Norwegian, a Danish, and a Dutch edition. Despite that, the budget
could not sustain the added home production. Sales were dropping, and now only
the Norwegian version has survived, and purely on a reprint basis.
The "Gnuff" series has continued as a series of full-color albums as well as
running Sunday-page format (incorporation one and a half comic-book pages) in
Kilroy, a newly founded comics section to the largest Danish daily newspaper,
Ekstra-Bladet, as well as Critters.
AH: What was it like working with Daan Jippes through the mail?
MILTON: The correspondence with Daan has always been great fun. We
exchange ideas and opinions and gossip, as much as commenting on the actual work
we have had going between us. I have learned enormously from Daan, as much as I
have from Barks. His whole process of "polishing" things as he does to
perfection—although I will never match his exuberance.
After Daan’s move to the USA I continued writing and drawing duck stories for
Oberon for three years (nine stories) until 1986. By then Oberon had put
together a more regular production team, dividing scripting and illustration,
and I ended up in the illustration department.
AH: In the case of, for example, "The Artful Dodgers" [Walt Disney’s
Comics & Stories #521], in what form did it come to you from Oberon?
MILTON: The script, in this case written by Jan Kruse, are presented
as visual breakdowns, which I elaborate on. I also make some changes. On "Artful
Dodgers" I had Donald being blown through the roof and back into the museum
again by the cannon. I also re-used my old villains Joris and Kloris (whom I’d
used earlier in "The Rewarding Formula" and "The Right man in the Wrong Place")
as burglars, rather than the usual Beagle Boys as suggested by the script. An
exception to this was "Adventure Holidays." That was an old script lying around
from the days of Volker Reiche.
AH: Have you ever worked directly for Gutenberghus, or only through
MILTON: For a very brief period in the early ‘70s I did three to five
short duck stories for Gutenberghus, but I regard them as not up to par, so I
prefer to let them be forgotten. Working for Oberon you are allowed to work as
much as you want (or as little—though they would like more now). With
Gutenberghus, aside from the silly anonymity, I would have to do a fixed number
of pages allowing me to do nothing else—to become a company man. Very soon I
would be tierd out, worn out—and thus end up doing dreary work. I need
variation, so I can restore my various creative nerves by doing a different job.
So I feel very much at ease doing things the way I do them now. I would like to
illustrate my own duck stories, though, and maybe it can be arranged through
Gladstone some day.
AH: You once mentioned that you’d lived in the country for many years.
When did you move into the city?
MILTON: My girlfriend Bodil and I bought a house in Allerød, a small
village 30 kilometers (20 miles) from Copenhagen in 1982. (Actually, I was at a
convention in Rome by invitation of Luca Boschi when she saw the ad, and I
barely made it home in time for us to sign up for it.) We married in 1984 and
had a daughter, Ida, in May 1986. I have no car, but the local train is fast. So
that it is only half an hour to the studio in central Copenhagen, Gimle, that I
share with twelve other comics artists. Actually, it’s the only professional
cartoonist studio of its kind in Scandinavia. It was founded in 1981 and of
course I was one of the founders. I usually spend half of my working days at
Gimle, the other half at home. Things like scripting and translation work are
better done when you’re alone.
AH: When did the Gnuffs start? Where were they first published?
MILTON: From 1973 to 1978 I published a "zine" with comics by myself
and other young Scandinavian artists, as well as stories by foreign artists—and
I’m proud to say that it meant the first publication of stories by several
artists who were later published more "officially" over here. The zine was
called Sejd (old nordic word for wizards brew—pronounced "side"): the 12th
issue, from 1974, featured my first attempt at "Gnuff".
My very first "long" Gnuff story—two albums—lingered seven years at the
publisher before it hit print last year. This was due to trouble in arranging
co-printing, which would make the whole venture profitable. ("Profitable" is
hardly the word—making end meet is more like it!)
AH: Dragons are an unusual choice for comic book heroes, yet you
created the "Gnuff" family and also included a dragon in "The Big Sneeze." What
made you think of using these creatures?
