Donald Duck “Lost in the Andes”

In 1948, Carl Barks’s domestic life was a mess. His second wife Clara was drinking hard, coming apart at the seams. By his account, she was increasingly violent, tearing up his comics and throwing his original artwork out the window, threatening to rip it up. In 1950 she developed cancer and surgery left her leg amputated at the knee. Barks built her a prosthesis. Having no insurance, he paid the medical bills out of the page rate he was receiving from Western Publishing for his duck comics. The alimony he would pay to her for thirteen years after their divorce the following year too.

These comics were the best of his career. Work was an escape for him: “When the dishes would stop flying, the bottles breaking, why, I could sit down and the ideas would just flow in on me,” he recalled in 1973. And indeed, his work of c. 1948–54 ranks amongst the most consistently inspired, inventive, touching, and plain fun in the history of comics.

Fantagraphics’ inaugural volume in their complete edition of Barks’s Disney comics drops the reader in right at the onset of this creative surge, covering the years 1948–49. In addition to containing the standout story, “Lost in the Andes”, after which it is named, the book contains several of Barks’s long- and short-form masterpieces, in the latter category including such career highlights as the acerbic and wickedly funny media satire, “The Crazy Quiz Show” (1948), and the loopy psychosexual comedy “Donald’s Worst Nightmare” (1949).

“Lost in the Andes” (1949), which Barks often singled out amongst his favorites, is justly one of the most famous of his oeuvre. The author, who only left North America once (and late) in his life, was a real armchair Marco Polo; his long-form stories more often than not involved globetrotting adventures. He would invariably ground these stories in realism, drawing upon his collection of National Geographic magazines and other sources in rendering a particular locale convincingly, which accounts for a lot of their allure.

Occasionally, however, he would tweak these scenarios into the surreal, and nowhere did he do this as memorably as in “Lost in the Andes”. The premise is delightfully ludicrous: third assistant museum janitor Donald accidentally discovers that what was thought to be a pile of cubic rocks from the Andes is, in reality, eggs. Barks extrapolates wildly but eloquently from this: scientific and especially commercial interest in Donald’s find results in an expedition to the Andes in search of its source. Ever the subject of hierarchic fiat, Donald and Huey, Dewey and Louie end up heading into the mountains alone, after everyone else has lost interest after having eaten an omelet made by the kids from square eggs decades past their sell-by date.

In a forgotten valley—Plain Awful—the ducks discover a square city inhabited by square people, who speak in a Dixie drawl (adopted from an earlier visitor from "Bummin’ham, Alabama") and subsist entirely on square eggs that grow from square rocks. The ducks discover the secret of these “rocks” and return triumphantly to civilization, but because of a crucial mistake the mission nevertheless—and naturally—ends up a big fiasco.

The manner in which Barks integrates the square society into a naturalistic mountain environment makes its absurdity especially delightful. The ‘lost civilization’ trope is unmoored from both its colonialist and romantic foundations to function on a more symbolic level. It becomes a reflection of colonialist desire, organized according to an eminently exploitable, constructive logic, populated by hicks (who have discarded their own language in favor of a homey American dialect) and promising an endless supply of eggs that are "easily stored" and "stackable like bricks." The Lost Horizon of capitalist desire, it turns out, is not only grotesque, it is Plain Awful.

This all comes alive through Barks’ eloquent cartooning. The gum bubbles incessantly blown by Huey, Dewey, and Louie not only afford him a hilarious running gag—as a visual comedian in comics, Barks is rivaled perhaps only by E. C. Segar and André Franquin—but also a potent metaphor for the ideological foundation of the ducks’ endeavor: sweet, sticky, calorically empty, volatile and precariously inflated (Donald repeatedly threatens to "start a war" if things do not go his way, and in classic comic book-ending style ends up blowing his top quite locally).

The round, expansive nature of the bubbles however simultaneously points to the initiative and resourcefulness of the ducks, leading to their discovery of where the square eggs come from. Unsurprisingly—and in a stroke of Barksian genius—anything round turns out to be anathema to the Plain Awfultonians, forcing the kids to negotiate a delightful paradox to save the day, a paradox that one senses reflects the culture that made them.

The book simultaneously contains two other, somewhat more naturalistically founded colonialist adventures, which deepens the insight it offers of Barks as a cartoonist who eludes ideological pigeonholing. Socially conservative and clearly informed by the cultural prejudices of his time, he was at the same time blessed with a healthy skepticism and an equal-opportunity sense of the absurd.

The beautifully rendered “Race to the South Seas” (1949), for example, is a slapstick replay of Heart of Darkness, in which Donald and his nephews compete with their insufferably lucky cousin Gladstone Gander to find and save their outlandishly rich Uncle Scrooge, thought lost in the wild, only to realize that he prefers living out his colonialist fantasy to himself, cannibals worshiping his spats.

From "South Seas."

Though portrayed with more than a hint of pride, the natives here are largely of loinclothed Hollywood stock. Interestingly, however—and in contrast to the broad blackface of the following longplayer, “Voodoo Hoodoo” (1949)—their bodies and faces are rendered with surprising naturalism. One suspects that the main reason for this drastic shift in approach to the depiction of natives between two stories published the same year is the reference material employed, but it nevertheless adds nuance to the story and creates an interesting frisson at its center.

From "Voodoo Hoodoo"

“Voodoo Hoodoo” is a darker piece, telling the story of Bombie the Zombie, who is sent to inflict a curse upon Scrooge for once having stolen the land of his African tribe in order to build a rubber plantation: “They wouldn’t sell, so I hired a mob of thugs and chased the tribe into the jungle,” Scrooge explains smugly (remember, this is still the early, mean Scrooge; Barks would eventually make a whole man of him). In other words, and despite the fact that they play the part of villains (with pointy teeth and bones in their noses), the natives are given a perfectly sound rationale for their actions.

The story is essentially about power: Donald travels to Africa to cure himself of the curse that was meant for his unsympathetic uncle. There he meets the voodoo priest, who in spite of this mixup decides to take out his anger on Donald, because he is powerless to avenge himself on the real culprit. And in the middle we find Bombie, the powerless dupe who ends up exploited by every other character in the story, including Donald and the kids, who end up walking away uncaringly, having gained no particular insight. Although a highly moral artist, the Barks’ world is more complicated than whatever principles he sets up to guide his imperfect characters; its absurdity is writ in humor.

These two stories exemplify the meticulous approach taken to the material in this series. For the first time since its original printing, “South Seas” is here published in a version derived from the recently discovered, original artwork, whereas all previous reprints were based on a reconstruction with Dutch master chameleon Daan Jippes cleaning up the inferior printed material available. While comparison cannot but heighten one’s estimation for Jippes’s work, Barks's original line is just that much more nimble and clear. Beautiful. (Let's hope a solution is also found for the stories "Santa's Stormy Visit" (1946), "Darkest Africa" (1948) and "Donald Duck Tells About Kites" (1954), which have so far only been reprinted in feebly restored Dutch versions).

The Dutch restoration by Daan Jippes

The newly restored "South Seas" from the present volume

As for “Voodoo”, it is here published uncensored. To my knowledge, all other reprints, except the recent Barks collection published by Egmont in Northern Europe (2005–2008), featured a doctored version in which the racial caricatures of the African natives were toned down somewhat. Here this partial whitewashing is dispensed with, leaving us with a more historically truthful product.

Easily the most controversial issue raised by this book, however, is the new coloring of the comics, executed by Rich Tommaso. Editor Gary Groth has stated that the principle is to reproduce as closely as possible the coloring of the original comic books with changes made to the work only in case of obvious errors, as well as “when we thought we could improve it (or for the sake of consistency) and when we know Barks disliked the coloring.”

The original version of "Truant Officer Donald" from Walt Disney's Comics & Stories #100 (1949)

Compare this example of Tommaso's coloring, from "Truant Officer Donald," with the original above. Note the lighter, more muted color range and the change in the color of the headphones and the periscope. Note also the strong yellow (and how it has been removed from panels one and three)

This is clearly what was done: comparison reveals that Tommaso has stuck closely to the original coloring, making only the occasional, generally minimal correction. Besides fixing the ubiquitously skewed register of the originals, the main difference is that the colors here, although just as saturated (the 100% yellows are particularly glaring), tend to be slightly lighter and more muted. A somewhat strange concession, it would seem, to contemporary fan sensibilities that wince at the bright and garish. But it is by no means a calamity.

Aficionados will question the choice to color the strips at all, rather than leaving them as Barks drew them, in black and white—as was done beautifully in the first comprehensive archival edition, Another Rainbow’s Carl Barks Library (1983–90)—while purists will question the choice to recolor instead of restoring the original printed colors—as achieved so successfully in other archival projects such as Fantagraphics’ own Krazy Kat, Popeye, and Prince Valiant series. A third objection is that the original colors were not good enough and should be jettisoned in favor of entirely new coloring.

Regarding the first reservation, it is important to keep in mind that the strips were drawn with colors in mind—colors were part of the finished work, and to eliminate them is to change the work into something else, an object of study rather than living history. Similarly, the second position favors archival authenticity over the crisper, more current quality achieved by recoloring. Such an approach, however, would risk lessening the appeal to a large part of the intended, youthful readership of these comics, and would arguably deny them a different kind of authenticity, namely the crackling visual experience that the original readership must have experienced when holding a freshly minted duck comic.

The third objection, while fair to an extent—those comics were not always equally well colored—is ultimately less helpful, in that it presupposes a new, better coloring without needing to define it. Earlier attempts at recoloring have been uniformly terrible, and while one could easily imagine them being improved upon (the bar is depressingly low), it is hard to imagine a new color job that would not be controversial. The fundamentalist choice adopted here at least has the virtue of staying true to the original comics as they were read and appreciated by hundreds of thousands of readers.

Naturalistically based coloring from "South Seas"

Besides, the original coloring is generally quite good, striking a fine balance between naturalism and graphic effect and pretty consistently enabling the storytelling. The coral atolls of “South Sea” come to life through a simple combination of blue, yellow, and green, evocatively distilled from nature, but if an image pops better with a pink brick wall, then the brick wall is pink. And in defiance of naturalism, backgrounds often change color between panels enlivening the storytelling in a way uniformly colored neutrality would not. Of course one need look no further than to two of Barks’s sources of inspiration, Prince Valiant and the Terry and the Pirates Sunday pages, to acknowledge that things could have been better, but taking into consideration that this coloring originated with underpaid coolies in the Western sweatshop, it is a remarkably good job.

Pop coloring

The comics are printed on fairly light uncoated stock, recalling the tactile quality of the original comics and allowing the colors to breathe. Furthermore, they are reproduced close to the original comic book size, which would seem a no-brainer but was not done in any of the earlier complete editions, all of which were oversize. Jacob Covey’s cover design, if a little busy and in places somewhat indelicately arranged, is attractively retro and does its job well. The main problem with it, and indeed the layout of the book as a whole, is no volume number is offered anywhere, while the original publication dates of the comics is only divulged in small print on the very last page. As mentioned, this first volume covers the years 1948–49, which will actually make it the seventh or eighth once the series is complete (Barks started his Disney comics career in 1942). Why this is not considered in the design is bizarre.

Worse, however, is the decision not to present the stories in chronological order, but rather to mix them up according to no immediately discernible logic beyond the evident wish to lead with the title story. There is some sense in separating out the longform adventures from the ten-pagers and one-pagers as is done here, but why not at least arrange each section according to original publication date? That the editors prefer this nebulous concoction when they have otherwise decided to package the individual volumes chronologically is strangely inconsistent. It leaves the reader with an unnecessary jumble where chronological insight into Barks development month for month would have been easily achievable—as indeed it was more or less in all earlier complete editions, and is in Fantagraphics’ own concurrent series compiling the Mickey Mouse comics of Barks’s contemporary Floyd Gottfredson. Here’s hoping the editors will reconsider this choice for the rest of the series.

The comics are bookended by various editorial material, ably helmed by distinguished Barks/Blake scholar Donald Ault, a leading authority and the most insightful analyst of the Duck Man’s life and work for more than four decades. He opens the present volume with an informative introduction to Barks that negotiates admirably the balance between facts and their interpretation (even if it takes for granted perhaps a little too readily the factuality of Barks’ own, retrospective accounts of his life), and additionally contributes a couple of brilliant short analyses of individual stories in the closing “story notes” section.

A number of other comics critics and scholars also contribute short essays to this section of varying, but generally good and sometimes excellent quality. It would be great if some of these writers were given the opportunity to write more substantial essays for future volumes. When compared to the Mickey Mouse series' near-excess, the extra material is generally rather light here. While I would not propose going all-out museum as is done in those books, it would serve this series well if a wider range of supplements, including sketches, interviews and the like, were considered.

These criticisms notwithstanding, this is a series that finally promises Barks done right, promising a major revival of one of our greatest cartoonists.


205 Responses to Donald Duck “Lost in the Andes”

  1. John Platt says:

    Personally, I disagree with you about the whole “reading out publication order” issue. I think the slavish focus on reproduction of past comics issues as originally printed does not always work out in the materials’ favor (case in point, the Showcase Presents reprints of old “mystery” titles). This time around, I enjoyed breaking the stories into sections by length. I think it allows the readers to focus on different types of storytelling. This time around, I’m not concerned about following Barks’ progress as a writer/artist from issue to issue. I’m just hoping to enjoy the stories.

  2. DyTh says:

    The more I read about the re-coloring situation, the more I understand the complexities of the task and the very difficult choices in catering to different comics consumers. But I’m still disappointed. To my eye, the reds, yellows and blues are too bright and too saturated.

    I couldn’t quite put my finger on it when I first read the collection, but Wivel helps me understand what in particular bugged me about the new colors: the super-strong yellow backgrounds that clearly flatten the artwork (in Wivel’s example above). A less-rich yellow in the original mimics the transparency of atmospheric haze. In the Fantagraphics edition, the action plays out against a yellow brick wall.

  3. patrick ford says:

    Just looking at the half page with the boys in the car used to illustrate the old vs new colour, and it’s my opinion the old colour is better. Obviously that’s a small test group.
    The colours used by Rich are muted and not objectionable. Major plus is he doesn’t use the awful looking and inappropriate gradients found in the Dutch version.
    You often hear people say old comic book pages were drawn with colour in mind. While the artists knew the pages would be coloured, I don’t think very many of them drew for colour. Almost the opposite, many comic book artists drew for B&W, it’s as if they concentrated on making the images read in B&W since they couldn’t be sure what the colourist was going to do. If you look at a Jack Davis E.C. story you see a web of articulating line work. The drawings are loaded with crosshatching which add tonal variation to the images, and in my opinion look better in B&W.
    When Davis applied colour himself in the 60’s and 70’s for his commercial illustrations the linework is stripped down to essentials, because Davis uses colour to carry light, shade, depth, contrast.
    Some comic book artists did draw with the idea the colour was going to carry a load. Barks certainly did, as did Toth, and Kurtzman. Their stories are more effective in colour because they left parts of the drawing “open for colour” counting on the colourist to supply contrast and depth. Toth went so far as to add tones to his Zorro stories when they were reprinted in B&W in the 80’s. Without colour Toth knew the images wouldn’t have the depth and contrast he wanted so he added tones.
    Another thing people say is the colour in old comics often isn’t very good. I don’t agree with that. The colour is often very good, even great. Dell in particular had really good colourists, maybe because of their fairly close association with Disney? The panels above are a good example.
    In panel one the dark (but not muddy) brown of the car interior causes it to recede, and there is much better contrast between the figure and the background than in the muted new version. Also note the colourist has the car window rolled down (yellow), where as in the new version the window is up (white). Barks drew no reflection lines to indicate a closed window.
    Panel two in the Dell version, again has better contrast between the car and the figure.
    Panel three you see once more in the Dell comic book the side door window is rolled down, and you see the colour of the sky, the windshield is white with blue highlights. This is showing a level of thought on the part of the colourist which subtly enhances the image, and gives the reader more information. In the new version the window is again shown rolled up.
    The new version is nice though, it just isn’t better than the original.

  4. Richie says:

    Fantastic review, written by a clearly passionate Barks’ fan who excels at analyzing the Duck Man’s work and life. Now I want Fantagraphics to approach you to provide commentary on future volumes’ Story Lines.

    I certainly agree that, good as they are, the supplemental material could be much more than just the analysis and the few Barks’ covers. I was indeed hoping for sketches and interviews of sorts, or maybe even showcasing some of Barks’ paintings where appropiate; “Lost in the Andes” would have been perfect.

    My gripes with this volume have to do with the coloring…or lack thereof! I like the colors used, but there are more than a couple of things through the volume that weren’t colored at all. I’ll give Rich the benefit of the doubt and blame the printer, because thing like forgetting to color Donald’s legs on the very first, double-length panel of “Race to the South Seas” seems too big an oversight. Along with a couple of annoyances, such as “Lost in the Andes”‘ boat’s being brown in its introductory panel, then red for the remainder of the story.
    Also, wouldn’t it have been nice to point out “The Sunken Yatch”‘s infamous trascendence in real life on the critical essays? Since it’s all about celebrating Barks’ here, it seemed a no-brainer, but alas, no mention whatsoever.
    Very minor issues, nitpicky even, but I hope future volumes show the attention to detail I’ve come to expect from Fantagraphics.

    Now, a correction. The version of “Race to the South Seas” present in this book is still not 100% Barks. It’s a mixture of his and Jippes’ art, errouneously referred as an all-Barks version in the Story Lines because of a production error. Future printings of this volume may (hopefully) fix this.
    More information here:

    Even if most of my comment seems focused on the negative aspects, in the grand scheme of things, this is a phenomenal book, one I treasure among my belongings and which I appreciate immensely. Well done, Fantagraphics! (…and I’m serious about contacting Matthias, guys!)

  5. Matthias Wivel says:

    Well, as I wrote in the review, I understand the decision to separate out the longer stories from the ten-pagers and one-pagers. Although I dug the strict chronology applied in the Egmont edition (about the only thing I liked about it, incidentally), I don’t disagree with what you say.

    What I don’t understand, however, is the decision to break up the chronology *within each section, as is done here. It is not only inconsistent, but throws away the opportunity to reflect Barks’ development from story to story, not the least — and I should have mentioned this in the review — because they often build upon each other in fascinating ways.

