Comic Radio Show: We did an interview at Sussmanns Bookstore in Munich
2 years ago. I hope you do remember that.
Don Rosa: Of course, I do.
CRS: So, what did change for you in the last two years? Or
did nothing change?
DR: It's a boring answer but yes, it's identical. Because of
the kind of characters I do my job never changes. There are always the same
exact characters, which is fun, I like that. That's kind of a challenge. The
kind of stories I'm working on are just the same. I think my drawing is a little
bit better, that might be the only difference. There was a lot of room for improvement.
When I started I was just like a fanzine artist and I still think of me as a
glorified fanzine artist. I still don't feel like a professional artist.
I tell you a difference. It was always so refreshing to visit Germany or any
other place in Europe because I'd see such a vastly superior culture. Culture
in general but certainly comics culture. American comics culture has been virtually
dead for thirty years and over here I see such an interesting and wide variety
of all kinds of comics, all sorts of genres of comics and types of art work.
And now I'm hearing that this American superhero
crap is starting to take over and I'm very disappointed in the Europeans.
I thought they could think for themselves instead of imitate a culture. And
if they have to imitate some culture why do they pick a decadent one like America.
It doesn't make sense.
CRS: Why do think it's so bad. Is it just cultural junk food?
DR: Oh yeah. That's a good way to put it. Well, it would take
more time than we have to explain how this bizarre fascination with these violent
superhero comics came about. It was all a matter of the fact that comics stopped
selling in America and then changed it to a direct sales market where comics
were only sold in certain stores, no return policy, they would only print as
many as they sold. We probably talked about this two years ago. Forty years
ago in America to sell 500.000 copies of a comic they had to print 5 million
because of the distribution system. That was an incredible waste of paper and
money. But that was the way magazine distribution was. But when comic book buyers
disappeared in the late sixties, early seventies they went to the direct sales
So instead of having to print a vast quantity of comics and selling only a fraction
of them they would plan. So six months ahead of time they would ask: We make
a comic; this guy is gonna write it, this guy's gonna pencil and this one's
gonna ink it. How many do you wanna buy? And all the stores would order 500,
32, 6 or whatever and they'd have orders for 300.000, so they'd print 300.000.
And that's like printing money, there's no loss. And of course the buyers would
buy five or ten copies of the same comic because the majority was just these
mindless investors. It was like a cult hobby, like gum cards, there was no sense
in it. It was just people buying something which they thought they could resell
for a profit later.
CRS: But that's the same with your comics at Gladstone, isn't
DR: Gladstone is slowly going out of business. They were doing
great ten years ago when they first started. We were all amazed that they were
doing so well. They were increasing. We hadn't had this in the American economics
for five or ten years. Gladstone came out publishing really quality comics with
the respect for the characters and an interest in the artists and writers and
they had a growth increase per year which was really amazing. Then Disney took
there license away and decided they'd publish themselves. That disgusted the
buyers so much that when they finally gave up and gave the license back to Gladstone
the buyers wouldn't come back. I talked with a lot of them and they said that
they felt betrayed. They'd begun to love something and then it was taken over
by people who they could tell weren't interested in the material and just wanted
money. They felt hurt. It's like you see in a bad love movie. They say: "I don't
want to give my love to someone who's going to betray me." That's they way they
felt. So Gladstone could never regain the momentum. And since then that market
I was talking about that collectors investor cult is dying away and even the
superhero comic sales in America are down by more than seventy percent over
five years ago and they are wondering if they are going to be in the business
in another two or three months and of course that affects Gladstone. As much
as anybody they were hurt the most by some national distribution increase in
fees and once that happened at the beginning of this year they discontinued
the Disney comic books in America again. Gladstone's still in business but now
only printing $7-albums that are bought by collectors and subscribers. But again,
as it was about fifteen years ago to the general public there are no Disney
comic books in the United States, but to the general public they are not really
aware that there are any comic books because you see 'em only in the specialties
shops and not in every corner drugstore or newsstand like you do here in Germany.
So that's a difference, that Gladstone is unfortunately sinking away both because
of buying public the and the complete lack of support by the Disney company
to help them out.
CRS: What about starting a new series for Gladstone. Not Disney stories
but something new, maybe with some new experiences from here. Would something
like that help Gladstone?
DR: I wouldn't attempt that. Continue a career of selling comic books
in the United States. I don't think there's any point for that. They were lucky
if they survive another few years with these sales. As much as I hate that whole
outlook - that's the reason I stopped even looking at new comics about fifteen
years ago - if it was not for that sort of twisted mentality we probably wouldn't
have comic books at all in the United states. When I was a collector in the
early seventies the publishers were telling us that within five years they'd
be out of business cause there were so few collectors and buyers of comic books
in the United States that the national distribution system obviously was not
CRS: Do you think about moving to Europe where you have more fans?
DR: You mean live in Europe? I've already been working for Europe for
nine years.. I don't work for the United States. I work directly for Europe.