MILTON: Dragons are outcasts, a kind of minority. People look on them
with scepticism: are they trustworthy? They are fearsome at times: they have
scales and leathery wings, can even breath fire (which I only used in the first
story, however). They live for centuries (making it possible for me to do the
"For the Love of Gnellie" story without worrying about the "time" factor). I’m
planing on doing a story on Gnicky’s 100th birtday someday—he has been 98 for
My dragons openly depict the problems of minorities. They have to conceal their
old culture (their wings) to make it in our society. Also, they are a species on
the decline. These are the reasons why they appeal to me.
AH: How did you and Fantagraphics get together?
MILTON: On a trip to Europe a number of years ago Kim Thompson and
Dwight Decker visited Gimle. At that time I was already working on "Gnuff" and
was contributing to the Scandinavian Woody Woodpecker comics with both Woody and
Gnuff stories. Later on, when Kim was planning out Critters, he contacted me.
AH: Are there differences between your approach to Gnuff and Woody
MILTON: "Woody" is, folowing American comic-book tradition, centered
around one star character, with whom the reader identifies and through whom
everything is perceived. The "Gnuff" series is designed to be wider and deals
with a series of social mechanisms, of which the Gnuffs are not always the
center. Besides, the reader is supposed to identify with the hole group, not
just one person. In fact, the name of the series over here is "The Gnuff
Family," indicating that the focus is not on one character, but on several.
AH: You tried yo weave together Gnuff’s world and Woody’s world,
At one point I was alternating between Gnuff stories and Woody stories,
doing one of each every month. So it was tempting to maintain a common
theme during a period. When you read the serial currently appearing
in critters, the one that begins with "The Living Past"
in #19, there actually exists an equally long (46 pages), parallel
Woody continuity, with Woody playing a "Jack and the Beanstalk"
role. One of the giant trees grows up under Woody’s house and shoves
it up into the air—a literal tree-house. I though this was very appropriate
for a woodpecker, since they actually do live in trees—but Woody didn’t
enjoy it at all.
In the Woody series, I’ve cast Wally Walrus as mayor. On page 6 of the second
chapter of the upcoming "Gnuff" continuity, "Gnicky Superstar." We actually see,
at the bottom of the page, Wally (drawn in silhouette) in conversation with
[regular "Gnuff" supporting character] City Council Chairman Siegel. Similarly,
Siegel has appeared in the Woddy series, and not just as a silhouette! Moreover,
I drew several of my own characters into the Woody series: Hans Vig—or, as
Dwight decker has dubbed him in English, J. Phineas Phrogg—debuted in my first
Woody album, The Blot, whose theme is reminiscent of E.T.—but I was years (if
not light years) ahead of E.T.!
AH: Wouldn’t it be interesting to see your Woody stories appearing in
the U.S. at the same time as "Gnuff," if they’re complementary?
MILTON: Yes, it would, and Fantagraphics thinks so too, but they
haven’t been able to dig the rights out from among the contractual package. It
may be complicated by the fact that Lantz has sold his rights to a large
conglomerate (Universal), which isn’t particularly interested in Woody per se.
On top of that, the matter may be further complicated by the fact that I also
have certain rights to the work which have to be observed, because I haven’t
sold all of them.
AH: I assume this rights situation is what enabled you to take a story
like "The Big Sneeze," which you originally did as a duck story, then redrew to
feature your own goose characters, then redrew as a Woody Woodpecker story. How
is it that "The Big Sneeze" was finally printed in Holland—as a Donald Duck
MILTON: Simple: they had it lying around. By mistake they had paid me
twice for a 10-page duck story. Instead of asking me for the money back—or
having me do the next story without pay—they printed that story instead and
considered the earlier payment to cover that (although "Sneeze" was in fact 31
pages). In return I then asked them not to let it be reprinted again, and later
managed to haul in some money on the Woody Woodpecker version—which I’d expanded
to 46 pages. This version also explains something about one of my own
characters, the aforementioned Phineas J. Phrogg—and features Gargantua, whom I
later used in Gnuff. So I reworked it yet again, this time into a "Gnuff" story
which should be appearing in Critters in the summer of 1988.
AH: You certainly got a lot of mileage out of that one. How many Gnuff
album-length stories are there—and Woody too, while we’re at it?
MILTON: Let’s see…There are 11 albums’ worth of "Gnuff" material
completed. I’m working on a twelfth, and have numbers 13 through 15 written. As
for Woody, there are five album-length stories, and a sixth albums’ worth of
AH: In what order do the "Gnuff" stories take place?
