The Truth about Donald Duck's Life


There are three main sources compiled on the life of Donald Duck. The first one came out in 1941 and is called "The Life of Donald Duck" (and is claimed to be the only by Donald authorized biography). The second came out in 1960 - "This is Your Life Donald Duck" (FC 1109) by Tony Strobl. The third one from 1986 is "Buon compleanno, Paperino" by Marco Rota, based on the statement by Barks that Donald was raised by Uncle $crooge and Grandma Duck.

As those publications doesn't quite agree with one another in any way, this prooves that none of them are the complete and unabridged story of Donald's life. That Don Rosa states entirely other circumstances about Donald's childhood than those known from the above mentioned main sources in his "Life and Times of $crooge McDuck" doesn't make things easier to understand. There are some elements, though, that are very much similar in all the sources, so the truth is probably somewhere in between. As it is obvious that all four sources has been partly carried out by Donald Duck himself, there must be some explanations as to why they differ:
Early on in his career as an actor, Donald met Carl Barks. They became very good friends, but after Barks had helped out with a few Donald Duck cartoons (Donald had by this time become the main producer of these), Donald told him he had a more reliable future as a comic book artist, and adviced him to leave the cartoon department. As Donald really liked to work with Barks, he promised to help him out between the takes and during his sparetime.
In 1941, Donald's absolute fame as a star in Disney's cartoons was a world- wide fact. So when "The Life of Donald Duck" was written, Donald, like so many other stars, made many things up about his childhood's misery to give the readers what they wanted and expected. To Barks, however, Donald told the truth about his rich uncle Scrooge McDuck, and that he and Grandma had raised him in his youth.
A decade later, Donald met another comic book artist - Tony Srobl, and they became friends. Donald had told Strobl about his stay at Grandma's farm as a Duckling (but he forgot to tell about his uncle Scrooge), as well as his high-school years, and Strobl used these facts quite appropriate in his comic book story "This is your life Donald Duck". What he forgot to tell about was Donald's years as cartoon star, and he also mixed up the timeline of other events (the incident with the wolf and Gyro's invention told in chapter 4 happened in the midst of Donald's cartoon career, and the event in chapter 5 happened before). In the mid 80s, the Italian Marco Rota wanted to write a more comprehensive story about Donald's life, and made a skeleton out of Barks' files on the matter. He had an interview with the by the time very old Duck, who told him the truth about his youth, his years as an actor, and actual events (like his drafting and the day he first met his nephews) that several of the cartoons were based on. Eventually, Rota's records of the interview was damaged, and he had to rely on his memory of the interview while doing his story "Buon compleanno, Paperino" (1986), as Donald by now had been hired full-time by the American comics creator Don Rosa (who wouldn't let go of him). To work with Donald had been Rosa's dream for all his life, and he was very devoted by the time Donald spent on helping him out with his stories. For some reason, however, it appears Donald didn't appreciate Don's working methods, and he persuaded Don to write the circumstances around his parents and his earliest few years the way he did in the last chapters of "The Life and Times of $crooge McDuck". God knows why. This is also the last we've heard of him and his personal interference in the world of comics (he hasn't officially been sighted in real life since 1967).

[by: Jakob Söderbaum]

Here's a drawing (A4, inked pencils) I did in 1997 (published in Swedish fanzine NAFS(k)uriren #29) on this theme about Don working together with Donald - a hommage for Don's first ten years in the branch of Disney comics.

Here I've tried to compile as many of the facts given in these sources into a working timeline.
[Note: Not finished yet!]

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