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July 8

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July 8, 1909 – Publisher and Disney Legend Mario Gentilini is Born

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“Mario [Gentilini] was a great pioneer in the comic field.” – Roy E. Disney

On July 8, 1909, Mario Gentilini was born inLuzzara, Italy. After studying art at the Accademia di Brera, he garnered a reputation as a figurative painter, and also taught high school until 1936. He was offered a temporary position at Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, a well-known publishing firm. It was there that Gentilini learned of Topolino magazine, which published the translated version of the popular Mickey Mouse comics. Gentilini’s position became full-time at the firm, and he started working as a retouch artist for the magazine before becoming its editor nine years later. Gentilini was instrumental in giving Italian artists to tell their own stories featuring the Disney characters; he also created the monthly magazine I Classici di Walt Disney in 1958, which featured the best stories from Topolino. His new magazine was published in seven languages, selling an average of two million copies per issue. He also created Manuale dell Giovani Marmotte, a Disney-themed manual for the Italian boy scouts. Gertilini retired from the publishing firm in 1980, and passed away in 1988. In 1997, he was inducted as a Disney Legend for his work in international Disney publishing.

February 7

February 7, 1938 – The Daily Donald Duck Comic Strip Begins

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“Come back and fight like a man!”

On February 7, 1938, the daily newspaper comic strip for Donald Duck began publishing. Four years after his premiere in the Silly Symphony The Little Wise Hen, the series was first written by artist Al Taliaferro, who had worked on the Silly Symphony comics in the newspapers. Taliaferro lobbied hard for Donald to get his own strip, and after a lot of hesitation from Roy Disney and the comic department, Taliaferro was allowed to make Donald a solo star in the Silly Symphony comics. These strips were popular enough to be collected in a 64-page comic book from Western Publishing; the book itself surprised everyone with the high number of sales. This first strip in the Silly Symphony comic to feature Donald, and begin the comic career of the duck, has a plot similar to the Mickey Mouse short film Mickey’s Circus, where Donald is trying, and failing, to command the trained seals.

December 30

December 30, 1937 – The Donald Duck Comic Serial Paolino Paperino e il mistero di Marte Begins

Marte

“Chi entra qui accumula tanta energia da diventare invincibile!”

On December 30, 1937, the Donald Duck serial comic Paolino Paperino e il mistero di Marte (translated as Donald Duck and the Mystery of Mars) began publication. The comic was written and illustrated by Federico Pedrocchi, and was the first piece to feature Donald as an adventurer, rather than just a comedic hothead; in this instance, Donald is tricked into entering a spaceship heading for Mars, and is kidnapped by Martians, among other mishaps. This comic was the first eighteen volumes in a series of Donald comics known as Paperino e alter avventure. This is also the first printed instance of Donald’s Italian name, Paolino Paperino.

October 17

October 17, 1937 – Donald’s Nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie First Appear

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“I am sending your angel nephews, Louie, Huey and Dewey, to stay with you while their father is in the hospital. A giant firecracker exploded under his chair.”

On October 17, 1937, the characters Huey, Dewey, and Louie first appeared in the Donald Duck Sunday comic strip. They made their first appearance after Donald’s cousin Della sent them to him while their father was in the hospital thanks to one of their pranks. The triplets and their antics would prove popular enough to transition onto the screen in the short film Donald’s Nephews, released on April 15, 1938. Seen as one entity throughout most of their career, the choice to make them wear different colors for distinction came about when they were given their own show in 1987, DuckTales. Huey was to wear red (the brightest “hue”), Dewey would wear blue (the color of water and dew), and Louie would wear green.

July 10

July 10, 1955 – The Character Scamp Appears in the Disney Comic Strip

Scamp

“Merry Christmas Uncle Trusty and Uncle Jock!”

On July 10, 1955, the character Scamp appeared in the Disney comic strip series Disney’s Treasury of Classic Tales, which was used to promote upcoming Disney films. The strip on this day was promoting the film Lady and the Tramp, with Scamp appearing in the final panel as one of Lady and Tramp’s puppies. Although not named in the film nor this strip, the character was given a name in October of that year, when he began appearing in his own daily strip which ran until 1988.

