Don Rosa - selfportrait

Born: June 29th, 1951, in Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Full name: Keno Don Hugo Rosa
Residence: 9711 Dawson Hill Rd.
Louisville, KY 40299
Family: Don Rosa was in 1980 married to Ann (Payne) who used to work as a schoolteacher. They don't have any children. He has also an 11 years older sister, Deanna, from whom he inherited the love for Disney-comics.
Education: Don Rosa has a bachelor of arts degree in civil engineering from the University of Kentucky, 1973.
Hobbies/interests: Don Rosa has many hobbies and interests. He is a big collector, collecting movies, comics - specially old comic books, Donald Duck figurines (he says he has about 600-700), and music of certain types. He's also interested in gardening, bird watching, wildflower cataloguing and camping.
Favourite Disney artist: Carl Barks
Favourite Disney character: $crooge McDuck
Favourite story among hos own production: Last Sled to Dawson
Characteristics in his stories: A "D.U.C.K." (Dedicated to Unca Carl from Keno) dedication is hidden in the first panel of all his stories except the very first ones. He often follows up stories by Carl Barks, and those of his stories set to "the present" take place in the 1950's and 60's.
First comics: Some short stripes done as a six-year old, around 1957/58.
First official Disney story: AR102 - "The Son of the Sun". First published in Uncle $crooge #219, July 1987.
First story published in Scandinavia: AR109 - "Fir-tree Fracas" (1988).
First story in: Donald Duck & Co (Norway):
(#1.1990) - AR104 - "Fabelaktig dyreliv".

Anders And & Co (Denmark):
(#1.1990) - AR104 - "Dus med dyrene".

Kalle Anka & Co (Sweden):
(#1.1990) - AR104 - "Ett mytologiskt menageri".

Aku Ankka (Finland):
(#1.1990) - AR104 - "Jos metsään haluat mennä nyt...".
First work for Egmont: "The Master Landscapist" - D 90057 (1990).
Most famous works: "Donald Duck's Family Tree" (1993).
"The life and times of $crooge McDuck" (1991-1993).
Awards: Eisner Award - Best Continuing Series (1995).
Eisner Award - Best Writer/Artist, Humour (1997).

Don Rosa's Family background and young years

On his father's side Don Rosa's family is Italian. His father, Hugo Rosa, was born in a small village called Maniago (near Venice). His family left for America when he was at a very young age. Don's mother's family had already stayed in America for many years. Her father was German while her mother was of Scottish and Irish origin. In an interview Don Rosa says that there are still lots of Rosas in the north of Italy, that he is the last Rosa in America and that he hopes to visit his relatives in Italy some day.

A Lock showing Don Rosa's grandfather's name  
A lock showing Don Rosa's grandfather's name.

Don Rosa's Italian grandfather's name was Gioachino, which no one in America could pronounce, so he was called Chino which became spelled "Keno". This is the name Don Rosa later was given as his first name. Don Rosa is also named Hugo after his own father.

Don Rosa grew up well-off in St. Matthews, Kentucky and later in a home off U.S.42. His older sister Deanna was a comic fan and collector. So little Don grew up with a big supply of Carl-Barks-Comics, and very early in his youth he made acquaintance with Uncle $crooge, and at the age of six he drew his first own comic stripes. Deanna's collecting frenzy is probably one reason why Don also has a collector's personality.

All the schools that Don went except some college's art history lectures were boys' schools: a private school - Saint Thomas Aquinas Preparaty (classes 1-8), Catholic boys' school Saint Xavier High School Louisville and engineering school for boys. Even during the lessons Don drew satire comics about what was being taught.

His Italian immigrant grandfather had founded the successful Keno Rosa tile company around 1905. They produced tile, terrazzo and marble. Don's father, Hugo Rosa, later took over. In an interview, Hugo recalls that his son began drawing "just about the time he got out of his cradle" - so young that he was asking his parents to fill in the word-balloons. And there were always word-balloons: "I wasn't interested in drawing; I was interested in telling stories", he recalls. He never sat and just doodled; there was always some sort of narrative. "I think I saw them as movies", his other passion.

While studying at the University of Kentucky, he applied for a job as a comics artist in the students newspaper and was immediately accepted. His first works with the character Lancelot Pertwillaby were "camouflaged" Uncle $crooge Adventures although humans participated in them. The Story "Lost in the Andes" is a treasure search in best Barks tradition. Rosa dedicated it to his hero (Barks) and investigated time-historical scenes and backgrounds in libraries. In 1986 that story was eventually transformed into "The Son of the Sun"...

How Don Rosa started doing Disney comics

One day in 1986, in a small bookstore, Don Rosa saw a Gladstone comic - the first new book featuring Disney characters to appear in America since the 1970s. He could tell that the small Arizona company producing it, was run by people who held the Ducks in the same kind of affection and respect as he did.

US Cover for "The Son of the Sun"  
US Cover for "The Son of the Sun".

"The moment I saw that, I realised it was what I'd been waiting for, almost subconsciously", Don Rosa says. He called up Byron Erickson - Gladstone's editor at the time: "I told him I was the only American who was born to write and draw Uncle $crooge comics, and it was my manifest destiny."

