Disney Comics History

Disney comics had their beginnings in 1930, when Walt Disney began writing a Mickey Mouse daily comic strip for newspapers. That same year the creative chores on the strip shifted from Disney and artist Ub Iwerks to Floyd Gottfredson. The strip did so well that an entire comic strip department was created at the Walt Disney studio, producing additional strips such as Donald Duck and Silly Symphonies (both featuring the work of Al Taliaferro).
1935 saw Disney Associates Kay Kamen and Hal Horne take advantage of the growing comics industry and began publishing Mickey Mouse Magazine, which featured reprints of the daily strips. Eventually production of the magazine was entrusted to Western Publishing and, in 1939, they began publishing a series of one-shots titled Four Color, which also contained reprints of the daily strips. In 1940, when an all Donald Duck issue was a great success, Mickey Mouse Magazine was re-invented as an official monthly comic entitled Walt Disney's Comics And Stories.
Dated October 1940, the first issue of WDC&S featured Donald Duck on the front cover but continued the Mickey serial from Mickey Mouse Magazine, "Mickey Meets Robinson Crusoe." The early issues contained mostly daily strip reprints and short gags, except for the Mickey strip by Gottfredson, which had a long run in the 1930s (Gottfredson is still considered by many to be the best Mickey Mouse artist). Over the years, dozens of characters have appeared in the book and on the cover, although Donald Duck has been on most of them. The book was usually made up of two or more feature stories, two or more text-and-picture stories, one or two puzzle pages, maybe a contest, and a Table of Contents (64 pages of story and art plus covers, monthly. They sure knew how to do it back then).
Issue #31 (April 1943) introduced the first of over 250 ten-page Donald Duck stories by the legendary Carl Barks. Barks had produced "Pluto Saves the Ship" (1941) and "Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold" (1942) as one-shots for the publisher, and it was apparent then that he was a multi-talented creator. During this period, due in part to Barks' talent as well as a dwindling number of strips available to reprint, the title shifted from mostly strip reprints to original material, ushering in the salad days for WDC&S that lasted well into the 1950s. Year after year, Barks produced an incredible array of stories for the publisher including the "Donald Duck Christmas" special (which introduced his most famous character Uncle Scrooge in 1947). Barks also premiered many of his most fondly remembered characters in issues of WDC&S, like #88 (January, 1948, the first Gladstone Gander), #125 (February 1951, the first Junior Woodchucks), #140 (May 1952, the first Gyro Gearloose), and #134 (November 1951, the first Beagle Boys - one panel appearance).
Years before he joined the Disney Studio, Carl Barks had worked for the adult humor magazine The Calgary Eye-Opener, and had collaborated on a one-shot with Eye-Opener editor Ed Summer in 1932. This one shot, titled "Coo-Coo", which was distributed in extremely small quantities and to which Barks contributed many of the gags, shows that Barks' was an enormous talent even then.
In 1962, Dell ended their agreement with Western to distribute their comics (which they had been doing for decades), which led to the creation of Gold Key Comics. It was during this period that WDC&S began its long decline, due in part to lower quality of the material when compared to Barks' strips. The title continued to decline in popularity and was finally laid to rest in 1984.

Recently, Steve Geppi, president and CEO of Diamond Comics Distribution and Gemstone Publishing acquired the rights to publish Disney Comics, including reprinting classic material as well as producing new comics featuring such classics as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. We can only hope that this will mean a new Golden Age for Walt Disney's timeless characters

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