March 27

March 27, 1901 – Cartoonist and Disney Legend Carl Barks is Born

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“I want to thank the Disney Studios for this [Disney Legends] award, not only for myself, but for all those comic book fans: the kids who used to buy those comic books for ten cents and now sell them for $2,000.”

On March 27, 1901, Carl Barks was born in Merrill, Oregon. His passion for drawing showed at an early age, and he would try to improve his style by copying the comics from the newspaper. After spending his teenage years and his twenties drifting from job to job, he decided to apply to the Disney Studios in 1935, and was hired as an inbetweener with a salary of $20 a week. He started submitting gag ideas, and was then moved over to the story department. As the Donald Duck short film series began to develop, Barks worked closely with Jack Hannah in creating several story ideas for the character, including such shorts as Donald’s Nephews and The Vanishing Private. However, the legend goes that Barks was having allergy problems from the air conditioning in the studio, and wanted to find work elsewhere within Disney that wouldn’t require him to be at the studio full time. In 1942, Barks and Hannah created a one-shot comic for Donald called “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold,” which became the first original Disney comic book. This was the start of Barks’ career with the Donald Duck comics.

Barks was able to flesh out not only Donald’s character through the comics, but also the characters of Donald’s nephews; he also created new characters Gladstone Gander, a rival for Daisy’s affections, and his most famous creation, Scrooge McDuck. Scrooge’s first appearance was in “Christmas on Bear Mountain.” Other characters came along, including the Beagle Boys and Morgana, which are seen in the animated series Ducktales, based on Barks’ work. Barks’ stories were epic adventures, and he was known for doing thorough research on the regions in which the stories were set. It was also said that the opening sequence in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark was based on Barks’ work. Barks retired from the comics in 1966, and in 1991, Barks was awarded as a Disney Legend. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 99.

November 15

November 15, 1975 – Floyd Gottfredson’s Final Daily Strip is Published

“Floyd played a major role in getting Disney’s (then) new character, Mickey Mouse, known throughout the world by producing Mickey’s daily comic strip.” – Archivist Dave Smith

On November 15, 1975, the final daily strip drawn by comic strip artist Floyd Gottfredson was published. Gottfredson, having drawn the comic as a “temporary assignment” in 1930, retired from the Disney Company on October 1, 1975. The comics began as an adaptation of the short films, evolving into a humorous adventure. As Gottfredson continued the strip, the strip became more gag focused as the size of comics shrank.

May 5

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May 5, 1905 – Disney Legend and Cartoonist Floyd Gottfredson is Born

“…since Walt hired me as backup man on the strip, he asked me to take it over. By now I had become very interested in animation and told Walt I’d rather stay in it. So Walt asked me to take over the strip for two weeks until he found another artist to do it. Nothing further was ever said about it, and I continued to draw the Mickey daily for 45 years – until my retirement in October 1975.” – Floyd Gottfredson

Floyd Gottfredson, the man behind the Mickey Mouse comic strip and Mickey’s “second father,” was born on May 5, 1905, in Kaysville, Utah. His interest in drawing came about due to an accident when he was eleven: he went hunting with his cousin one Sunday instead of going to church, and was accidentally shot in the arm. Unable to play with the other children, Gottfredson turned to art, and his talent blossomed under the care of his mother. Although his father disapproved of his son’s artistic ambitions, Gottfredson continued to pursue drawing, not letting his injury slow him down. In 1928, after winning second place in a national cartoon contest, he developed enough confidence to quit his job in Utah and move to Los Angeles to become a newspaper cartoonist. Although unsuccessful in that venture, fate led him to apply to the Disney Studios, where he was hired as an inbetweener.

When Gottfredson began at the Disney Studios, the Mickey Mouse comic was already being worked on by several artists. Although he had expressed interest in working on the strip, Disney talked him out of it, but did give him the job as a back-up man for those animators. By the time Gottfredson was asked to draw the comic, he had become fond of the animation medium and wanted to stay there. Disney asked him to draw the comic for at least two weeks until they found a replacement, which led to Gottfredson drawing the comic until his retirement 45 years later.

