Uncle Scrooge's first starring role, 1952. Artist: Carl Barks.

UNCLE SCROOGE

Original Medium: Comic books
Published by: Dell
Licensed from: Disney
First Appeared: 1947
Creator: Carl Barks
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Donald Duck's wealthy uncle, Scrooge McDuck, came into being when comic-book cartoonist Carl Barks (a former …

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… story man for Disney cartoons) needed a miserly old relative for a story, "Christmas on Bear Mountain" (1947). In this tale, Scrooge serves as a mere story prop, a simple caricature of his namesake from Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

But Barks was able to draw more from Scrooge. The skinflint was back six months later in "The Old Castle's Secret" (1948), the first of many adventure stories in which he, Donald, and Donald's own nephews, Huey, Louie and Dewey (often in their role as The Junior Woodchucks), all played major roles.

This was followed by "Voodoo Hoodoo" (1949), another adventure story; and "Letter to Santa" (1949), featuring a farcical rivalry between Scrooge and Donald. By 1950, Scrooge was well established as a Duck Family supporting character, and other writers and artists were beginning to use him.

"Only a Poor Old Man", which appeared in Dell's Four Color Comics #386 (1952) was a milestone — the first story in which Scrooge was billed as the star, rather than as his nephew's supporting character. It was also the story that catapulted Scrooge's lifelong adversaries, the larcenous Beagle Boys, who had made a minor appearance in Walt Disney's Comics & Stories four months earlier, to stardom.

Barks was the sole writer/artist on the Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge comic book series until his retirement in 1967. Highlights from his long involvement with the character include "Back to the Klondike" (1953), which reveals key information about Scrooge's past; "The Second Richest Duck" (1956), in which he meets a miser who could be his double, only nastier; "Land of the Pygmy Indians" (1957), an environmental fable; and "Micro Ducks from Outer Space" (1966), which ultimately turns on Scrooge's own conflicting emotions.

When Barks retired, Scrooge's adventures were continued by others — not just in America, but throughout the world. The most popular post-Barks version of Scrooge comics is that of Don Rosa, an American who works mainly for European publishers.

1967 marked Scrooge's first appearance in an animated cartoon. Scrooge McDuck and Money, directed by Hamilton Luske, was one of several extra-length 1960s cartoons using Disney characters like Donald Duck and Goofy to explain basic but sometimes confusing facts.

In 1988, Scrooge became a TV star. DuckTales, which ran 100 episodes as an after-school kids' show and inspired an animated feature, was based, to a large extent, on the original Barks stories.

Today, Scrooge can be seen on licensed items ranging from beach towels to coffee mugs. He's also in comic books the world over, even (as of the 2003 resumption of American Disney comics publication) in his country of origin. Given the peculiarities of the U.S. comic book market, Disney comics aren't a very prominent part of the comic book scene — but to the extent they're present at all, Scrooge is prominent among them.

— DDM

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Text ©1999-2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Walt Disney Co.