An introduc(k)tion to the work...
 Don Rosa in 313

There's no doubt that Don Rosa has become very popular and respected. Since the early mid-1990's the Norwegian Donald Duck & Co have treated Don Rosa as an equal to the great cartoonist Carl Barks. The same goes for Anders And & Co (Denmark) and for Kalle Anka & Co (Sweden) as well. Every time the publishers print a new Don Rosa story they announce it on the front page of the magazine, the very same way as when they reprint old Barks classics.

Carl Barks - Don Rosa's great idol

It's no secret that the old master - Carl Barks is Don Rosa's great idol. Don Rosa makes his stories in the spirit of Barks and often follows up old Barks classics - for instance by sending Uncle $crooge, Donald and HD&L back to places where Barks has sent them before. Such as in "Return to Plain-Awful", "Return to Xanadu", "War of the Wendigo", and other stories. When asked why he admires Barks so much, Don Rosa says: "He created the entire Donald Duck universe. What the publisher Dell, that he worked for, licensed from the Disney corporation was simply the name Donald Duck basically. Donald Duck was a very simple character that just made little slap-stick cartoons. He was actually like an actor. He was a different character in each cartoon. A comic book has to be based on an actual character with a history. So Carl Barks took the name Donald Duck and created a... well, a character that didn't even look exactly like the Disney Donald Duck because animation has to work one way; whereas, a character on a flat piece of paper has to look and behave in a different manner. But, he created an entire history around this duck; a family, Uncle $crooge, Duckburg, Gladstone Gander, etc. These were all creations of Carl Barks. This is the universe that all the other duck writers and artists based their stories on."

The "Top-meeting" between Don Rosa and Carl Barks  
The "Top-meeting" between Don Rosa and Carl Barks, in the summer of 1998.

Don Rosa, however, doesn't appreciate to be compared with Barks: "I sometimes see people arguing about who is better or not better or that I don't do this or that exactly like Barks did and it puzzles me why people insist on setting writers/artists against each other like this was some sort of competition or why they would want every Duck story to be written and drawn exactly the way Barks did. I think it's great when there's something in these comics for several different readers, and when it doesn't look like they are coming off an assembly line. And it disturbs me when kindly (but misguided) people make the ascertation that I'm in any way better than Barks (other than younger) it hurts my feelings!"

  See page 1 of a 2-page article about the meeting between Barks and Rosa

  See page 2 of a 2-page article about the meeting between Barks and Rosa

  Search for Don Rosa's Barks references


Byron Erickson - Don Rosa's publisher, advisor and good friend

From the very start Byron Erickson has followed Don Rosa's work and given him feedback whenever needed. Like Don Rosa, Byron Erickson left Gladstone to join Egmont instead. Don Rosa describes his relationship with his good friend in this way: "I think Byron's right about 99,999% of the time, but I never argue with him when our opinions differ. He is a great boon to my stories, I hope everyone always realizes that!"

Don Rosa's use of real historic facts in his stories

Don Rosa uses a lot of facts from real history in his stories, he says: "EVERY HISTORIC DETAIL of EVERY STORY I have ever done is absolutely, 100% true, or at least true to the theories of some respectable historian somewhere. This applies to even such stories of mine that contain fantastic seeming historical facts, like "The Crocodile Collector", "The Guardians of the Lost Library", "The Lost Charts of Columbus", and "The Last Lord of Eldorado". I get a BIG thrill out of creating a (hopefully) entertaining adventure story based on 100% authentic facts. That's a challenge! It's simple to make up facts to build a story on. But using REAL history is more fun, and makes the story much, much more interesting (at least for me).

But, why do that when the readers all think I'm making it all up from scratch? Just because I like to do it that way, and my first goal is to entertain myself, the readers hopefully will enjoy what I enjoy, not always, but that's my tough luck. And why use real facts when writing stories about talking ducks? Because I do NOT see them as talking ducks. I literally see them in my mind's eye, in my heart-of-hearts, as human beings. I have been reading/looking at Barks' Ducks literally since birth, thanks to an older sister. And I never realised they were NOT supposed to be people. I thought that's how a cartoonist drew people. Some sort of "style". I didn't think about it. I just knew they were people. I mean, characters like Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker, all that crap, those were cute animals, but Barks' characters had personalities and character and yes histories. They were people. My Ducks live in the real world with the real world history. I don't make up silly names for cities or historical characters and insult the readers' intelligence. The only difference in my Duck world and the real world is that the northern third of California is a 51st state called Calisota and people seem to either be depicted (but not to be in actuality) as somewhat resembling waterfowl or having pig or dog noses.
"

