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"What's New" Archives: August 2016

 

August 24, 2016:

Duck Eyes

 

August 16, 2016:

Walt Kelly's Disappearing FBI Files

 

August 15, 2016:

Where Walt Was: February 26, 1941

 

August 13, 2016:

A Couple of Overdue Reviews

 

August 6, 2016:

Return from Comic-Con

 

August 24, 2016:

Duck Eyes

Daffy Duck 457

The front cover of the first Daffy Duck one-shot, from 1953, with Daffy's eyes merged.

Michael Hodous writes about a seemingly minor matter that may have somewhat larger implications...:

Already a seasoned professional writer and editor at the ripe old age of twenty-three, Mark Evanier still encountered the occasional unnerving experience. As Mark so well documents in a post from December 2015 describing two cover designs for Western Publishing:

On the Daffy Duck one, I committed what was then considered a mortal sin: I merged Daffy's eyes together. This was the early seventies and there was no active Warner Brothers Cartoon Department. The folks who decided what those characters looked like—whether they were drawn properly—were in some sort of Licensing Division at the Warner company and they were furious if Daffy's eyes merged. There had to be black between them. Fortunately, they never saw my rough or I might have been forbidden to ever draw (or even imagine) Daffy ever again. They didn't approve roughs; just the finished art which in this case was done by Joe Messerli.

Now, thanks to the many contributors to the Grand Comics Database, we have evidence that the situation was even worse than Mark realized at the time. Mark's cover design was for Daffy Duck No. 98 (December 1975), published by Western under their Gold Key label. Exactly as Mark writes, the final cover by Joe Messerli shows Daffy's eyes separated by a clear black stripe. Now go here for a larger scan of this cover. Then work forward to issues No. 99, 100, 101, all the way to the final Western issue No. 145, if you like. On every cover, except for when Daffy is drawn in profile, his eyes are always clearly separated.

Now work backwards from issue No. 98: No. 97, No. 96, No. 95, as far as you care to go. With very few exceptions, Daffy's eyes are drawn, not like the finished artwork for issue No, 98, but exactly as Mark drew them in his preliminary layout for that issue. Look at the cover galleries for earlier issues published under the Dell label, for 1956-59 and 1959-62, and at the first three Daffy comics, published as Four Color 457, 536, and 615. Again, with very few exceptions, Daffy's eyes are merged, exactly as in Mark Evanier's preliminary drawing that produced so much negative comment so many years later.

Nor was this limited to the covers. The Lambiek Comiclopedia article on artist Phil De Lara includes three panels of interior art from Daffy Duck No. 30. Even in one of Daffy's rare contemplative moods in the third panel, De Lara draws Daffy's eyes exactly as Mark Evanier drew them in his cover sketch.

Chuck Jones used this ocular oddity to indicate a character in extreme emotional distress, as in his 1951 cartoon Drip-Along Daffy. At 03:33 Daffy's double-pasteurized milkshake has just been shaken, not stirred, by a passing bullet. At 03:44 members of the local gambling syndicate realize that they're about to get caught in a crossfire. At 05:24 Porky and Daffy react to a conglomeration of alcoholic beverages not often served in the best restaurants. Robert McKimson featured the same depiction at 06:02 and 06:10 in the 1956 release The High and the Flighty. A complete catalog of such moments calls for more research.

In the Dell/Western comic books of the 1950s through the mid-1970s Daffy's merged eyes are the rule, not the exception, making Daffy's usual appearance look ... well ... Daffyer, in keeping with his personality. The comic book Daffy is no longer the malicious heckler and saboteur of his early animated film roles. Nor is he the scheming but incompetent curmudgeon of Chuck Jones's 1950s cartoons. Rather, Daffy on the printed page is an insidiously cheerful free spirit whose sublime obliviousness to social protocol makes him such a puzzle and an annoyance to all those around him.

To add insult to injury, a few months before the Daffy Duck No. 98 cover caper Chase Craig called in Mark to help relaunch Looney Tunes as a thirty-six-page comic book. Besides writing most of the stories for the first few issues, Mark supplied gags for several covers. The first of these (penciled by Pete Alvarado), for the issue with an April 1975 cover date, includes not only Mark's Bugs and Tweety gag, but a small strip at the bottom showing the faces of several other characters. Not only are Daffy's eyes shown as merged, so are Yosemite Sam's. And all the characters, including Sam and Daffy, are smiling happily. It was only a few months after this cover was approved that the licensing division at the Warner company started complaining vociferously about an artistic convention that had been a generally accepted accounting principle for Warner Bros. comic-book characters for more than twenty years.

