Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Uncle Scrooge and the Economics Lesson

Back in the 1970s and 1980s I would always keep hearing what an excellent writer and artist Carl Barks was but I had never read a single one of his stories. It's certainly not that I had no interest in funny animal comics since by that time I was already a longtime fan of The Fox and the Crow. It's just that I hadn't crossed paths with any of Mr. Barks' works.

When the publication of The Carl Barks Library was announced I decided, sight unseen, to take the plunge. I pre-ordered that hardbound and oversized 30-book collection reprinting every one of Mr. Barks' Disney stories so I could see if everyone was correct about how good the work was. Yes, I found out, they were. I enjoyed the books immensely as I read the massive volumes but it's been decades now since I even looked at them.

I got a reminder about the genius of Carl Barks last week at my afternoon school. Mr. Clough, the economics teacher, told me how he was using an Uncle Scrooge story to introduce the concept of supply and demand. Mr. Clough lent me his copy of the comic book so I could read it. It's Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #363 from 1970, and the Grand Comics Database informs me that the story was originally published in 1951's WDC&S #126. (In addition, GCD tells me that this exact story was also reprinted in Comix: A History of Comics Books in America by Les Daniels, so I guess that I first read the duck tale way back when I was a kid but forgot about it!)

In the untitled story, all of Uncle Scrooge's money blows away and right into the beaks of every other duck on earth. Unbowed, Scrooge tells his nephews that he will be earning it all back. He continued tilling his garden religiously while all the nouveau riche fowl got lazy and stopped working at their jobs. Uncle Scrooge was the only one anybody could buy a head of cabbage from  so he charged a million dollars per head and refilled his money bin. In just ten pages Carl Barks told a story more cohesive and entertaining than many comics writers today can wedge into one of their  six-issue 'arcs.' Bravo.

And although it's definitely a bird of a different feather, the time that I spoke for a duck is an excellent little slice of life that many people told me they enjoyed reading and I recommend it to you.


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