Next day he was working on his first Disney story; "The Son of the Sun" - an adventure about the ancient Incas, and the temple of Manco Capac. Actually this story was based on a plot that he had written as early as in 1971 and used in 1973 as a Pertwillaby Papers adventure. After finishing "The Son of the Sun", Don Rosa didn't have any planes about doing other stories for Gladstone.

Although "The Son of the Sun" was wordy - Gladstone editor John Clark says it was trimmed by a third before it ran - it was a big hit, and was nominated for a Harvey Award (the comics' Oscars) as that year's best story. Gladstone wanted more and the rest is history...

Don Rosa, however, feels that he can do this story even better. Once he stated: "I think I will redo 'The Son of the sun' someday, just for fun. And this time I will draw it well and probably also include a few extra pages."

In an interview Don Rosa tells about how he ended up doing comics full time: "I remember when Byron Erickson said I could go ahead and try submitting a story. I told my partner, who would have been my Uncle's stepson, that I was going to save the company thousands of dollars per year by only going to work two or three days a week. I was going to do something else with my life the rest of the time. The thing that was bothering me about that job was that you would work year in and year out (and the pay was good, excellent money), and you'd have nothing to show for it. Just money. You would have fed yourself and paid the mortgage another year and bought a few more TVs or whatever. But there was no physical evidence that I had lived that year. And it was just more satisfying for me to have a stack of comic book stories to show for the work of a year no matter what it paid. That seemed like something worth doing. So I said I'll do comics for three days a week and I'll just help out at the company for two days a week. I didn't demand to be kept on salary, even though I was half-owner. Save the money, put it back in the company I told him.

So I started doing the "Son of the Sun" story; in other words, turning that old Pertwillaby Papers adventure back into the story it originally was in my head, starring $crooge, Donald, the nephews, and Flintheart Glomgold. After I was doing comics for a few months, my partner said if I wasn't interested in the company (which by the way was in my name: Keno Rosa Company; that's my grandfather's name and my name) then why should he? He suggested we liquidate it. I responded, "Well, suits the heck out of me!" I was proud of the company. It was almost a household word around Louisville and Kentucky because it had been around so long. But I just told my partner I'd much rather be doing something else, even though it pays less. So we liquidated the company, and I started doing the comic books full time. No question in my mind - that was what I wanted to do with my life from then on. It was more important to me - to carry on Carl Barks' work - than my own father's work.

  See Gladstone's profile for Don Rosa

  See a translated article from the Danish Anders And & Co magazine

How Don Rosa ended up in Egmont

This is Don Rosa's own story about how he ended up working for the Danish publishing house Egmont:

Photo of Don Rosa  
Don Rosa and his favourite Disney-character - $crooge McDuck.

"I went to work for Gladstone in 1987 and quit in 1989 when Disney told them not to return art. I had no other job lined up, but I wouldn't work under such a system. And I refused to work for Disney. A year later I found that Egmont had been reprinting my Gladstone stories and wanted more, and I went to work for Egmont at the same time that Disney took over from Gladstone in 1990.

The Dutch stories where I normally only made the art, were all done before I went to Egmont. I only did a few of those back in 1987-89, while working for Gladstone, in between Gladstone stories (since they couldn't keep me busy on their budget). I did possibly one other story in 1990 that was used first by Oberon/Holland, one that I wrote myself, but that was a story I had actually written a year earlier for Gladstone before Disney told them not to return art, at which point I realized I was stuck with that script since I would not complete the job under those conditions. I discovered in 1990 that I could work for either Oberon or Egmont, something I'd never dreamt of before as I saw them as the "biggies" and I knew I was just a fanboy collector who just did some comic stories sort of as a hobby. But I then went with Egmont because they had a bigger budget and would keep me working more steadily than could Oberon.

The editor Byron Erickson describes Don Rosa

Byron Erickson was the Gladstone editor that discovered Don Rosa. He is now comics editor at Denmark's Egmont Publishing Service. This is what he has said about Don Rosa:

"A Don Rosa story cannot be confused with a story by someone else. There may be better artists from a technical point of view, but none brings the sheer life and enthusiasm to their work that Don brings to his. Don's passion came through loud and clear in "The Son of the Sun", and it has continued to shine bright and clear in every story he's done since then. It's what makes them so memorable, not his great plots or his funny gags or his nifty lines of dialogue. We can tell just by reading one page that he puts his heart and soul into his work. Best of all, Don's passion has been contagious. Other writers and artists with a love for the Disney characters have seen Don's stories succeed both aesthetically and commercially, and this success has encouraged them to tell their own stories. The result of this burgeoning talent pool is that Disney comics have gone from being a creative dead-end in the history of the comics to an exciting outlet for contemporary comic book storytellers. All thanks to Don Rosa daring to follow his 'manifest destiny'."

Some interesting facts:

Don Rosa at his desk
Don Rosa at his working desk.

  • At the moment Don Rosa, his wife and some pets live in Louisville (well, actually a bit closer to Fisherville), Kentucky. They live in a log cabin that is located in the middle of twelve hectare farm, which Don at one time bought, although they don't do any farm work. Their closest neighbour lives out of sight behind the next hill.