Did the licensing division at the Warner company only come into existence in or slightly before 1975? Michael Barrier may have a few thoughts on that subject.

MB here: I do, actually. Licensing Corporation of America (LCA) came into existence in 1960 and was bought by National Periodical Publications in 1966 (at the height of the Batman TV craze), shortly before National itself was acquired by Kinney Service Corporation, the Steve Ross conglomerate-aborning that ultimately became Time Warner. My own encounters with LCA started in 1972, when the project in question was a possible paperback book called The Films of Bugs Bunny. Not long after that, Warner Bros. Television got excited about the possibilities in a grandiose Looney Tunes art book like The Art of Walt Disney, which had been a big hit of the 1973 Christmas season. Warners, through LCA, corresponded with me for years about assembling such a book, which it was ultimately decided would be published by Warner Books. Never happened, needless to say, although the idea didn't die completely until Steve Schneider's more modestly scaled book about the Warner cartoons was published by Holt in 1988.

In all my dealings with LCA, I don't recall any question arising about how the characters were to be depicted in any newly commissioned art. There wasn't to have been much, of course, except on the dust jacket designed by Milt Gray, who drew the characters in an authentic 1940s style. So who were those enforcers at LCA who evidently knew with religious certainty how Daffy's eyes were to be drawn? Why did they come down on Western Publishing but not on me and Warner Books? Damfino, as Buster Keaton might put it. Arnold Lewis, my principal contact at LCA over the years, always struck me as too reasonable a man to be in thrall to such bad ideas, and who knows, maybe he was running interference.

So, what does it all mean? Not much, probably, except as one small example of the kind of warped thinking that has so often ruled the comic-book world and damaged the comics themselves. Daffy does look a hell of a lot better with those merged eyes, after all.

Comments

GoofyFrom Garry Apgar: Regarding the matter of Daffy Duck's "merged eyes" raised recently by Michael Hodous, I just noticed this animation drawing of Goofy from Polar Trappers (1938) in which he, too, has conjoined eyes (it's from a Heritage auction, September. 18, 2016).

There must be more instances of Disney figures in the mid to late 1930s with the same ocular peculiarity. (There are other drawings of Goofy going back at least to 1935 in which he has merged eyes.)

I wonder: who was responsible for this innovation—and when? Do we have any idea? Art Babbitt, maybe?

And when did the term "merged eyes" come along? Sounds like it's of relatively recent vintage. Post-war perhaps.

I don't think Pluto's eyes were ever completely merged, especially later on. Early on, however, as in the animation drawing below from The Mad Doctor (1933), the lines around the whites of the pup's eyes are partially merged.

PlutoMickey Mouse's eyeballs, of course, were all over the place, with and without outlines, virtually from one year to the next.

Finally, if Goofy and Daffy were the only cartoon characters who had merged eyes, is it a mere coincidence that "two wild and crazy guys" (unlike, say, Donald or Porky Pig) would share that special trait. And why would that be?

[Posted September 20, 2016]

 

August 16, 2016:

Walt Kelly's Disappearing FBI Files

I last wrote on May 24 about my long struggle to get the FBI or the National Archives to yield up Walt Kelly's FBI files. Although there was evidence that such files existed, or had existed, the FBI had told me that it couldn't find them. A Norwegian visitor to the site wrote the same day, providing me with file numbers he had found through a Google search. I wrote to the FBI again, filing an appeal from its earlier rejection of my request.

Still no luck, and this time I'm afraid I really have reached a dead end. Christina D. Trolani of the Justice Department's Office of Information Policy did not refer to the information my correspondent had provided, but simply said, "I have determined that the FBI's action was correct and that it conducted an adequate, reasonable search for such records."

Well, maybe, although my experience with such bureaucracies, from my years on Capitol Hill, is that once they have settled on a position, however unreasonable, nothing short of dynamite will work a change. (Don't get me started on the Army Corps of Engineers...) Perhaps Kelly's files were destroyed, but if so, why not say so? All that seems certain is that the files are inaccessible, whether they exist or not. It's fortunate that the files' contents seem to have been of limited interest, but I remain disgruntled that I wasn't able to see them.