  Check this page about real people appearing in Carl Barks' and Don Rosa's stories


D.U.C.K. Dedications

D.U.C.K. is the acronym (little word) Don Rosa writes in his stories on the "splash" panel (=the very first panel in the story) - except in his first two stories though, where he instead wrote it on the last panel. It's a dedication to Barks and it means "Dedicated to Unca Carl from Keno" (Keno is Don Rosa's first name).

A "D.U.C.K." dedication  
A "D.U.C.K." dedication hidden in the waves...

Don Rosa has written this dedication since the first story he drew - "The Son of the Sun". In the beginning he just wrote it in a corner, but the publishers thought it was a kind of a signature and therefore deleted it. Because of this Don Rosa started hiding the word in the pictures. It can be the leaves of a flower etc. If the splash picture contains a flower or a broom it is a good place to look for the D.U.C.K. spoiler. Now that he hides it and has told the publishers what it really is, they don't delete it any more.

Don Rosa also often draws the dedication into 'rectangular' surroundings - as the windows of a building and so on - as all the D, U and C can be 'squared'. But that is a little hard to do with the K - therefore it is often this letter that discloses the placing of the dedication. Because of this the K is a good letter to start looking for when searching for D.U.C.K. dedications in 'rectangular' surroundings.

Don Rosa says: "I put that in the very first Uncle $crooge story I did, that Son of the Sun story. It stands for Dedicated to Uncle Carl from Keno. Uncle Carl, which lots of his fans call him because it's always Uncle Donald and Uncle $crooge. So, he's Uncle Carl. Keno, that's my first name. Don's my middle name. Keno comes from my Italian grandfather.

So, I hide D.U.C.K. in the splash panel of each story. Actually, I started out writing it. I just wrote it out, but Disney wouldn't allow that because it looked like a signature. And, these artists are not allowed to sign their work in a Disney Comic. So, and I said, well heck on them, I'll just hide it cause they don't look very closely at this stuff. Actually, the European work Disney does not even see until it's published.

But, anyway, then I put it in each cover. Or, any other single illustration I do; pin-ups or posters or so forth. The problem there, is, well, it's fun to do, and it's a fun little game to play with my fans or readers or whatever, but occasionally I'll forget to put it in there. Maybe I'll pencil it in, but then when it comes to inking I won't see it myself, it's hidden well, and I'll ink over it. And then, that's when I drive people crazy. Sometimes I get e-mail from people who say they just can't find the thing, they've been looking for days and days and days and their pulling their hair out. And, I say, 'Sorry, well, it's not there!'
"

  Search for hidden D.U.C.K. dedications


Hidden Mickeys

Don Rosa would never do a Mickey Mouse story because he thinks that Mickey is a boring character. He says that if he couldn't do Uncle $crooge stories he wouldn't do comics at all. Then he would go back to the construction business.

A hidden Mickey  
A hidden Mickey in outer space...

"There is no chance that I will ever do a Mickey Mouse story. There's no reason for me to do so. I am totally apathetic toward the character as being simply a cute configuration of lines. There's no personality. Sure, in the hands of another Barks, Mickey would become a wonderful character. Look at what he did with Donald... all he got from Disney was a slapstick hothead who threw walnuts at Chip n' Dale. What Dell/Barks did with the character is a miracle. I'll be glad to do a Mickey Mouse story after someone else writes and draws classic Mickey comics for 25 years and gets me interested in those cute ink lines."

So there is no chance that Don Rosa starts with Mickey and Goofy stories, although he - maybe because of the above - likes to put a Mickey into his Duck stories once in a while. Often in humiliating situations - and a lot of them are also deleted again. Especially in the U.S.A. where the censoring is very tight. "I frequently hide little Mickey Mouse appearances or shapes in my stories, just to be mischievous."