  • When drawing comics Don Rosa uses coated, three-layer Strathmore paper, that is very expensive, at least seven different pens and of course an eraser. The pens he uses aren't actually pens of a professional comic artist: he uses engineering pens, calligraphy pens, etc. He has also mentioned that he used PigmaMicron 01 (Sakura) pens in all the stories that Gladstone published. He also has templates that are from his college days and that there also are some devices that a professional comic artist would never use, But he uses them when drawing ducks and some round items like coins. He also has an illuminated desk for accurate details.

  • The size of an original story-page is about 33 cm by 50 cm. Each publisher has his own preference, but Don Rosa did "Egmont-size" art also for Picsou because nobody told him not to.

  • Don Rosa usually works at his desk from 09:00 (9:00 AM) in the morning until 17:00 (5:00 PM) in the afternoon for five days a week.

  • In one workday Don Rosa draws about half a page depending on how many details there is in the pictures. He usually doesn't do any drawing in the weekends so 2.5 story pages would be a normal output in one week.

  • Don Rosa is paid a set amount per page of art, regardless of how complex the art or storyline is, regardless of how many times the art is used or how well it sells, regardless of how many other publishers around the world also print the art

  • Before his 2002 strike Don Rosa had a $30:000 - $35:000 annual income from his work with Disney material.

  • When Don Rosa knows how many pages a story will consist of he starts making it from the end, because he knows how it ends. Then he draws it from the end towards the beginning about to the middle of the story. Then he begins to do it from the beginning to the end. Somewhere in the middle he combines the beginning and the end with a couple of pages. This way he can concentrate about the most important parts of a story; the beginning and the end.

  • "The Last Sled to Dawson" was actually drawn on Carl Barks' old wooden drawing board, which Don Rosa for the occasion borrowed from the collector Donald Ault.

  • Don Rosa tries to answer 100% of the e-mails and letters he receives from his fans all over the world. He usually gets about 30-40 e-mails or other messages in one day, and uses 2-4 hours to answer them.

  • Until the late 1990s Don Rosa used to send free fan-drawings to fans who wrote and kindly asked for it. Unfortunately he had to change his policy. Here is what he says: "With the ease of communication afforded by the Internet, I realized it would be impossible to send a drawing or even a bad scribble to all the very nice Duckfans who write me and request such things… And I realized that if I can't do a drawing for every single person who requests one, then it is unfair to do a drawing for *anyone* at all… This makes me feel very bad because *I* am first and foremost a comics fan myself, that's why I have this job. I was strictly a comics fan until I suddenly became a "professional" only about 10 years ago. And I am *very flattered and honored* that another Duckfan would want a drawing from me. So, when I find that I can't honor this request, it makes me feel very rude and arrogant, but I still see no other way to deal with it".

  • Whenever Don Rosa goes on a signing tour or to a convention, he sits for up to 6 or 7 hours at a time and do free drawings as fast as he can, non-stop, for as many Duckfans as possible.

  • Even though Don Rosa doesn't read or speak any other language that English he manages very well to include foreign phrases into his stories whenever needed. He says: "I doubt that the words and phrases that Dr. Smyte used [in the Pertwillaby Papers] were accurate - those are just German words that I'd heard in movies or somewhere. I don't know if I spelled them correctly. But ALL of Arpin Lusene's French was written for me by a French Duckfan. And all of the Spanish and Portuguese spoken by Panchito and Jose in my "Three Caballeros Ride Again!" was written for me by a Spanish and a Portuguese fan.". Don Rosa also got some help from Harry Fluks with some Dutch names for "The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark".

  • In an interview with the Finnish Kai Saarto Don Rosa's close friend Dan Shane reveals that in the 1980's Don Rosa was very interested in home computers. He had an Atari 8-bit computer that he used for word processing and playing games - especially he enjoyed playing the great classic M.U.L.E. together with Dan and their wives.
Don Rosa receives an award while visiting Sweden Don Rosa receiving some kind of award from Sture Hegerfors, while visiting Sweden.

Don Rosa's collection
Don Rosa shows his HUGE comics collection.

Don Rosa at his working desk
Don Rosa at his working desk. His Eisner-awards can bee seein just in front of him.

Don Rosa at his working desk
Don Rosa at his working desk. A wider view this time.

Funny positure
Don Rosa in a funny positure.

Don Rosa enjoys Lo$
Don Rosa enjoys his own Lo$ series.

Don Rosa and his Basset dogs
Don Rosa and his Basset dogs.

  Read about Don Rosa's ideas and work

  See a timeline for Don Rosa

This page consists of information found on several pages on the internet since 1998 combined with personal statements from Don Rosa himself.

Any corrections, additions, advice or comments may be sent to:
Sigvald Grøsfjeld jr.  []
In English, Norwegian, Danish or Swedish.

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This section is a part of:
Go to D.U.C.K.hunt

Note: All pictures and images of Disney characters on these pages are (c) The Walt Disney Company.
Text and layout is (c) 1999-2003 The

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