don_logoToday marks the official 80th birthday of Donald Duck!

First appearing in 1934, Donald Duck quickly became one of the marquee stars of the Disney Studio system, rivaling Mickey Mouse in popularity!

Donald, noticing the growing popularity of comic books and comic strips, as well as other licensing opportunities, craftily reworked his contract to allow him control over his licensed image.  (This is why he appears on the cover of the first issue of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, has his own brand of orange juice and the merchandise sold by the University of Oregon.)  Roy O. Disney quickly realized the amount of money being paid to Donald, preventing any other character from exercising similar creative freedom.  (Disney quickly merchandised Mickey Mouse as the corporate mascot, but he is not as popular in cartoon or comics.  That, and the multiple concussions he suffered from doing his own stunts in the 1930s, curtailed his popularity.  Goofy quickly filled the physical comedy niche, acing his audition with his trademark “holler”. Donald assumed the more expressive and thespian roles.)

ddfpgDonald quickly created his own production company on the Disney backlot in Burbank, and signed his avian costars to appear in the comics.  During his early years at the Studio, he had worked with various animators and gag men at the studio, including Carl Barks.  When Barks left California due to working and health conditions, Donald found the perfect creator for his comics.  The first original Donald Duck comic book story, Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold, appeared in 1942.  For the next thirty years, Carl Barks would become known as “the good duck artist”, creating thousands of pages of stories, becoming one of the first three inductees into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, and inspiring many artists to continue the legacy of great Duck stories to the present day.

While Disney comics have languished under Marvel’s oversight, Fantagraphics is reprinting classic Duck comics by both Carl Barks and Don Rosa.  If you are willing to search, I recommend the following stories:

Got a favorite Donald Duck comic or cartoon?  Let us know in the comments!


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