Excitement ran high on various message boards when an Amazon listing was found for The Carl Barks Collection Set 1, to be published by Gemstone.
It’s here – a ten-volume hardback set collecting Carl Barks’ complete Disney comics cycle! Remastered in more exceptional quality and color than earlier editions, the great tales of Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge McDuck, Gladstone Gander, and Gyro Gearloose are accompanied by a vast selection of archival rarities and fascinating new editorials by lifetime Barks scholar Geoffrey Blum. This initial boxed set includes Barks’ very first 1940s adventures, including “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold,” “The Mummy’s Ring,” and “Pluto Saves the Ship!”
Priced at $150, this is not for the faint of heart, but it is still joyous news — the Barks canon comprises one of the greatest achievements of comics. It’s the American Tintin. While we’d prefer a kid and librarian friendly reprint series, they’ve tried that a few times, and it never seems to go over.
The trouble begins, however, with the coloring. Matthias Wivel goes on at length. Apparently this edition preserves coloring from the European Egmont edition of this deluxe reprint , and it’s not the best.
This is all well and good, but unfortunately thoroughly undermined by the colouring of the strips, which is not only amateurishly executed but fundamentally misconceived. In contrast to the earlier complete edition, Another Rainbow’s Carl Barks Library (‘CBL,’ 1983-90), the editors of the Egmont edition decided to publish the comics in colour. On paper, this is the right choice; wonderful as it is to experience Barks’ linework in black and white, the comics were drawn for publication in colour. Unfortunately the execution is close to disastrous.
Wivel posts comparisons to back up his contention. Unlike the more taste-oriented KILING JOKE example we just posted, this is something anyone should be able to see.
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If you are trying to learn what’s good coloring and what isn’t, this is a good start:
The colouring of 1954 version is richly saturated, flat colour, supplemented by subtle use of hand-separated gradients in the sky as well as white shimmer in the waterfall. Congenial to the back-to-nature theme of the story, it succeeds in conveying the primordial character of the forest the ducks move around in. The colouring in Egmont’s version, which I understand is amongst the best found in the volumes, is desaturated, almost bleached (a problem throughout the volumes), with mechanical gradients describing not only the surface of the rushing creek in the background, but entirely flattening the cliff behind Donald and the deer, working against Barks’ textural hatching, transforming promontory into polymer. Strange that colouring carried out at a time when these comics were seen as low-grade entertainment should be so superior to work carried out for a high-profile luxury edition of work by an man who is now (in Scandinavia) regarded as a major artist of the 20th century…
To which we’d only emphasize how the original coloring — probably done with the crude color separation process of the time — is far more appropriate for Barks characteristic feathery line. Compare the rounded, energetic splashes in the original waterfall to the static, vertical highlights in the new version. One enhances the art; the other almost actively goes against it.
As for our publishing schedule, and the use of Egmont’s material, color, etc., all decisions are still up in the air. Sorry not to have more information yet.
There’s a long, informative thread on the TCJ board discussing all this, and the great reverence in which Barks and his follower Don Rosa are held in Scandinavia. David Recine contributes an amusing anecdote:
I once called Don Rosa’s home (something I only do very sparingly) while I was in a room full of a Norwegian family who had recently moved to Wisconsin. They all watched me in silent amazement. I got his wife. She told me Don would LOVE to talk to some European fans, but that I should call back because he was out mowing the lawn. I explained the situation to the family. The youngest son— age 13 responded: “Don Rosa has to mow his own lawn?!!”
The deluxe hardcover Barks set is already available in several European editions. As Barks fanatics, The Beat owns some (only two, alas) of the ’80s B&W Another Rainbow reprint volumes, and a near-complete set of the attractive full color paperback ’90s reprints from Gladstone. Susan Daigle-Leach’s coloring in these was a bit on the loud side, and used a lot of the gradients that were the hallmark of the “Wow, this Photoshop thing is neat!” era but it is done with some love and care.
Us? We like Barks in color, simple clear color. If only we hadn’t thrown out all our old Walt Disney Comics Digests in a unique and uncharacteristic act of “de-clutterizing.” What were we thinking???