Carl Barks Comic Book Art


Western Publishing

Western Publishing, also known as Western Printing and Lithographing Company, was founded in 1907 by Edward Henry Wadewitz in Racine, Wisconsin. Originally, the company focused on producing labels for food packaging, but later expanded into other printing services, including children's books and comics.

In the 1930s, Western Publishing began a partnership with the popular comic strip character, Dick Tracy, producing books, comics, and other merchandise featuring the character. The company also entered into a licensing agreement with Walt Disney Productions in the 1930s, which allowed them to produce books and other products featuring Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Snow White.

In 1942, Western Publishing introduced the Little Golden Books series, which quickly became a huge success. The series featured affordable, high-quality books for children with colorful illustrations and engaging stories. Some of the most popular Little Golden Books include "The Poky Little Puppy," "The Saggy Baggy Elephant," and "Scuffy the Tugboat."

In the 1950s and 1960s, Western Publishing expanded its publishing empire by acquiring other companies, including Golden Press and Whitman Publishing. The company also continued to produce popular comic books featuring characters such as Bugs Bunny, Superman, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

In the 1980s, Western Publishing began to struggle financially due to increased competition and changing market trends. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and was later acquired by Classic Media, which was in turn acquired by DreamWorks Animation. Today, Western Publishing is owned by Universal Brand Development and continues to produce books and other merchandise featuring popular characters from film, television, and literature.

Dell Publishing Company and Western Publishing had a long-standing partnership in the mid-20th century to produce comic books and other publications. Dell was a major publisher of comics during the Golden Age of Comics, which lasted from the late 1930s to the early 1950s.

In the 1940s, Dell began publishing comic book adaptations of popular movies and television shows, such as "The Lone Ranger," "Tarzan," and "Howdy Doody." To produce these comics, Dell partnered with Western Publishing, which had expertise in printing and lithography. Western Printing produced the physical comics and provided distribution, while Dell provided the editorial content and managed the printing process.

The Dell-Western partnership was particularly successful in the 1950s, with the introduction of the "Four Color" series, which featured a rotating lineup of different characters in each issue. The series was printed by Western Publishing and distributed by Dell. Some of the most popular characters featured in the "Four Color" series included Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Donald Duck.

Over time, Dell's focus shifted away from comics, and the company eventually stopped publishing them altogether in the 1970s. However, Western Publishing continued to produce comics and other publications, including the popular Little Golden Books series. Today, Western Publishing is owned by Universal Brand Development, while Dell is owned by Random House.



Photo below shows The Western Publishing Co., Racine, Wisconsin (mid-1930s)





There is a great deal of confusion about the publisher that employed Barks for 24 straight years. They had many names, including: Western Printing & Lithographing, Western Publishing Company, Whitman, K.K. Publications, Gold Key and Dell - the latter was responsible for most of the comics containing Barks' material - but it is more or less the same company. The most commonly used among Barksists seems to be Western so that is used on this site.

Carl Barks at his drawing desk around 1962.

It was not usual for an illustrator to be allowed to work at home. It was also unusual that he worked alone. The normal procedure was for different writers and illustrators to be assigned to work together and be given a synopsis of a story but Barks did it all alone. Until he married Garé...

Barks designed and built a studio at his home. He worked every day from 1 to 10 p.m. His productivity was colossal and he did it all by himself. Until 1954, when his third wife Margaret Wynnfred Williams would lend him a hand.

By 1966 Barks was ready for retirement and he and Garé prepared for his golden years. Barks was also becoming interested in the enchanting world of painting.


The following is a part of an interview with Del Connell, animator and story man in the  Disney Studios in 1939 and later being an editor for the comic books of Western Publishing from 1957 – 1984. In this interview he explains why most of the art being produced for Western Publishing ( later Dell ), including Barks`pages, were really destroyed.

But why was all the other art destroyed ? Have it really been space problems as the fans always heard ?

Del Connell : Disney would wanted destroyed it because they didn`t wanted it accidentially printed again or to be out on the market. They figured if the negatives and the art is destroyed it couldn`t be reprinted again.


Original metal printing plate for an Uncle Scrooge one pager by Carl Barks.

Del Connell 1918 - 2011

Editor at Western Publishing : 1957 - 1984.

Being the owner of the copyright, why would Disney have been afraid of the artwork being around ?

Del Connell : They didn`t wanted anybody to produce more books. Western Publishing was a licensee of Disney and they just wanted them to produce only as much as what written in the contracts.

Interesting..! So Barks art was destroyed just because it was a licensee contract produced by a licensee. And a lot of Gottfredson`s and taliaferro`s strip art survived just because it was produced by Disney themselves for the syndicate. ?

Del Connell : Right..!

Western Publishing - Poughkeepsie, New York.

This was the place where most of Barks`stories were printed.

Color registration on work produced from a four color offset press is examined by employees Leon Kwiecinski (left) and Don Mortenson at Western Publishing Company in Racine.

If you are intersted in seeing the printing proces and how the publisher took the original artwork from paper to printing plates take a look at this old movie sequence..Fascinating stuff. 

The printing plate process begins at the counter 4.08.

Look at the video here :

A Western Publishing artist works on a forthcoming book in 1956.

Chase Craig ( 1910 - 2001 )

Editor at Western, Chase Craig saved nearly 75 % of the original comic book artwork made by Carl Barks. 

Chase Craig sitting in his office. Craig was the editor at Western Publishing from the 1950`ies to the mid 1970`ies.