Today, we bring you an excerpt from Peter Schilling Jr.’s forthcoming book on the duck stories of Carl Barks, the second of the series of critical monographs being published by Uncivilized Books. (The first was Brian Evenson’s take on Ed the Happy Clown.) Here’s a sample:
Carl Barks consistently referred to “Lost in the Andes” as his finest work, but I would counter with “The Golden Helmet.” “Helmet,” with its almost zen-like appraisal of a peaceful life, its condemnation of greed and avarice (not to mention lawyers), a story that has humor but not too much, that actually takes itself somewhat seriously, is his finest effort, at the very least in terms of writing (though the art is brilliant as usual). Barks’ claimed that the gags in “Andes” were executed perfectly, the repeating jokes of the gum bubbles and the square eggs, etc., and this is true—but “Helmet,” whose themes run smoothly through this story, is less reliant on knee-slapping gags. “The Golden Helmet” isn’t just a story of adventure, a story of humor, or even bravery (though those traits exist here.) “The Golden Helmet” is Barks’ most somber effort, a story of evil, the evil that lurks in everyone. Even children.
Barks’ visual style in “The Golden Helmet” seems to also suggest that we’re in for a more sobering ride. Gone are the crazy splash panels of “Vacation Time” (or any of the other stories mentioned here, almost all of which have a bent panel or two at least). For the opening scene, as with the rest of this tale, there will be not one skewed panel. Splash panels vanish until twelve pages in, and even then there will be only four of them.
We also have Katie Skelly’s review of the art-world satire Wendy, by Walter Scott. Here’s a sample of that:
When the idealism of college short circuits after graduation, the question of how to use one’s potential becomes an existential crisis. It’s a crisis both self-important and preposterous enough to provide fertile ground for character development and disillusionment, as well for critical engagement with generational divides (see the television series Girls, films like The Graduate, etc.). What separates Walter Scott’s comic Wendy, serialized in Random House Canada’s literary digital magazine Hazlitt, is the backdrop of the contemporary art world, which its titular character never quite penetrates but believes herself to operate in nonetheless. We follow young artist Wendy as she sets out to define the parameters of just what to do with all the newfound freedom and agency of adulthood. Throughout her journey, she forges new friendships, fucks up, learns about herself, and ultimately figures out something about what she can (not should) be, even if it’s not wholly defined by the time we leave her.
June Thomas reports from the recent live appearance of Matt Groening and Lynda Barry.
Derf remembers the late David Carr.
—Reviews & Commentary. At The Smart Set, Stefany Anne Golberg writes about the “wordless novels” of Frans Masereel.
At the New Statesman, Yo Zushi reviews Scott McCloud, Richard McGuire, and Joe Sacco, and actually pays a bit of attention to form in the process, refreshingly so for a mainstream article.
Zainab Akhtar applies the AV Club Primer concept to comics, with solid results. Her first subject is a good one, Fabien Vehlmann.
—News. The Tanzanian government shut down a 20-year-old newspaper, The EastAfrican, apparently largely on the basis of a political cartoon critical of the current president.
Police confiscated copies of Malaysian satirist Zunar’s new book prior to its launch event.
Jill Lepore’s Secret History of Wonder Woman has won the American History Book Prize.
Mac McClelland has a long and absorbing reported piece on the police response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris last month.
—Misc. Julia Wertz shares a great Roz Chast story.
Finally, this is really only comics-adjacent, but in this interview, writer Frederic Tuten (author of the novel Tintin in the New World) discusses the inspiration he derived from his longtime friend Roy Lichtenstein.