MILTON: Chronologically, the first story to appear in Critters [#2-5],
"The Gnuffs Move In," is in fact the first. Then there’s a two-part story,
"trouble on George Street"/"The Great technocrack," which was actually the first
to be completed and appeared in Scandinavia as Gnuff albums 1 and 2. "Gnicky
Superstar," which begins in this year’s Christmas issue of Critters, is next,
followed by "Gnuffs on Vacation" and the double-length "Battle for Picus Tower"
(neither of which has been published in the U.S.). The next three, all of which
has been serialized in Critters, are the ones with the giant threes I mentioned
earlier (which we haven’t figured out an "umbrella" title for yet), then "Animal
Graffiti" [Critters #7, 9-11], which is also Scandinavian Gnuff album 3, and
"For the Love of Gnellie" [Critters #13, 15-16]—although, obviously, the
"flashback" portions of this one take place well before anything else in the
AH: That was certainly a unique story. How did you come up with the
idea of setting it over a century ago?
MILTON: "For the Love of Gnellie" (the version as it was printed) was
actually done especially for the American market; it has yet to be scheduled
over here. The script originally starred Grandma Duck, and was her love story
from her youth—with the Ganders as the lucky counterparts.
AH: Ah…the "lucky O’Gators."
MILTON: Exactly. Gutenberghus approached me when they were conducting
serveys on a possible album series with the ducks, and Grandma’s love story was
my suggestion—a series telling the past of the characters. The person that
approached me was transferred to a different job in the firm, and when the
project eventually surfaced, it had become the Scrooge adventure album series,
with scripts by the manager of the German division Kabatek, and illustrations
from a Spanish studio.
AH: Thanks for straightening all that out…I think. What artists
besides Barks have inspired you?
MILTON: No one right now. But in the early stages I have been keen on
Uderzo, Al Williamson, Jippes’s caricatural style, and Franquin.
AH: Do you think of yourself more as a writer or an artist, or are the
MILTON: I always prefer doing as much as possible myself, avoiding any
assembly-line methods. These methods tend to "level" everything. Try to imagine
Barks’s stories inked consistently by others. Something would be missing, right?
Even Barks’s imperfection in spots adds to his personality, artwise. Part of the
Barks secret actually lies in his occasionally "casual" inking (modeling too,
for that matter)—and imperfection cannot be successfully copied. I recall Daan
and me dreaming up some odd perspectives en some panels, though we as artists
knew better. But Barks would have done it simpler and with faults in
perspective—so we just had to dream up some proper faults!
What I discovered during my duck scripting was that certain kinds of motivations
worked in the Duckburg universe, while others didn’t. Adding to that
"established" format is of course the fact that new work in being combined with
reprints. To kids [any evolution would] constitute a discrepancy because they
experience all the stories now, including the old ones. So if the new ones
differ to much from the old ones they would get confused—and the universe would
become less convincing. With "Gnuff" I try to use some more satirical stories,
aiming questions at "systems" in our current society.
What irritates me the most about the major Disney scripters these days is the
fact that the writers are not aware enough of motivation. In my opinion these
should always be deeper, understandable reasons for the ducks to do what they
do—so that the things which happen as a consequence will have more of a dramatic
impact, because you know and feel that in the cause of action they are
inevitable. That is, with the psychological background, things will logically
and naturally follow a given line. Then you have both tragedy and comedy
represented. Now, the vision usually has a comical tone, like the giant
kite-flying story does. But that one also is a tragic story. Barks’s best duck
stories, in my opinion, are the ones that are both tragic and comical at the
same time—where you are forced to relate to a common character flaw. That also
adds to the moral value of the stories. The best funny-animal stories are the
moral ones—following a direct line from old fables by La Fontaine and others.
I’m a reckless moralist, as well as a sentimentalist, I guess. I always feel
pity for Donald. He really can’t help it—he is doing his best.
So you see, it annoys and saddens me to see a story with the barest excuse for
motivation. Just lately I saw a Gutenberghus story: There was a Japanese
exhibition in Duckburg. Just because of that, from one panel to the next, Donald
developed an obsessive fancy for everything Japanese and went through a number
of "funny" routines built around Japan gags. That’s an insult to Donald and the
readers. The editors must think that as long as some funny things are going on
the kids must be satisfied. Unfortunately, the kids can’t formulate the
alternative, but the editors should be able to do it. In stories of that kind,
as I like to say, there might be a lot going on but nothing is really happening.