 

August 15, 2016:

Beecham and Walt

Where Walt Was: February 26, 1941

He was at the Burbank studio, where at 3:30 on that Wednesday afternoon he received a visitor, the British baronet Sir Thomas Beecham, who was not just a great conductor but also a colorful celebrity musician like Leopold Stokowski. Fantasia had opened in Los Angeles on January 29, and it is probably part of its score that Walt and Sir Thomas are examining in this publicity photo. [An August 18, 2016, update: Alexander Rannie has identified the score as "a conductor's score of the Stokowski arrangement of 'Night on Bald Mountain.""] Beecham had arrived in Los Angeles on the Santa Fe Chief on Sunday, February 23, to conduct two concerts by the L.A. Philharmonic on February 27 and 28, in place of its ailing regular conductor, Otto Klemperer. That's Mrs. Leiland Atherton (Florence) Irish, the Philharmonic's executive vice president, secretary, and manager, at the left.

Beecham knew how to fill seats in concert halls by stirring up controversy. In the words of his biographer John Lucas, Beecham was a "wily and skilled ... self-publicist...he ensured wide press coverage of his arrival in a town by insulting some well-known local institution." On a preliminary visit to Los Angeles in December, "he told the Los Angeles Times that Hollywood falsified all values and that the whole idea of musical pictures was artistically preposterous"—an opinion that, as he later acknowledged, did not stand in the way of his accepting an invitation to visit the Disney studio.

In February, the day before he visited the studio, Beecham spoke at a luncheon for 300 members of a women's group supporting the symphony, and once again he was provocative, decrying America's lack of culture. The Times' banner headline read: "Beecham Blast at America Brings Storm of Protest Here." Concertgoers took the bait. The Times reported "a record audience" and a long ovation for Beecham. In John Lucas's words, "The publicity did wonders for the orchestra."

The Times critic Isabel Morse Jones, reviewing the first of Beecham's two L.A. concerts, wrote that he "conducts in a manner only to be described as picturesque. He mirrors the music in movement. His conducting is photogenic to a degree that should be called to the attention of Walt Disney. His back may not be as effective as Stokowski's, but his heel and toe work and especially his arm gyrations tell a music-story that is fascinating to watch."

By then, of course Walt and Beecham had already met, and I know of nothing to suggest that any sort of collaboration was ever discussed. For that matter, Beecham's visit to the studio may have gone unmarked by the local press; I've found no mention of it in the Times or the Evening Herald and Express, the two Los Angeles newspapers I was able to consult.

(Thanks to Becky Cline and Ed Ovalle of the Walt Disney Archives for their help with this piece.)

Comments

From Geoffrey Blum: CD recommendations would have been laying it on a bit thick for the general run of readers, but I’d still not have minded another paragraph. I’m curious to know what Beecham conducted in Los Angeles, especially since one of the concerts provoked that reviewer’s remark about bringing his podium antics to the attention of Walt.
 
MB replies: The program consisted of a suite from Handel's "The Faithful Shepherd" (arranged by Beecham, who did a lot of that), "Summer Night on the River" by Frederick Delius (a British composer who was one of Beecham's favorites), " Mozart's "Linz" Symphony, No. 36, and the Symphony No. 1 of Jean Sibelius (both of the latter being composers for whom Beecham showed a special affinity).

I've looked on YouTube for any examples of the dynamic podium style that Isabel Morse Jones described, but with no luck. The extant Beecham footage mostly comes from very late in his career, with nothing from the early forties. CDs should be easy to find, though, and Beecham recorded in stereo in the late fifties, so no apologies need be made for the sound of some very attractive discs.

[Posted August 17, 2016]

From Alexander Rannie: Thank you for the wonderful post about Sir Thomas Beecham and Walt. For whatever it's worth, they're looking at a conductor's score of the Stokowski arrangement of "Night on Bald Mountain."

[Posted August 18, 2016]

 

August 13, 2016:

A Couple of Overdue Reviews

Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit

Mickey Mouse EmblemI've mentioned this important book a few times before but never given it a proper review, so here goes.

I received Garry Apgar's Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit (Walt Disney Family Foundation Press) when I was reading the eighth volume in Fantagraphics' Floyd Gottfredson reprint series. That volume is made up in large part of Mickey Mouse daily strips from the 1940s, written by Bill Walsh, who was later an important producer of live-action Disney features. The Mickey of those strips is amorphous, wildly inconsistent from day to day, completely in service to Walsh's gags and hardly a character at all.

