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.