|Born||Keno Don Hugo Rosa|
June 29, 1951
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
|Area(s)||Writer, Penciller, Artist, Inker|
Keno Don Hugo Rosa (/ /), known simply as Don Rosa (born June 29, 1951), is an American comic book writer and illustrator known for his Disney comics stories about Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, and other characters which Carl Barks created for Disney-licensed comic books, first published in America by Dell Comics. Many of his stories are built on characters and locations created by Carl Barks; among these was his first Duck story, "The Son of the Sun" (1987), which was nominated for a Harvey Award in the "Best Story of the Year" category.
Rosa created about 90 stories between 1987 and 2006. In 1995, his 12-chapter work The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck won the Eisner Award for "Best Serialized Story".
Don Rosa's grandfather, Gioachino Rosa, lived in Maniago, a town at the foot of the Alps in Northern Italy, in the province of Pordenone. He immigrated to Kentucky, the United States around 1900, established a successful tile and terrazzo company, then returned to Italy to marry and start a family. In 1915 just after the birth of his son Ugo Rosa, Gioachino returned to Kentucky with his wife, two daughters and two sons. Ugo Rosa grew up and was later married in Kentucky. His wife was born to a German American father and a mother with both Scottish and Irish ancestry.
Don Rosa was born Keno Don Hugo Rosa on June 29, 1951 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was named after both his father and grandfather. Gioachino was called "Keno" for short. Don's father was named Ugo Dante Rosa but used the name "Hugo Don" Rosa in America.
Rosa was exposed to comics at a very early age, as his only sibling, an 11-year-older sister, Deanna, was a comics hoarder and had a large number of comics, which made it possible for Rosa to discover comics literally from birth as a storytelling medium by just "reading the pictures" and later also actually read. Rosa also began drawing comics before being able to write. The characters he would typically draw were a large cast of stick figures which he usually featured in comedy/adventures of a Barksian style, since the Carl Barks' stories were the ones Rosa was most fond of. Rosa stuck to drawing simple stick figures for these stories since these were mere illustrations as a means of getting the story told. The story was the pinnacle to him, not the actual drawings. Rosa kept drawing the stick figure stories until he attended High school at St. Xavier High School (Louisville), Kentucky.
Rosa's favorite comic books while growing up were Uncle Scrooge and Little Lulu comics from Dell Comics, as well as his sister's collection of MAD magazines. When Rosa became 12 years old he also discovered and started to enjoy the Superman titles of DC Comics especially from the editor Mort Weisinger's period, drawn mostly by his favorite Superman artists Curt Swan and Kurt Schaffenberger. Shortly after Rosa started to collect Superman comics he also began to trade in the comics he had inherited from his older sister for old Superman comics. The reason behind this action was that a comic book shop in his living area offered to trade two used old comics for one new, a sound deal for the young Rosa. By the 1970s Rosa's comic trading had ended up with him only having two Barks duck comics issues left from the collection his sister originally passed on to him. One of them being Dell Comics' Four Color Comics #386 (also known as Dell Comics' One shot's) issue titled: "Uncle Scrooge in Only a Poor Old Man", which was unknown to him to be the first issue of the new Carl Barks Uncle Scrooge Title. The second issue is his other favorite Barks Comic from his youth, Dell's Donald Duck in "The Golden Helmet". Later when Rosa became a serious collector of all comics of the post-war years, he particularly enjoyed and collected the classic E.C. Comics of the horror and science fiction genres published in the early 1950s, Will Eisner's The Spirit, Walt Kelly's Pogo, and virtually all other comics from 1945 and onward.
Rosa entered the University of Kentucky in 1969. He graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering.
In 1969 while still in college, Rosa won an award as "best political cartoonist in the nation in a college paper". "I'm not really an editorial cartoonist. I'd much rather be doing comedy adventure. But I must have done something right, for at one point The Journal of Higher Education named me one of the five or six best college newspaper cartoonists in the nation."
Rosa's first published comic (besides the spot illustrations in his grade school and high school newspapers) was a comic strip featuring his own character, Lancelot Pertwillaby, titled The Pertwillaby Papers. He created the strip in 1971 for The Kentucky Kernel, a college newspaper of the University of Kentucky, which wanted the strip to focus on political satire.
Rosa later switched the strip to comedy-adventure, his favorite style of comics, and drew the story Lost in (an alternative section of) the Andes. (The title is a reference to Lost in the Andes!, a Donald Duck story by Carl Barks, first published in April, 1949.) The so-called Pertwillaby Papers included 127 published episodes by the time Rosa graduated in 1973.
Meanwhile, Rosa participated in contributing art and articles to comic collector fanzines. One contribution was An Index of Uncle Scrooge Comics. According to his introduction: "Scrooge being my favorite character in comic history and Barks my favorite pure cartoonist, I'll try not to get carried away too much."
After attaining his bachelor's degree, Rosa continued to draw comics purely as a hobby, his only income came from working in the Keno Rosa Tile and Terrazzo Company, a company founded by his paternal grandfather.
Rosa authored and illustrated the monthly Information Center column in the fanzine Rocket's Blast Comicollector from 1974 to 1979. This was a question-and-answer feature dealing with readers' queries on all forms of pop entertainment of which Rosa was a student, including comics, TV and movies. He also revived the Pertwillaby Papers in this "RBCC" fanzine as a comic book style story rather than a newspaper comic strip from 1976 to 1978.