A publicity shot for Gottfredson and the comic

Through the Mickey Mouse comic strip, Gottfredson ended up pioneering a new kind of comic: the funny animal adventure story. Although the early strips were basic retellings of the shorts in theaters, Gottfredson soon added his own spin to the stories, telling grand adventures that reflected the issues of the time. Gottfredson also had Mickey, the plucky underdog, pitted against corrupt politicians, mad scientists, and other assorted villains, with Mickey’s goal to protect his friends and his country. He retired from the comic on October 1, 1975, and on July 22, 1986, he died at the age of 81. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2003, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Hall of Fame in 2006.

January 13

January 13, 1930 – The Mickey Mouse Comic Strip is Distributed by King Features Syndicate.

A preview of the Mickey Mouse comic strip.

On January 13, 1930, two newspapers in the United States, the New York Mirror and the Oakland Post-Enquirer, debuted a new comic strip featuring the popular movie character, Mickey Mouse. It was slow to gain popularity, as the strip was an ongoing story, rather than the usual practice of a gag per strip, but it became an enduring classic lasting for decades.

The first eighteen strips were drawn by famed Disney animator Ub Iwerks. Iwerks recalled that Disney’s original ambition was to become a cartoonist, which is likely the reason the early Mickey Mouse cartoons included the byline, A Walt Disney Comic. Disney decided to write the first four months of comics, although Iwerks had been contacted first about creating a comic strip about Mickey. As Joseph Connelly, the President of King Features Syndicate, wrote in a letter that reads almost like fanmail:

“I think your mouse animation is one of the funniest features I have

ever seen in the movies. Please consider producing one in comic strip

form for newspapers. If you can find time to do one, I shall be very

interested in seeing some specimens.”

Iwerks was already spread thin with other projects for the studio, and handed the letter to Walt, claiming it “wasn’t [his] business. Walt made the deal, and I did the drawings for a few strips.” Walt, on the other hand, had this to say when asked about the comic:

“[In 1929 we were looking for] ways to exploit characters like the

Mouse. The most obvious was a comic strip. So I started work on a

comic strip hoping I could sell it to one of the syndicates. As I was

producing the first one, a letter came to me from King Features

wanting to know if I would be interested in doing a comic strip

featuring Mickey Mouse. Naturally, I accepted their offer.”

As with the story of how Mickey Mouse came to be, there were discrepancies between the recollections of Disney and Iwerks. Although it may not be clear through their statements of who was accurate, it seems that Walt was always interested in doing a comic strip, but work had not started before Iwerks received the letter from Connelly.

But Iwerks did animate the strips, and then the project was given to Win Smith for three months. Smith butted heads with Walt over seniority and age; when Walt asked Smith to write the comic as well as animate it, Smith refused, telling Walt that “No goddamn young whipper-snapper’s going to tell me what to do.” Smith quit that day, and the strip was taken over by Floyd Gottfredson.

Floyd Gottfredson

Gottfredson was asked to take over the strip for a few weeks until a replacement was found, but ended up working on the comic for forty-five years, until he retired in 1975. While the early comics were based on the cartoons in theaters, Gottfredson put his own personal spin on the strip, using contemporary events like the Great Depression and World War II as backdrops for heroic adventures in which Mickey battled corrupt politicians and assorted villains to save his friends and country.

The first comic strip, entitled “Lost on a Desert Island,” is very reflective of the attitudes of the period, with exaggerated interpretations of anyone who wasn’t Anglo-Saxon. These clichés were commonplace, used when one didn’t have the time or patience to create a fully-formed character.

The comic itself is a dry run of the adventure comics that lay ahead in the strip’s future, but it is charming for what it is. It begins with Mickey in the barnyard, trying to fly a homemade plane, which is similar to the plot of the 1928 short film, Plane Crazy. Mickey gets the plane to fly (losing Minnie Mouse in the process, who lands to safety using her bloomers as a parachute), but ends up in the middle of a typhoon and crashes on a desert island. Although this is a continuous story, there are gags to end each strip, and it has a real charm about it. If one is able to look past the attitudes of the past that are heavily featured in the strip, it’s a good read overall.