Bruce Canwell on The Library of American Comics/IDW’s Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics Vol. 1

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics Vol. 1

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics Vol. 1


Bruce Canwell is the Associate Editor at The Library of American Comics (LOAC), whose books are published by IDW. Their collections include Bloom County: The Complete Library, Steve Canyon, Batman: Silver Age Newspaper Comics, Li’l Abner, and many more. Canwell wrote the text for the award-winning Alex Toth: Genius series as well as introductions for many LOAC volumes. Now they’re preparing their first Disney collection, Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics Vol. 1, featuring work by Bob Karp and Al Taliaferro. Canwell spoke with Westfield’s Roger Ash about this exciting new project. (You can click on the comic strips to enlarge them.)

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Westfield: I’m really excited that Al Taliaferro’s Donald Duck comic strips are finally being collected. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, who is Al Taliaferro?

Bruce Canwell: When comics fans say the phrase “Duck Man,” the first name to come to mind — and justifiably so! — is Carl Barks. Daan Jippes and Don Rosa are typically high up on that list, and knowledgeable readers often add the likes of Freddy Milton, William Van Horn, and Daniel Branca, among others. But an artist who can get unfairly overlooked in the shuffle is Al Taliaferro. The man who created Donald’s three nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, certainly deserves to be in the forefront of Duck Men!

He's only trying to help... © 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

He’s only trying to help… © 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Taliaferro was hired by Disney in 1931 and put to work first as an inker on Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse. He also first inked and then did full art for the Silly Symphonies newspaper comics. By 1934 he had developed an affinity for the new character on the Disney block, a certain quick-tempered, somewhat-lazy white Duck. It was Al Taliaferro who convinced Walt Disney that Donald should join Mickey as a fixture in America’s newspapers and after an extended try-out in Silly Symphonies, the Donald Duck comic strip debuted as a King Features Syndicate newspaper offering in February of 1938. Al would continue to draw it for more than thirty years.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Westfield: Taliaferro is joined by writer Bob Karp. What can you tell us about him?

Canwell: A year after starting as a daily strip, Donald added a Sunday that King Features could offer its clients — Karp, who was employed in the Disney character model department at the time, worked with Taliaferro to successfully pitch the idea of a Sunday page. By that time he and Al realized they made a great team – he replaced the original writer on the comic strip, Homer Brightman, in April, 1938 (and provided script-only for a few stories developed and plotted by Carl Barks during the 1938-39 time period!), and Bob stayed with the strip until 1974. The Karp/Taliaferro collaboration added Gus Goose, Grandma Duck, and several other new characters to the “Duckverse.”

A strip with a Carl Barks plot. © 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

A strip with a Carl Barks plot. © 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Westfield: I think readers who know Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse strips and Carl Barks’ later Duck stories will be surprised to find that these are largely gag strips. Do you find that the humor in them still works roughly 75 years after they were first published?

Canwell: Huh! I hadn’t really thought about that. Good question – and one I’d say “Yes” to, for three reasons:

1) Al Taliaferro’s terrific artwork and the solidity of the Karp/Taliaferro team. I first saw Al’s work back in the days of Gladstone Comics and even in those halcyon days of yesteryear I knew this guy Taliaferro had the chops. His stuff just looks great. He and Bob really know how to put on a show: their storytelling is crisp and clear, their sets-ups and pay-offs are confident and comedically sound. If you appreciate good comics, you’ll quickly realize these guys Know Their Stuff.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


2) I believe those who love the Disney cartoons from the 1930s-50s will gravitate to our Donald, because the humor on display is very often the same sort of humor that infuses those animated shorts. This is the book equivalent to a DVD boxed set of Disney Duck toons from the glory years. Talk about your all-ages entertainment!

3) I believe there’s a good chance the contrast between the Karp/Taliaferro gag-strip format and most of the other Disney comics currently on the market will work in our favor. I yield to no one in my admiration for Barks — hey, back in the early ’90s I bought Another Rainbow’s Carl Barks Library and I still own it today! — and everyone likes the plucky Mickey, but there’s plenty of long-form, humorous/adventure Disney out there. If you’d like a dose of shorter, punchier, good-for-a-fast-laugh Disney, you owe it to yourself to give our Donald Duck a try.

Three strips with a recurring theme. © 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Three strips with a recurring theme. © 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Westfield: Do you plan to collect all of Taliaferro’s Donald Duck comics?