    A prime example is the development of the Scrooge character from Uncle Scrooge #1-3 (i.e. “Only a Poor Old Man,” “Back to the Klondike,” and the so-called ‘Horseradish story’), and beyond (onto “Tralla-la,” for example). And Don Ault himself has pointed out (in Comic Art #4 as far as I remember) how the late Scrooge stories poignantly demonstrate an evolution in Barks’ conception of luck and story construction.

    I really hope the editors will reconsider this decision.

  6. Matthias Wivel says:

    Richie, thanks so much for your kind words. And thanks for the info re: “South Seas”; I did wonder at certain details in the new version, such as Gladstone’s flat beak in panel two of the example above. I’m sad to hear that this ended up a near-miss and really hope the talk of a second, amended version of the book at some point down the line is serious. I would love to see a fully restored “South Seas.”

    As for your comments about the coloring, I also noticed the uncolored leg and other small errors, and/or overlooked subtleties, such as the lack of color on the car windows that Patrick talks about — notice especially panel four of my example above. Ultimately, however, I decided not to mentioned it, because I don’t think any of it is particularly egregious and generally appreciate the hard work Tommaso has put into the work. If he could only tone down that yellow in future volumes…

    And yes, the real-life application of Donald’s ping pong ball salvage could definitely have been mentioned in the notes.

  7. patrick ford says:

    Just to be clear I like the colour by Rich, my comments were more a defense of the original colour.

  8. Kim Thompson says:

    A typically sharp and astute review by Matthias even if I don’t necessarily agree with parts of it.

    The coloring is too big a bag of worms to thoroughly unpack here, but I’ll say that I was about 95% happy with the coloring as it appeared in this first volume, and (drawing a line in the sand) I think it’s the best color reproduction these stories have ever seen, period. I understand the affection people have for the old newsprint coloring, and it has its qualities and charms, but maybe because I was also raised on the brighter-colored Danish DONALD DUCK comics (my mother tells me I literally taught myself how to read on them) I don’t have that deep attachment to the washed-out newsprint-dotty pastels. (And I CERTAINLY have no affection for the grievous registration problems that so often plagued them.)

    The yellows, for those of you who don’t like them, are not Rich’s fault: We asked Rich to treat the reds, blues and yellows as 100% colors and then we printed the book in toned-back Pantones. The yellow was a particularly difficult one to hit (pure yellow looked too shrill, and lightening the yellow made it look washed out and threw it out of balance with the other colors) and I settled on the closest Pantone to what I felt would work, which turned out to be a slightly golden tint that took the edge off the yellow. Although I thought it turned out very well, for the next book (and any reprint of this volume) I plan to ask for a custom-mix yellow that hits more of middle ground between this color and a regular yellow, slightly pulled back, which I think will refine it to where I’m more like 99% happy.

    It’s also true that there are a few too many (usually) tiny coloring mistakes for our taste: We didn’t realize how fiendishly hard it is to proofread coloring, and were in a bit of a rush for this volume. (In the samples ahove, yes, the exterior of the car should have been yellow throughout the sequence.) The next one is on a more relaxed schedule and having learned from our mistakes we plan to use a finer-tooth comb. (And any reprint of the first one we’ll fix the mistakes we’ve since found.)

    The question of how to reproduce color from classic comic books is a Catch-22 par excellence. Yes, you can scan from the original color printing but then (unless you’re working from proofs, as with PRINCE VALIANT, or beautiful tearsheets from the very early 20th century, as with LITTLE NEMO) your linework is compromised both by the usually smudgy original printing and by the necessity of screening everything. A huge advantage of having clean black-and-white linework (which you almost never do) and then coloring it is that the linework remains perfectly crisp. For those publishers who had access to this (Disney being a case in point) trying to use simple, bright colors without turning garish is a challenge that to my mind has brought down just about every publisher so far — some of whom succumbed to the temptation of using subtle, interior-decorator colors and/or (worst of all) the dreaded fades. Of the legendary Peter Ledger airbrush monstrosity we will not even speak. And the various ARCHIVES’ publishers insistence on using coated or even glossy paper confounds me to this day.

  9. patrick ford says:

    Rich did correct a small oversight. In panel three one of the boys is outside the truck leaning in through the open window. In the original printing the colourist (or possibly the printer) left the the door white, while Rich correctly coloured it green. That was a good read by Rich, because without the colour you can’t tell the boy isn’t in the truck’s cab. Score one for Rich.

  10. Fresh Tomato says:

    I would have recolored all of it. I don’t believe the original coloring has any artistic values, it wasn’t done by Barks, pretty much without his input and it was probably done cheap and fast. And, in my opini0n, it just doesn’t look very good.

    But my first choice would have been BW, as in Another Rainbow books. They are absolutely beautiful and bring Barks work to life much better than any coloring.

  11. R. Fiore says:

    Was the coloring done in sequence on the book as it appears? Maybe I’m seeing things, but it seemed to me that the coloring improved as the book went on. Mike Barrier held up the coloring on the Egmont complete edition as superior; have you seen it (I haven’t), and if so what comparison would you make? Are there any adjustments you intend to make now that you have the printed book in your hands?

    A point that ought to be made is that the ideal is to be able to do the coloring from black and white art, which you were able to do here. If good black and white art isn’t available, then a corrected facsimile of the printed version is the next best alternative, over an unedited facsimile or blowing out the original color and recoloring from that.

  12. Matthias Wivel says:

    I’ve written extensively on the Egmont edition, including this review (in Danish), which only shows material from the first three volumes they put out plus here and here, with an example from a later volume in which they had decided to tone down the plastic coloring in response to criticism from several quarters.

    Both the review and the last link there include a few examples of the original Danish/Nordic coloring Kim mentions. It was actually very uneven, but sometimes just beautiful — the best I’ve seen on Barks.

  13. Egmont coloring is just about bearable in later volumes. It’s an improved version of the Gladstone coloring. However, in some ways the glossy paper for the Egmont edition makes it look MORE sterile than the Gladstone coloring. Fantagraphics coloring is a vast improvement.

    Does Kim Thompson have any comments on the whole issue of not numbering the books? It’s somewhat annoying, but it does make some sense to me. I assume more parents would maybe chose to pick up a random volume in a bookstore if it doesn’t say on the cover that it’s part of a 30 volume set.

  14. NRH says:

    They problem with the argument for black and white is that it ignores the very, very pertinent fact that children will not read it without protest. Once they start reading it they will probably enjoy it, but anyone who’s had experience getting 9 year old kids to read will tell you the same thing – give a kid a choice between a book in black and white and a book in color and that kid will chose the color book ninety-nine times out of a hundred.

  15. James says:

    A lot of this seems to me to be nitpicking the thing to death. Like the art in most older comics, it was clearly drawn with the intent it be colored. Barks was ignored in the original color scheme, but his suggestions from interviews were paid attention to in the Fantagraphics edition. I think the yellows pop quite hard but they can be toned down next go round, and otherwise the book is just fine. It appears that some like their duck a bit too crispy.

  16. R. Fiore says:

    At a panel on classic reprints at San Diego a couple of years ago one thing everyone agreed upon is that when you have a numbered series, number one will invariably be the best seller, or perhaps more significantly, every subsequent volume can be counted on to sell less than the first, even if the content is actually superior. If you’ll look at Drawn & Quarterly’s collections, you will see they studiously avoid putting volume numbers on the covers, and the editor said at the panel it was for that reason. In the case of the Barks series, if you were numbering it according to where it would be in the chronology it would be somewhere in the middle, and if you put out a book that’s volume 6 or whatever, people are going to be looking around for the first five volumes. I assume the practice has something to do with this.

  17. Andy Stout says:

    I’m perfectly happy with the relatively low level of “extras” in this book. The work speaks for itself, and short commentaries on each story works much better than long overwrought commentaries, which I could never stand for Barks. I only wish there were more of Barks’ covers.

    The coloring is great, and it sounds like the things that bothered me about it (specifically, the numerous errors and the glaring yellow) will be resolved starting with the next book. These are kids’ comics first and foremost, and should be in color at very least for that reason (I’m very, very disappointed that the Fantagraphics ECs won’t be in color, at least for the Kurtzman and Krigstein volumes which were so clearly drawn for it; this could have been the one chance to finally do the color right in a reprint, and because of that I’ll be skipping out).

    I, too, wish that the volume were completely strictly chronological, but don’t care that much. If it’s true that even within the sections it’s not chronological, well then that’s just bizarre.

  18. Kim Thompson says:

    Bob Fiore is right about the numbering issue. It made sense to issue the volumes out of order so that we started on the strongest note possible for a variety of reasons, and I can promise you if we’d released a Volume 7 and then a Volume 11, prominently numbered, we would have had to hire a customer-service person full time just to deal with the barrage of baffled queries from customers and stores alike. At least (unlike D+Q’s MOOMIN series, which are unnumbered, undated, and untitled, and drive store clerks around the world insane) the Barks books each have individual titles. The only “victims” here are those who want to put their books in order on their bookshelf, and they can figure it out pretty easily by looking at the dates on the stories.

    Black and white was never considered seriously as an option, in part because it locked the work off from part of the audience of children who we want to reach, in part because my feeling is that work that was created for color should be presented in color in virtually all cases, at least when it’s being presented for reading as opposed to archival purposes. (I can think of exceptions, but mentioning them here would make this thread endless.)

  19. Kim Thompson says:

    Well, since Andy Stout, posting simultaneously with me, brings it up, yes, the EC books are one of those exceptions. I think there are a few of the cartoonists whose work is helped (or at least not hurt) by color, but for most of the rest one has a Hobson’s choice of using the crude classic comic book method which works fine for cartoony work but is inherently unsuitable (despite Marie Severin’s heroic efforts) for the more illustrative artists (i.e. almost all of them), or concocting some entirely new coloring scheme which has its own major, major problems. EC comics are one of the very few instances of comics created for color that I vastly prefer AS A READER in black and white. And making them accessible to children is of course less of a concern.

    For the few EC artists who arguably benefit from color (Kurtzman and Krigstein, yes, arguably Craig), who knows, maybe someday down the line a separate color edition of their work would be a possibility. But I have never in my life seen an Al Williamson EC page or a Graham Ingels EC page that benefited from color.

    For those touting the “scan the printed comics” color option, I would ask them to look closely at Matthias’s Barks sample and notice the vast amount of off-register areas, and the blotchiness in the black line (not to mention in the solid colors); those are the prices you pay for the scan option. If we were talking about an instance where the original printing wasn’t horrifically bad, the parameters of the discussion would be quite different.

  20. Matthias Wivel says:

    What Robert is saying re: numbers makes sense, but you could perhaps put the years somewhere, like Fanta does on its Peanuts and Krazy Kat volumes. Surely that wouldn’t hurt? It doesn’t have to be super prominent or anything, but as things are now, the dates are kind of hard to find.

  21. patrick ford says:

    Colour is a good option for the books, but from what I’ve seen with my kids and their friends they don’t particularly care if comics are in B&W or colour.
    Over the past few years I’ve seen my kids read many comics (or “near comics”) which are in B&W, and never heard a preference from either of them for colour or B&W. It doesn’t seem to even be an issue for them.
    A few years back when they were in Kindergarten through second grade things like Captain Underpants and the Wimpy Kid books were very popular, not only with them, but with most kids in the school. My son loved the Skull Boy book. My daughter and son said nothing I recall when Dark Horse switched from B&W to colour for the John Stanley Lulu reprints. I bought them the 8 volume Tezuka Buddha for Christmas, and they were both done with the whole series before New Years. Not only that but they both read all of Princess Knight in a day or so.

  22. Hy Resolution says:

    That old Krøysen story has been recycled thousands of times. Good god, do we really need to have it warmed-over once more?

  23. Maybe if sales are very very good, we can get a bonus volume just reprinting all of Barks’ covers. Sign me up!

  24. Groth says:

    First, thanks, Matthias, for your considered review. A few comments and answers — both to you and some of the readers who responded:

    • Far from thinking that the color is “by no means a calamity,” we’re proud of the re-coloring and I think using the original comics as a color guide was the right decision. Irrespective of the fact that the comics back then were colored mostly by drones who disregarded color instructions by the artists themselves, I think the coloring was, with exceptions, some glaring, quite good. I agree that the color is too bright and we intend to fix that in reprints. I was confused by your comment that the colors are “slightly lighter and more muted” than the original coloring and that this was a “somewhat strange concession, it would seem, to contemporary fan sensibilities that wince at the bright and garish.” This appears to be meant as a criticism but I’ll take it as a compliment. It is, further, my perception that “contemporary fan sensibilities” love the bright and the garish and that our goal of more nuanced colors would be quite the opposite of a concession to that unfortunate preference.

    • I was a little puzzled by how strongly you felt about the absence of a volume number on the book. In fact, there was supposed to be a line in the indicia that read “This is the 7th volume in The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library,” the latter designation being how it’s sub-titled in book databases (such as Amazon’s). This was inadvertently left out (and will be put in in any reprint.) My goal in not emphasizing the volume number (but placing it discretely in the indicia) was to not intimidate casual readers from being turned off from buying a volume in the middle of the run (such as this one!) or to worry that if they didn’t plan to buy all of them they shouldn’t buy any. In a way, I was trying to eat my cake and have it too: put the volume number inside for the record and for those who look for such things, but de-emphasize it so it doesn’t inhibit sales or f=confuse readers (“Where are volumes 1 through 6?”)

    As I said, this is technically the 7th in a projected 30-volume series; the next book (“Only a Poor Old Man”) will be the 12th; and the volume after that will be the 11th.

    • Re the order of the stories. Breaking the stories up among longer adventure yarns, shorts, and one-page gags was a method of breaking the stories up, giving them some breathing space and providing a little “punctuation,” and while perhaps not ideal, I think it works. Since I wanted to start with the long, eponymous story, I perforce had to run them out of chronological order (which is why I listed them in chronological order on the last page of the book). As to why I didn’t run the shorts in chronological order within that section, the technical term for this in the publishing biz is “fuck-up.” I have no idea how “Toyland” was run before “The Crazy Quiz Show”; you’ll notice all the rest of the stories were run in chronological order after that.

    • Actually, I had substantial discussions with Disney as to whether we should print the stories in B&W or color. Disney felt strongly that they should be in color and I came around, enthusiastically, to this idea. It would obviously appeal to kids more, the art, as has been noted, was drawn with color in mind, and it would give us the opportunity to try our hand at doing the best coloring job barks has ever seen. (The coloring was not done in sequence, by the way. Bob, you’re seeing things. Again.)

    • I think that there are better and worse ways to reprint Barks’ work —the Hamilton/Cochran editions were a revelation at the time, I bought them all as they came out, and loved the b&w collector-oriented editions; the Gemstone versions were ghastly– but I don’t think there any single, right way to do it. I see these kinds of classic comics reprints as works-in-progress, which is to say that the material will continue to be reprinted for years to come, for many years after I’m long gone, and that there won’t be any single, definitive collection but a series of collections, he format, design, and accompanying material of which will evolve to reflect the time in which it was created. Within our owns series, I am debating (with myself) how best to feature a bio of Barks in each volume. Publishing the 7th volume first, although I think the best decision (for both aesthetic and marketing reasons), creates its owns set of problems: I wanted to feature Don Ault’s excellent critical bio of Barks up front because this was our first published volume, but I don’t think it wold necessarily be appropriate to keep this up front withe each volume. Therefore, there’ll probably be a less prominent bio in the back of subsequent volumes, but I can see moving Don’s bio in “Andes” to the back once we have more volumes under our belt or after Volume 1 (“Pirate Gold”) comes out, which is, ultimately, the volume where the bio should probably appear in the front.

    • Our EC books brings up a different set of problems that need to be addressed, color being perhaps foremost. The original work was, obviously, published in color, and there were some stories in which the color was essential (mostly Kurtzman-written war stories and Krigstein), but I suspect most for the artists didn’t draw “for” color which in many instances obscured the line work. I think many of the artists drew for themselves, which, of course, is partly what made them so good. I loved the oversized Cochran editions hat allowed you to study the art and it would frankly have been prohibitively costly to re-color all the EC stories.

    Thanks for all this feedback. I appreciate it, even that which I don’t agree with.

  25. Connor Ratliff says:

    As someone who spent literally decades trying to afford and track down all ten volumes of Another Rainbow’s Carl Barks Library, I can honestly say that I am delighted that Fantagraphics is doing their series in color, and with an emphasis on making these editions that work well for casual comics readers.

    If these were in black & white, I think the most common complaint we’d hear is “oh, the books are too small!” People would basically be comparing them unfavorably to the AR books, and the only real advantage FB would have is the restoration of a few censored stories.

    The only complaint I could possibly have with this series is that I will be incredibly old by the time it’s done. But that can’t be helped– it’s obvious why there can’t be four books released each year…

  26. Nothing said above denies the fact that these books will be fake (or partially fake, at least).

  27. John DiBello says:

    Nothing said above denies the fact that these books will be fake (or partially fake, at least).

    Well, that’s why the market for spending hundreds of dollars for old issues of Four Color was invented, isn’t it? By your reckoning, every reprint since that original Four Color has been fake “(or partially fake, at least),” and that’s elevating it to art above entertainment. These comics are worthy–more than most–of being shared and loved. I came to love them in badly-misregistered mid-sixties issues of Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories with “REPRINTED BY POPULAR DEMAND” stamped on the splash panel, and those were “fake” too, I guess.

  28. Andy Stout says:

    Thank you for the detailed response, Gary! The new Barks library is clearly the best reprint of these comics ever.

    Is your acknowledgement that the color is “essential” to the Kurtzman-written war comics (glad you acknowledged it was not *just* the Kurtzman-drawn comics, which are especially drawn for color, but also for example the Toth war comics and others, including a Jack Davis aviation story that especially sticks out in my mind as having very unusual and important color) and the Krigstein EC comics an admission that you might do the war volumes and Krigstein volumes in color? If so, that’d save me a lot of trouble with a complicated binding project I was about to do…

  29. Jess says:

    The story’s real life repercussions are ignored by the new generations, and it’s far from mainstream knowledge (Barks himself is not prominent on today’s minds, sadly). Since this collection is aiming to make the Duck Man’s work more accesible, it definitely could have been mentioned somewhere.

  30. Jeet Heer says:

    Domingos: can you clarify this comment? I genuinely don’t understand what you mean when you say “these books will be fake (or partially fake, at least).”