AH: What are your preferences as far as coloring?
MILTON: It depends on the quality of the printing. If it’s bad, you’re
better off with robust mechanical colors. If the quality is high, however,
laserscanned coloring is preferable, because you can use an unlimited range of
hues, as well as more pastel background colors with graduated tones, which I
have in my Scandinavian Gnuff albums. I sent copies to Carl Barks, since I’d
dedicated one of the albums to him, and his comment was that he was impressed
with the quality of the coloring, and wished that his strips had received that
kind of painstaking treatment when he was doing Donald Duck. When I lay a gray
tone onto a black-and-white edition, it’s to buttress the graphic aspect of a
line original that is designed for color.
AH: What are your ambitions for future projects?
MILTON: These days I’m also doing book illustrations and advertising
jobs from time to time to add to my income. Our national toy company LEGO is
producing comics albums now, and I am on that venture myself.
AH: Is there anything more you wish for?
MILTON: In general, I have been very lucky in working out my ambitions
and getting the opportunities and the response that I might wish for.
I have had varied job offers, a happy family, good colleagues, fine
correspondents, living in a relatively unpolluted area, good health,
no running conflicts—I would be a heel to ask for more! If only thing
could continue the way they are right now…
(1) Freddy is here referring to the 10-page story that appeared
in Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories #68. The cover in question
is from Comics and Stories #41. Cover and story were originally
printed in Denmark in the March, 1953 issue of the Danish Disney
comic Anders And & Co, when Freddy was just a month shy of five
(2) With the exception of "The Artful Dodgers," none of
the Milton stories mentioned here have seen print in English (yet).
Örva on Critters in hard competition on
the US market for comic books
When you get to be 60, you are entitled to look back. How do
you feel about that?
Im fine. Especially because I have inherited a serious vein
from my mother, who had difficulty enjoying the present. She could
however appreciate that the past had not turned out as bad as she
had expected it to be. I have inherited that, I must admit.
So looking back you are rather satisfied?
Precisely, but more than that in fact. When you as a child get the urge to draw antropomorfic characters and later develop a thrill telling stories fitting that style and even later obtain a position where you can use these skills at full time and never have been resigned in the morning towards the job you are going to carry out on that particular day but look forward to it even, then you should be happy and thankful and so it is with me. Particularly because this is not selfevident! I guess I am like the bumblebee, who is not supposed to be able to fly, but noone has told the bumblebee, so it keeps on flying anyway.
Should you have done something different or better?
I feel I have done things as well as I could, even though I have never been particular. If there are matters to critisize I guess I have not been able to do it better or pull myself together to use more time than necessary to carry out things, because there were always more stories waiting to be told! I am probably a stooooryteller as Karen Blixen put it. I have been free to execute things most of the time, so I cannot put the blame on others, if things should have been different - but then again, different people, different priorities. However conditions were good most of the time. Today it would be more difficult.
Would you have continued in that field of expression, if it
had been nowadays with many years of a career in front of you?
If I had been able to, yes. But I have not been doing my things for the sake of money. Yet, through my versatile activities I have made it possible for me to make ends meet - and in the 80es even more than that, especially when you have no car, no parties, no smoking, no drinking, no vacation and you use secondhand clothes. In my childhood the saying went: Never buy things you need, only things you cannot do without. But I have had a feeling of good quality time all through the years and I never felt I have been deprived of anything. I am a working horse like my dad, with whom I shared my birthday, and I recognize a lot from him in myself. Also the joy of life. So from my parents I have both the serious and the happy approach to life, which I guess is reflected in the best of the things I have accomplished.
You have been quite productive...
Exactly! That is precisely what people come up with, when they are asked to make a statement concerning me. That is no lie, of course, but it does not tell you anything about the quality of my work... on the contrary almost. Very few people have expressed appreciation on my stuff, particularly colleagues, but I c an do without that. In the part of Denmark where I grew up people never uttered any word of appraisal on anything, and I guess I have grown up being like that myself, sadly enough.