When he was once asked if he puts a hidden Mickey in every story the way he hide the D.U.C.K. in every splash panel Don Rosa said: "No, it pops into my head while I'm drawing. It's just some little irreverence to sneak in Mickey Mouses. It's not like an actual Mickey. It's something that looks like him; something shaped like the famous Mickey Mouse icon symbol. I just poke fun at Mickey Mouse. I think people think I hate Mickey Mouse. I don't hate him! Well, I'm indifferent to him; there's nothing there really to hate or not to hate, but I think I resent him because in America he's more popular than Donald Duck because he's cuter.

Donald Duck was always more popular than Mickey Mouse years ago when people were more interested in reading, and more interested in the character of the personality of the character. Nowadays, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are just t-shirt symbols that you buy in Disney World or in the Disney Store. And Mickey Mouse has got a cuter face than Donald Duck, so he's more popular. And I resent that, but I don't have to worry about it because in Europe Donald Duck is still immensely, immensely, more popular than Mickey Mouse is, the same way it was here in America years ago. But, I still, I think that's why I like to poke fun at Mickey Mouse by putting little irreverent things in the back grounds of some of the panels.
"

  Search for hidden Mickey's


Time In Don Rosa's Stories

This is what Don Rosa himself has said about this: "I maintain (as more of a private bit of knowledge than anything else) that my stories take place in the early-mid... sometimes late 50's. However, I am well aware that certain things in the background might violate that slightly, and so far it has been in the form of satellites in three different stories; the ones in "The Duck Who Fell to Earth"; a Brutopian "Sputnik" in "The Curse of Nostrildamus"; and the one that discovers the "golden" island in "The Island at the Edge of Time". I always draw them as 1957 style Russian Sputniks, so I think a satellite here and there doesn't violate my time frame. However, other things do, such as there being lots of satellites in orbit in "The Duck Who Fell to Earth", a weather satellite with a camera being used by a TV weatherman in that same story (the gag wasn't worth it, so I should had lost that one), and some reference to a giant hamburger chain a la McDonald's in the second tale I ever did (which I can't recall the title of!). Then there are two stories "From Duckburg to Lillehammer" which I made after a request from Norway before the Olympics at Lillehammer in 1994 and "The Duck Who Never Was", a story that I made for Donald's 60th anniversary in 1994. These stories were made for special occasions and therefore made it necessary for me to break my time frame. I don't see my stories taking place in chronological order unless they are stated as such in internal references. We've been reading reprints for decades, and that's sort of my whole idea of setting my tales in the 50's... I like to imagine them as reprints from the very years when I was reading those comics. There is a tremendous amount of little, hidden hints in the stories; one detail that pinpointed the year a story was taking place was a ledger on page one of "Last Sled to Dawson" which read "1954"... and I think I did the same thing with some ledger books in the "Cash Flow" story."

The number of panels in each page

One of the things that make Don Rosa's style very special is that while Barks and most of Don Rosa's colleagues seldom put more than eight panels in one page, Don Rosa often puts 10-12 panels in one page. This is because of the restrictions on the number of pages he is given. He says: "I am given at a maximum 25-30 pages, but I have 60-page ideas."

The number of parts in the serialized versions of the stories

Because most of the Egmont Publications, like Donald Duck & Co, Kalle Anka & Co and Anders And & Co, now consist of 64 pages each week, each part in the serialized versions of Don Rosa's stories can now consist of more than about 8 pages. Don Rosa likes this because he thinks it's much more difficult to complete a "thought" in only 8 pages per part than it is in 12 pages.

Don Rosa on his attitude towards gags and long stories

"I never plan to do gag stories. Sometimes I might have an idea for a gag story, and then I'll try it. But gag stories seem "insignificant" to me. I don't get inspired by them. I like big, overblown, overly complex plots where I can really get rolling."

Don Rosa on his attitude towards creating new characters

"Obviously I love Barks' stories and characters. But, did he really create that many continuing characters in his 25 years? Surely he had to create some. He started working on a "universe" that contained less more than Donald and the 3 nephews. And he created many one-shot characters to populate the plots in his 500 purported Duck stories. But as for continuing characters, he created $crooge, Gladstone and Gyro (all of which were originally planned as only one-shot characters) and 3 recurring villains for $crooge (Beagle Boys counted as a unit) and who else? That's about one character per 80 stories. But that small cast contained all the motivational elements needed for an infinite number of plots, and I don't imply any additional characters were needed. I have created one-shot characters as needed for each story. But actually, no, I don't feel any need to expand on Barks' universe for 3 reasons:
1) I think his small cast contains all the elements needed (as stated above).
2) The reason I DO this job is for the thrill of working with the characters I grew up reading. I would get no thrill from dealing with a new character that I create next week. There would be no emotional attachment to him/her.
3) I already know that any new character I created would automatically belong 100% to Disney, so where is the motivation to give them something for free, even beyond the total ownership they already get of all my stories and art?
"

