The Epilogue

The DON ROSA COLLECTION is a deluxe 9-volume set of books published by Egmont that tells the story of my life with comics, particularly the $crooge McDuck and Donald Duck comics for which I have become best known. Under various translated titles, this series is appearing in Finland, Norway, Germany and Sweden. As part of the special texts in the series, I wrote an autobiography of my life, at least as it pertains to comic books. As a conclusion to those texts it was always planned that I would write a sort of “epilogue” to my career, the subject of which would obviously be the reasons for why I quit. This was not a text I was anxious to write, but it was necessary. It would require revisiting many unhappy emotions and experiences. I put the task off until the last minute, but in September 2012 my time was up so I wrote what I had to write.

I always knew this would be difficult for Egmont to deal with. But I am proud and happy to say that, with a few minor changes, they agreed to accept it. And the epilogue was scheduled to appear at the end of volume 9.

However, this was not to be. At the last moment the Disney Corporation refused to allow my text to appear in a book series that was published under their license. On the other hand, the book series also appears under my license, so I also had the power to prevent book set #3 from being published if it did not contain my intended final text. But that was unthinkable! Fans had already received the first 6 volumes, and at no small cost! Plus the book set was so magnificently well done by Egmont! I could not allow it to be ruined.

So I agreed to allow set #3 to go forward as long as I would be allowed in volume 9 to direct interested readers to the “epilogue” as it is appearing on this private website.

If there is something in my text that someone doesn’t wish to be known to the public, it seems to me that inclusion in an expensive book set that has only a few thousand buyers in several different countries would be a rather harmless revelation. But now that text will be on the INTERNET. That was never part of my original intention.

Thank you.


WHY
I
QUIT

In the first volumes of this book set I wrote chapters of an autobiography that told the story of my life in relation to comic books. I described how I was an inveterate comics fan, collector and amateur cartoonist who loved many types of comics, but whose very favorite were (as with so many other comic fans) Carl Barks’ stories of Donald Duck and (his own creation) Scrooge McDuck. And how, when I was in early middle-age, I stumbled, literally overnight, into not simply being a professional writer/artist of comics, but of my very favorite comics – Barks’ Ducks… in particular his Scrooge McDuck! And how I eventually became inexplicably internationally famous due to the enduring popularity of Barks’ characters. I described the boundless joys this sudden new life meant for such an ardent Barks fan as myself. But now we are in the final volume of this book set, and the story must be brought full circle. In this final autobiographical installment, I must tell the end of the tale: Why…I…quit.

I have told you of the myriad joys of being proclaimed as the most popular current cartoonist on the world’s most popular comics. But I have not mentioned the other side of the coin — the many difficulties and bitter frustrations of this experience. Some of these are physical and some are philosophical. Some I brought with me into this career and the main one was already built into the system. There cannot be any simple, single reason that I would willingly quit the job that was my childhood dream. And I must be honest and admit that, as with Donald Duck, some of my problems I can only blame directly on myself. But of the many reasons I finally quit, perhaps there are six main ones, and I’ll try to explain them in reverse order…

Reason #6: I’ve worked too long

This is a weak reason, but it’s nonetheless a fact of my life. I had the “misfortune” of being born into a wealthy family that owned an important construction company. I was the only male child in this family so it was decided for me since birth that I would take over the company when I grew up. To these ends I went to work at the family company at an early age, probably around 14 or 15. This meant that I never had a summer vacation. The moment school ended in the Spring until it began again in the Fall, I was a full-time construction laborer. But I enjoyed this opportunity – the union level pay was quite good, and it gave me some cash with which to enjoy my many hobbies and collections. This is a main reason I was able to build one of America’s largest comic book collections during the era when the old issues were “relatively” inexpensive. But it also robbed me of a major portion, perhaps the most important portion, of my childhood and any sort of social life.