I guess that was even more appearant in the grey 50es where
you spent your childhood?
Absolutely. A danish author, Axel Sandemose, made a whole set of 10 commandments ruling social life in the town in Jutland, where he came from, and the main paragraph was Never think, that YOU will amount to anything! This was a harsh satire, of course, but with a lot of truth in it. I even made a whole series of comic albums refering to that code of law, Janteloven, and they are satirical as well. This is a sturdy background to lean to, when you need to struggle forward in life with little appreciation on the way. Barks had it the same way. He got his pay but no more. Western withheld fanmail. They thought that if he got to feel too confident about his skills he might want an increase in salary. This is harsh policy. Personally I have a friend, who writes books, and if he does not experience constant approval and a good payment he does not want to continue writing. Im not like that. Maybe because I do not feel I could just as well use my time doing different things. My personality is best reflected making comics, and that has meant joy and satisfaction for me all through the years.
Did you make comics in your early teenage years before you decided
to try for a regularly career doing that?
It was a gradual process. I started out making stories with illustrations and no bubbles. I remember one with a cat and a dog building that treetop cabin I never got myself. I also tried to use them in a proposed animated short shot in Super-8 with ambitious opening titles using letters in perspective and all! But it was tiresome. I ended up saying like Carl Barks, that there went far too much work into moving a character from one side of the scenery to the other. This could just as well be left to the public to imagine so that you could use your efforts doing something more better - like telling a more complex story. And that is still the most rewarding part since you never know if you will be able to cook up yet one more worthwhile story.
So you did not become an animator...
No, but in the 70es I was tempted to try for it. I came in contact with the internationel nestor of danish animators, Børge Ring, and spent a week or so with him in Blaricum in Holland, where he presented me to some basic principles while showing me a scene he was working on from Asterix with a tiny roman being cuddled between two roman vestal virgins. And also he had someone to tell his many funny stories to. But regardless of this supreme mentorship things did not gell for me and the local danish conditions were not good at the time. Things might have looked different if there had been a school of animation in my hometown Viborg, but that did not happen until decades later.
You might have become scriptwriter or storyboarder on animated films?
Maybe, but noone asked me and I felt no need to push myself into that field. I do think I could have made a difference, though. Quite often i have noticed the way ideas are handled and displayed to the public, both on TV and in feature animated films. It is as if everything must be executed in a frenzy without leaving any time over for contemplation. Especially in these times of computeranimation it seems as if they are nervous that their stories lack coherency and depth, so they try to distract public attention from that by covering up with lots of action and snappy dialogue. But fair is fair. There are also fine contributions. I have been genuinely thrilled by TVseries such as Moomin and Joducus Kwak and animated features such as Meet the Robinsons, Ratatouille and the danish Princess...
For many scripts you have cooperated with your brother Ingo...
Yes, when we were together we had a good game going with brainstorms finding new and better angles to the stories as they developed and he has meant a whole lot for me developing our interest in comics. When the weekly version of the belgian comics from the Tintin magazine hit danish market in 1966 and onwards we eagerly consumed the stories every week. We admired the brilliant technical rendering on comics such as Bernard Prince a whole lot! Just now Ingo inspired me to an improved climax in my current project Mumbo Jumbo, a funny animal version of the you-know-who crisis . But on other matters he has also helped me a lot over the years. Logos and shadings on my covers for instance, and later in digital times he was the one teaching me the use of computers with Photoshop and Quark.
Where do the ideas come from?
Mostly contemporary things. Lately for instance there has been motives appearing due to the number fugitives from other countries and the problems relating to their culture. I have made more stories in my Which way Books around themes of that nature, and now ultimately the crash of cultures with different religious beliefs. But handled with antropomorfic characters it can be executed with grace.
You are laying out a whole lot of material on your homepage
now. This must quite well display your contributions over the years?
Thats correct, and with this new update I present several hundred comic pages as my 60 years gift to the visitors. I have grown still more satisfied with this new opportunity created by the internet. I have so much in my archive that i would like to share with the public but it is not economically worthwhile publishing it today in print or reprint on paper. So a homepage is the ideal forum for such matters. Letting things gather dust is no use to anyone and here it can be presented even if there are just a few who likes to see it. Incidentally I found a horoscope on the internet recently and just for the fun of it I typed my birthday there. I was quite astonished with the status presented to me. It said that I was socially a somewhat reclusive person who preferred working from a hermitlike position with rather obscure things that was mostly appreciated by a small group of people. Almost a horrorscope. If this is indeed the case I might have followed my born preferences by sheer intuition.