That's why Apgar's title, and his book itself, are so apt, because he does indeed emphasize Mickey Mouse's role as an "emblem," a powerful, essentially abstract design that he suggests evokes the "American spirit," rather than a real character on the order of Donald Duck or Bugs Bunny. We all know what Donald Duck is "like," within broad bounds; but it has not been since the early days of the Mickey Mouse cartoons and comics that anyone could say with the least assurance that Mickey is a certain kind of creature.

Thus the emphasis in Apgar's book on Mickey as design. Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit is above all an art book, not a movie book, not a cartoon book, much less a book about the Mickey Mouse comics (although Apgar pays homage to Gottfredson).You won't find an entry in the index for many of Mickey's film roles, not even Fun and Fancy Free (1947), his last starring role in a feature made in Walt Disney's lifetime. What you will find is a thorough survey of how fine artists have responded to Mickey Mouse as a graphic stimulus over the years, how that "emblem" has worked its way into their minds and then into their work.

Have the artistic results been substantial enough to reward so careful and well-informed an examination as accorded them by Apgar, an art historian with impeccable credentials? I can't say with any certainty. I found it hard to avoid the sense, at some points in the book, that the author was straining to find artistic significance in work that not only lacked it but was poking fun at the whole solemn idea of such significance. No matter; this is a book that needed to be written, and I can't imagine that anyone could have written it better, or that it could have been illustrated more richly or produced more beautifully.

It was another aspect of the book that was for me, given my own obsessions, even more absorbing. Apgar's previous book, A Mickey Mouse Reader (University Press of Mississippi), is a compilation of many of Mickey's most significant appearances in print, in reviews, interviews (with Walt Disney), journalism and criticism of various kinds. Thanks in part to his immersion in such material, Apgar is able not just to offer well-informed speculation about how Mickey was created but to trace how the accounts of his creation changed over the years.

That there were changes in the official accounts, and especially in who got credit for what, is undeniable, and, I think, understandable. There was, first of all, the scramble in 1928 to come up with a new character; then, when that new character was successful and the press was clamoring for more information, there was the scramble to remember and codify just how that character came to be—and, starting in 1930, work around the awkward reality of Ub Iwerks's critical role. The creation myths that resulted, like Lillian's naming of Mickey on the train ride back from New York, probably have more truth in them than there is in most Hollywood fables. In the long (eighty-plus pages) chapter titled "Making the Mouse," Garry Apgar makes as much sense of this crucial passage in the studio's life as anyone is ever likely to do. That chapter alone makes the book indispensable to anyone who cares about Walt Disney and his works.

Mickey Mouse would no doubt be a different and perhaps even better book if it had been published under something other than a Disney imprint—and it surely would have received more attention—but it's remarkably good as it is. And it is, by the way, available now from amazon.com at a bargain price, $26.58.

How to Be a Disney Historian

How to Be a Disney HistorianI'm represented in Jim Korkis's How to Be a Disney Historian (Theme Park Press), an anthology of essays by more than a dozen writers with some claim to be "Disney historians." I balk at that label myself, and I didn't write a new piece for the book, but rather slightly updated a piece I wrote for this website a few years ago, called "The Approved Narrative" (retitled in the book "The Disney-Approved Narrative"). The substance of that piece is that writing about "Disney history" in today's environment is a dfficult and sometimes impossible job because the Walt Disney Company's posture toward independent writers—writers who are not being paid by Disney, and whose work is not under the company's control—is essentially adversarial. That has always and inevitably been the case to some extent, but it was much less so back in the nineties, when I shared space in the Walt Disney Archives with writers who were, like me, there at the company's sufferance but not expected to submit to its censorship.

The Korkis book is in part a compendium of advice on how to get around the obstacles that the company throws up in the path of people who want to write about it. Disney is an exceptionally interesting company with a long, rich history, which makes it all the more frustrating that good writers are so often excluded, or subject to debilitating treatment when the company hires them for its own projects, while the doors are thrown open for the likes of Neal Gabler and Sarah Colt. Much of the book's advice, like preparing thoroughly for interviews, seems obvious, but no doubt there are aspiring historians who need to hear it. More interesting and enjoyable to me were the mini-memoirs by people like Korkis, Leonard Maltin, and Jerry Beck, recounting their own adventures as long-time researchers and writers about Disney history.