After high school I went directly into engineering college which is probably the most difficult four year college course, meaning many classes, long daily lab sessions, and loads of highly technical homework. One year it also entailed a month-long surveying camp during the Summer. But there were naturally still no vacations between semesters. As during high school, not only did I work at the Keno Rosa Co. all Summer, but also during the Christmas and Spring breaks. Upon graduating college, I went to work the very next day full-time at the family company. Meanwhile, during any moment I was not either studying or working, I was busy writing articles and drawing comics in every issue of several different comic collector fan-magazines. And I never took vacations.

By the year 2008 I had worked full-time for well over 40 years. Most Americans retire after 30 – 35 years. With everything else that was killing my spirit (see below), I was thinking that I had earned my right to finally slow down and take time to enjoy life and spend more time with my wife and my nature preserve. But having worked too long, there was also more to it — I refer to reason #5.

Reason #5: I work too hard

This is one of the personal problems I brought into my comics career — too much enthusiasm. It’s an aspect of my personality that I don’t know how to do anything without letting it consume me. Perhaps this comes from the training from an early age of working at manual labor for the family company and straining through the rigors of engineering college. And perhaps it is partly engrained into me as an American. I’m not sure if Europeans know this about Americans, but hard work is something bred into us. It has something to do with the fact that the Europeans who moved to America had a hard-working pioneer spirit that simply became part of our culture. The average American worker might get a maximum of two weeks’ vacation per year. In businesses like construction, American workers get no paid vacations. During my visits to Europe, I’ve learned how you folks get 4-6 weeks paid vacations per year, and lots of extra free time during work-hours. So, I started with this ethic of hard work as part of the heritage from my hard-working Italian grandfather Keno, and I built onto it exponentially.

I don’t know if you have a similar expression in your countries, but I am what is referred to here as a workaholic. I am incapable of relaxing. Inactivity makes me feel nervous and somehow “guilty”. At some point in the late 1970’s I even found myself no longer able to sit and watch TV, and I have not done so since then. I can only watch movies or TV series on DVD, so that I can do it only for periods of about 45 minutes before I feel the need to go do something “productive”. I even seem to have subconsciously bought a home that would make me work even harder in my “spare” time. I maintain this 10-hectare (25 acre) “nature preserve” as if it’s a national park, with miles of hiking trails and meadows which all require constant cutting and spraying to keep it from being reclaimed by the surrounding forests. Weekends are not free time. Saturdays are trips into town dealing with the errand list, Sundays are yardwork. (A map of the Rosa nature preserve follows this text.)

My work habits only became more intense when I stumbled into my dream job of writing and drawing comics with Barks’ Ducks. I think it’s obvious that fans do not like my stories so much due to the “superb” artwork. It’s the hard work that they clearly see I lavish on every panel and every plot. I’ve always said that readers must love my stories because they think “for someone to obviously put so much work into such bad art, he must be having fun!” and they have fun watching me. You can see that I made up for my lack of artistic ability by cramming so much “needless and irritating detail” into every panel. In these 9 volumes of comics you’ve seen how much extra work I put into these stories, much of which readers never even realize — I do many things secretly just for my own amusement.

But it will take many years to cure myself of the inability to relax. Even though I quit creating comics 5 years ago, I still never do anything but work prior to 5 PM every day. But it’s now yardwork or cleaning house, or if it deals with one of my many hobbies, it will be a form of “pleasurable” work such as library organizing or camping equipment cleaning. I never allow myself to watch a movie or read. Workaholism is a difficult malady to cure.

Reason #4: My popularity

For the last 15 years of my career, I knew that my biggest problem was my popularity with comics fans, coupled with the fact that I am first and forever a fan myself. So the attention given to me by my fellow fans was extremely important to me! And when I started visiting Europe and seeing how beloved Barks’ characters still are there, this became some sort of sacred duty. For decades European fans had wanted to show their appreciation to the writers and artists of these comics, but Mr. Barks was aged and never traveled, and other writers and artists lived in South America or otherwise also never traveled, or were perhaps not such fans of the subject matter that they were interested in sharing their time with the comic readers. So I felt I was representative of Mr. Barks and all the writers and artists of these favorite comics. I was invited by all the Duck publishers across Europe to meet the fans, give media interviews, and appear at special promotions. This seemed important to me! I felt it was a “mission from god” that was my obligation for finding myself miraculously thrust into such a position.