  31. patrick ford says:

    Can’t speak for Matthias, but I see the colour as muted in terms of contrast, rather than brightness. For example in the panels used to illustrate the difference between the original printing and the FB version, there isn’t as much contrast between the light and dark colours in the Tomasso version as in the original. Compare the hood of the truck in panel two to the the sky in both examples. Both the green truck hood and the sky are brighter/lighter in the new version and closer to each other in tonal value than in the original.
    I do like the new colouring, it’s very good.
    Old comic book colouring is often described as bad hackwork, and I’ve never seen it that way. Comics in the late ’30s and early ’40s often had really bold colour choices. You can see the same thing in Captain Easy Sunday pages by Roy Crane, and Alley Oop pages by Hamlin. Take for example page 190 of the Smithsonian book. Alley Oop in panels four and five is walking through a grove along the edge of the jungle. The trunks of the trees closest to him are coloured bright yellow, light blue, dark blue, bright red, and orange. It not only works, but it looks great.

  32. Jeet Heer says:

    I think you have to distinguish between comic book coloring and comic strip coloring. Some of the old comic strips — Little Nemo, Terry and the Pirates, Captain Easy — had great coloring. I don’t think comic books ever reached that height, although there were talented artists who did coloring (Marie Severin being one).

  33. patrick ford says:

    Jeet, I wouldn’t bring comics Sunday pages 1900-the ’20s into this, that stuff is in a class of it’s own. Not only the colour, but the printing in the early 1900s was amazing.
    Sure the comic books didn’t match strips where the colour guides were often the work of the cartoonist. There is an interview with John Cullen Murphy in Cartoonist PROfiles where he mentions Hal Foster continued to colour Prince Valiant even after he’s stopped drawing the page.
    What I see though is a style of colour in the ’30s and ’40s which was bolder, took more chances. You can see bold and very effective colour choices in the FB Fletcher Hanks books. This stuff is ballsy, it isn’t some monochromatic Frank Miller Batman comic book where take no risk weak tea is seen as the height of sophistication.
    As I said earlier Dell comics had (in my opinion) excellent colour in most cases. Examples can be found in the D&Q Stanley books, and the Jesse Marsh Tarzan and John Carter reprints. I don’t know if anyone has ever looked into it but it wouldn’t be surprising if the colourists working for Dell were people from the Disney paint department moonlighting for extra money. We know quite a few of the great Dell cartoonists has previously worked for Disney.
    I’m not talking about things like registration problems, that goes on the printer.

  34. Jeet: by “partially fake” I mean the colors which didn’t come from the original coloring (either by using the non-existant, I guess, original printer’s proof sheets or by doing a, admittedly restored, fac-simile). I doubt that anyone has the patience to follow me and I’m the only one saying these things, as usual, but I discussed these problems at length, here and here.

  35. Kim Thompson says:

    There is some conceptual jerrymandering going on among the pro-facsimile crowd, I think. The fact is that a facsimile scan/reprint of badly printed old comics carefully restored and printed well on good paper turn the work into a once-removed quotation of itself — a reproduction of a comic rather than a comic. Lousy registration, smudged ink lines, and thick, crude screens are perceived very differently if you’re reading a (back then) 10-cent comic badly printed on shit paper 50 years ago (with a nice patina of yellow-orange aging) or a well-printed book printed last year that meticulously duplicates this shitty printing and the progressively rotting paper. The quotation marks virtually ooze out as you turn the pages…

    I would agree that if the original coloring was good the platonic ideal, yes, would be to move heaven and earth to restore exactly this coloring to any definitive archival edition (which is what we’ve done with, say, the LITLE NEMO and new PRINCE VALIANT books, or for that matter CAPTAIN EASY). But ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s comic book coloring is inherently shitty in multiple, overlapping ways including severe limitation of color options, (usually) mediocre coloring (often done by indifferent hands utterly outside any part of the creative process), and printing whose terribleness really cannot be overstated. (I’m amazed at how easily the pro-facsimile crowd shrug off the splotchy, off-register cruddiness of the original Barks comics, including the samples Matthias posted above.)

    I understand the idea that all these become part of the sacred “text” that comprises this work, never to be tampered with again; I just don’t agree with it when it’s a case of the work having been compromised in its original reproduction. If all of CITIZEN KANE’s first prints had been out of focus and badly synced, would you also be complaining at a later restoration that corrected this? (Actually, probably yes: “This new, ‘fake’ CITIZEN KANE loses the gorgeously attenuated image quality and the hauntingly disjunctive sound which so effectively echoed the themes of conflicting memory in the original. Shame on you, Criterion…”) I also understand that these overlapping shittinesses in comics coloring and printing do create some effects that are pleasing (especially, I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest, viewed nostalgically), in the same way that a bad orchestra playing music out of tune and recorded poorly might have its own charm, particularly if that’s how you’ve been hearing that piece for decades.

    There is of course also the perversity that the facsimile option entails using the often muddied, thickened line produced by cheap comic book presses, as opposed to the usually gorgeous, clean, crisp line created by the artist. So aside from the color, you’re insisting on a degenerated, inferior version of what the artist actually put on the paper.

    The point is usually moot because when dealing with color work for which no clean black-line version exists, you’re basically stuck with scans of the original color. In those rare cases where crisp black line work exists, you have to ask yourself the question: can we create a new color that reflects and brings out the qualities of the work as well as or better than the potato-press original printing? I think that in this case the answer is “yes,” but if you don’t agree that’s fine.

    Paul Baresh and Carolyn Kelly restored the living hell out of the POGO Sundays, for instance (for which no proof sheets are available; you’re looking at very cleaned-up versions of the very best version in existence of this material), but they remain heartbreakingly damaged in terms of Kelly’s line and the splotchy, off-register color. If we had access to clean black-and-white stats of all the Sundays (as we do for the Barks material) I certainly would have thought long and hard about using those tearsheets as color guides and recoloring them from scratch using the black and white linework. But no such option existed, so there was no need to worry about it.

    Of course there is room for a wide swath of debate as to how exactly this coloring should look, and it’s fair to argue whether the contrast, brightness, color choices of the “new” coloring are right or wrong. (I have medium-to-severe issues with pretty much every previous attempt to re-color the Barks work myself, and I don’t necessarily think we hit it 100% on LOST IN THE ANDES just yet.) But the line-in-the-sand “any recoloring whatsoever is inherently a betrayal” strikes me, when applied to work that was often very poorly served by its original coloring and/or printing, as short-sighted and a little on the puritanically fanatical side.

    Or, in other words, welcome back, Domingos. (I say this with genuine, unironic affection and appreciation for Domingos’s knowledge, taste, and enthusiasm, who I just wish would lose the peevish Marvin-the-Paranoid-Android “no one listen to me anyway” tone that sometimes breaks though, as it just did right above.)

  36. R. Fiore says:

    There are editorial decisions that were made that I wouldn’t have made myself, though I think I see the rationale behind them. The biggest thing is that I would have opted to recreate the context of the full length comics. This is an aesthetic that devolves from comic book collectors, and there is a legitimate question of whether the material should be bound to this format for all time (and of course it was being presented in different formats almost immediately). What I would say is that a certain amount of creative energy was invested by Barks and his editors to create an attractive package, and this is worth preserving. To be honest, I must admit that when reading the full length stories in the book the thought did not occur to me that what this really needs is a one page gag strip fore and aft. The real problem with this format is that the gag pages kind of become orphans. Instead of being an appetizer and an after dinner mint to the main course they become a seven page appendix. Another thing is I think reading a whole book of ten-pagers and a whole book of full length stories is a more satisfying reading experience than reading two books with half of each. But then, this is something that comes along with presenting the material chronologically, in which case the main problem is how you’re going to combine material from two different comic book formats. I thought the way the Another Rainbow Barks Library handled it is close to the ideal way. No format is going to satisfy everyone.

    The way the material is presented reflects a particular agenda, which I believe is this: The Barks ducks comics ought to be common coin the way Peanuts is, read by young and old, and comics ought to take their place in general Disneyana the way they do in other countries. I think this has to do with why they went with collage covers instead of adapting one of Barks’ covers. The latter would have been aesthetically preferable, but I infer that they didn’t want to convey the message “This is an Olde Tyme comic book.” This also relates to why the series is breaking away from the original context. The idea, I infer, is that there is a readership who think that “dated” is the greatest pejorative in the English language (as if it were the past’s obligation to anticipate the present), but would be open to the material if you could get around this prejudice, along the lines of Raymond Chandler’s observation that the semi-literate public will accept literature so long as they don’t know that’s what they’re getting. You can accept the consequences of these prejudices or you can elude them by guile, but you really can’t overcome them. The Fantagraphics Barks Library invites the buyer to believe that this is a book that is complete in itself rather than an episode in a serial comprised of material that could have been drawn yesterday. The thing is, the more accommodations of this sort you make the farther along you go from definitive reprint to general reading edition (it’s trying to be both, obviously). Then again, if you succeed in your agenda it makes it more possible to have a deluxe edition for purists.

    The millennium arrives when someone develops a color electronic reader with a display that’s good as printing on paper. (Electronic readers are at the Walkman stage now, but by getting to the Walkman stage they almost guarantee they will get to the iPod stage.) When you get to that, assuming you’re not simply allergic to something that’s not printed on paper, you can have a true variorum edition, with the choice of viewing the material in black and white, flat color, ghastlycolor, straight photographic reproduction of the original comic, or color edited facsimile. Most likely, though, the day electronic becomes the predominant mode of distribution is the day Disney takes everything in-house, with whatever consequences that has.

  37. R. Fiore says:

    Well, there was actually a pressing of Citizen Kane where in the process of digital cleaning they removed a “rain on the window” effect from the original. Looking at scans of the original comics (which of course cannot be counted on to be 100% accurate) it seems to me the color is a bit richer than in the current version, and a I think it looks better that way.

  38. Kim: ” If all of CITIZEN KANE’s first prints had been out of focus and badly synced, would you also be complaining at a later restoration that corrected this?”

    Actually, no. I have nothing against restorations if done properly (i. e.: respecting the material). As I said above what differentiates a fake from an autentic comic reprint is the origin of the material (the genesis, good or bad). To go on with the Citizen Kane analogy, I would consider a colored Citizen Kane a partial fake and so would you.

    That said, thanks for your kind words, Kim!…

  39. By the way, Robert Fiore above expresses a lot better than I could what I wanted to say when I wrote in my Hooded Utilitarian review: “Fanta wants to have its cake and eat it too.” (Curiously enough, almost Gary’s own words above.)

  40. R. Fiore says:

    Philosophically Fantagraphics has long been no more than Swiss on replicating the original format. The thinking I believe is this is art and the artifacts of original publication are incidental. I’m still mildly irritated that Sappo doesn’t go on top in the Popeye books, and note that if it were done the other way that little space filler ornament they put in between could be replaced with the Thimble Theater headline, as it originally appeared. On the other hand, I remember a time when I was on the wrong side of one of these arguments, regarding the first Popeye series. I don’t recall if it was Gary or Kim who was arguing with Rick Marschall about whether to remove the copyright notice on each strip, and I sided with Marschall for keeping it. Since then it’s been standard Fantagraphics policy to remove them when it doesn’t mean fiddling with the artwork, and I think it looks much better that way. I think the LOAC Dick Tracy books would be much improved if they covered up the copyright notices, which usually fall in a black area and hurt the effect.

  41. Michael Grabowski says:

    I find arguments using scans to compare images printed on paper to be amusing because there’s so many variables inherent in both the scanning process and the monitors used to view it, none of which capture what the paper ‘s texture subtly does to how we “feel” the colors.

    I also don’t understand the fetishistic approach to reproducing these (or other) comics as artifacts as opposed to a pleasant way to read the comics. Is Fantagraphics somehow supposed to provide mimics of the original texts so that those of us who can’t afford the original comics can afford these? For some works this may be necessary and appropriate but for me and these comics, I’m happy to have an edition of these great stories that corrects the genuinely unpleasant reading experience that is the Gladstone albums of the 90’s.

  42. Michael Grabowski says:

    Also, one could argue that any viewing of Citizen Kane that isn’t on a real movie theater screen is fake. Welles probably never intended his work to be seen on a small screen, no matter how pure the transfer from film to digital. Which doesn’t add anything to the overall discussion except that perhaps revering the original presentation of an artifact like that or like these comics is only going to make it less likely that they can live on for future generations.

  43. Ah ah! How droll!

  44. Briany Najar says:

    Re: the colouring.

    It’s the same tune, played on a different instrument.

    The palette available to 4cp technicians wasn’t arrived at through careful aesthetic consideration.
    When colour guides were made, a certain quantised colour-space was given, and approximations of ideal hues were forced.
    The technique for colouring old comic-books was crude and utilitarian, and often seems, to me, wholley incongruent with the sophistication and expressiveness of the line drawings. But, what’s done is done, and we learn to tolerate the scale and temperament of the palette through association with the pleasure of reading the comics.

    An entirely reconceptualised colour scheme would present terrific problematics, but as I see it, a little leeway (say, 5% per ink channel excluding K, per shape) is entirely justified and seems very respectful indeed. After all, what/who is the respect and the reverance aimed at, Carl Barks? An arbitrary, mechanically convenient process of colourisation? The synthetic artifacts derived from those two? And/or the prospective spectator?
    I think the approach taken here respects Barks and the spectator most, without entirely disregarding the circumstantial artifacts. That seems like the best possible attribution of value.
    So, hoorah!

    I do like the slightly rough textural variegation you get in old comics, where there’s more than one ink on an area and (it seems that) the plates were differently flawed. That really makes up for the flatness, like a sort of poor man’s Rothko effect.
    I think that making that happen, with noise filters or texture maps, would be a justified contrivance.

    It’s nice, having opinions.

  45. Alvin says:

    “Furthermore, they are reproduced close to the original comic book size, which would seem a no-brainer
    but was not done in any of the earlier complete editions, all of which were oversize.”

    A no-brainer? Smaller than the original size is better than oversize?

    Hasn’t Domingos or any of the other eloquent pundits here congregated anything to say about this?


    On an unrelated note, may I ask how come the price of “The Adventures of Jodelle” has gone from $35.00 in the “Spring / Summer 2012” Norton catalog:

    to a final $45.00 SRP in the Previews catalog?

    I’m gonna buy it anyway, but 10 bucks of difference?!?

  46. R. Fiore says:

    What Domingos is making regarding the coloring is a moral rights argument. In the absence of a clear record of artist’s intent, you take the published version as the nearest thing available to a record of the artist’s intent. After all, there is a possibility that it reflects the artist’s intent, that Barks could have consulted with the colorist as to what kind of coloring he wished to have. Actually, the argument is easier if you consider the artist not to be Carl Barks but the Western Publishing Company as licensee of the Walt Disney Company which applies quality control. Anyway, if we define “true” as meaning matching to the extent possible what is in the best printed version of the comic without applying any artistic judgment of your own, then the Fantagraphics version is not “true.” Fantagraphics is taking more of a best practices approach. They are accepting the printed version as a referee and target, but the colorist and editor do apply their own artistic judgment to some extent. The problem with calling what Fantagraphics is doing “fake” is that the word implies bad faith, going beyond even “false,” which also implies bad faith. Fantagraphics is clearly acting in good faith by making the printed version the referee. Maybe model would be a better word for referee here. This is as opposed to the practice in the Celestial Arts Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, for instance, which is essentially “They had crummy color back then so now we’re going to use good, modern color instead.” My opinion on the coloring is that it’s on the right track but maybe could be tweaked a bit. I look at the hues in scans of the comic book pages and of the book and think that the comic book pages look a little bit better to me.

  47. Briany Najar says:

    Apologies for this first paragraph, but I keep thinking of musical analogies, as with the scales, temperaments and instruments above:
    Mr Fiore talks about not imposing artistic judgement, which, to a great exent I agree with but, at certain stages in a production process, you cross over into engineering, or technicianship, with a creative element.
    The musical analogy I’m thinking of this time is sound-engineering (post-production). The engineers who do the mixing and mastering are making artistic judgements, based on what they can infer (or are told) about the musician’s intent, and the aesthetic nature of the recordings. When the musician is dead, and new delivery technologies are available, new versions of albums are released which sound different to the original releases. The performances were not messed with, but certain spectral emphasies and dynamics are altered. It is as if the album was performed in an era with the new technologies in place, and the engineers are given the usual remit to do what they can, for the benefit of the finished product.

    Regarding Barks’ colour-thinking: could not some insights be drawn from his paintings? There is that one that is a rendering of the Four Color Lost in the Andes cover, for instance. Did he use basic, unaltered 4CP hues for that, or are there differences to the comic-book cover as printed? If you had enough of those paintings, you could look at the palettes he uses when free to choose from a finer graded spectrum, and infer what he means when he says “Duck-bill orange,” or, “sandy yellow.”
    That’s what I’d do. Yup. You bet.

  48. Hy Resolution says:

    Let’s present “Citizen Kane” with excellent image quality and sound, but reassembled into close-ups, medium shots and long shots…

    (Seriously, though, the editorial decisions here are OK, given that you also need to sell some books.)

  49. Right again Robert. I don’t see these comics as done by Carl Barks alone so I don’t even agree with the book’s title. Forgetting the production conditions and disrespecting the colorists’ or any other ghosts’ work (good or bad is not the point) is an erasure of an important part of these objects’ identity. What we have here is a radical auteurs theory uncritically applied to comics (it’s radical because the guys at the Cahiers didn’t advocate any “improvements” to old films). As for Fanta’s bad faith it exists and it does not exist: it does not exist because recoloring is a normal and accepted practice in the comics pro milieu (I attribute this to two reasons: 1) a business and corporate way of thinking dominates creative decisions; 2) – and paradoxically – because fandom was such an huge influence the name of certain artists – Carl Barks included – are seen as commercial assets in and of themselves, so, a “let’s improve what these women hacks did to our beloved genius’ work” kind of attitude overwhelms all other considerations); the bad faith exists because you know what they say: you sleep with a snake…

  50. Briany Najar says:

    These objects seem to be unperturbed:
    They exist; they retain their identities, along with their ineluctable finitude.