What are you choosing to present now and in the future?
Apart from the running update I guess I will show some episodes that are difficult to get hold of nowadays as well as some english language versions of stories that has only been available in Scandinavia so far. For instance the current Happy Water story that was planned to be presented in USA by Kim Thompson from Fantagraphics but it never came to be. I can add that Dwight Decker doing the translation tried to find out something about Woodys nephews and typed Knothead + Splinter on the Google searchengine. From USA he was guided to his own article in english here on my homepage. There is no end to my admiration concerning the capability of Google to find small matters in articles in far-off places.
Your own homepage comes out at top when googling Freddy Milton
both with the danish and the english partition.
Correct. But that is not selfevident. It depends on the names you give to the initial files. Firms are willing to pay huge sums to raise their level of display on Google but of course in vain. It helps a lot with a shrewd naming of files though.
What to do, if one would fancy an original comics page signed
I have an agent taking care of that. You can enter www.comicoriginalart.com if you are interested in original artwork done by me.
There has been some interest for a reprint of Donald Duck comics
you have worked on...
Thats right, and I am very happy that it will finally be a prestigeous project in Egmonts Hall of Fame series. One third of the material has never been published in Scandinavia earlier. It is especially gratifying for me to see, that it will be out in the month of April, where I turn 60. It mostly consists of 10 page episodes with Donald Duck I did together with Daan Jippes in the late 70es for the dutch Oberon editorials. Just recently my good friend Jussi Olsen, who had a comics shop in Copenhagen at the time, told me that they imported large numbers of these dutch weeklies back then and they were rapidly sold to eager donaldists.
You had a good cooperation going while it lasted?
Indeed. We inspiret eachother from the very beginning because we shared a mutual love for the melodramatic possibilities in the barksistic duckconcept balancing on the edge of comedy and tragedy. A very rewarding place to be when writing stories. Daan was already then in a position to carry the presentation to the end in an exquisite visual rendering and in our cooperation I learned so much, that I was able to continue on my own when he followed his own star of destiny to the animation studios in California. I could handle Woody Woodpecker and the Gnuffs very well, but in the start i had some difficulty with the visuals on the ducks, since everything got to be compared with the excellence presented by Barks and that is very tough.
Seen together your production is almost a compilation of diaster
Absolutely. The heroic element is quite appearant. To make diary-writer Daisy Duck into a genuine heroine was a challenge not to mention the lazy Gus Goose. When it comes to Donald Duck it is inevitable since his very personality encompass a virtual catalogue of megalomania and prejudices. He is the all-encompassing character of comedy and tragedy combined. If you notice our story preferences there is no single appearance of Scrooge McDuck in that almost complete compilation. There will be a few panels with him in the finnish version though but that will be from a contribution made by me alone.
Any good advice to upcoming comics creators?
No, I will abstain from that. If you are genuinely taken by the urge to present strange stories with symbollike characters just time will show if that can develop into a c areer. Today the tempation maybe more would lie within the field of computergames which was no option in my youth. Honestly I fail to see what the fascination is running round hitting monsters all the time but my own son is quite taken by that. To me it looks dreary. Maybe I am just getting old. But I am quite fond of collecting films and I have several thousand titles with surround sound and Dolby Stereo for my huge flatscreen. Thats my main object of collecting these days. In my childhood we were happy with cards from coffee-additives telling features with traced feature-stills to be completed only after year-long patient collecting and in my youth we bought 4th generation Betamax-piratecopies and amputated Super-8 silent versions. But those were the days! I guess there is a profound truth in the statement that the things you miss in your childhood you are destined to try and compensate in your later years. I guess I have just been lucky, that I have been able to turn that compensating motive into a breadwinning career as well. And I am thankful for that.
How is health at 60?
Here again I feel lucky. I have acquired diabetes now, but that is
quite common and it can be handled effectively with a healthier lifestyle
as an outcome. And that healthier way of life can even add to your
remaining span of life. All in all quite a good thing. So I am happy
and thankfull these days.