One of the first ways I realized that this was a problem was that we writers and artists of these comics are all paid roughly the same, a flat rate per page. Piece work. And I already was the slowest writer or artist due to my inexperience and method of overdoing everything. But I was the cartoonist who was called on to travel around Europe being treated so well and meeting so many nice people. And that was so pleasant that it took me some years to realize that the writers and artists who were not as popular as I was, they stayed home and kept working. Normally the most popular author or artist or actor makes more money rather than less. But in this system the situation my popularity had put me into was that my income was less than the others because my work was more popular.

The other “curse” of popularity was the amount of fanmail I started to receive. Now, normally when someone is as “successful” and popular as these characters had made me, they would be able to afford to hire assistants to help with the work and the correspondence. But my pay was not even quite enough for one person much less several. And again, as a fan myself, I certainly could not allow myself to simply ignore the loads of fanmail as I am told the more sane authors or artists can do. So I always answered 100% of my fanmail myself with personal replies. I would send free drawings if the fan requested one, and I would only hope that the fan would not request a full-color drawing, because then I would send a full-color drawing. I was taking perhaps a day off per week, or a week off between story projects, just to answer fanmail. Any of you who wrote to me in those days can attest to the truth of this.

But then by the late 90’s we were into the e-mail age. Prior to that, a fan would have to hunt down my mailing address somehow, sit down and handwrite a letter, put it into an envelope, address it, place the proper amount of international postage on the corner, and drop it into a mailbox. With the Internet all they had to do was simply find my e-mail address, type a message and hit “SEND”. Fan-e-mail was increasing drastically! I realized I was spending 2-3 hours at the computer every morning, perhaps another hour around my 15-minute lunchbreak, then several more hours late at night answering fan-e-mails! Even a screwball like me could see that had to stop! So at some point I simply ceased answering all fanmail. But that’s the only way I knew how to do it and be fair. How could I decide that one fan deserved a reply and another fan did not? Just because a fan might be older and writes a nice long message to me in English (the only language I am smart enough to read), that’s no reason why he deserves a reply and a younger fan who can’t write English as well does not. Ignoring all the fanmail was a very difficult decision for me.

But I try to make up for it in other ways. For example, when I am invited to a European comic festival or a bookstore signing, I will sit for up to 10-11 hours non-stop serving the line of fans. After all, some of them stand in queue for 5 or 6 hours just to talk to me for a few minutes – how can I take a break and tell everyone to just stand there and wait until I feel like returning? No way! I’m often asked how I can do it? Don’t I get tired? No, I never get physically tired. In fact, after several hours I feel like my energy is increasing and I can go on forever. It’s obviously the energy I am getting from my fellow fans that drives me on.

Reason #3: Depression

This will be a short list entry. My depression was a direct result of reasons #1 & 2, as you will see. Depression is a seriously debilitating problem, and hard to understand. I’ve learned that either you don’t know that you are gradually falling victim to it, or you are in subconscious denial that you are. I would never have imagined that I had a mental problem without knowing it. My depression was a result of realizing that I was soon going to have to quit due to reason #1 and I was so sad that things were turning out that way when it was so easily within so many people’s power to change the system if they’d wanted to. The depression gained great momentum after reason #2 came to a climax. I was only seeing a psychologist briefly — it seemed to me that once I realized that I was suffering from depression, that realization alone solved about 80% of the problem. The remaining % will always be with me, I guess, since I’ll forever be bitterly sorry that this system finally crushed my enthusiasm for my greatest love. But that’s life.