I wouldn't wanna move to Europe because I don't wanna pay those taxes. I'm a
typical American, we pay so few taxes and we're still whining about it. We only
pay a dollar a gallon for gas and we still cry. I like the culture over here
but I have too much stuff to move. I'd like to live someplace where they don't
have poison ivy but then I would miss the hummingbird. As I said I like the
culture and the variety. You see so many different types of architecture and
people and landscapes and everything, but I like living in America, as long
as I live out in the country and away from most of the other Americans. And
the taxes are high. Also I wouldn't want to be that famous all the time. It's
kind of nerve wracking.
CRS: Let's talk about Uncle
Scrooge. What's the new story?
DR: I'm doing a story right now which is about the most famous
lost treasure in North America. It's called "The Lost Dutchman Mine". Have you
ever heard of that? Obviously not. I'm an American doing stories for Europe
but I have to do the stories as an American. I can't worry about what's gonna
make sense to an European because then I'd go crazy. So, "The Lost Dutchman
Mine" is the most famous treasure legend in America and I'm just gonna do this
story and see if I can get the Europeans interested. If I tell the story right and even if I make it all up I hope they'll be interested.
CRS: How long do you work at one story?
DR: I usually do the longer stories which are anywhere between
25 to 30 pages with an average half a page per day. If you count in research
and the writing and the penciling and the inking a 30 page story would take
me 60 work days. Most of my stories are 25 pages, so that's 50 work days, about
10 weeks. I work very slow because I take all that extra work of research for
all the authentic details even though probably 99 percent of the readers think
I'm making all those things up.
A good example: I did a story about the most famous treasure in South America
"Eldorado", which you heard of I'm sure, in opposite to "The Lost Dutchman Mine".
But that makes sense because "The Lost Dutchman Mine" is a legend from the 1890s
and "Eldorado" is actually the whole reason for people coming to America. So
my story tied in with Germany and known banking company from back in the 1500s.
I had to have Scrooge find a metal plaque at the bottom of the ocean from a
ship wreck left by an agent of this bank. It had to have some writing on it
that would lead him this treasure hunt but it had to be written not only in
authentic German text but it had to be written in authentic medieval German
language. I had to get in touch with some of the worlds experts in this in some
university in Germany. I told them what I needed the text to say and they send
me one version and a literal translation. I said, that's good but the literal
translation is a little different. I need it a little bit different. So we did
three versions and I verified the exact way it was written and that's now in
the comic. Nobody probably noticed that but it's fun to do. I just get a kick
out of it. It would be too difficult to explain each individual reader every
aspect. It probably seems foolish to put so much extra work in a comic that
the average reader never notices but there are a lot of frustrating things in
this job that I look forward to these individual joys that I can get out of
it. It's interesting.
CRS: But in the German versions of your albums there are explanations
about the stories and some of your extra work. Why don't you give some more
DR: You have to remember that the German albums are not the
work I do. I do the weekly comic books that don't have texts and I do them for
five or ten different countries just for Egmont 
and the German album is published several years later and is just one group
of readers who is going to see that text. When I'm doing texts for the German
album I tell them about it but I can't do it for everybody. It would be nice
if my stories would be printed in albums in more countries and if they'd give
me some text I could explain everything about the efforts that the people don't
know about. Then I could say: "Now they know!"
CRS: In the Barks Library there are additional texts like e.g.
letters. Would you care for something like that?
DR: I've had some trouble about letters in the last couple
of years and it bothers me. They need to get people's permission on both sides
before they print the letters. Letters are private correspondence and I don't
know if they've gotten permission of all those people either from Barks or the
people who wrote the letters. I don't like that. Letters to the editor is another
thing, those are public letters but letters to or from Barks, that's very private.
I wrote letters to Carl Barks back in the early seventies and they are not to
be printed, they are just for Carl Barks. Now I find out they might turn up
someplace, in some album and somebody's exposing that stuff. That's irritating.
CRS: So you hire some lawyers if it happens?
DR: No, not that sort of thing. It's just rude, it's just damn
CRS: So for the conclusion of the interview we'd like to ask
you for some "FAMOUS LAST WORDS". Some of the artists said to our readers: "Buy
DR: I don't need to say that because whether they buy my comics
or not doesn't a difference. I don't get any extra money because I don't get
royalties. So whether my comics sell one or a trillion copies for me it's the
I have a good idea for those words: From what I noticed going on around here
at this convention in contrast to a few years ago I tell the Europeans: "Think
for yourselves! Don't buy the American superhero comics! Buy what you know is
better than that. Don't be led by magazines and price guides to tell you what's
hot. Buy what's good."
CRS: Thank you for your time.
Interview by mg , pictures by aks .
The Interview took place on June 13th 1998 in Erlangen, Germany during the 8th
Thanks to the Ehapa-Verlag 
for their cooperation.