  51. Briany Najar says:

    OK, I’m too facetious sometimes.
    You’re right, of course, Domingos. A book which faithfully and comprehensively documented the artifacts, warts and all, and the circumstances of their production, could be a valuable source of edification. The essays could be concerned with historical, sociological, economical and physical contexts instead of focussing on the ins and outs of the champion cartoonist who is the second most famous person associated with the nominal contents. That would be a fascinating and useful book, no doubt.
    The book under discussion here is, apparently, designed almost purely as light entertainment.
    Personally, I’d like to have a good look at this current publication, primarily because I enjoy looking at proficient and characterful penmanship, and it would seem to have that going for it. Also because of the amusing stories.
    Nonetheless, an entirely uncompromised, circumspect, materialist, historically detailed survey of the related comic-book objects and how they came to be, would be another book that I would be most interested to see. And, I doubt if the market for that book would be especially diminished by the existance of this one.
    Would the two books even necessarily be derived from the same particular material?

  52. Yeah, speaking as a regular consumer with a moderate interest in comic books, it seems obvious: If you’re interested in the original objects from the 1950s, then feel free to collect the original objects. If you want an excellent collection of great stories, then buy this book. The world is often surprisingly simple if you skip all the intellectualism.

  53. ant says:

    BOOM, owned!

  54. TimR says:

    I think Pat Ford brought up some good points. I was hoping those would get a response, but maybe they’re too moderate to attract attention by comparison to those who have a more fundamental critique. In particular, Pat’s point about the degree of contrast in the original comics seemed on target when I went back and looked at the samples above (granted that these are being viewed on a screen, they give one an idea of the difference.)

    This re-coloring is certainly light years ahead of all the botched jobs everyone is familiar with. Nevertheless, the fact that even subtle changes from the original can be reasonably questioned suggests their seeming crudity may be superficial.

    Briany Najar raises a great point, but one which seems to me almost impossible to address:

    I do like the slightly rough textural variegation you get in old comics, where there’s more than one ink on an area and (it seems that) the plates were differently flawed. That really makes up for the flatness, like a sort of poor man’s Rothko effect.
    I think that making that happen, with noise filters or texture maps, would be a justified contrivance.

    What a contrivance that would be though! And how many new potential kinks that introduces, trying to simulate noise via computer, vs. the original “natural” noise.. It doesn’t sound very appealing to me. But I certainly agree that the natural print noise (and I know I’ve seen this written about quite well somewhere) can enliven the page compared to the “flatness” of precision printing. If I were going to replicate that effect though, my first try would probably be not to do it through computer artifice, but simply to use a cruder printing press. Perhaps not so crude that plates would be completely mis-registered, but less clinically clean than we are accustomed to from a project of this sort. (I don’t of course fault publishers for not carrying things to such spectacular lengths, but it is interesting to think about.) Perhaps there are ways that a conventional press can be intentionally set up “poorly” such that some noise is allowed to creep in?

    Finally, although I appreciate Pat’s comments within the context of a moderate critique of the new coloring, I also see Domingos’ point about this being a radical reshaping of the work. I’m not sure how you avoid that, or whether I strenuously object to it, but it is worth considering.

  55. Mike Hunter says:

    Note how washed-out the blacks are in most of the Fantagraphics-edition page scans posted above (and others such as the “Dutch restoration” panels). Surely the lettering, ink lines, and solid blacks in the new book are more intense than the “dark grey” shown above. And if the blacks are faded in the scans, why not the rest of the colors?

    So, isn’t it a bit of a mug’s game to properly assess Tommasso’s coloring from these online images? (Never mind the additional factor of variation among monitor displays.)

  56. patrick ford says:

    I assume most people here have the book and are using the illustrations posted by Matthias as a point of reference because they are part of the article. Obviously Matthias has the book, and the original Dell printing and is formed his observations based on those, then posted the images online.

  57. Kim Thompson says:

    The irony here is that of all the publishers who haven’t actually used scans of the original printed comics, Fantagraphics’ version has been by far the most faithful to the original anonymous colorists whose moral
    rights have suddenly become such a concern.

    Setting aside the issues of story order, etc., if anyone wants to know what the book would’ve looked like if
    we’d followed Domingos’s request (or, moral-dudgeon-infused demand) to use scans from the printed comics,
    five words: Craig Yoe’s BARNEY BEAR book. Granted that Craig’s books tend to be on the low end of
    restoration (I’ll leave it up to the individual reader whether this is the result of sloth/cheapness or the desire to
    honor the integrity of the original “text”), there is a hard ceiling as to how far restoration can carry you. Hence:
    blotchy color, smudgy art, horrible registration. I don’t think that is the platonic ideal Barks or anyone else
    involved in these books ever envisioned for their work. In fact I suspect pretty much every cartoonist who
    worked in comic books and cared about their work considered the coloring and printing their cross to bear
    and at one point or another (or every day of their lives) wished their work could be brought to the reader
    without going through the horrible coloring-and-printing process that comic books suffered through for half
    a century.

    Domingos makes a good point that the title CARL BARKS LIBRARY is offensive because it neglects the
    contributions of other hands to the work. Therefore beginning with the second volume it will be retitled
    THEY WERE EXACTLY. (Shouldn’t Domingos be picketing Tyler Perry’s offices?)

    It seems to me the feedback here splits between “do what you’ve been doing but tweak it” (the majority)
    and “scan of original comics only!!” (Domingos and maybe one or two others). We’ll be going with the former.

  58. Where do you read in my comments above anything about the title being offensive, Kim? I just said that I don’t agree with the title of the book, not the series’ title. I don’t agree with the title of the book because “Lost in the Andes” wasn’t done by Carl Barks alone, it involved many other people at Western Publishing, from colorists to editors. But that’s just me and I don’t even do much of a fuss about it. On the other hand it’s obvious that Carl Barks is the most important creative force behind the story.

    Admit it Kim, your problem with the scanning and restoration of the original books, if done properly, is that it involves a really good restorer with the know-how and patience to spend up to two full work days per page. As you said, maybe Craig Yoe isn’t the best restorer around. I was thinking something more along these lines, but published on a beige paper.

    Maybe there’s a moral issue involved, but I must admit that it wasn’t my main reason to comment here. I did it because Fantagraphics is perpetuating old practices that always disrespected the original material creating comics fakes (by recoloring, adding or suppressing art, changing the layout… you name it). If you’re comfortable with that, fine…

  59. Richie says:

    I was told Gary Groth confirmed that, aside from the critical essays, there will be no other extras whatsoever in future volumes. Is this true, and is there a chance you guys change your minds about it if so?
    I understand the motivation behind this decision, aiming for a more mainstream audience that doesn’t care about these things, and the books are already fantastic, but the potential to improve on this is there, and surely with 30 volumes there’s room to fit a few interviews or sketches in there?…
    Thanks in advance for your attention.

  60. Kim Thompson says:

    “Offend” was an exaggeration, OK?

    No, my problem with scanning and restoration of original printing is that when the original printing is as terminally shitty as it was for American comic books and comic strips from 1930 to the late part of the century that shittiness compromises the integrity of the original work in a way that is impossible to restore. You can’t unsmudge pen lines. If you have access to better source material (as we do for Barks, and for EC — superb first-generation photostats and scans) it seems absurd to start from the ghastly, smudged, off-register printing.

    The awfulness of American comic book and comic strip coloring and printing during this period was an ongoing source of despair and misery for cartoonists (those who cared) and readers. While I agree that attempts to rework the material into a more presentable shape have often been failures because of overreach and failure to understand how printing affects color, and I also agree that on balance the simple “scan it, clean it up a little, and print it” option has produced better results, I think the fetishization of the original printings is borderline deranged, whether it’s because of some moral “the original text is the original text, including the 8 pages that went off 1/4″ off register because the pressman went out for a smoke on that day in 1953” obsessiveness or a nostalgia-distorted affection for the work as you first experienced it.

  61. Paul Slade says:

    It strikes me that Fantagraphics has poured a good deal of love, intelligence and care into making this project appealing to the widest possible audience. Without that wide audience – a far, far bigger market than comics enthusiasts alone (never mind their most purist wing alone), I doubt the project would be remotely feasible from a commercial point of view anyway.

    The number of sales achieved by these books does matter, because it’s only income from those sales that will allow Fantagraphics to complete the series, or to continue publishing the many other excellent books they produce. Wilfully refusing to acknowledge these commercial realities is just childish.

    There’s no point in criticising Fantagraphics for failing to target this project at a tiny niche market of fanatical purists because it’s pretty obvious that’s not what they were setting out to do with these particular books anyway. The company publishes plenty of other books that no commercial publisher would touch, but which are well worth having for other reasons. Presumably, it’s only the fact that something like Peanuts or the Barks’ books can be expected to sell in greater numbers which makes those “art-for-art’s-sake” books possible.

    Bringing Barks’ work to a general audience who are not currently familiar with it, but would very much enjoy it given half the chance, is a very commendable aim in itself. Throw in the fact that we, as comics fans, get the stories restored to what most people here seem to agree is their best presentation yet, and some of the criticisms here look downright churlish. Condemning the books as “fake” is both simplistic and – yes – offensive.

    If the book’s critics wish to invest their own time, money and efforts in a rival venture along the lines Domingos describes – and if they’re able to persuade Disney to play ball – then they’re perfectly free to take that risk. Any takers?

  62. R. Fiore says:

    I don’t see what’s going to be gained from going around and around on this, you’ve got somebody putting forward a point of view that is logically consistent but based on a perverse assumption. So long as he sticks to the assumption the logic is airtight. The ultimate problem here is that the Platonic original no longer actually exists. The material was planned to have a shelf life of one to two months, after which the remaining copies would have their covers torn off to be returned to the distributor for credit and the rest destroyed. Due to that and the low sale price they were committed to they used paper and printing that would maintain its desired state for that time frame and degrade rapidly thereafter. The original state is the way the comic book looked in the first month or two after publication and distribution. As for any supposed moral rights issues, the legal author of the work is the Walt Disney Company, and they have approved this reprinting and monitor its quality so that it meets their standards.

    The Russ Cochran EC Archives (a license that is apparently still alive) is an interesting contrast because the original colorist is still alive and available to do the coloring.

  63. Kim Thompson says:

    Funny you should mention that. The 1971 EC HORROR LIBRARY (still one of THE great revelations to a 1970s comics fan) duplicated the original EC color separations, but because the book was printed using real book standards the results were shrill and ugly. (Most Marvel and DC reprints of ’60s and ’70s material, working from the original negatives, suffer the same problem. For all I know they still do, come to think of it; I haven’t looked at a Marvel or DC book reprint in years. I remember flipping through some Moore/Bissette SWAMP THING reprints that were real eyesores…) I believe Marie Severin complained that if she’d been asked she could have gone in and recalibrated the colors on the HORROR LIBRARY to accommodate the different printing specs. And in fact she did exactly that for a number of stories in our two B. KRIGSTEIN books, recreating (or at least approximating) the color balance of the EC coloring using watercolors (and finally correcting that infamous mistake of the character in “Master Race” who was supposed to be wearing overalls, which aggravated Krigstein for years). I would be super curious to hear how the artists’-moral-rights issue works out for Domingos when it was the original colorist doing the reworking! (Han shot first, and Ewoks don’t blink!)

    Bob makes the excellent point that the lovely ochre hue that suffuses all Golden Age comics and that we now take to be part of the “text” (and some editors insist on duplicating to the letter) is actually subsequent damage to pages that were originally reasonably white. (On the other hand, Mitt Fiore, corporate ownership is not the same as moral people rights.)

  64. patrick ford says:

    Is Domingos really being harsh in his judgement? All he’s doing is explaining his point of view. It’s something to think about, and as he ackonowledges his minority opinion isn’t going to have any impact on the sales of the book.
    The way a work is reprinted becomes a very complex topic. In an ideal world where every publication suited my taste.
    If original art was available reprints would present the original art with graphite finger prints, blue pencil, and the blood of squashed mosquitos.
    If stats were available the work would be reproduced in B&W. If colour guides or colour proofs were available those would supplement the original art or stats. If you have stats, but not guides or proofs, and want to present the work in colour then you use the stats, and have them coloured following the original colour with some adjustments.
    If no original art, stats, guides, or proofs, were available then gently restored scans would be used.
    Imagine the jumble the new FB “Pogo” book would be if that method were used.
    I would be in heaven, but if I were the publisher the book would look just like the book I have next to me.
    My guess is someone like Domingos is well aware of the various considerations which go into publishing.
    BTW. The printing in old comics wasn’t very good. It varied, E.C. and Quality (publishers of Plastic Man)were about as good as you could find. The idea the colour was bad I just can’t see. While not up to the quality of newspaper Sunday pages the colour choices are often very good.
    Consider that Stan Goldberg (a pretty good artist) moonlighted as a comic book colourist. The people colouring comics in the early years were professionals whose job was to apply colour. It stands to reason they would be good at it.
    Of course colour is an add on, and I prefer B&W, but I just can’t see the bad colour in old comic books. As for cartoonists complaining about bad colour. One of the strangest comments I’ve ever seen was in an old issue of “Comics Scene.” I recall an article about the Barks book airbrushed by Peter Ledger, and Barks seemed thrilled by what Ledger had done.

  65. R. Fiore says:

    I believe I used the word “legal”, and if you don’t believe it I suggest you read your contract. All I mean to point out is that moral rights isn’t a particularly useful frame of reference in this case. The coloring of the original comics is more likely to reflect a house style than the intent of any individual artist. Much of the time what we mean when we say “Walt Disney” is a collective enterprise known as Walt Disney.

  66. R. Fiore says:

    I believe I used the word “perverse” . . .

  67. Matthias Wivel says:

    Gary and Kim, thanks for your responses — it’s great to get a sense of the considerations that went into making the book, and if I wasn’t before (and I was) I’m the more assured now that the project is in the right hands.

    In response to your questions about my comment re: muted coloring, what I mean is that the contrast is lower than in the original, making for a more sedate feel. The example above demonstrates it: the browns are stronger in the original, and in greater contrast to their surroundings; the same with the greens. With the exception of the yellow, this is pretty consistent throughout the book, and in my review I attributed it to a preference among comics fans of the more connoisseurial kind for the tastefully restrained against the more emphatically ruddy. I might be wrong, but such sensibility seems quite consistently to inform the color settings here.

    As for chronology, is it really that important to lead with the title story? Please consider how it undermines the subtle progression in Barks’ character development and approach to storytelling when you break things up. Your next book is “Only a Poor Old Man,” in which this development particularly significant — if I’m not mistaken that book will contain Barks’ crucial effort to develop the Scrooge character in long form, from the iconic title story in which Barks defines what makes Scrooge tick but leaves certain questions open, over the “origin story” (“Back to the Klondike”) where his moral core is defined, to the ‘Horseradish story’ in which Barks puts these discoveries to the test.

    Fortunately, that particular sequence of stories begins with your lead, but if the book contains earlier material, which you then place later, you will confuse one of the most poignant and compelling phases in Barks’ artistic development. And this is not only the case with this particular suite of stories, but really throughout his oeuvre — as Donald Ault has pointed out in regard to his late work, for example.

    Barks, as you know, was an artist of nuance and ambition, who took earlier discoveries into consideration when writing and drawing new stories. I urge you to reconsider this choice to shuffle the deck.

  68. If, let’s say, a painting is damaged in a flood one restores it using the best possible techniques available. One doesn’t paint a new one. But that’s just me and my flawed logic, of course…

    When I mentioned the beige paper it was an aesthetic choice, that’s all. Since comics can be reprinted the quality and color of the paper is not important. This is debatable, of course… As I said elsewhere (I repeat, I’m not expecting anyone to read what I wrote, but anyway…) there’s a point in which “arbitrariness rears its ugly head.” I also think that it could be argued at what point a restoration ceases to be so to turn into a renewal of the old material. The problem, it seems to me, is that comics aesthetics (as a philosophical discipline, I mean) is still using diapers.

  69. Kim Thompson says:

    All true, of course.

  70. Mike Hunter says:

    R. Fiore says:

    …The material was planned to have a shelf life of one to two months, after which the remaining copies would have their covers torn off to be returned to the distributor for credit and the rest destroyed. Due to that and the low sale price they were committed to they used paper and printing that would maintain its desired state for that time frame and degrade rapidly thereafter…

    Not to mention, because of the cheap. low-quality paper originally used, the screens employed to apply color mixtures were, of necessity, larger, more noticeable.

    Why, if comics had always been printed on high-end coated stock, which can take inks from far finer dot screens, Roy Lichtenstein would’ve never had to laboriously imitate those obtrusive Ben-Day dots: .

    Interesting how incidental economic and production-process factors, “necessary evils” such as coarse printing screens, become so associated (at least with those of a certain age) with the comic art itself, even valued.

    You’d also get some of the printing on the other side of the page showing; the occasional chunk of wood pulp disfiguring a bit of art in a panel of one individual issue (which would lead — until the paper used improved — to my comparing every single copy of a particular title in the comics store to get the one most free of these); lower-quality paper that would yellow more easily…

    patrick ford says:

    Is Domingos really being harsh in his judgement? All he’s doing is explaining his point of view…

    Who, Domingos?

    Domingos Isabelinho says:

    …Fantagraphics is perpetuating old practices that always disrespected the original material creating comics fakes (by recoloring, adding or suppressing art, changing the layout… you name it). If you’re comfortable with that, fine…

    “Disrespect[ing] the original material”; “creating comic fakes“… Nothing harsh there! Just explaining a viewpoint…

    And yes, I also have respect for Domingos’ knowledge, acumen, and good taste. Which give no protection from being wrong on certain areas, however.

    For instance, how does a reprinting of an old comic book possibly avoid doing anything which would make it liable to being labeled a “fake,” by someone finicky enough?

    BTW, check out “Coloring Comic Books Before Computers – Parts One, Two and Three”: .

    “Coloring Comics, Old School”:

  71. Kim Thompson says:

    When intelligent, committed artists were given the chance to color their work the color CHOICES were often quite good, yes, but they were working within a template that offered them a ridiculously paltry choice of colors (no tonal options between 100% and 50%! I remember how excited colorists were when publishers decided to give them a 70% tone…), gigantic dot patterns, and printing that was usually smudged and badly off register. When pleasing, effective coloring came out of this — a result of two wrongs sometimes making a right, as the cruddy printing softened the harshness of the limited color choices — it was the equivalent of a TOP CHEF contestant actually whipping up a pretty good meal using pomegranates, Doritos, ram’s bladders, and cilantro.

    I suspect that Barks’s positive response to the legendarily hideous Peter Ledger airbrush-colored book, assuming he wasn’t just being polite, was in large part borne of a lifetime of frustration of seeing his worked hobbled by the crappy production and printing process. He was likely pleased just to see his lines printed cleanly and the coloring staying inside those lines.