Canwell: We’ll collect ’em as long as the audience keeps buying ’em! Which sounds glib, I suppose, but it represents the truth.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


A look at our lineup over the ten years LOAC has been in existence tells you we make decisions based on a strip’s historical importance, or based on the contribution to the medium we believe comes from having a particular artist or strip in print and available for newcomers to discover, and even based on how much we just plain love certain series. After all, the whole LOAC snowball started rolling because Dean and I are both ga-ga over Milton Caniff’s splendid Terry And The Pirates! So it’s not that we select our projects based solely on the way the audience votes with its wallets, but especially for strips that ran as long as Taliaferro’s Donald, it’s important that the audience keeps coming back for more.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Westfield: There are always special features in The Library of American Comics collections. What do you have in store for this volume?

Canwell: We’ll feature a really nice two-part introductory essay by David Gerstein as we launch Donald. David has worked for Egmont and Gemstone and written a number of Disney comics, including some set in Duckberg — he knows his Ducks! Since David is now co-editing the line of Disney comic books from our parent company, IDW, it was a natural to tap his expertise here.

In addition, we’ll be showcasing a scoopful of artwork and imagery Disney fans will want to see, some of it centered on Al Taliaferro himself, and some of it focused on that foul-tempered fowl. I don’t want to say too much and spoil what are sure to be some surprises, but we have nice stuff on hand to share with our readers!

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Westfield: This is your first collection of Disney comic strips. Do you plan to do other Disney collections?

Canwell: Roger, is this where I go all Groucho and put my index finger on my chin, tilt my head, make with an impish smile, and go, “Oh, we have our plans …!”

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Naaah — I’ll play it straight. We will indeed be doing more Disney books, including a separate series of color Donald Sundays. One most germane to our discussion here is Silly Symphonies, not only because it will eventually showcase Taliaferro pre-Donald artwork, not only because it features the try-out run for Donald under the Symphonies banner, but because Silly Symphonies features an adaptation of The Wise Little Hen cartoon that marks Donald’s debut as a character. Some fans have asked why we didn’t put The Wise Little Hen in this first Donald collection. The answer is easy: our plan is to release it where it belongs, in our Silly Symphonies releases!

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

© 2015 Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Canwell: As we close in on our 125th LOAC release, it delights me how much good material we’re still finding to publish. It makes every day a reminder of the exceptional width and depth of comics history, and of the excellent, excellent talent giving that history its richness and vibrancy.

Amazing Spider-Man —Newspaper Comics Vol. 1

Amazing Spider-Man —Newspaper Comics Vol. 1


We’re just weeks away from our first volume of Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strips going on sale; I have an advance copy from the printer and yes, I’m prejudiced, but I’d say it looks exceptional! Those full-color Sundays really pop off the page, and seeing all that John Romita Sr. artwork, and the unmistakable Stan Lee scripting — it makes this old Marvelite’s toes curl!

Bravo For Adventure

Bravo For Adventure


About the same time as Spidey hits the stores, our oversized hardcover collection of Bravo For Adventure also goes on sale. It is such an honor to be able to bring Alex Toth’s masterwork back into print! In addition to Toth’s three Bravo stories, for the first time in a professionally-published collection we’ll be presenting a sampling of Bravo pages in color, some of them colored by Alex himself. I have an advance copy of this in hand, too, and I can tell you Bravo looks great on the shelf next to the three Alex Toth: Genius volumes.

This year marks the centennial for King Features Syndicate and in the second half of 2015 we’ll be publishing a big 100th anniversary coffee table book devoted to William Randolph Hearst’s brainchild, which brought our local newspapers Blondie, Prince Valiant, Thimble Theatre, Bringing Up Father, Beetle Bailey, Hagar The Horrible, Zits, Krazy Kat, and so on and on and on and on. I worked with Ron Goulart, Jared Gardner, and Brian Walker writing the text for this grand celebration of all things King Features, and we’ll showcase a wide array of artwork from scores of your favorite artists, to boot.

Beyond Mars

Beyond Mars


Later this year we’ll have a collection of Beyond Mars. This rare Sunday-only science fiction series from the 1950s features stories by SF author Jack Williamson and artwork from Lee Elias. The strip was unique since it shared themes with some of Williamson’s popular prose SF. Elias’s work was admired and respected by many comics professionals right on through the 1970s — in fact, I’ll be interviewing John Romita Sr., a self-professed Elias fan, about Beyond Mars tomorrow! You’ll be able to read Romita’s insights, plus opinions and information from other pros whose names are “household words” to most comics fans when Beyond Mars goes on sale at about the time the leaves are getting ready to fall. Even better news: this won’t be our last foray into science fictional newspaper comics. Right now we’re lining up all the logistics to be able to do another popular SF strip with the word “Star” in its title …

Bottom line for me, Roger: we may be over a hundred books old, but The Library of American Comics is still going strong!

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Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics Vol. 1

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    […] Roger Ash’s awesome interview with the Library of American Comics Associate Editor Bruce Canwell, go do so NOW! (He also mentions details about Beyond Mars, listed […]