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Friday, November 15, 2002

Rosa declares a

By Mike Baron

Don Rosa is on strike. The popular writer and artist of Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comic books has finally put his foot down, after years of watching big-time European publishers use his name. “I stopped work as of last June. I was getting too frustrated and bitter about being one of the most well-known cartoonists in Europe and not making a dime off it.”

Rosa said his beef is not with the Walt Disney Corporation; it’s with European publishers who regularly release hardbound books, album collections, and annual calendars of his work without compensating him. The final straw was an ad which appeared in a recent edition of Onkle Dagobert for an upcoming 450-page reprint collection titled, simply, Don Rosa.

“They hadn’t even bothered to ask if that title was OK with me,” Rosa said. “They have gotten used to not dealing with me when they reprint my work. Aside from the lack of royalties, the results embarrass me. My stories are often reprinted with incorrect pages of art, the coloring is improper or incorrect, the lettering is poor or missing altogether, the computer reproduction is pixilated. And I don’t even know what’s going on in the translations of my scripts. But the readers, aside from naturally assuming I get compensated for the books, also assume I have some control and naturally blame me for the errors!”

He continued, “The only reason I do these comics in the first place is because I love working with the Carl Barks characters and stories I grew up with. I knew I could never get rich doing Disney comics. It was never my master plan to be world-famous. I just figured I’d be one of the dozens of other writers and artists who do these stories published in the weekly Donald Duck comics that are in virtually every country in Europe and Asia. And I have no complaints about how my works are used as the star feature in these weekly or monthly Donald or Scrooge magazines, because they are anthologies, containing the works of many other people. But my biggest problem became my popularity. After Barks’ classics, it’s only my stories that are collected in one-creator album series and hardback collections, etc. I never expected this to happen.”

He said he also never expected to draw ducks for a living. “I ran a construction company in Kentucky. When Gladstone Comics came along in ’87, I offered to do one story. I’d known it was my destiny to write and draw an Uncle Scrooge story, but I thought it would be just one. That story was so well-received I did another little one. Then a bigger one. I just stumbled into it. I had no intention of doing it for a living. I make between $30,000 and $35,000 a year. The page rate is fine, but that’s as fast as I can work and still turn out stories and art with the complexity that seems to make my stories so popular.

“The Donald Duck & Co. weekly is not simply the best-selling comic book in most of Europe; in many countries it’s the best-selling anything. One example: The Norwegian weekly sells 250,000 copies each week. No other publication outsells it. Per capita, that would be like a North American comic book selling about 80,000,000 copies every issue. And sales in Finland are even better, at 350,000 copies per week. One out of every four people reads the Donald Duck comic every week in these entire nations. Sales are also brisk in Sweden, Denmark, France, Italy, and Germany and eastward across Europe through Russia, China, India, Indonesia, etc., and into Japan. I have no complaint with the use of my work in the weekly anthologies.

“But I can enjoin them from using my name as the selling point of these ‘All-Rosa’ collections and especially stop the use of my name as the sole title of entire books, without agreeing that I deserve at least a percentage of the profits from books of stories that are 100% my work.”

Rosa, who graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in civil engineering, lives with his wife, Ann, in Louisville. He has received two Eisner awards for his work on Uncle Scrooge, and his name is sufficient to generate offers from other publishers. “I’m really not interested, until I’m sure nothing can be worked out. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than writing and drawing Uncle Scrooge. It is more important to me to carry on Carl Barks’ work than my own father’s work. In the meantime, I’ve been doing jobs for friends and private commissions. It’s a very slow prospect dealing with publishers in Europe. I don’t have legal representation over there. I don’t know how to contact authors’ guilds or publishers’ guilds for advice. Gaining contacts and representation from agents who can help me decide what to do is slow. All I can do is shut down and see if they’ll come around.”


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