Don Rosa on his attitude towards doing his own non-Disney comics

"There probably isn't, but I never really wonder about such a thing. I just know that I have no lifelong emotional/ nostalgic link with any character I might create next week (as I was saying) so I don't feel an urge to do it. I never sought to do comics for a living (I was a civil engineer) until I had a sudden chance to handle Uncle $crooge. Therefore my continuing mission is not to try to create my own new comics characters or find the way to maximize my income. My mission is to play with my favourite characters as long as someone lets me, and pays me enough to do it that I can pay my half of the household expenses. I am a freelancer. I've never signed a contract with anyone about anything, so if I wanted to I could do non-Disney Don Rosa comics and still do Duck stories for Egmont. The only thing we are required to sign is a waiver-of-all-rights as regards all the work we do for a Disney licensee."

The Life and Times of $crooge McDuck

In the early 1990s Don Rosa was asked to do a series about the life of Uncle $crooge. The result was at 12 part story called "The Life and Times of $crooge McDuck". Don Rosa tells: "I had the idea of doing Life & Times of $crooge McDuck, it was in the back of my mind for several years. I never thought I'd get around to it. It was always the idea of $crooge fans like me, we would always notice in the old stories when Barks gave some sort of clue about what $crooge's early life was like. And, we'd mentally file these away.

I had done "Of Ducks, Dimes and Destinies", where Magica DeSpell was going back in time to when $crooge was a little boy. He was a shoe shine boy. She was going to steal his number one dime. While I was doing that story we came up with the idea that they would allow me to write and draw this 12 part series of $crooge's entire life. So once we started this bigger project we had to sit that story aside. It wasn't published for about 3 years until the other 12 chapters were completed. And then we called it Chapter 0. Just for the fun!

I first assembled all of the facts that Barks had ever mentioned. All these little clues he'd... these references he's made to what $crooge had done early in his career. And I charted it out, and then decided which chapter would deal with which era, and figured out different actual historical people or places or events that $crooge could interact with. When I got into it, that took me about 2 ½ years to do those 12 chapters, and it was very popular. What surprised me is it was popular when it was reprinted in America serialized in Walt Disney's Uncle $crooge #s 285- 296. It was popular even with people who had never read an Uncle $crooge comic, which puzzled me. I thought this was done just for old fans who would understand what all these secret references were to. But it was... it seemed to be popular even with people who had never read an Uncle $crooge comic, which was very gratifying. The stories have been collected in hardback books all over Europe and in the United States. And, they do sell pretty well. They were pretty popular.

But I enjoy doing it, and so many people enjoy reading it that I still keep adding new chapters to it about once every year and a half or so. I think I've done about 5 additional chapters to the original 12 by now. And each time, I'll call it like chapter 3b or chapter 10b or something. I just keep slipping them in in-between these original 12 chapters.
"

  See Dan Shane's pages which include Don Rosa's own comments about this work.

  See page 1 of Geoffrey Blum's foreword in the 1996-deluxe edition.

  See page 2 of Geoffrey Blum's foreword in the 1996-deluxe edition.

The cover of the book "The life and times of $crooge McDuck"  
The cover of the book "The life and times of $crooge McDuck" (2005).

The cover of the book "The life and times of $crooge McDuck Companion"  
The cover of the book "The life and times of $crooge McDuck Companion" (2006).

In Scandinavia this series was published from 1992 to 1994. In Donald Duck & Co (Norway) it was called Skrues Liv, in Kalle Anka & Co (Sweden) it was called Farbror Joakims liv and in Anders And & Co (Denmark) it was called Her er dit liv, Joakim. The two first parts were however not published in Sweden, because Kalle Anka & Co normally don't enclose extra magazines.

In 1997 (to celebrate $crooges 50th anniversary) the series was also published complete in one book, in the Scandinavian Countries. The title of the book is: Skrues Mc Duck's liv og levnet (Norway), Joakim von Anka, Farbror Joakims Liv (Sweden) and Joakim von And - Her er dit liv (Denmark).

