Thursday, May 06, 2010

Carl Barks Playing For the Other Team

The invaluable Doug Gray, who has pretty much my favorite comics blog), has Carl Barks's venture into the opposition camp, the Porky Pig story "Porky of the Mounties." Bugs and Porky weren't characters he liked, and the story isn't one of his best, but just seeing Barks work with the Warner Brothers characters is kind of strange and fun. I would say it's like a Marvel guy working for DC, except they all did work for DC and vice versa.

It's also a reminder that whereas the comic book form added a lot to the Disney cartoon characters, it didn't really do the same for the WB characters. There are some characters who maybe have more dimension in the comics than they do in the cartoons, like Porky (who has Petunia as his regular girlfriend, and isn't quite as big a patsy as he is in the animated shorts), but I don't feel like they're improved as characters the way Donald and Mickey were improved in the comics. And that's to say nothing of all the WB characters who were watered down, because they couldn't be as violent and vicious in comics as they were in films.

In part this may just be about the general superiority of WB shorts to Disney shorts, at least during the period when these comics were popular. The WB directors would add things to a story and make it better than it would have been in comic book form. I can't find it, but Thad Komorowski once posted a Michael Maltese comics story (non-WB, as I recall) that he also used, with some variations, for A Pest In the House. The comics story was funny, but Chuck Jones's cartoon was much funnier, and contained better-motivated and more well-rounded characters. In Disney, that kind of excellence was more likely to come from a Barks or a Gottfredson than most of the animation directors.


Thad said...

I didn't see it mentioned here, or at Doug Gray's blog, but the story was written by Chase Craig, not Carl Barks. In fact, almost all of the Bugs drawings were redrawn by another artist too. So if it feels like a half-assed Barks story, that's because it is one.

Having about two hundred or so Dell Warner comics, I would have to agree with your assessment. One slight inaccuracy, though, those comics really were watered down compared to the the films. Slapstick violence was not the norm in the comics, save the stories with the Road Runner, Sylvester & Tweety (because it was necessary), and the Daffy stories (because it made them really funny). There also were no nuances in the comics like there were in the films.

(I'll repost that Fox and Crow story written by Maltese in the future. There are Flippity & Flop stories in those early Real Screen issues that are variations on Roughly Squeaking and Tweetie Pie.)

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stevef said...

I'm sure Barks wasn't as comfortable with the WB characters simply because he didn't know them. He was still writing Donald Duck shorts during the war years. Bugs was still a relative newcomer.

But I also think it has something to do with the kind of characters Barks preferred to work with. Donald Duck is the downtrodden everyman grasping at heroism. Barks liked that. In 1944 Bugs is Superman in a rabbit suit, just the kind of character Barks liked to deflate. It took Chuck Jones to get under the rabbit suit and give Bugs what Barks liked, humility.