A quibble: there's an essay by the retired Disney archivist, Dave Smith, in which he says: "One of the things I did was to officially determine in 1973 that Mickey Mouse's birthday was November 18, 1928, at the Colony Theater in New York." Actually, that date had been established in 1971, through my Carl Stalling interview in Funnyworld No. 13. I pointed out in a note to that interview that the September date for Mickey's birth that Disney had used for years was incorrect. The interview included as evidence a Powers Cinephone ad with dated quotations from multiple newspapers and trade papers, all clearly identifying November 18 as the premiere date.

Another quibble: Jerry Beck says that "transcribing interviews is the worst part of writing and researching. It is worth paying someone to do this for you." After transcribing more than 500 tapes, I can agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly, even while rejecting the advice. I tried hiring a transcriber a couple of times, but the transcripts were filled with errors, and correcting them and having them retyped required more of my time than simply making the transcripts myself. That's not to mention the cost. All of my own transcribing, until sometime in the nineties, was done on an IBM Selectric, and that was indeed tortuous; transcribing on a computer is, if no fun, much easier, especially because errors are so much more easily corrected.

Comments

From Peter Hale: Your mention of Mickey Mouse's birth date made me ponder over why September 30/October 1 had been the original choice. Would this have been when the first combined print (picture+soundtrack) of Steamboat Willie was struck? Or at least the final soundtrack and picture being run together, marking the "completion" of the film.  It seems to be about the time of the second recording session, but I can't find an actual date for that.

Obviously the studio was not going to celebrate the silent version of Plane Crazy when a sound version had followed, so presumably the completion of the first sound film seemed an appropriate date. Does this seem likely to you?

MB replies: A good question, for which I don't have a definitive answer. My best guess would be that the September 30/October 1 date was chosen not because it had any particular significance in the production or exhibition history of Steamboat Willie, but for reasons of convenience. A date was wanted that would work well for marketing the Disney cartoons; historical accuracy was surely a minor consideration, if it was a consideration at all.

From Paul Dushkind: Did you mean "tortuous" (twisted) or "torturous" (painful)?

MB replies: Actually, I meant "tortuous," thinking of all the complex cutting and pasting and Liquid Paper fixes I had to make when I was transcribing, but "torturous" would probably fit just as well. Transcribing was certainly unpleasant, if not exactly painful.

[Posted August 15, 2016]

 

August 6, 2016:

Kelly panel

The Walt Kelly panel, minus Scott Shaw!, who arrived later. From left, Mark Evanier, the moderator, Leonard Maltin, Maggie Thompson, Mike Barrier (who is grinning at the photographer, his wife), and Eric Reynolds.

Return from Comic-Con

Phyllis and I wound up spending only four nights in San Diego for Comic-Con International, instead of the scheduled five, when Southwest Airlines' computers crashed systemwide while we were waiting for our plane to arrive from St. Louis. We eventually flew out Thursday morning on Delta, via a circuitous route that took us to Atlanta and then back across the country to San Diego. We are still waiting for an explanation or apology from Southwest.

Fortunately, we did reach the convention center in plenty of time for my two Friday panel appearances. The Walt Kelly hour went especially well, thanks to a strong panel that included Mark Evanier as moderator, Leonard Maltin, Maggie Thompson, Scott Shaw!, and Eric Reynolds, co-editor of Fantagraphics' outstanding complete reprinting of Pogo. Everyone on the panel loved Kelly's work, but with an adult sort of love that would probably baffle devotees of, say, Harley Quinn.Inkpot Award

The problem with enjoyable panels is that they tend to evaporate from my mind almost immediately, leaving behind only a faint and evocative perfume; I could tell you a little of what I said, but I remember almost nothing of what my fellow panelists said, except that I liked it. Perhaps someone was recording the session and it will turn up eventually on the Web, but I'm not hopeful, not least because the convention center's sound system did not take kindly to my deep voice (Mark Evanier chastised me twice for not speaking up, but I'm not sure what more I could have done other than swallow the microphone whole).

My "spotlight" panel, near the end of the day, was not nearly so well attended, but it was at least as memorable in its own way, because it was the occasion for me to receive an unexpected Inkpot Award. As Comic-Con's website says, the award is "given to individuals for their contributions to the worlds of comics, science fiction/fantasy, film, television, animation, and fandom services." That covers a lot of ground, and the list of award winners from the last forty years or so is imposingly long; but if you read through the list of names, you may be struck, as I was, by how many of them are familiar. Now I have something in common with Steven Spielberg and Ralph Bakshi!