Don Rosa like to do stories from $crooges past and has during the years added a few extra parts to Lo$. He divides the Lo$ stroies into four different "types" of "Life of $crooge" stories - one type not being a "Lo$" story at all as he sees it. These types are:

There's the first 12 stories which were one series -- each chapter opened with a view of Matilda's scrap book.

There are the extra chapters which I now do where each story starts and ends with $crooge telling or recalling the tale.

There is "Hearts of the Yukon" which I feel *is* a part of the "Life of $crooge" series, but which does not have the framing sequence of $crooge telling the tale (and, indeed, he *couldn't* do that since he couldn't know all the details of the story). It was actually designed to be the first chapter in a series of 4 or 5 stories all set in the Yukon that Bruce Hamilton was having me do to have some connection with the Dawson City centennial celebration. But apparently he never worked out whatever sort of a deal he had in mind, so I never did another story for that series.

Then there is "Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies" which they call "chapter 0", but which I do *not* regard as part of the "Life of $crooge" series -- it's just a story about Magica. And I don't even want to consider that the events in the story *really* took place... her Magic interfered with history, but then when she returned to the present, history went back to how it had always been before, without her involvement.



This is the current situation:

  • (Part 0) - Of Ducks, Dimes and Destinies (D 91249)
    1877 -- $crooge earning his first dime in Glasgow.

    (Actually Don Rosa doesn't see this story as a part of the Lo$).
  • Part 1 - The Last of the Clan McDuck (D 91308)
    1877-1880 - Starting earning his own money and leaving home for America.
  • Part 2 - The Master of the Mississippi (D 91411)
    1880-1882 -- Worker, then Skipper, on a Mississippi riverboat.
  • Part 3 - The Buckaroo of the Badlands (D 92008)
    1882-1883 -- Cowpoke on the Texas - Montana Trail.
  • Part 3B - The cowboy captain of the Cutty Sark (D 98045)
    1883 -- Exporting bulls to Indonesia.
  • Part 4 - Raider of the Copper Hill (D 92083)
    1883-1885 -- Copper prospector in Montana.
  • Part 5 - The New Laird of Castle McDuck (D 92191)
    1885 -- Returns to Scotland to save the McDuck heritage.
  • Part 6 - The Terror of the Transvaal (D 92273)
    1886-1889 -- Gold hunter in the Transvaal Gold Rush.
  • Part 6B - The Vigilante of Pizen Bluff (D 96089)
    1890 - Fighting off the Daltons in Pizen Bluff, USA.
  • Part 7 - Dreamtime Duck of the Never Never (D 92314)
    1893-1896 -- Gold seeker in the Kalgoorlie Gold Rush.
  • Part 8 - King of the Klondike (D 92514)
    1896-1897 -- Sourdough in the Yukon... and at last, PAYDIRT!!
  • Part 8B - The Prisoner of White Agony Creek (D 2005-061)
    1897 -- Forcing Glittering Goldie to dig for gold in White Agony Creek
  • (Part 8C) - Hearts of the Yukon (D 95044)
    1898 -- Fighting for his rights against the mob of Dawson.
    (Actually This story is not officially counted as a part of the Lo$, but Don Rosa do admits that it fit in).
  • Part 9 - The Billionaire of Dismal Downs (D 93121)
    1898-1902 -- Canadian businessman, then return to Scotland.
  • Part 10 - The Invader of Fort Duckburg (D 93227)
    1902 -- Moves with his sisters to Duckburg; builds Money Bin.
  • Part 10B - The Sharpie of the Culebra Cut (F PM 01201 c)
    1906 -- Gold prospector in the Culebra Cut, Panama.
  • Part 11 - The Empire-Builder from Calisota (D 93288)
    1902-1930 -- Builds a worldwide empire and becomes the World's Richest Duck.
  • Part 12 - The Richest Duck in the World (D 93488)
    Skip ahead to a certain Christmas Day in 1947.


  See a presentation of Don Rosa

  See a timeline for Don Rosa


Note:
This page consists of information found on several pages on the internet since 1998 and an interview with Don Rosa done by F. A. Elliott on August 3rd 2000, combined with personal statements from Don Rosa himself.

Any corrections, additions, advice or comments may be sent to:
Sigvald Grøsfjeld jr.  [sigvald4@yahoo.no]
In English, Norwegian, Danish or Swedish.

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