This is one of my all-time favorite comics stories. I’ve often alluded to it in conversation as “It’s like, you know, that story where Gyro Gearloose builds a house for a picnic?” Very few people get the reference. In fact I am the only one. But It’s a couple of things: a fine example of Carl Barks at his 1957 form — sure fluid art with the joke extended visually to its fullest extent, and a tight plot based on human folly — all executed with a seeming effortlessness.

It’s also a fine example of the Gyro story — a well-intentioned dullard whose high intelligence is unencumbered by any sign of wisdom (he’d outsourced that to Helper, his little lightbulb-headed robot.) Gyro Gearloose and Helper call into the category of foolish leader and the sidekick who saves him — Wallace and Gromit, or Green Hornet and Kato in the recent film. “Picnic” takes that basic dynamic and adds in another universal human truth: how the solution is often worse then the problem; and how losing sight of the goal can take you in the exact opposite direction. 

While I was cleaning up, I was going through my collection of Gladstone’s Carl Bark Library, a series of 8 1/2 x 11″ albums — in the European size — that came out every month during the 90s. With Fantagraphics reprint series now under way, these editions are being replaced as the most complete color run of Barks’ work — in the US at least. The much-hated coloring is on display here — by Mike McCormick — it’s serviceable but way too revisionist and garish for most Barks experts. I don’t think it detracts from “Picnic” that much, however.

Anyway, I know his is all kinds of wrong, but just for one week, here’s “Picnic” by Carl Barks from Picnic Party #8, July 1957. It’ll be a few years before Fanta gets around to Gyro, so consider this a preview. All contents © The Walt Disney Company.

At least maybe more than one other person will get my references to this story now! page 1.jpg Page 2.jpg page3.jpg page4.jpg Page5.jpg page6.jpg


  1. I’m so happy to see Americans pay tribute to Carl Barks like this. He is a legend in Europe. Quite deserved, IMO.

    Spielberg and Lucas have both been on record saying that the rolling boulder in Raiders was taken from Barks’ story about the Seven Cities of Cibola.

  2. Ha! I read this in one of the Gladstone comics when I was a kid. It is a great encapsulation of Gyro’s character.

  3. Thanks for this! I haven’t read this story before, it’s great!
    I’m a huge Barks fan and was thrilled with the first Fantagraphics collection.

  4. It might be a generational thing, but I have no problem with most of that coloring style that so many Barks fans seem to dislike so much. Maybe it has to do with it being the coloring style I “grew up” with. I didn’t start reading Duck books until near the end of Gladstone I. So that was pretty much the only style I knew, and being a young kid growing up with the newly-arrive Photoshop splendor in the next few years, it seemed like the “modern” and “correct” way. But I like bright colors, so I’m fine with it.

    That being said, I also am enjoying the Fanta reprint style. It maintains the original look of the stories without bringing with it the baggage of the distracting dots and ugly four color patterns the newsprint would use. And, hey, it’s on register! Whoo-hoo!

    I have most of those 90s albums, and I don’t think I’ll be ditching them even after I have all the Fanta reprints. I still enjoy the larger size and many of those colors.

    That all said — love this story, too!

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