Another way that I brought myself to understand this depression was like this: there are two extremes of a job… the best possible thing about your job as opposed to the worst possible thing about your job. The best possible thing is that you love your job with every fiber of your being, you think about it day and night, you live it every moment, you see it as your life’s mission, it consumes every ounce of your passion. That’s how creating Duck comics was to me.

And what’s the worst possible thing about a job you have? Strangely enough… it could be the very same thing.

Reason #2: My @#$%& poor eyesight!

I have suffered from congenital myopia since birth. When my parents first realized that it was not normal for a 5-year-old to sit with his nose on the TV screen, I have worn thick eyeglasses. Well, I grew up wearing glasses so it never bothered me. Perhaps it’s because I was near-sighted (myopia) that I enjoyed doing things all my life that involved close-up viewing, like reading comics and drawing very detailed art. So I do not complain about the first 55 years of my @#$%& poor eyesight since perhaps it is the reason (or one of them) that I am writing an autobiography in a 9-volume book set of my own comic stories.

But extreme myopia starts causing serious problems as age progresses. Around 2006 I started experiencing cloudiness of vision as I moved my eyes, though the cloudiness never stopped at my focal point. I was told that was simply my wretched eyes starting to fall apart. Next, in 2007, I started having trouble getting my eyes to line up correctly. This is a small problem fixed by prismed eyeglass lenses. However, by 2007 I could no longer see well enough through my glasses to draw normally. I had to resort to drawing without my glasses and with my nose almost literally touching the paper. This was very tedious! But it’s the only way I could go on. As the 20+ years of my professional comics career progressed, my speed was constantly getting much slower rather than increasing.

By early 2008 I was at a point in my life where I needed to make a decision. I wanted to continue making stories of my favorite characters, but (due to reason #1) I had lost my enthusiasm, which was the only thing that had kept me going for the previous 15 years. The depression, the burn-out, the failing eyes… I could not decide what to do. Then in March 2008, my body seemed to say “Can’t make up your mind? Try this !” And the back fell off my left eye.

Let me as briefly as possible describe a retinal detachment with the hope none of you need to ever experience one in real life. It happens mostly to people in their 90’s, or to victims of extreme myopia like yours truly. Myopia is a result of a distortion of the shape of the eyeball at birth, and if this distortion is great enough, it puts a strain on the retina, the ultra-delicate membrane on the back of the eyeball. After 57 years my left retina had all it could stand and started peeling away from my eye which results in blindness. I’d noticed a tiny blind spot at the edge of my vision, so I made a doctor’s appointment for that Saturday, the only day I normally drive into town. But during the week the blind spot was starting to spread and had reached my left focal point by the time I was finally examined on Saturday. I’ll always recall March 17, 2008, as the most frightening day of my life. The eye doctor told my wife to recline the seat of the car and that I should lie as nearly horizontal as possible while she drove me to the emergency surgery, while being careful not to hit any bumps! What?! My left retina was near to peeling completely off my eye, and if a shock had ripped it the rest of the way loose, permanent blindness might result. I was having emergency eye surgery within the hour — I’m sure that if I’d had some days advance notice of the procedure, I would have been even more terrified.

I was later told that old folks who’ve had retinal detachment surgery and open heart surgery always say they’d prefer more heart surgery any day. The surgery itself is not the problem… it’s the recovery. After sealing the retinal tears with laser surgery, the retina must be pushed back against the back of the eyeball so it can reattach itself and heal. The only way to accomplish that is to drain the liquid out of the eyeball and fill it with a gas bubble. Then the patient must face down so that the bubble can press the retina back into place. Face down every moment, day and night, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for as many months as it takes the bubble to gradually disappear. This is even more difficult to accomplish than it sounds. During the day I knelt in a special chair with my face resting downward on a cushioned support, reading or watching TV through a mirror. At night I slept sitting up with my face pointing straight down into my lap resting on a pile of pillows. This lasted for about 2 months. And did nothing at all to help my depression.