  72. Hy Resolution says:

    Too many collections have been issued over the years with Barks essays by people who can’t write, can’t (or aren’t allowed to) do serious biographic research or have nothing interesting to say and no style to say it in. A recurring one-page biography page and nothing more would be refreshing indeed.

  73. Richie says:

    I’m quite happy with the essays we got in “Lost in the Andes”, and I look forward for commentaries of such caliber in future books. My concern lies with the prospect of there being absolutely no bonus material beyond those within 30 books. I think earlier volumes, where the stories are more simple and don’t have much to comment on, would be a good opportunity to showcase sketches or interviews.

    Now I wonder what’s gonna happen with the likes of “The Milkman” and “Silent Night”, if they’re going to be grouped along with the 40’s stories (when they were originally intended to be published), or shown in the last volume (mirroring the date they actually surfaced to the public, in the 70’s and 80’s). Aaaaaaaaaand how they’re going to go about Trick or Treat, what with there being 2 versions available, each with its exclusive Barksian details. That’s all!

  74. Jeet Heer says:

    “If, let’s say, a painting is damaged in a flood one restores it using the best possible techniques available. One doesn’t paint a new one. But that’s just me and my flawed logic, of course…”
    Here we see the core error in Domingos’ position. Comics aren’t painting, paintings aren’t comics. Paintings are meant to be unique; a copy of a painting is just a way to circulate the image but it can never have the priority given to the original. Comics are an art form built around mechanical reproduction, which means that there is no original or authentic version: mechanically reproduced artworks can be presented in many different ways (consider for example all the different incarnations that a Peanuts strips takes: when first published different newspapers print it in different sizes, then it gets put into various books). Because there is no original or authentic version, the various reproductions of a comics can’t be judged as “real” or “fake” (which imply a metaphysics based on the presence of the artists hand, as in painting or sculpture). The different reproductions can be judged by other criteria: how well they showcase the art, narrative readiblity, etc. One of those criterion could well be fidelity to an earlier cherished incarnation, mimicked for either historical or nostalgic reasoned. This type of historical restoration has some values but it’s not the only criterion that can be brought to bear and is in fact fraught with problems because, as Heraclitus noticed many centuries ago, you cannot step into the same river twice. Borges wrote a story making this very point once: that someone writing an exact replica of Don Quixote in the 20th century would produce a text very different in meaning and intent from the book Cervantes wrote. If you created an exact replica of an issue of Dell comics from 1950, it would still be different from what the earliest readers of Barks read, because we’d be reading it with different eyes and different expectations.

  75. You didn’t read what I wrote on my blog, did you? Besides, you are confusing restoration with mimicking. Rich Tommaso mimicked (hence, it’s kitsch) old colors, whoever restored the colors in the Popeye books mimicked nothing.

  76. That’s an interesting question, Kim. As I said before, I’m not discarding the creators’ moral rights or even the publishers’ legal rights. That’s not where I’m coming from, though. I come from a purely Goodmanian philosophical point of view (i. e.: I’m more interested in aesthetics than anything else). In the case of the original colorist doing a recoloring, that’s not a fake. It’s called a new version. Hence, what we have is not technically a reprint. Or, at the least, it’s not 100 % a reprint. I remember liking that new version of “Master Race,” actually, but it was long ago. I need to reread it…

  77. Thanks, Mike, I guess. I must add a disclaimer, then:

    There are not many publishers around the world who deserve more acclaim for reprinting comics history in a respectful way than Fantagraphics. In recent times alone there’s Cpt. Easy, Popeye, Prince Valiant (to stay with the reprints in color). I especially thank Fanta for the PV reprint. It corrects an hideous mistake which I hope will be forgotten and buried after this new collection reaches its conclusion.

    Maybe that’s why this Barks reprint is so disappointing. I expect such a thing from one of the snakes (The Spirit from DC Comics, anyone?), but not from Fanta. I blame Disney…

    As for “For instance, how does a reprinting of an old comic book possibly avoid doing anything which would make it liable to being labeled a “fake,” by someone finicky enough?” I answered, before the question was made: “it could be argued at what point a restoration ceases to be so to turn into a renewal of the old material.”

  78. Briany Najar says:

    ” I was thinking something more along these lines, but published on a beige paper.”

    Domingos, are you saying that changing the paper stock/colour would not constitute an act of forgery?
    Or is it just that that is a forgery that you would like to see?
    I’m interested as to where you see the paper in relation to the n-stage autographic work.

  79. Briany Najar says:

    I meant “fake,” not “forgery.”

  80. patrick ford says:

    As I’ve said above my own tastes run towards B&W when original art or high quality stats are available.
    I’m also happy when B&W stats are the basis for tasteful new colour. When possible an artist’s original hand coloured guides would be a great solution to colour. The Pogo book has a couple of Kelly’s guides included, and one is reused on the cover of the book. If by chance Kelly had saved all his colour guides it would have been great if all the Sunday pages were sourced from them. I assume I differ with Domingos on that.
    I can’t see not using the approach FB used for the “Humbug” set, and scanning copies of the original comic books instead.
    I do see the point of view being espoused by Domongos, I just don’t see the original printed comics as more authentic than original art, stats, guides, or proofs.
    When all you have to work with is the printed comics I agree with him.
    Here is an old argument I made which is pretty close to what Domingos is saying about the original printed comic books being authentic. The argument I was making is Art Book Publishers like Skira, New York Graphic Society. etc. would never consider publishing a collection of Rembrandt etching, or Japanese prints which had been retouched.

    “…the reason I like to use Japanese woodblock prints as an example is because they are printed.
    Japanese prints are a particularly good example because they mirror in certain ways comic book art. Woodblock prints were considered cheap, and disposable not high art. The artist whose name is applied to the print had about the same control over the print as did the artist who penciled a comic book page. The artist who produced the drawing the print was based on didn’t cut the linework into the wood block, and he didn’t apply the colour to the block. The artist supplied only a simple three colour guide to the printer.
    James Michener wrote in his introduction to “Japanese Prints:”
    “Why is it that Japanese connoisseurs with refined taste refuse to accept woodblock prints as fine art?”
    Michener answers this question at length.
    First the print was considered “common,” and not of the same intellectual content as tradition Japanese painting and drawing.
    Michener discusses the line quality of the print medium.
    “From your ownership of a Harunobu print you attain an increased an increased appreciation of line, as a component of art. It is a line that sings…
    Yet Harunobu himself had nothing to do with the line you see. Harunobu did not transfer his drawing onto the woodblock the print was made from”
    Michener moves on to describe the colour process where Harunobu gave a rough guide to the printer who selected, mixed, applied, and printed the final colours.
    In the end Michener says, “At no time did Harunobu paint the the print as you see it now. The print is not a copy of an original work of art. The print is a scrap of paper to which certain things have been done, but never by Harunobo.
    In their day Japanese prints weren’t seen as legitimate art. They reached Europe not as works of art, but crumpled up in crates as packing material.
    I have no problem seeing comic book art as worthy of respect (the writing is very often another matter).
    I think the printed art deserves the same respect as any other printed art.

  81. Kim Thompson says:

    If we’d had clean black and white photostats of Segar’s Sunday POPEYEs I’d have given serious thought to recoloring them using the original tearsheets as a guide, as we did with DONALD DUCK.

    One problem with Domingos is that he uses words like “kitsch” and “fake” with his own little made-up definitions, which isn’t really conducive to communication, and is annoying besides. Think of the moral rights of the people who created the word “kitsch,” Domingos, and stop using fake words.

  82. patrick ford says:

    I’ve got B&W Sunday pages of Segar’s nearly two year long Desert Trek adventure.
    Not proofs, B&W Sunday pages. What kind of approach would you take in an instance like that?

  83. You are kidding, right?

  84. Ooops! I meant Kim. But now that I’m at it…

    Patrick: weren’t those pages published in color anywhere?

  85. patrick ford says:

    Domingos, Some papers carried Thimble Theater in colour even before Popeye came along. I got the Desert Trek pages in B&W “for free” on the backside when I bought a long run of Sidney Smith’s “The Gumps” Sunday pages in colour.
    On another occasion I bought a run of Little Nemo at a discounted price because the pages were in B&W, only to find the “backside” were “Mr. Twee-Deedle” pages in full colour.

  86. R. Fiore says:

    A perfect example of the perverse application of moral rights was the DVD reissue of Charlie Chaplin’s films a few years back. Chaplin had authorized several adaptations of his silent movies to sound during the 30s and 50s. One was a version of The Gold Rush that cut the running time and replaced the title cards with a narration in that fussy accent of his. Another was The Chaplin Revue, a compilation of his silent two-reelers he had one of his staff member assemble. In order to adapt these films to sound they were stretch-printed, which means frames were duplicated to bring them up to the 24 frames per second sound speed. If it weren’t bad enough to completely ruin the rhythm of the films, Chaplin’s hireling had replaced the badly worn sections of Shoulder Arms particularly with rejected takes of scenes, and irksome sound effects which were thought to make the films more acceptable to sound era audiences. The Kid and A Dog’s Life were subjected to a somewhat less destructive version of the same treatment. Anyone with a lick of sense could see that these versions were nothing more than an attempt to squeeze some more money out of old rope, but this is a cohort which didn’t include the Chaplin heirs, who insisted because these were the last versions Chaplin authorized to be issued, they must be considered the official versions. As a result, the silent version of The Gold Rush only got included as an extra feature. (Part of the reason was a high degree of antagonism among the Chaplin heirs, which made it difficult to get agreements on anything.)

    P.S. The reason you re-color the Barks stories is that the master copies are black-and-white masters. If you had a color master you’d follow that.

  87. Kim Thompson says:

    About what in particular?

  88. Kim: I mean, you are joking when you say that I invented the meaning for the word “kitsch.” What do you call fake marble or fake wood, then? What do you call a recoloring pretending to be the original coloring? If you’re still not convinced look for the meaning of the word “verkitschen.” (That last one is cheap shot, but since it seems that I already have the reputation of being harsh I don’t want to disappoint anyone)

  89. Jeet Heer says:

    Patrick Ford is right that many Sunday strips in the early 20th century would be published in a variety of ways in different newspapers: the same page could be color in one paper, black in white in another and in two colors in a third. The cartoonist would have to design the strip with the foreknowledge that these format were possible (and also that page size could vary). That’s what I mean when I say there is no “original” or “authentic” way to print these strips; the goal of authenticity is impossible. You can try to replicate the earlier look and sometimes it’s a good idea but not always.

  90. Jeet Heer says:

    How does the coloring in the new book pretend to be the original? Fantagraphics has been very upfront that the pages are recolored and Rich Tommaso has given interviews describing what he’s doing with the new coloring. Like Kim, I’m puzzled by your use of the words “fake” and “kitsch” both of which seem not just harsh but actually semantically wrong.
    But your use or misuse of these words is a minor side issue. I understanding the ideal you’re upholding of reprints that are as faithful as possible of the original, it’s congruent with a widespread restorationist or preservationist instinct in many arts (one analogy would be the historically informed performance movement in classical music). There is much value in the restorationist or preservationist instinct but I don’t think it can stand by itself as an aesthetic criterion.

  91. Kim Thompson says:

    Uh, no. You’re burrowing back to the etymological definition in another language. “Kitsch” has a well-understood, commonly known definition when used in English. If you walk into a restaurant in the U.S. and demand an “entrée” when you mean an appetizer, you’re not being right, you’re being wrong.

    Where and how, pray tell, is our coloring “pretending” to be the original coloring? What you’re saying is that if we try to approximate the original coloring we’re bad people because we’re deceitful, and if we don’t try to approximate the original coloring we’re bad people because we’re violating the moral rights of the original colorists. Talk about setting up a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose scenario.

  92. Kim Thompson says:

    I might add, pursuant to R. Fiore’s half-decades-long grousing about our placement of SAPPO, that some papers ran SAPPO above POPEYE, some ran it below, and some didn’t run it at all. To me it looked better as a top strip; at the bottom, it seemed like it was being somehow crushed by the much larger POPEYE.

  93. Uh, Kim, you do know that English isn’t Domingos’ first language, and that he lives in Portugal? I think one can allow for the nuances in his English being off every now and then. If it bothers you that much, you can always suggest words more appropriate to his meaning. I can understand your impatience with his argument, but blowing snot at him because his usage isn’t perfect is pretty offensive.

  94. Kit says:

    “If you walk into a restaurant in the U.S. and demand an “entrée” when you mean an appetizer, you’re not being right, you’re being wrong.”


  95. Jeet Heer says:

    I want to respond to this point since, as I wrote above, I’m also bothered by Domingos’ use of words like “fake” and “kitsch” (and in previous debates his use of other abusive terms). The problem isn’t that English isn’t Domingos’s first language: he actually almost always writes in English with a great clarity that is superior to that of most native speakers or writers of English. The problem is that when Domingos gets in his high dudgeon mode, he tends to use words in a over-heated, hyperbolic and inexact way, very different than how he writes normally. Domingos at his most aggressively angry is a prose writer who generates tremendous heat but, true to the cliche, very little light. It’s unfortunate because he’s doing an injustice to his own arguments, which are often worth attending to even if you disagree with them (as I often do).
    I should add that English isn’t my first language either. I’ll further add that like Kim I admire Domingos’s “knowledge, taste, and enthusiasm.”

  96. R. Fiore says:

    And my answer to that was (a) Sappo appeared on top in the majority of newspapers where it ran, (b) it appeared that way in the flagship paper of the syndicate, (c) these ancillary Sunday strips appeared so customarily on top that they were called “toppers” and (d) I would be willing to bet that most people for whom it would have made a difference would rather have seen it on top, so why not indulge them? I registered my irritation when the matter was discussed however long ago it was on the message board, and I mentioned it in my remarks here, which repeat remarks I made on the subject of the Barks book on Mike Barrier’s site. I don’t think that quite amounts to an obsession.

  97. Paul Slade says:

    Far from “blowing snot” at anyone, I think Kim’s been remarkably patient. If he’d been silly enough to rephrase Domingos’ arguments for him before replying, wouldn’t he be accused of both distorting Domingos’ case and patronising him?

  98. Thanks, Robert!

    I’m learning a lot though. I now know, for instance, that faux (oops, sorry!) marble isn’t kitsch in the U.S.A. because, huh… it’s a different language. Also, I’m learning that people in the U.S.A. are duped into thinking that what they see really is marble. Maybe that’s why they don’t think that it is kitsch (that’s a reasonable explanation). Someone should interview a faux (oops, sorry!) marble painter. He can explain to them the horrible truth.

    Speaking of strange things happening in long ago and far away I’m feeling a bit like that character in The Wizard of Oz… you know?… the Scarecrow… he was a straw man too.

    Publishers will be publishers, I guess…

  99. Jeet: Instead of saying those generalities why don’t you explain to me why I’m wrong in my analysis and extrapolation of Nelson Goodman’s theories. That’s something worth discussing, yes?

  100. Briany Najar says:

    “one hardly expects chemical purity outside the laboratory” (Goodman)

    2 more questions:

    Take a piece of theatre whose original notation contains no reference to costume – a secondary author is given the responsibility of making the relevant decisions.
    If the play is later revived and a new costume designer employed for that performance, is that a wrong or fake performance?
    If the costume design from the original performance is revived with the play, is that kitsch?

    When Batman: Year One was published in the collected edition, with more complex colouring (in hue/value, in composition and in texture) than the prior newsprint pamphlet version which had to rely on more traditional/primitive comic-book production methods, was that recoloured version a fake?
    Or, does it sit comfortably with Goodman’s assertion that the fundamental nature of an artform may evolve over time?

  101. The simple fact that you mention a notation means that you are talking about an allographic artform. Drawing is not allographic.

  102. These are for Domingos to answer, but I’ll offer him some context about the latter situation. Richmond Lewis was the colorist for both versions of Batman: Year One. She’s also credited as a co-author on the book collection’s jacket. And given that she is married to David Mazzucchelli, who was the cartoonist on the project, I think it’s pretty much a given that all the coloring was done with his consultation and approval.

  103. Briany Najar says:

    Drawing isn’t the artform we’re talking about.

  104. Briany Najar says:

    So, a supplementary question to the those others (which remain, especially the last) might be:
    is the pamphlet version something other than “Batman: Year One.”

  105. Mike Hunter says:

    Domingos Isabelinho says:

    Kim: I mean, you are joking when you say that I invented the meaning for the word “kitsch.” What do you call fake marble or fake wood, then?

    A faux finish! Which mansions and palaces of old/ancient times (“The Romans…used plaster and stucco to simulate carvings of stone and wood” ) featured, when even massive wealth was not sufficient. These finishes were tasteful, elegant, and themselves expensive (if not as much as the real thing), applied by masters:

    The Federal style is known for its bright colors, intricately patterned interiors and faux finishes. Gracie Mansion is a prime example. There is an exquisitely refurbished faux marble pattern on the wooden floor of Gracie Mansion’s foyer that would actually have been painted on a large piece of broadcloth in the 19th Century for easy maintenance…

    While “kitsch” is almost universally considered to be tacky, tasteless; aimed at those with no taste.

    ( Some thoughts on the subject: )

    Thus, the later argument…

    Domingos Isabelinho says:

    I’m learning a lot though. I now know, for instance, that faux (oops, sorry!) marble isn’t kitsch in the U.S.A. because, huh… it’s a different language. Also, I’m learning that people in the U.S.A. are duped into thinking that what they see really is marble. Maybe that’s why they don’t think that it is kitsch…

    …is nonsensical. It’s not simply a matter of Boobus Americanus confusing a faux finish with the real thing; taste is involved. Subtlety and refinement rather than gaudy showiness, the avoidance of high intellectual/aesthetic/spiritual pretensions.

    What do you call a recoloring pretending to be the original coloring?

    Jeet beat me to it; there is no “pretending” going on here.

    If you’re still not convinced look for the meaning of the word “verkitschen.” (That last one is cheap shot, but since it seems that I already have the reputation of being harsh I don’t want to disappoint anyone)

    Nothing wrong with being harsh in Fanta-land; however, it’s being accurate that should be more important.

    Looking up translations of “verkitschen,” all I can find is “to make kitschy”; “to make into kitsch,” which actually further muddy your argument.

  106. James says:

    Just because two artists are married does not mean automatically that they are of one mind or that the male partner dominates the female. I work with my wife, she has colored many of the stories I have drawn, but I do not tell her what to do, nor does she does ever do what I would expect or what I would do if I was coloring the work. The very unpredictablilty and atypicality of her contribution is why I work with her.

