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"Best wishes to my fan..."

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Below is an excerpt from a Carl Barks original that I purchased from John Spicer, the first fan to visit Barks (in 1960), along with John's own account for what happened.




The foregoing is an account of events that occurred approximately forty years ago. To the best of my ability, it is true and accurate - although certain details could differ from the actual facts.


As a child of 8 or 9 growing in Los Angeles in the 1950s, I read and collected comic books. I was drawn to the "animal" type of stories: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Woody Woodpecker, and so - rather than the superheros, monster and horror, or other types (many were available). My favorite titles were Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, Donald Duck, and Uncle Scrooge. It soon became apparent that my favorites had a very common thread to them: they were all drawn (and presumably written) by the same artist. Even at the ripe young age of eight I realized that is was not possible for Mr. Disney to personally produce all these comics while simultaneously creating TV programs, feature-length movies, and a soon-to-be amusement park in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Why they didn't give credit to the artists was beyond me.


At any rate, this one person stood out and above the other artists: the stories were often based on historical fact or mythology, the "humor" was sometimes at an adult level, and the characters were more expressive and had more personality than your typical animal cartoon. My collection narrowed down to these three titles (plus some very irregularly published material by the same artist), and I was able to get some back issues - some back to the forties. I became so enamored with this artist that I wrote the Disney studios in Burbank requesting his name, only to receive a terse "We are not at liberty to divulge this information". I actually tried this twice but to no avail.


In January 1960, when I was sixteen, my family moved to Aptos, California (about 70 miles south of San Francisco). With a new mailing address (and a couple of years of growth and learning) I devised another attempt to obtain the artist's name. I claimed to be an art teacher at Santa Cruz High School and that our class, as a class project, had decided to study American comic books as an art form. We "observed" the work of a certain artist who (for reasons previously cited) stood out as exceptional. We would like to write a class letter to this artist, expressing our admiration, and also to ask him some questions regarding his work.


Well, as they say, "Bingo!". The studio graciously provided his name and address: Carl Barks of Hemet, California (Hemet is a tiny town between Los Angeles and Palm Springs). I wrote a letter to Mr. Barks, not as the fictitious art teacher, but as myself - an ardent fan of his work. To my surprise, he replied - very skeptically I might add (he thought that some friend was playing a practical joke on him). He found it hard to believe that he had any "fans", but gave me the benefit of the doubt. We arranged a meeting at his house early that coming summer.



The date finally arrived. I came down to Los Angeles and stayed with my brother, Bill, and we invited an old high school buddy of mine, Ron Leonard, to join us (Ron was a good friend but had no special interest in Barks' work). I was sure that Barks was extremely wealthy, being in the "entertainment" business, and was about to have the shock of my life. We drove up to a house - a very small tract house - somewhere in the city (or outskirts) of this tiny desert town of Hemet. Mr. Barks and his wife cordially greeted us.


All five of us sat and talked, mostly about Barks' work and our admiration thereof. Barks was truly astonished that he actually had fans out there - and we knew of a few others as well. One thing that will always stand out in my mind was his wife - name I cannot remember - who smoked Marlboros and had one arm (the other [i would assume] lost to some sort of accident). It was unusual in 1960 for the wife to smoke and the husband not. It was unusual then, as it is now, to see a woman with one arm (no prosthesis, by the way). We spent a couple of hours chatting and Mr. Barks gave all of us a "momento" - a token of his appreciation. He had a number of strips tacked to his wall in his "studio" (a bedroom) - strips that, for one reason or another, had been removed from the final published issue. He gave me two - one about the "Terries and Fermies" and another from an issue I can't recall at the moment, one that featured the dastardly "Beagle Boys" in one of their ill-fated capers. The latter is signed "Best wishes to my fan John, Carl Barks".


We left and I never communicated with Mr. Barks again. My interest in comics waned, primarily due to my age and circumstances at the time. I eventually sold off my entire collection of comics, but have retained these two original strips all these years.



John Spicer




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I should add that I find it a terribly sad story myself - it reminds

me of the movie "Amadeus" and provides food for thought about

the "clean" image of the Disney empire... Also, I found it

very touching that John had kept his gifts for more than 40 years

and obviously paid him a very fair price for them.


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