But more importantly it did help my eye, but only a bit. The retina successfully reattached, but at about a 10 degree angle off level, and with scarring resulting from how damaged it was before the emergency surgery. This scarring makes the vision through the eye distorted, making straight lines look wavy. I didn’t know this as yet since, after the surgery, my left eye vision was very blurry until the 6-month mark when the surgeon could again go into that same eye, remove the cataracts caused by surgery, and replace the eye lens. Afterwards, the left lens in my eyeglasses was very thin due to a new lens in my eye, while the right eyeglass lens was as thick as it had ever been. And as you may know, vision through a thick eyeglass lens is greatly reduced from normal size vision.

Therefore, the result was that I had a very tiny view through my right eye, while my left eye had a view that was tilted 10 degrees, distorted and very large. So I could see but I saw double, just as you would see if you crossed your eyes very slightly. And yet I do not complain! I feel lucky that I can see at all. I had further minor laser surgery in both eyes to prevent existing retinal tears (and there were many) from resulting in another retinal detachment.

Anyway, this was the immediate reason why I quit. It was definitely no longer possible to draw the kind of art that made me so popular with all the entertaining “needless and irritating details”. I was able to do the new title page illustrations for this book series since I still had one “good” eye and that I can draw those very large; I must remove my glasses, put an eyepatch over my bad (worse?) eye, and still draw with my nose on the paper. And take even longer than before, it that’s possible.

After the surgery, many fans have asked me: if I can no longer draw, why can’t I write Duck stories for others to draw? The answer is that, philosophically, I will no longer put any work into this system due to reason #1…

Reason #1: The Disney comics system

How many people know how the “Disney system” of comics works? When I describe this to some fans when asked about it, they often think I’m kidding them or lying. Or they are outraged. But it’s an unfortunate fact that there have never been, and I ultimately realized there never will be, any royalties paid to the people who write or draw or otherwise create all the Disney comics you’ve ever read.

Disney comics have never been produced by the Disney company, but have always been created by freelance writers and artists working for licensed independent publishers, like Carl Barks working for Dell Comics, me working for Egmont, and hundreds of others working for numerous other Disney licensees. We are paid a flat rate per page by one publisher for whom we work directly. After that, no matter how many times that story is used by other Disney publishers around the world, no matter how many times the story is reprinted in other comics, album series, hardback books, special editions, etc., etc., no matter how well it sells, we never receive another cent for having created that work. That’s the system Carl Barks worked in and it’s the same system operating today.

How can such an archaic system still be in operation in the 21st Century when royalties have been paid in other creative publishing endeavors for literally centuries? All book authors, musicians, actors, singers, non-Disney cartoonists, even people who act in TV commercials… they all receive royalties if success warrants it. Even Disney pays normal royalties to creators and performers in its own movie and TV and book and music businesses. As near as I can tell, correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s only the creators of Disney comics who have no chance to receive a share of the profits of the success of the work they create.

Why is this? I don’t know.

But I certainly never started doing Disney comics because I expected to get rich. I was born into a successful construction company and took a huge cut in income (and a vastly bigger workload) to create comics based on Barks’ characters. I never even dreamt they were still popular outside of the USA. When I went to work for Egmont, I still never expected to make lots of money — I knew I was a relative amateur, and I was just delighted to have a way to keep creating these stories. Besides that, my stories were used in anthology comics along with many other really nicely drawn works, and my stories only appeared a few times each year. But within a few years, I started noticing the publishers were mentioning my name on the covers, as they did Barks’ name… this just made me very proud! But this was still no indication of why people were buying the comics. In fact, I was told that most readers disliked my stories because of my weird detailed art and overly complex plots. I could easily believe that. Life was good.

Then two countries started producing a series of all-Rosa albums. Other countries started producing annual all-Rosa pin-up calendars. Then several more countries started producing all-Rosa special hardback editions which became best-sellers. I was called on to do promotional tours to help sell books of my work even though I was never paid royalties on those sales. What? Huh?