  107. Do you mean that Carl Barks didn’t draw?

  108. By the way, the best restorer in the world, Manuel Caldas, tells me that I exaggerated the time needed to restore a Carl Barks page. It says that 6 hours is more than enough. (He spent 30 hours on each Kin-Der-Kids page though.) He also tells me that a combination of color restoration and black and white proofs would be perfection. I absolutely agree, if published on beige paper. We are not on the same page on this though: unlike Chris Ware, Manuel insists on using snow white paper.

  109. Marguerite Van Cook says:

    RSM: And given that she is married to David Mazzucchelli, who was the cartoonist on the project, I think it’s pretty much a given that all the coloring was done with his consultation and approval.

    I am compelled to reply to this comment, because it is so offensive to women in general and to me in particular. I work with my husband, James Romberger, coloring projects from time to time. Invariably, I make choices that surprise him and I never take suggestions, or even consult before I begin.
    In fact, in the corporate world your assumption is true. When I colored for DC, the editors gave me clear directions to follow and my work needed approval. This is not the case when I work with James. I am an autonomous individual, with years of education both in the arena of visual arts and in the academic world of the humanities and science, which I mention in order to remind readers of the fact that women are no longer dependent on their partners’ superior knowledge as one might “assume ” from Stanley Martin’s comment. What you imply with your assumption is that Richmond Lewis’ relationship to Mazzucchelli somehow diminishes her contribution. Why? Your assumption is nothing more than a prejudiced guess. Lewis is an artist in her own right. Color can make or break a book.

  110. I didn’t mean to say that Mazzucchelli was ordering Lewis around. But I’d be astonished if he didn’t review her work before it was turned in, and if he took issue with anything she did, he brought it up and they reconciled their views. I’d be willing to bet she gave him input while he was drawing the story, too.

  111. James says:

    There is no historical precedent for your “given” in the first place. Few cartoonists in comic books have taken it on themselves to do their own coloring; the probable prime reason: ridiculously low pay. There are many instances of comic artists including Bark trying to have input on color, which were ignored. If Lewis had to answer to anyone it would most likely have been the DC editors. She did two versions of the color for BatmanYO: guides for the four color comic and a painted version for the collection. perhaps she did take input from david but there is no “given.” And you have zero reason to gamble that David consulted with her whilst drawing.

  112. Kim Thompson says:

    Oh, bullshit. Domingos’s English is better than that of most native English speakers. (So is Matthias Wivel’s for that matter.) What I am objecting to is his deliberately perverse usage of the word “kitsch” in its antiquated, earliest German sense, and his obnoxious use of the word “fake.” If anything his use of English is more sophisticated than most anyone else’s here because he’s purposefully counting on the strongly negative connotations (tackiness, tastelesness, vulgarity, work done for crudely commercial purposes) to register with the reader without having to take responsibility for them because hey, he meant “kitsch” in the original sense.

    I say his English is just as good as anyone else’s on this board (better than someone who would use such an infantile expression as, say “blowing snot at”); you say he’s a poor foreigner who don’t speak da English so good and should be cut some slack. Which one of us is being offensive to Domingos, do ya think?

  113. Kim Thompson says:

    I really don’t see how a combination of black line art and scanned color printing would work, since the color printing usually thickened and muddied the lines. Drop line art on top of the color scan and all the sludge of the color-comics version of the book leaks out under the line art. (Perhaps Manuel has been working too much on the restoration of classic comic strips, where the line art is printed crisper, to quite get a sense of the challenge represented by the shoddiness of American comic book printing.) One of the points of starting the color from scratch using the original line scans is to get crisp line work. Barks is one thing, but I can scarcely imagine the perversity of arguing that, say, it would be better to reproduce Graham Ingels’s work from printed EC comics than from first-generation scans of the original art.

    I will be repeating this until I’m blue in the face, clearly, but I’d have much less of a problem with the idea of scanning the original coloring IF THE ORIGINAL PRINTING DIDN’T CRIPPLE THE WORK AS MUCH AS IT DOES, in terms of thickening and dropping out the linework, displaying awful registration — this ON TOP OF the inherent issue of the colorists being forced to work with a ridiculously limited 64-color palette and the enormousness of the dots created by the coarse line screen needed for the potato presses used for comic book printing.

    And I would pay really good money for Robert Stanley Martin to stand in front of a jury composed of Lewis Trondheim’s colorist wife Brigitte Findakly, Ruby who colors KING OF THE FLIES which is written by her husband Michel Pirus, Mézières’s colorist wife E. Tranlé, and Frank Miller’s ex Lynn Varley, and explain to the little ladies how they were mere extensions of their husband’s artistic will. I will even provide him with a jar he can carry his balls home in — or at least the part of his balls Marguerite Van Cook left him. And I look forward to our reprint of the James Romberger-illustrated 7 MILES A SECOND where we get to restore MVC’s brilliant colors to what they were supposed to be, instead of the compromised version in the original Vertigo release. Unless Domingos yells at us for messing with the “text” of the original printing.

    Actually, I’m being snarky/unfair to Domingos here; I’m sure he’d agree that if a publisher tampered with the artist’s work originally, a reprint that restores the cartoonist’s original intent, with his or her approval, is kosher.

  114. Mike: you completely failed to see the irony in what I wrote didn’t you? FYI “Verkitschen” also means “to flog.”

  115. Allen Smith says:

    Oh. I thought “verkitschen” was where one washed the verpots and verpans.:-)


  116. Of course… that’s another version of the same work and if it’s better than the first one, so much the better. The problem with old comics is that all involved are now dead. What you say above is a challenge to Manuel. I hope that he finds some comic book art to restore in the way I described above (sans the beige colored paper, alas).

  117. Also, Mike: I’m sorry to say this but you seem to have a limited grasp of a very complex concept. Don’t rely on dictionaries if you want to know more about the topic. I’m hardly an expert myself, by the way…

  118. Jeet Heer says:

    Domingos: I’m not sure that Nelson Goodman’s ideas about the distinction between autographic arts and allographic arts is very helpful to the discussion at hand, in large part because its not true as you seem to think that comics are on the autographic side of the ledger. As I’ve indicated before, comics are an artform based on mass reproduction, and so can be presented in variety of different formats. And indeed, as I mentioned many of the great comic strips were originally presented in a variety of formats at the same time (i.e. different newspapers printing them in different sizes, colors, and even with different panel layouts on the same day). To put it another way, in the 1920s Otto Wacker sold many “van Gogh” paintings that were not in fact painted by van Gogh. Those paintings were fakes. You can’t talk about fake Barks comics in the same way, although different reproductions can be judged by a variety of criteria, one of which could be faithfulness to an earlier incarnation. Of course, Barks’ original art and his paintings could be faked, but that’s very different than saying a comic book reprint is a fake.

    I’m not sure what you mean when you write: “I come from a purely Goodmanian philosophical point of view (i. e.: I’m more interested in aesthetics than anything else).” It seems to me that your call for reprints that mimic earlier incarnations rests not on “aesthetics” but rather on antiquarianism. The Fantagraphics series is actually based on a more complex aesthetic, one that mixes a due respect to earlier color decisions (which are the bases for Tommaso’s coloring) with a willingness to make changes where necessary for making the comics look and read better. That’s an improvement over antiquarianism, I’d say.

  119. Let’s suppose that Barks original art is faked by someone else (Daan Jippes, for instance) and then this original art is used to print a comic book. Do you still say that the art is by Carl Barks? Is that what you’re saying? Is a comic drawn by Don Rosa by Carl Barks also? The original art from which the comics was reproduced doesn’t matter at all? It seems to me that you didn’t read Nelson Goodman well enough.

  120. By the way aesthetics is part of philosophy.

  121. Jeet Heer says:

    As I wrote above: “Of course, Barks’ original art and his paintings could be faked, but that’s very different than saying a comic book reprint is a fake.” To make this point absolutely clear, a Daan Jippes comic book story that purports to be a Carl Barks story would be a fake both as original art and when it is published as a story — it’s fakeness coming from the fact that it purports to be something it is not. But that’s very different than a reprint of a Barks story that uses different colors than in the Dell comics printing and does not purport to be an exact replica of the earlier story and also discusses the new coloring in an upfront way.
    You quote Goodman as writing: “There is no such thing as a forgery of Gray’s Elegy. Any accurate copy of the text of a poem or novel is as much the original work as any other.” We can add the proviso that if someone writes a poem which they claim is by Gray but was not written by him, and that poem is reprinted in a collection of Gray’s writing, then that collection is offering fake Gray for sale. Just so, if someone fakes a Barks drawing, they are creating a fake, and that fakeness extends to the fake drawing being reprinted. But this is all very different from the question of remastering colors from earlier work.

  122. So, what you are saying is that a Carl Barks comic that was not drawn by Carl Barks is a fake, but a recoloring that was not done by the original colorists is not? Either that or you think that colors aren’t part of a drawing. Let me remind you that these comics weren’t done by Carl Barks alone.

  123. Oh and, by the way, what happened to your opinion that comics are allographic?

  124. Kim Thompson says:

    Carl Barks’s original black and white story exists as an object, and as an art object, in its own right. The original colored version was an interpretation of that object, as well as an art object in its own right, and the PRINTING of this colored version was a further interpretation (a theoretical different, better printer would have created something that looked different than the finished comic books as they exist now from the exact same coloring, and in fact there are copies of the comic that are better and worse printed)… but neither of those two is Barks’s art object. Ours is a reinterpretation that tries to honor the original interpretation as much as possible, but allowing for the different/improved production options available to us. And I still think Domingos is being a little obtuse when he doesn’t acknowledge that a badly printed comic book and a scrupulously restored high-quality book printing that meticulously duplicates the badness of the original badly printed comic are so fundamentally different in effect that it’s just as much a “fake” as anything else he might want to call “fake.”

    It is true that there are comics artists who created their black and white work with specific intent in terms of coloring, and this intent should be respected, whether the coloring was done by the artist himself, by a colorist working under his supervision, or by a color artist whose work he explicitly or implicitly endorsed. Whether independently working colorists’ work should be respected I think depends on the quality of the work; poor coloring should not be assumed to become part of the “text” automatically. (Before anyone jumps to the defense of the anonymous Barks colorists, remember that we ARE in fact using that coloring as a guide, just reinterpreted to work with contemporary printing.)

    Again, as Jeet has pointed out again and again, Domingos gets tripped up by applying the values of singular art (a painting) to mass-produced art.

    By Domingos’s standards any recording of a composer’s symphony that differs from the version the composer arranged and conducted himself is a “fake” as well,

  125. patrick ford says:

    In my view the Barks original art is the genuine object. every step away from it is a layer removed.
    Now IF a printed comic book is the only surviving representation of the original art, then it is the most genuine object.

  126. Classical music is allographic, Kim.

  127. It’s the first time that I’ve seen anyone using quality as a measure for authenticity. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

  128. Kim Thompson says:

    Precisely. And so, according to Goodman, is a print, right? Why is a 200-copy print allographic but a 200,000-copy comic book not in your opinion?

  129. I’m not interested in the reproduction of bad printing effects. As I said before, I’ve nothing against Manuel Caldas restoring comics. It seems to me that searching for the best available copy i~s the first task of the restorer. The differences between the copies are not the issue. As I said again and again, it’s a problem of genesis. How hard is this to understand. Here’s what Ñelson Goodman had to say: “The etcher […] makes a plate from which impressions are then taken on paper. These prints are the end-products; and although they may differ appreciably from one another, all are instances of the original work. But even the most exact copy produced otherwise than by printing from that plate counts not as an original but as an imitation or forgery.”

  130. Kim Thompson says:

    I literally don’t understand what or who you are responding to with this comment, Domingos.

  131. An allographic artform is the one in which notation exists. The visual arts use no notation. The number of copies is irrelevant.

  132. Kim Thompson says:

    Any restoration that works from a poorly printed comic will reproduce bad printing effects. It is literally impossible to take a page of Barks’s work from a printed Dell comic and restore it in a way in which Barks’s drawing is not compromised by the poor printing, even setting aside the color. The sludgy line quality is particularly visible in the lettering in Mattias’s examples above.

    One could make an argument that Goodman’s quote above about prints would indicate he thinks a Barks story printed from the original negatives/photostats would be the original and a Barks story printed from a scan of the color comic is the forgery if one were so inclined.

  133. I’m responding to this: “Whether independently working colorists’ work should be respected I think depends on the quality of the work; poor coloring should not be assumed to become part of the “text” automatically.”

    Good coloring may be part of the text, but bad coloring doesn’t. If the discusssion is authenticity does this make any sense? Also I thing that you view some artists as gods and everyone else involved as slaves. As I said before, this is a radical auteurs theory that, to me, makes no sense. Good or bad, hack or no hack, the work is the work, not some dream object we would like it to be. “Improving” it is falsifying it. Which is fine if that’s what you want. Since the beginning that I said that this, to me, is not a moral issue.

  134. Kim Thompson says:

    Actually classic comic book coloring –watercolored Xeroxes with color codes for the color separator– is a perfect example of notation, I’d say.

  135. Yes, that’s where I make a leap and I don’t know if Goodman would agree with me. I do it because comics aren’t etching (even if both artforms use drawings). That’s why I (and I stress the word “I”) say that comics is an n-stage artform. I suppose that a photograph comes as much from the original art as any other means of reproduction.

  136. Jeet Heer says:

    Sigh. As the hypothetical case I made of someone passing off a Gray poem that Gray didn’t write makes clear, you can in fact, despite Goodman’s arguments, have a fake allographic art. A real world example would be the fake Shakespeare plays that William Henry Ireland circulated. The point being that what is faked about these works is that there is a claim to creatorship that isn’t in fact honest. In the case of the Fantagraphics book, there is no claim being made that they are following the intentions of the earlier colorists. I trust that the distinction is clear.

  137. Kim Thompson says:

    Your problem is that you are applying the same criteria to work whose ultimate appearance is 100% under the control of the artist and work that is at the mercy of a long, long string of collaborators and technical facilitators whose abilities can be of vastly varying quality. Fine. THE BADLY PRINTED DELL COMIC OF UNCLE SCROOGE #1 is an independent art object with its own integrity. THE WELL-PRINTED UNCLE SCROOGE #1 STORY will be something that is not this art object. You can call it “kitsch” and “fake” and rail about the moral right of the original lackadaisical colorist and pressman whose “contributions” to the artwork that is THE BADLY PRINTED DELL COMIC OF UNCLE SCROOGE #1 STORY are being cruelly thrown onto the garbage heap of history, but I just plain don’t buy it, and I don’t think anyone else does here. Can we agree to disagree?

  138. Right, but did Rich Tommaso follow it? I suppose that you’re not forgetting that little detail in Goodman’s text cited above by Jeet: “Any accurate copy of the text.” But you reached something new I didn’t think about. All this painful discussion was worth it, after all…

    In my blog entry I wrote: “This means that comics, instead of being allographic (unfakeable), being reproduced from original art, are, like printmaking, a two-stage autographic art form. Words in comics (lettering), being part of the original art (even if they’re a notation), are, in my humble opinion, autographic too. (If you don’t agree, you may say with Nelson Goodman: “The architect’s papers are a curious mixture.” (218); for you, then, comics are a curious mixture…)”

    Indeed, if those color codes exist we may have a mixture.

  139. Why sigh? If you don’t want to discuss shut up, it’s that simple. Please read what I wrote above: “As for Fanta’s bad faith it exists and it does not exist: it does not exist because recoloring is a normal and accepted practice in the comics pro milieu (I attribute this to two reasons: 1) a business and corporate way of thinking dominates creative decisions; 2) – and paradoxically – because fandom was such an huge influence the name of certain artists – Carl Barks included – are seen as commercial assets in and of themselves, so, a “let’s improve what these women hacks did to our beloved genius’ work” kind of attitude overwhelms all other considerations); the bad faith exists because you know what they say: you sleep with a snake…” It’s up there, written three long days ago.

  140. For those reading this, please keep in mind that James and Marguerite have an intense ideological objection to suggestions or statements that there is a hierarchy, implied or otherwise, among the contributors in collaborative comics. I for one don’t share their view, and I’ve gone around the fence with them before over this in other instances.

    On Batman: Year One, I believe that Mazzucchelli was further up the hierarchy than Lewis. Frank Miller was above them, and DC editorial had authority over them all. James and Marguerite disagree. People can make up their own minds.

    There being a hierarchy does not mean there was a disrespectful relationship where people were throwing their weight around simply because they could.

    As for my alleged sexism, I think the person who had the final say about what did or did not go into Batman: Year One was a woman–DC’s then publisher, Jenette Kahn. And I know for a fact that in at least one instance, she came very close to ordering changes made with regard to a scene she considered problematic. But as the relationship was a respectful one, she discussed it with Frank Miller, and she ultimately agreed to let the scene stay unchanged. But if he hadn’t been able to change her mind, she could have had changes made or the publication cancelled outright. She was certainly willing to do so if she felt a situation warranted it. Just ask Rick Veitch.

    It’s not my intention to imply that that Lewis and Mazzucchelli’s marital relationship diminishes her contribution. As for the coloring on BYO being done with his consultation and approval, he said as much in his 1997 TCJ interview.

  141. Yeah, Kim, I agree since the beginning. Let me remind you: ” I doubt that anyone has the patience to follow me and I’m the only one saying these things, as usual” to which you replied: “I just wish [Domingos] would lose the peevish Marvin-the-Paranoid-Android “no one listen to me anyway”” Now you do agree with me, right?

  142. James says:


    Pat, the “genuine” object is the printed comic, that is the end product (or “object”) of the comics-making process. The original art most often isn’t intended to be seen as itself but in a printed form, reduced, with color added, mass produced and bound with its sibling pages to make up narratives, that are intended to be read together as a whole. A single page from a multipage narrative is thusly an excerpt, an object but a singular one, incomplete in that form.

    That said, if a work is reprinted and in the first edition of the work someone in the process had worked at cross-purposes to the narrative, for instance when an oblivious colorist colored nighttime scenes as if they were in midday, I see no reason not to improve such errors.

