Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories by Carl Barks No. 31

Writer / Artist
Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories by Carl Barks No. 31
Walt Disney Comics and Stories by Carl Barks 31 review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Gladstone - 0-944599-86-9
  • Volume No.: 31
  • Release date: 1994
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: All-Ages, Humour

As indicated by the clever cover collage, Carl Barks evokes the joyful summers of youth over the first two stories in this collection continuing his 1956 output. The opener has the pull of swimming set against the value of learning, in this case piano lessons. It’s first rate farce, asDonald Duck reverts to cheating type when opportunity arises to skew the odds in favour of his winning a bet with his nephews. Barks was never going to let him away with that, although the moral of the ending is strangely subverted by Huey, Dewey and Louie also having to pay for Donald’s subterfuge.

By 21st century standards the second story’s camping strip is as weird a story as Barks ever wrote. He researched thoroughly, so in the 1950s there presumably was a device known as a scintillator able to track uranium traces from distance, and bizarre as it may seem, it’s still possible for members of the public to buy forms of uranium today. Huey, Dewey and Louie have to suffer the indignity of having uranium buttons attached to their caps so Donald can track them in the forest, but the caps are inevitably separated from the boys.

Donald’s ego again clashes with his actual capabilities when he rants at his nephews that he can master any task. Taking the flawed logic of man being master of all other creatures as absolute, Donald starts a job in a salmon farm, Barks mining his misconception that hatching salmon are the equivalent of hatching chickens. It’s a gag-packed story, but those gags are the be all and end all.

Huey, Dewey and Louie are well aware it’s the final day of the summer holidays in the next strip, and via scenery, sunsets and silhouettes Barks presents enough of nature’s beauty to makes us all wistful. However, no-one could predict the consequences of Donald’s decision to capture a whale for display, as Barks hammers home the stupidity of the idea.

He’s in slapstick territory for the final story in which Donald’s honed his skywriting skills to a fine degree, but at a time when Duckburg citizens are complaining about smog. Still, with Uncle Scrooge as a client, what could go wrong? Plenty as it happens.

This is a collection of funny stories, brilliantly drawn rather than another complete Barks masterclass. However, even today Barks is so far ahead of others producing similar material that were this read in isolation most readers would be very pleased.