And on these promotional media events when I did press conferences and appearances on national TV talk-shows, some interviewers would privately comment about how nice it must be for me to be getting so rich off something I obviously enjoyed doing so much. Eventually it hit me — all the European fans assumed that I was a millionaire. They assumed that when I sat at a book store signing the 30 Euro books the store was selling, I was getting a 5 Euro cut on each sale! Whoa! I had never minded not getting wealthy off this job I loved. But it became really annoying when I discovered that everyone assumed I was getting huge royalties. They could never imagine that such a system exists in this day and age (or that an author/artist would be so stupid as to participate in it). I started feeling like a world-class chump.

Then the publishers took the next inevitable step. A new reprint album of my Scrooge McDuck adventures was not to be titled “SCROOGE McDUCK” #1, but “DON ROSA” #1. The annual “DONALD DUCK CALENDAR” was to become the annual “DON ROSA CALENDAR”. And publishers did not even bother to notify me when they published such all-Rosa products using my name — usually I would find out about it from simply a fan in the country where the publication appeared. Also I would have to depend on that fan to buy me a copy of the Rosa book since these publishers would never even send me a complimentary copy.

This was just getting too outrageous! I knew it was time to come to my senses! Fans who have seen some of this leak out onto the Internet at the time erroneously refer to this as when I went “on strike”. This was never the true case… I have always had an excellent working relationship with my own direct employer, Egmont. But a new relationship had to be worked out.

What I did was hire a lawyer, at no small expense, and trademarked my name across Europe and South America. Disney publishers certainly had every right to use my comic stories — those were Disney property. But my name is not Disney property – it is my property. I was not so much annoyed that I was not receiving royalties on products sold using my name, but I had no quality control over the presentations. Often the wrong scripts were used at the whim of an editor or translator, often the wrong pages of art were used on continued stories, or there were coloring errors, etc. This sort of thing was fine in the weekly anthology, but if a book of all-Rosa stories is published with my name on the cover, fans assume I have some control over the product. Now I would see to it that I would.

I did not ask for royalties. I decided to ask simply for an annual fee for the use of my name to sell products. I sought advice from a European representatives of authors and artists and asked how much I should demand from Egmont each year. I was given the agent’s opinion of a fair fee. So, since my intention was mainly to show that I wanted some sort of control over the use of my name and the presentation of my work, the fee I quoted to Egmont was exactly half of the fee the agent recommended. I figured that way I was showing Egmont I was serious, but not trying to gouge them.

My publisher Egmont immediately agreed! I suppose they were simply waiting for me to say something. After all, they are a big company… in fact, a non-profit charitable organization… so why would they offer me a fee until I demanded it? Everyone I’ve ever met at Egmont, actually everyone I’ve ever met at any worldwide Disney-licensed publishing company, are all wonderfully nice folks. Many have become dear friends. I don’t hold them personally responsible for being part of that system. They didn’t create it and I know they don’t personally approve of it (how could anyone?). Oh — and it should definitely be noted that, in return for my cooperation on this superb book series, Egmont offers me a “consideration” based on sales, which is the first time I have been offered that by any Publisher.

With the non-Egmont publishers it is a different story. I let them know that they could no longer publish the all-Rosa albums and books using my name to promote them unless they had my permission. All they had to do was ask. But they would not. I guess they simply refused to actually ask permission from one of these artists or writers whose work they had used anytime they wished in any manner they wished. And they were not going to start giving that respect to anyone after 60-70 years. They never even asked me what I wanted in return, probably assuming I would demand a huge royalty off their sales… in truth, all I wanted was quality control and some free author issues. They never cared what I wanted. So, to this day, that’s why you see all-Rosa book series in France, Brazil, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Indonesia (and probably other countries I haven’t found out about) which are attributed to an “anonymous” author, though those publishers all know that my fans will still recognize my weird art without my name on the cover. Still, they cannot use my annotated texts or other extra materials that I wish fans could see. But as long as they don’t exploit my name to sell their products, I have no grievance against them publishing books of my work. (I’m just lucky that fans in those countries send me copies of the Rosa books, something that those publishers should be even more ashamed of!)