    Color has been most often out of the hands of the writer and artist (who in comics have traditionally shared, and always should share, equal status as collaborators and co-authors). Color deserves more attention than it gets in comics, even when considered from a business angle alone: the initial perceptual impact on the reader/customer is the color. Effective color sells books. I don’t think Frank Miller would have gotten nearly so far as he has if he had not been colored so well, first by Klaus Janson and then by Lynn Varley and, by extension Miller would not have even gotten the autonomy to do the many b&w books he has done had his colorists not facilitated his success so greatly. Neither Miller not Mazzucchelli has ever exhibited much affinity for color (Big Man and Asterios Polyp both uses color in a reduced, graphic way) and I credit Janson, Varley and Lewis for a fair amount of the success of such books as Daredevil, Ronin, 300 and Batman Year One.

  143. Kim–

    I see you’re still smarting over nearly getting sued for non-payment last year. It must be such a bitter pill for you and Gary to know that ripping me off wasn’t going to be quite as easy as you thought. FB still owes me about fifty bucks, by the way.

    I would love to see you tell a panel of those colorists that they obviously couldn’t care less about their husbands’ opinions when it came to their collaborations, and if their husbands didn’t like what they were doing, their husbands could lump it.

  144. James says:

    Robert:your opinion of collaborative “hierarchy” is directly harmful to artists’ rights and our status of co-authorship of the work we do in comics. Your view is unfortunately echoed by some writers in comics, though not by any that I would want to work with personally.

    All writers can achieve in the end with such a self-serving view of collaboration is that they will drive the more intelligent artists away from the form, because why would someone want to put the incredible amount of thought and time drawing comics demands, only to be considered a subordinate creative party in the work? It doesn’t make sense—it is destructive, arrogant and short sighted, and in the end we will all lose.

  145. One final note: Manuel Caldas tells me that there’s no divide between the printing quality of newspaper comics and the printing quality of comic strips. He adds that there’s good and bad on both sides.

  146. Kim Thompson says:

    Sign #1 of an internet-troll asshole: Throw out completely irrelevant old grievances against your opponent at every occasion just to stoke the fire. I usually take it as a clear sign that I’ve drawn blood and the other fellow isn’t willing or able to just argue the merits of the issue at hand.

    I don’t have to tell the colorists that because that’s not my opinion. I’m sure all of them consulted with their husband cartoonists and ran the results by them, just as non-husband-and-wife colorist-and-artist teams have feedback. But you pretty much implied that colorist wives specifically were extensions of their husband’s creativity, for which you were quite properly called on the carpet by Marguerite and then James.

  147. Kim Thompson says:

    Not entirely wrong, but a bit too generalized. In GENERAL the printing of comics went downhill from the 1920s on, whether it be newspaper comics sections or comic books. I think in the 1940s the syndicated newspaper sections were still ahead of comics, but by the 1950s everything had pretty much turned to shit across the board. And of course the reprinting of classic comic strips has tended to focus on earlier decades than comic books (for obvious reasons), which means that in general we’ve been dealing with better source material for the strips. (Obviously there has never been an American comic printed one tenth as well as any LITTLE NEMO page from the early part of the century.) It’s probably true that a 1965 DENNIS THE MENACE comic book page and a 1965 DENNIS THE MENACE Sunday strip are equally wretchedly printed, though.

  148. Kim Thompson says:

    Right, but the treacherous part of this is that following the codes exactly creates colors that will print differently because the technology is so different. Our plan is to follow the codes as best we can to create coloring that reflects to some degree the color balance AS EXPERIENCED BY THE READER in the original comics, as opposed to coloring that technically duplicates it but creates an entirely different experience, either because the color codes print differently or because scanning the visibly distressed printed copy puts quotation marks around the flaws and old-newsprint quirks. When I read any scanned-from-tearsheets color comic I am reminded, ten times a page or more, of this preserved-in-amber quality. It’s visual and conceptual noise. The hope is that our Barks books can eliminate that noise and finally offer these stories up again as pure reading experiences.

  149. Actually it wasn’t my intent to call Lewis an extension of Mazzucchelli’s creativity. My reference to their marriage, however clumsily expressed, was just to highlight that they live in the same house, and the obvious accessibility allowed him the input into the color work he didn’t have when dealing other colorists like he did at Marvel.

    As for my old grievances, I brought that up because of this statement:

    I will even provide him with a jar he can carry his balls home in — or at least the part of his balls Marguerite Van Cook left him.

    That’s a really ugly thing to say to someone, and I think those reading are going to infer that there’s bad blood behind it. I’m just giving them some insight into what that’s about.

  150. TimR says:

    I have a technical question, if anyone knows: I understand old comics were printed on web presses. What style of press is being used for the new Barks series, and what material are the plates? Also are they printed overseas or in the US? I think stuff like that is fascinating, I wish to hell I could go back in time and walk around the plants where old comics were printed. That would be a hoot, I bet!

  151. Kim Thompson says:

    Ah, you were just giving context. Well, that’s different. Can you say that the snideness of your initial volley against me had nothing to do with past history, though?

    Trying to bring it back to a more civil level, I think your defense of Domingos’s language skills was unnecessary, unwarranted, and unwanted (including by Domingos, I’m guessing). I am eminently sensitized to the difficulties of speaking and writing in a language that is not your first, believe me, and would never mock anyone for the occasional glitch when doing so; but Domingos is if anything hyperarticulate in English (he must be fucking William F. Buckley in his native Portuguese) and the disagreement over his usage of the word “kitsch” (and “fake”) has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any weaknesses I might perceive in his use of English.

    As for the whole coloring thing, I realize you put your foot in your mouth originally to some degree (as evidenced by MVC’s blistering response) and have walked back a bit since then. I concede that my comment was probably excessive. For what it’s worth, I probably find myself somewhere in the vast gray area between your and MVC and James’s opinions on the “hierarchical” nature of individual contributions to comics.

    Peace out.

  152. Jeet Heer says:

    The issue of printing raises the problems Domingos has been talking about to a whole new level. If the original coloring is an integral part of the text, as Domingos would have us think, then isn’t it also true of the original printing? Isn’t printing just as much a part of the collaborative nature of comics as writing, drawing and coloring? Haven’t cartoonists like Chris Ware and Zak Sally taken great care to make sure their comics are printed properly? If so, why shouldn’t we apply the same aesthetic assumptions to the Dell comics of the late 1940s and 1950s? So by not using the original printers and paper stock, isn’t Fantagraphics selling us a fake product? Why aren’t Groth, Thompson and Reynolds under criminal investigation the way Otto Wacker was jailed for selling fake van Goghs?

  153. Raphael Martinez says:

    Is this the longest comments section since relaunched?

  154. Tim Hodler says:

    No. It’s going to be a long time before anything beats the thread/reunion following Kim Deitch’s essay on Roger Brand.

  155. patrick ford says:

    I’ve got a question related to this topic.
    The new FB “Pogo” collection features two hand painted colour guides by Walt Kelly, and a bit of a third guide is used for the cover.
    As Mark Evanier pointed out Kelly did some wonderful and bold things with colour.Often the printer would modify some of Kelly’ s swagger. A purple Kelly tree trunk would end up a gray/brown.
    Judging by the examples published Kelly’s guides aren’t some slapdash guide, but examples of Kelly going beyond what he knew the printer could duplicate, they are done with care and attention to detail.
    What I’m wondering is how many of those guides survived. It’s easy to guess why they weren’t used whenever possible. Most likely the thought was the average reader would be distracted by an uneven presentation where water colours (the hand painted guides) are jumbled together with old style comics letter press reproduction.
    Assuming there are a large number of guides perhaps a Kelly “Art Book” could collect many of them.

  156. Kim Thompson says:

    I believe very, very few of those survived; if we’d had a bigger stash of them we’d have printed them because they are certainly gorgeous. You’re right that printing them in sequence in the middle of tearsheet scans would be disruptive to the reader, so any others we’d also just print as a separate piece of art.

    The cover is a hand-colored Kelly, yes, but it’s a Carolyn Kelly, not a Walt. As Domingos might say, only 50% fake/kitsch!

  157. Why? It doesn’t reproduce Carolyn Kelly’s coloring? Why are you saying that it does, then? I’m the one who doesn’t worship putative comics geniuses and respects the work of women, remember? Focus! Focus!…

  158. To answer your last question, because comics must be the cultural industry that least respects those who had the misfortune of chosing it as a means of expression. On the other hand you’re perfectly right: we need to defend the civil rights of machines. Let’s create a syndicate. Since you raised this problem I appoint you President.

  159. Kim Thompson says:

    Of course. I was teasing.

  160. Yeah, I know…

  161. James says:

    I’d like another kick at that ball jar. RSM thinks that there is and should be a hierarchy of relative artistic value in a collaborative form, despite that goes against the nature of collaboration itself. RSM, a “critic”, is text-centric to the extreme; in the case of comics, a visual medium, he considers the writers to be the primary creative force. He denies the artists’ many significant contributions to the narrative beyond those dictated by the script and believes the artists are subordinate expendable, interchangable, “illustrators.” Colorists?…they might as well be dishwashers. He also believes that the rape scene in Watchmen was NOT a rape despite the fact that the rape, called as such, is a major plot element in the book and the horrendous film made of the book. But he manages to still lump MVC and I together as “ideologically” driven.

  162. patrick ford says:

    I’d like to see “Art Books” which would accompany reprint projects.
    A book which in my view does qualify as kitsch (in part) is the Chip Kidd “Peanuts” book. Given access to the Schulz archive of original art, stats, colour guides, proofs, etc. Kidd chose to devote large swaths of the book to photographs of toys and other memoribilla, as well as reproductions of Chris Ware’s scrap book collection of Scotch Taped tear sheets.
    It’s fine in it’s way, it’s fun to look at.

  163. That’s a great post and a great thread! Amazing testimonials by those who actually were there at the time.

  164. patrick ford says:

    James, Which is the genuine object: Kirby’s penciled pages for the Bullfeather story, or the revised, inked, and coloured comic book from Abrams?

  165. As I told Mike, kitsch is a very difficult concept to pin down. Chip Kidd’s book seems to fill a few requirements to be a kitsch object: overproduction (the baroque), accumulation (escapism into an anal retentive world; the world of the collector), synesthetics, aestheticism… you get my drift… But what gives it away as kitsch is its fetishism. With a bit more distancing it could be camp, but I don’t see that. I see an honesty that’s totally kitsch. What’s interesting is that Chip Kidd seems to fight desperate and nostalgically against the loss of the Benjaminian aura. It’s almost a shrine to Saint Schulz: an hagiography.

  166. Kevin Huizenga says:

    Sappo on the bottom bothers me too!

  167. James says:

    Ouch. Okay, I’d have to say that is a case where the editor misunderstood the artist’s intent in the first place and forced said artist to ruin his strip, and then, the “object” came out long after it was supposed to. What started out to be an insert in a newsprint music journal became an anachronistic, overproduced hardcover.

  168. Briany Najar says:

    Obviously Carl Barks drew, are you trying to be slippery?
    I was trying to engage with the idea you posit on your blog that comics are an n-stage autographic artform. That seemed to be the most likely justification for your accusations of colour fakery.
    If you’re saying that the artform under consideration is drawing then even the Dell Four Color edition was fake, and the only decent presentation would be reproduction of the “live” original line-art, including stray pencil marks etc.

  169. patrick ford says:

    It’s the creator’s intnet which is paramount.
    What about Kirby’s story based on his conversations with Steve Ditko about Objectivism? The story finished and gave to Lee had a group of scientists who, for what they saw as the betterment of mankind, created a “perfect man.” Being a superman the character viewed the scientists as inferior beings standing in his way, so he destroyed them.
    Kirby saw the Randian superman as something very close to the Nazi superman .
    Lee took the story and rewrote it so that B-Movie style mad- scientists were intent on creating a super man who would carry out their evil plans, instead their creation turned on them like the heroic Siegel and Shuster Superman.
    Kirby’s intent was turned on it’s head. Is the comic book which was published the true story?

  170. R. Fiore says:

    As with Sappo on the the bottom, Beardsley Bullfeather is a horse that bolted the corral a long time ago.

  171. patrick ford says:

    Domingos: “It’s almost a shrine ”

    Makes me think of:

    “Disillusioned words like bullets bark
    As human gods aim for their mark
    Make everything from toy guns that spark
    To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
    It’s easy to see without looking too far
    That not much is really sacred”

  172. Jeet Heer says:

    About the discrepancies between Kirby’s stories and Lee’s words: I think this sort of thing happens all the time in collaborative art projects, with different members of the team having different intentions. Think for example of Blade Runner. Ridley Scott says his intent was always to have Deckard be a replicant, yet Harrison Ford says he played him as a human. The Kirby/Lee clash of intentions, was, of course, especially fraught with misunderstandings and misreadings. My sense is that the two men weren’t talking for years at a time when they supposedly worked together. Which is why the whole question of “intentions” become perilous since there was no one unified set of intentions at play. It is interesting to try and figure out the stories that Kirby wanted to tell before they were smothered in Lee’s words but ultimately the comics that actually exist as a finished (or near finished) product come from the imperfectly fused contributions of both men, for better or worse.

  173. Jeet Heer says:

    About “art books”: yes, of course, we need more art books about the major cartoonists. But the existence of art books reinforces the points that original comics art, while worth cherishing for its own special values, is very distinct from comics (a narrative art form based on mechanical reproduction). I loved Todd Hignite’s Art of Jaime Hernandez book but there’s a difference between that books and Love and Rockets. The Hignite book is an opportunity to be dazzled by Jaime’s art and to think about it’s sources and evolution. While it contains 2 complete stories, of of which reprints the original art in all its glory and contains many smart ideas about Jaime as a storyteller, the Hignite book isn’t the same as the various Locas books, where Jaime’s lovely art is part of a total narrative package (i.e., comics). The same difference applies to the various Kirby coffee table books versus his comics (or reprints of his comics). Art books, like original art, have a special value but aren’t to be confused with comics.

  174. Robert Stanley Martin says:

    First of all, let’s get the most inflammatory accusation out of the way. This was written in response to James, although it also refers to the opinions of Jeet Heer and others. It is my horrible, awful, and, before today, only statement about the rape scene in Watchmen:

    The objections to the handling of the attempted rape are based in a very direct grappling with the substance of the book. I don’t agree with them, but I’m glad to see them raised. Original link here.

    Now, maybe James is misremembering what I wrote, or he’s mistakenly attributing someone else’s statements to me. However, let’s assume this is what he’s reacting to, particularly the reference to the attempted rape. I call Blake’s assault of Sally Jupiter an attempted rape because he DOES NOT HAVE SEX WITH HER. Blake overpowers her and starts undoing his pants when Hooded Justice walks in and stops him. It is clear from all the panels that he has not removed any of Sally’s clothing. Her clothes are in the same state before, during, and after the attack. In the “Under the Hood” installment at the end of the second chapter, the Hollis Mason character writes “he [the Comedian] attempted [my emphasis] to sexually assault Sally Jupiter.” I don’t have the time to go through everything Laurie Juspeczyk says about it, but those are all secondhand accounts of what happened. Further, they were largely based on Sally’s statements, which were obviously intended to estrange her daughter from Blake. Sally’s motive isn’t made explicit, but if I have to guess, I’d say that, one, she didn’t want Laurie knowing Blake was her father, and two, she didn’t want the embarrassment of it becoming known that she had forgiven a man who was publicly known to have assaulted her, at least to the point of having a subsequent affair with him and giving birth to their child.

    Moving on, this response to him at HU a few months back probably best articulates my views on the relative hierarchy of achievement among writers and artist in comics:

    There are numerous collaborations where I feel the writer and artist are more or less equal contributors, such as Harvey Pekar’s work with R. Crumb, or Frank Miller’s collaborations with Sienkiewicz and David Mazzucchelli. There are also efforts where I feel the artist deserves more credit for the success of the work than the writer, such as Muñoz’s work with Sampayo, Giraud’s work with Charlier or Jodorowsky, or just about any collaboration in English-language comics before 1980. It’s a case-by-case situation. [My emphasis.]

    I’m not privileging one discipline over another. In writing evaluative criticism, it is necessary to identify and analyze what the achievements of the work are. With collaborative efforts, that means separating the achievements of the writer and artist to a degree. With a story drawn by Alex Toth, I don’t think you would want me giving equal credit for the strength of the piece to whatever crap scriptwriter he was working with in that instance. Toth brings more to the table, and his contribution deserves to be acknowledged as such. With Watchmen, Moore brings more to the table than Gibbons. The defining achievements of that work are not how well drawn it is. I’ll privilege the artist when the artist’s contribution warrants it, I’ll privilege the writer when the writer’s contribution warrants it, and I’ll treat them as equals when their contributions warrant it.

    In writing criticism, my responsibility is to be honest to my perceptions. I can’t be concerned whether or not someone is going to be “discouraged” from working on a collaborative project because he or she isn’t going to get equal credit for a work’s success (or failure) whether it’s deserved or not. It’s not my responsibility to hold anyone’s hand.

    I note that James did not give Alex Toth’s scriptwriters any credit for the strength of Toth’s comics in >this review of Setting the Standard. He has also said that he agrees with this characterization of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby collaboration. As such, I’m inclined to take his assertion that all collaborators should be given equal credit for the quality of a project as a lot of selectively applied hot air.

    (part one of three)

  175. Robert Stanley Martin says:

    The hierarchy I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this thread with regard to Batman: Year One is editorial, not aesthetic. I’m a lot more impressed with Mazzucchelli and Lewis’s work on the project than Miller’s. But from an editorial standpoint, it was primarily Miller’s project. DC had accepted his proposal before an artist had been selected, and contingent upon DC’s approval, he was allowed to pick the artist. Mazzucchelli was not his first choice. He originally offered the project to Trevor von Eeden, who declined. I don’t know if Mazzucchelli was directed to look at von Eeden’s work as an example of what Miller had in mind with the script, but Mazzucchelli was certainly doing so. As an example, I would point to this well known promo image for the project, which was clearly inspired by the second panel of this von Eeden page. If you read this exchange between Mazzucchelli and Dash Shaw, it’s obvious he considered Miller the principal creative force on the project.

    (part two of three)

  176. Kim Thompson says:

    An all-time classic of collaborator grievances aired is the hour-and-a-half more or less amicable slugfest between screenwriter Lem Dobbs and director Steven Soderbergh on the THE LIMEY DVD. It is my favorite DVD commentary track of all time. I think the movie is excellent, but given a choice I’d listen to the commentary track instead.

  177. Briany Najar says:

    Are the adverts in comic-books essential parts of the n-stage autographic work?