The inkpot statuette itself is a lovely piece of hardware; I believe it was designed by Rick Geary, a Comic-Con mainstay, but my first thought when I saw it was of Daumier. I'm very happy to be recognized for, as the plaque on the statuette says, "achievement in comic arts." I'll certainly never get any comparable recognition for my work in animation history—too many heretical opinions, alas—but the Inkpot Award makes up for that.

One of the side benefits of attending Comic-Con is that it can give you a different perspective on your own work. I devoted most of my spotlight session to a Power-Point review of my fan career, by way of explaining how it was that I had diverged so widely from the main track, with its emphasis on superheroes and science fiction. I showed the cover of the first Dell Beany comic book as an example of how vivid and precise were my memories of seeing particular comic books when I was a kid. In this case, I remembered the store and even the rack where I first saw the Beany comic book, but I also remembered that I had not a clue at the time as to who Beany and Bob Clampett were. When the first Beany comic book was published, late in 1951, Little Rock was a year or two away from getting its first TV station. I don't think Time for Beany, the Clampett puppet show, was ever shown on any local station.

As I skimmed through my history for my spotlight audience, I made a point of not mentioning one of my books, Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book. I remain angry and disappointed about that book because the publisher (who also wrecked Funnyworld) produced it shoddily and priced it exorbitantly; then, when it went into a second printing, he corrected none of the errors his typesetter made (and none of the errors that I made and subsequently listed on this website).

The next morning, though, as I wandered through the exhibit hall, I ran into a Swedish Barks fan who spoke to me warmly of the book. I realized that however much I resented my publisher's slovenly handling of the book, its substance—my critical biography of Barks and detailed bibliography of his work—had been only damaged and not destroyed. Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book has been superseded in many respects by my most recent book, Funnybooks: The Improbable Glories of the Best American Comic Boooks, but it has not been rendered obsolete. I should have included it among the slides in my PowerPoint presentation.

I'd had another revelation earlier that morning, when I attended a panel discussion devoted to books reprinting the work of cartoonists like Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, and Charles Schulz. The panelists were Serious Names in the comics world—Paul Levitz of DC, Denis Kitchen, the designer Chip Kidd, and Charles Kochman of Abrams ComicArts—but the attendance was, if not as sparse as for my spotlight session, not much greater. That surprised me at first, but then I realized that the small crowd was just a measure of how the convention has changed over the years. In small sessions like mine, Comic-Con is not a pop-culture extravaganza that draws more than a hundred thousand people, most of them obsessed with the latest movies and TV shows. It is instead still a comics convention, in direct line from the much smaller gatherings of thirty or forty years ago. It's remarkable, I think, that Comic-Con's organizers still pay homage to their roots in this fashion. I hope they continue to do so.

I came away from Comic-Con much better disposed toward the whole con idea than I was before. I have no idea if I'll ever attend another one, but I'm glad I attended this one.

Spotlight session

I shared the speakers' table for my "spotlight" session with Randy Duncan, who teaches and writes about comics at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Randy fed me questions and kept me on track as I paged through slides covering the rise and fall and rebirth of my serious interest in comics. Jerry Beck took this photo.

Comments

From Steven Ng: We met at an ASIFA-SF lecture some time ago when I got your autograph in my Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book. I was starved for material on Barks at the time. I'm happy there was a fan at San Diego to thank you for it. Congratulations on your Inkpot Award. I'm thankful Comic-Con International still brings good guests related to comics and animation to San Diego. The competition for con badges seems to be leaving many comic fans left out while movie/TV fans and toy collectors rush to attend the event.

[Posted August 6, 2016]

From Geoffrey Blum: Congratulations on your Inkpot: it’s certainly deserved.  And while I know of the messy publishing history behind your Barksography and can understand your leaving that out of the spotlight retrospective, it was still a groundbreaking book and of great use to others of us laboring in the Barksian vineyard.  So I hope you at least spoke of your love for the duck comics and your long relationship with Carl, and I’m glad to hear that the Swedish fan you ran into later offered such positive feedback.

MB replies: My “spotlight” presentation was devoted in significant measure to Barks, including photos from the visit to the Merrill ranch where Carl grew up that Phyllis and I made in 1988. I need to put together a photo feature for my website on that visit, since I sent the photos to Carl and he replied with detailed annotations of just what we’d seen and how it had changed, or hadn’t, since he was a boy. I showed a few of the photos at Comic-Con to try to bring out how bleak and isolated Barks’s childhood was, and how different it was from the childhoods of city boys like Kelly and Stanley.

[Posted August 7, 2016]

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