However, the attitude of these publishers and the whole system was still gradually taking its toll on my increasing depression. I couldn’t help but realize that I had provided these people with 20 years’ worth of work that they would reprint and rerereprint for the next century without ever offering me a cent in royalties. It was an insidious worm that worked its way into my soul. It killed my enthusiasm. And my enthusiasm for the fans who loved these Barks characters as much as I did was all that had kept me going.

And bless my left eye for making the inevitable decision for me.

CONCLUSION

I have written in these volumes innumerable times that I am not a professional. I am a comics fan whom someone allowed to create comics. And ultimately I’ve even realized that’s more true than I even thought! Everything I’ve done, every professional move I’ve made, was because I love stuff that I did not create.

Fans who did know what an unfair system we Disney comics people work in have often said to me “you’ve made a name for yourself now! Why not stop this thankless work and produce comics of some character that you create yourself?” And publishers have often told me they would publish anything I decided to create for them. But my reply has always been “Any character I might create next week… I would not have grown up with that character. I wouldn’t care about him. My thrill is in creating stories about characters I’ve loved all my life.” I’m a fan.

Being a fan of pop culture is the story of my life. I’ve amassed an enormous collection of comic books and Donald & Scrooge toys and DVDs and CDs and many other things I love. When I went to work for fan magazines in the early 70’s, what did I do? Create new comics? No, I wrote question & answer columns dealing with all my favorite subjects in comics and TV and movies. I’m a fan.

And I still love to meet other fans. They did not ruin my enthusiasm for meeting comics fans. I still go on annual signing tours of bookstores, department stores or comic shops… this is one way I maintain some slight income. (The stores pay me a promotional fee, while all autographs and drawings for the fans are always free.) But I really don’t need so much money. When my wife was a teacher she made most of the household income, and now she’s retired with a steady pension. When I realized I couldn’t go on creating Disney comics much longer, a friend sold off part of my comic collection (the “new” stuff, 1970-85), and I was thereby able to pay off my house mortgage. We have no kids. I drive the same car I’ve owned since 1978, and it was 30 years old even then. I don’t need a vacation home — I already live in a remote log house in the woods. I don’t like expensive vacations… we like to go camping. We have all the money we need.

Like Gary Cooper said in “The Pride of the Yankees”, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I had a privileged childhood. I married a wonderful lady (and she likes to cook!). Then fate decreed that for over 20 years I was able to do something that was my fondest childhood dream. Meanwhile, I’ve met the most wonderful people in my travels around Europe… meeting people at comic book publishers and comic book festivals is like being part of a social society — all these people love the same things I love, and they’ve become my most valued friends. I’ve been treated like a star by entire countries (whom Carl Barks had already warmed up for me). And when I visit a foreign country, I have new friends anxious to be my private guides and translators, and take me to have dinner in their own homes!!! Not even Bill Gates gets treatment that nice! I have friends everywhere where Carl Barks went ahead of me. And that’s a lotta ground!

I still have my childhood collections. An entire “vault”, like a Money Bin, filled with 40,000 comics. All the Barks comics, but also most every American comic book 1945-1970. My old MAD magazines. My monster movie magazines. My full set of “TV GUIDE” magazine. Plus a room full of DVDs of my favorite movies, another two or three rooms filled with books by my favorite authors, a room of books about old movies and newspaper comics. When I finally learn to relax, I plan on just sitting and rereading and rewatching all of these favorite entertainments. That’s my new fondest dream.

I thank Carl Barks for creating the comics that I loved so much that I serendipitously fell into the blessed work of paying homage to those great comics for over 20 years. And I thank you for receiving that work so graciously and making me feel very special… until they broke my spirit.

But if you’ll excuse me… I think I’ll now go back to being only a fan.

The Rosa nature preserve.

The Rosa nature preserve.