  178. R. Fiore says:

    Here’s the thing about the Sappo question that makes it relevant here — as I understand it, the reason why Popeye is on top in the collection is that Eric Reynolds thought that it didn’t look right to have Sappo on top in a book of Popeye comics. What I have to allow is that between the two of us, Reynolds is far more likely to be the innocent eye here. For the generation before me these comic strips were things they saw in their original form and wanted to experience again, and for my generation these old newspaper strips and comic books are something that are tantalizingly just out of reach of living memory, and it may well be that Reynolds represents people from this day forward, for whom the original form is irrelevant. St. Paul is the pivotal figure in the Christian religion because he’s the first apostle who never met Jesus face to face, something he has in common with every Christian to come. This is why I’m ambivalent about breaking Barks stories out of their original comic book context.

    When someone makes a mold of say for instance a piece of religious sculpture, head of the Madonna or something like that, and casts a plastic resin in it to simulate marble or porcelain, that would be called kitsch, as the word is used in the United States. If you print a page of comic art on archival paper with modern printing methods in such a way as to simulate comics printed on absorbent paper in a limited color palette — well, isn’t that the same thing? While the comics in Lost in the Andes use the original coloring as a referee in making coloring decisions, the pages don’t look like the pages of a vintage comic book, the way for instance the pages of a facsimile-oriented book like Art in Time do. The intention is not to simulate something the book is not but to color the work in a way that does it justice in the format it’s being published in now.

  179. patrick ford says:

    Jeet, I agree with what you’re saying. In comics the narative should be paramount.
    An “Art Book” should not be a substitute for a collection of stories.
    For me there are exceptions. In comic strip and more so in comic books.
    I find Prince Valiant to be good entertainment, the strip is fun to read. On the other hand Flash Gordon is not fun to read, I’d rather just look at the art.
    With comic books there are far more things where I’m interested only (or largely) in the artwork.
    I’ve got a collection of Joe Kubert “Viking Prince” stories. They were brutal to try and read, and I gave up after a few. I’d far rather look at isolated pages of Ditko or Kirby work than read anything from the Marvel Silver Age. I’ll pour over Graham Ingles or Wally Wood, but don’t ask me to reread those stories. Reed Crandall? Bring on a collection of original art.
    Most comic strips are at least decent light entertainment. The writing in mainstream comic books is almost uniformly awful.
    I was told Dez Skinn recently posted on Facebook that he’d decided to pull out a Silver Age Marvel for bathtub reading. His reaction was, “Oh My! We used to like this kind of thing?”
    I would compare reading a Silver Age DC or Marvel comic book to living next door to a house full of rednecks who come home drunk at three in the morning and begin playing Lynyrd Skynyrd albums at high volume.

  180. patrick ford says:

    I find it far more disturbing that the many years of the Sappo daily strip from the ’20s haven’t been collected, and that the Thimble Theater strips from the years prior to the introduction of Popeye haven’t been collected. Now I have almost all of the pre-Popeye Theater, so that isn’t so bad as not having the Sappo dailies.
    We do have the Princess of Gemworld to lo0k forward to.

  181. R. Fiore says:

    Regrettable but irrelevant to the point being discussed.

  182. Michael Grabowski says:

    This occurred to me with regard to the notion of “fake” in this discussion. It seems to me that the whole enterprise is “fake” on these grounds–adhering in reproduction to the ideal intent of the chain of creators and craftspeople who assembled the original work–the moment the comics in question are unbound from their cover, separated from other editorial contents and other creators’ efforts, and divorced from any ads that separated the story pages, regardless of fidelity to the artist’s linework or colorist’s design.

    I put “fake” in quotes because I don’t agree with the implication that the new text is somehow inauthentic or that the original work is the only genuine one. (To say nothing of how it connotes counterfeit, forgery, or bootleg.) Is it too relativistic simply to say that the reproduction is merely a different reading experience, which no matter what it will be anyway, appearing in an entirely different format than it’s first publication?

    Instead, shouldn’t the question be in what ways this edition of the work reads differently than before and if those differences are substantive in a way that changes how the work is understood? I know for myself the big question is “are the Andes Mountains really that friggin’ yellow?” because that color choice really bugs me. Is it that plain awful in the original comics? It’s supposed to be grass and dirt, right, so my mind keeps telling me to expect tan or brown or grey with green highlights. So for me that’s a real distancing effect that pulls me out of the comic in a way that anthropomorphic ducks usually don’t. I’d be interested in knowing if I’d have the same problem in prior printings or in the original, because if so, that to me would make a case for changing the original colorist’s design. (Unless the Andes really are that friggin’ yellow.)

  183. Briany Najar says:

    In the 1949 “Four Color” presentation (or maybe package) the earth is yellow with orange patches, the rocks are pale purple or orange, and the grass is yellow or green. The yellow grass in the big half-page panel shown at the top of the review here is shortly afterwards coloured green, when the ducks are walking beside it.
    (btw: I don’t think they are anthropomorhic ducks. They’re duck-shaped humans, or humans represented as cartoon ducks. They’re sometimes referred to as human in the stories, as are non-duck-shaped characters.)
    Because of the ridiculously limited nature of the 64 colour palette (try using it, it’s severely debilitating) colourists could hardly really attempt naturalism and choices were often more geared towards graphic composition and legibility*. Shades of brown were few and far between, especially if you didn’t want it to be a dark colour.
    The use of brown, and the rendering of landscape, seem to be the biggest differences between Barks’ painting of the Lost in the Andes cover and the cover that was used for the Dell comic. Neither the hen nor the eggs are blue in his painting, and the earth is rendered in complex colours not available to someone using the conventional 1940s US comic-book colouring techniques.

    *I might suggest that the art of the comic-book colourist, in those days, had a lot more to do with pattern and rhythm than it did with absolute colour values.

  184. Briany Najar says:

    I do appreciate that the painting and the comic stories are different kettles of fish and I’m not suggesting that the latter should resemble the former.
    Mottled flat colour is my preference for comics colouring – at least when the key drawing takes the form of holding-lines with no greyscale variation, as is the classic way.

  185. patrick ford says:

    Top or bottom, it’s great Sappo was included. I read all the Thimble Theater pages, and then went back and read Sappo.
    I wonder what the plans are for the Wash Tubbs topper? Since it was not attached to anything by Crane there is no practicle way presenting the strip as it was first published.
    I guess two to a page in colour? Or will the Wash Tubbs collections not be a landscape format?

    BTW if modern computer colour is any indication giving colourists more crayons to work with is not inherently a good thing.

  186. Michael Grabowski says:

    I didn’t mean to suggest that the coloring should be too naturalistic, but the yellow in “Andes” in the FBI presentation tends to be distracting to me in a way that I don’t think was intended.

    “Duck-shaped humans.” I like that. Of course, it’s Barks’ skill with those characters of these comics that makes these republications worthwhile and it’s too bad that reproduction issues distract or subtract from the joy and pleasure these comics should impart. Coloring (or the decision not to color), lettering, page size, printing, or language translation when necessary should all be handled carefully so as to complement the story. If a particular edition fails in that, that’s worth pointing out or debating, but the vast bulk of the discussion here has been in my opinion too narrowly focused on the perceived necessity vs. feasibility of adhering to an idealized original printing without really considering the merits of these technical aspects to the reading that results.

  187. Kim Thompson says:

    We are definitely going to tweak the yellow in future Barks books, and future reprintings of ANDES.

  188. patrick ford says:

    No one beats Roy Crane for beautiful colour which isn’t connected to realism.
    Check the early Captain Easy pages. The 8/13/33 page is a prime example.

  189. Kim Thompson says:

    We do plan to collect pre-Popeye THIMBLE THEATRE strips at some point (we have several years of dailies already scanned), and possibly a SAPPO book or two. Almost certainly not complete collections, as early Segar work is famously dreadful, possibly the worst early published work by someone who would evolve into a certified genius. Early ’20s SAPPO is adequate at best, I think.

  190. Jeet Heer says:

    “We do plan to collect pre-Popeye THIMBLE THEATRE strips at some point (we have several years of dailies already scanned), and possibly a SAPPO book or two.” Holy cow! This is great news. It’s true that Thimble Theatre started weak but by the time Seagar hit his stride it was an amazing strip with a uniquely meanspirited and nasty sense of humor (anticipating, actually, some of the undergrounds and punk comics from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.).

  191. patrick ford says:

    I’ve got TT from 1921 on up to the debut of Popeye as tear sheets. The early ’20s are tedious. They really are, and people might not think it’s so until they read them. I know I didn’t believe it until I read them.
    There is a massive run on a tropical island inhabited by Cannibals early on which I know sounds good, but it isn’t. There are glimmers in there though, it has value in it’s context as part of Thimble Theater. By the mid-twenties it’s a very strong strip. TCJ #271 reprinted a good chunk of strips several months worth.
    I know Roger Landridge will be happy to hear this news.

  192. Robert Stanley Martin says:

    (part three of three)

    Judging from Mazzucchelli’s statements in his 1997 TCJ interview, Richmond Lewis came to work on the project because, apart from respecting her ability, he wanted to work directly with the colorist in creating the art. It’s clear from his statements that he felt her work was meant to support his. This is speculative, but given Lewis’ lack of experience at the time and, on that basis, DC’s (and perhaps Miller’s) all but certain trepidation in hiring her, I’d be surprised if it was not made known to Mazzucchelli that he was responsible for ensuring the quality of her efforts.

    In terms of the editorial hierarchy among the contributors, I believe Mazzucchelli had authority over Lewis, and Miller had authority over both of them. This is not a put-down of Mazzucchelli and Lewis. Their work on the project is some of the most accomplished the American adventure-comics field has ever seen.

    When it comes to the interchangeability of artists, I have written that several artists who work in the corporate adventure field have largely identical skill sets and styles. Horrors, I know.

    My response to James’ claim that I think colorists might as well as be dishwashers is, well, he’s absolutely wrong. Excellent coloring does a lot to enhance a work. Lewis’s efforts on BYO, Ironwolf, and other projects are prime examples.

    I do think that James has some pretty eccentric opinions, and I call them “ideological” because he constantly works himself up into a blistering moral fury when expressing them. My view of this was partially shaped by the tantrum he once threw at being described as an “illustrator” on a project. According to James (and apart from Marguerite Van Cook, apparently no one else), it is an egregiously demeaning slur to call a cartoonist an “illustrator” when said cartoonist draws a project from another person’s script. There’s also James’ heated indignation at Neil Gaiman for allowing his name to appear at a larger size than his collaborators’ on the Sandman book collections. And there was his attack on Pete Hamill for opining that Milton Caniff’s work was superior to Noel Sickles because, although Sickles had stronger art skills, Caniff was a better writer.

    Of course, there are also his frequently hallucinatory paraphrasing of my opinions, which he refuses to let go of no matter how many times I try to set him straight.

  193. Tim Hodler says:

    I just wanted to make clear to readers that Robert Stanley Martin attempted to post his last three comments in one piece yesterday evening, and it was only divided into three parts over two days due to technical issues. If any other commenters are experiencing difficulties when posting comments (I am aware of at least two others), please know that we are working on the problem.

  194. Kim Thompson says:

    Early THIMBLE THEATRE is exactly the kind of thing that should be posted on the web for people to check out, but there really is no earthly reason to kill trees for it. Yes, the few years before Popeye are for the most part as good as the early Popeye ones. (And of course there’s well over a year of TT Sunday’s thats technically post Popeye but doesn’t have Popeye in it and so weren’t included in the COMPLETE SEGAR POPEYE.) I think Rick Marschall told me the tipping point was around 1925. I’ve dipped into early 1920s SAPPO dailies and they’re not terrible but not very distinguished or memorable either. I read a bunch with some pleasure and then stopped and found no reason to go back and read more.

    Man, this thread is kind of sprawling, isn’t it?

  195. patrick ford says:

    I’m holding out for the Fantagraphics SHOWCASE ESSENTIALS.
    Those would be an inexpensive line of thick (300+ pages) B&W reprints, printed on newsprint, with nothing more than the most minimal attempt at “restoration” (basically adjusting the contrast).
    Things which might not otherwise “make the cut” could be floated in those.
    Happy Hooligan is hysterical, but is viewed as “not commercial” but maybe if it could be published in a cheap edition it could work?
    How about Reg’lar Fellers by Gene Byrnes? I’d bet it had a strong influence on John Stanley, but who would know ?

  196. patrick ford says:

    Trying to keep this in the barnyard with the ducks.
    Thimble Theater hints at getting good 1/1/23 with a short oil well “adventure” set in Mexico which promises far more than it delivers. By the end of 1923 it’s getting into high gear. The 9/11/23 strip introduces us to “Dynamite” the first of Segar’s fighting fowl, and the begining of many a politically incorrect cock-fighting adventure. It’s nearly all very good from there on. There are brief periods where Segar is scratching for the kernals of his next adventure, and he falls back on daily corn for a week or so while he gathers himself.

  197. I’m out of here already, but I think that what Robert says above deserves two comments:
    1) There’s really no need to say “as the word is used in the United States.” Kitsch is kitsch and you described a perfect example of kitsch (the equivalent of my fake marble example) that is valid all over the world.
    2) I see your point and I agree with it re. the tech part (you’re right that the book doesn’t try to simulate Ben-Day dots, for instance), but I don’t agree when you discard the concept behind the recoloring choices. If the intention was to, as you say, color the work in a way that does it justice in the format it’s being published in now, the color choices should forget the old colors completely (a risky choice if we remember previous coloring disasters). (I don’t want to stress my point again that this isn’t a reprint.) As for the Art In Time book I didn’t see it, but I see no kitsch at all in its twin tome Art Out of Time, just repros of old pages (the reproduction of the irregular, brittle margins of old newspaper pages seems a little doubtful, but anyway…). The material wasn’t manipulated to seem anything else.

  198. Frank says:

    I agree that the original color was better. The old four-color process, on cheap newsprint, produced a transparency that’s lacking with today’s full-color rendering. The yellows are particularly problematic, and should have been toned down.

    I don’t agree, however, that artists did not ‘draw for color.’ You only need to compare any page of material specifically drawn for black and white to see the enormous difference. Pages drawn with coloring in mind are far more ‘open,’ free of blacks and with relatively little hatching. If they’re to be enjoyed as intended, pages drawn for color need to be reproduced with their original color.

  199. Scott Grammel says:

    Finally caught up and read all these posts, and though I’d love to add a comment or two about many of the topics discussed, there were really only two things that I had to address at this late date.

    First (and I’m surprised there wasn’t an earlier chorus of praise in this regard), I can’t imagine — the color-saturation problem, aside — a more delightfully and intelligently designed package than this one. It took me a long time to finally sit down, open it up, and really examine the book (part of the Christmas spoils), but when I did I saw one felicitous, pleasing, and/or smart design decision after another. Name some? The wonderful orange sherbet endpapers. The blue, then green, then later yellow top and bottom page “brush stroke” coloring. The decision to leave the illustrations accompanying the texts sans descriptions. The full bleed on the cover reprints. The perfectly imperfect, hand-drawn broken lines. The full stop of the double-sided color section indexes. The pale blue type within the story notes. The orange lining within the large “Donald Duck” lettering,and the little black-and-white Donald head (ha!) in the center of it all.

    The layout designer was Tony Ong. Nice job, Tony!

    (I can say that I wasn’t quite as happy with the actual cover design by Jacob Covey at first, but looking at the paucity of interior drawings that could’ve easily been transferred to a cover position, I started to warm to the dual top and bottom illustrations design he finally ended up with. And I love the spine.)

    Second, as to the supposedly across-the-board abysmal coloring and printing of most, say, pre-Silver Age comics, what I’ve found is that the quality is all over the place, from title to title, from publisher to publisher, from year to year. Not too long ago I used ebay to make my way through a lot of affordable pre-Code horror, and the Ziff-Davis stuff was gorgeous on both fronts, the Fawcett as bad on both, the Harvey stuff intermittently positive then MUCH better all of a sudden… And so it went. The variability is just so extreme as to make any generalization, either pro or con, completely unreliable. And I think behind that variability is a story much more complicated than the simple one of “unpaid coolies” or “drones” that we’ve been telling each other for years.

  200. Aldo says:

    200th COMMENT LOL!

  201. The Comic Guru says:

    In the end, is a copy of anything ever as good as the original ???

  202. patrick ford says:

    Jim, First off you have to define “copy.” When Noel Sickles briefly tried to “copy” the style of John Terry, Sickles “copy” was better than the original.
    If you are talking only about reproduction then a stat of the original art will never look as good as the original art. A photograph, or scan of a printed comic book page will never look as good as the original printed page. Some people might say a restored scan looks better than the original printed image, but if the scan is restored is it a copy, and many people might think even carefully restored images look worse than the original (now faded) image.
    The Barks book isn’t a copy though, it’s a new printing using stats which have been recoloured. Using the original stats with better printing and paper should yield better line reproduction than seen in the original comic books, the colour could possibly be better as well, but it’s not a copy, it’s a new printing.

  203. Kasius Klej says:

    Have a look at the original story

  204. JOHN RAUSCH says:

    My two cents is these books are a bargain, the slightly off colors don’t matter that much and the size is perfect. I don’t understand the seriousness of all the many, many words written about this or that color being a little off one way or the other. If there are particular stories than mean a lot to you, but an original in VG to F shape and enjoy. No need to go for a mint one. I had the 30 volume of Another Rainbow’s B&W version and they were way to big to be enjoyable to even hold, let alone read and after one or two in B&W, I was bored and wanting colored ones. I sold them all not long after acquiring them and don’t miss them at all. Way too much artsy-fartsy supplementary articles/comments by numerous authors mostly saying the same thing. For me, the main thing is the Barks stories at least as close as economically possible to produce in volume of approximately the same number of pages. I am thoroughly satisfied. If you want original, the only way you are going to get it is buy original and there are plenty out there. We aren’t taking Superman prices.

    As for the publication order, it is confusing, but once you make yourself a spreadsheet, all is easy to find. I like the mixing up for the one or two year time period.

  205. Nick says:

    Hey, many years later, I just want to say that I appreciate Fantagraphics going to all the trouble and labour of reprinting all of Barks’s work. My mother loved these when they came out, and raised me in the 70s on Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics, and now I’m buying this series for my kids. Christmas in Duckburg just arrived at my home today, and I’m looking forward to driving home in about 15 minutes and reading it to my sons.

    I like the colours, by the way! I’m curious, did you consider using scans of the original art?

    Keep up the good work . . .

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