The History of Disney's Ducktales is so Much Bigger Than Most Realize

While most fans of Disney's DuckTales know its setting and the characters from watching the animated series, the hit show actually got its start in comics. Carl Barks, a comic and Disney legend, was responsible for what would eventually be one of the animation company's most popular animated shows. If it weren't for Disney Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, the show would never have existed in its first or most recent iterations.

DuckTales released in 1987. It was recently rebooted in 2017, leading to the announcement of a reboot called Darkwing Duck—another show that was part of the Disney Afternoon tv block. The series predominantly featured the adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Unlike their uncle Donald, the triplets—as well as Scrooge—all debuted in comics before being featured in animated shorts and features.


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Carl Barks was an Eisner Awards Hall of Fame cartoonist who was well known for his work on Disney comics involving Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck. He was a story director for many animated shorts involving Donald. He was also responsible for the creation of Huey, Dewey, and Louie, who debuted in 1937 within the Donald Duck newspaper strip. His extensive work on Disney comics did not simply involve providing popular characters with new adventures in familiar settings. In fact, he created Duckburg in 1944, the world that DuckTales would eventually be set in and created many of its citizens who would go on to star in the show—including Scrooge McDuck's nemeses named Magica De Spell and Flintheart Glomgold.


The 1940s were a peak time for Disney comics, especially where ducks were concerned. Many of the prominent citizens of Duckburg debuted during this time, including Gyro Gearloose, Flintheart Glomgold, Gladstone Gander, and the Beagle Boys. Scrooge McDuck's wealth and ownership of the city were also established at this time within the comics. However, this creative endeavor extended well into the 1950s and beyond. These comic adventures extended their influence beyond the page, as well as beyond DuckTales, considering Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark was inspired by the Uncle Scrooge Comics #7 (1954) story "The Seven Cities of Cibola." Scrooge McDuck thrived in comics for twenty years before debuting in animated form. Despite the wait, he is still easily recognizable by fans who have never touched a Disney comic—thanks to the distinctive and unique characterization that Carl Barks' comic work established.

These Disney characters' comic adventures also have far more accolades than even big fans of the animated series may realize. The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck—released between 1992 and 1994—won an Eisner Award. It had the creative team of Don Rosa and Todd Klein. These stories collected the history of Scrooge and his family, from Clan McDuck to Scrooge's Number One Dime. Rosa regularly based his work on the foundation created by Barks, maintaining a coherent world within the Scrooge and Donald comics over many decades. Carl Barks was also credited as a writer for a few episodes of DuckTales since the stories were adapted from comics he'd written. Were it not for these comics and the long-time work of two dedicated cartoonists, both Disney's DuckTales and hit shows like Darkwing Duck would have never existed.