By now having become a locally known comics collector and cartoonist, Rosa accepted an offer from the editor of the local newspaper to create a weekly comic strip. This led to his creation of the comic strip character Captain Kentucky for the Saturday edition of the local newspaper Louisville Times. Captain Kentucky was the superhero alter ego of Lancelot Pertwillaby. The pay was $25/week and not worth the 12+ hours each week's strip entailed, but Rosa did it as part of his hobby. Publication started on October 6, 1979. The comic strip ended on August 15, 1982 after the publication of 150 episodes. After three years with Captain Kentucky, Don decided that it was not worth the effort. He retired from cartooning and did not draw a single line for the next four years. Years later, as his fame grew, his non-Disney work was published by the Norwegian publisher Gazette Bok in 2001, in the two hard-cover "Don Rosa Archives" volumes, The Pertwillaby Papers and The Adventures of Captain Kentucky.
In 1986, Rosa discovered a Gladstone Comics comic book. This was the first American comic book that contained Disney characters since Western Publishing's discontinuation of their Whitman Comics in the 1970s. Since early childhood Don Rosa had been fascinated by Carl Barks' stories about Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck. He immediately called the editor, Byron Erickson, and told him that he was the only American who was born to write and draw one Scrooge McDuck adventure. Erickson agreed to let him send a story, and Don Rosa started drawing his first Duck story, "The Son of the Sun," the very next day.
"The Son of the Sun" was a success and Rosa's very first professional comic story was nominated for a Harvey Award "Best Story of the Year". The plot of the story was the same as his earlier story, Lost in (an alternative section of) the Andes. As Don Rosa explained it, he was just "(...) turning that old Pertwillaby Papers adventure back into the story it originally was in my head, starring Scrooge, Donald, the nephews, and Flintheart Glomgold."
Rosa created a few more comics for Gladstone until 1989. He then stopped working for them, because the policies of their licensor, Disney, did not allow for the return of original art for a story to its creators. This was unacceptable to Don Rosa, since a part of his income came from selling the originals, and the original art is the property of the freelance artists, unless otherwise agreed upon. Without that extra money, he could not make a living drawing comic books.
After making some stories for the Dutch publisher Oberon, the publishers of an American Disney children's magazine called DuckTales (based on the animated series of the same name) offered Rosa employment. They even offered him a much higher salary than the one he received at Gladstone. Rosa made just one script (Back in Time for a Dime). The publishers never asked him to make more, and due to problems with receiving the payment, he did not care.
After working with the DuckTales magazine, Rosa found out that the Denmark-based International publisher Egmont (at that time called Gutenberghus) was publishing reprints of his stories and wanted more. Rosa joined Egmont in 1990. Two years later, at Rosa's suggestion, Byron Erickson, the former editor at Gladstone also went to work for Egmont and has been working there ever since as an editor and later as a freelancer.
In 1991 Rosa started creating The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, a 12 chapter story about his favorite character. The series was a success, and in 1995 he won an Eisner Award for best continuing series. After the end of the original series, Rosa sometimes produced additional "missing" chapters. Some of the extra chapters were turned down by Egmont, because they were not interested in any more episodes. Fortunately, the French magazine Picsou was eager to publish the stories. From 1999, Rosa started working freelance for Picsou magazine as well. All of these chapters were compiled as The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion.
During early summer 2002, Rosa suddenly laid down work. As an artist he could not live under the conditions Egmont was offering him, but he did not want to give up making Scrooge McDuck comics either. So, his only choice was to go on hiatus and try to come to an agreement with Egmont. His main issues were that he had no control over his works. Rosa had discovered too often that his stories were printed with incorrect pages of art, improper colors, poor lettering, or pixelated computer conversions of the illustrations. Another matter was that his name was used in promotion of these flawed books and collections of stories without his agreement. Rosa has never, nor has any other artist working on Disney-licensed characters, received royalties for the use or multi-national reprinting of any of his stories worldwide.
Rosa came to an agreement with Egmont in December of the same year, which gave him more control over the stories and the manner in which they were publicized.
Rosa's eyesight had been very poor since his childhood. In 2006 and 2007 he began having new difficulties, which made drawing a very slow and tedious process for him, even more so than normally. In March 2008, Rosa suffered a severe retinal detachment and underwent emergency eye surgery that proved to be only partially successful. Further surgery in both eyes made drawing even more difficult. On June 2, 2008, during an interview at the Danish Komiks.dk fair, Rosa stated that he would not do any more comics, citing eye troubles, low pay, and the constant use of his stories in special hardback or album editions by international Disney licensees without any payment of royalties or requests for permission for the use of his name.
In 2012, Rosa wrote an essay about his retirement for Egmont's 9-volume Don Rosa Collection, which was to be published in Finland, Norway, Germany and Sweden. Rosa says that Egmont agreed to publish the essay, but Disney refused to allow them to print it under their license. Rosa arranged with Egmont to post the essay on his own website, and publish a link to the essay in the collection. The essay, posted at career-end.donrosa.de, cites the above reasons, with special emphasis on the "Disney comics system" for paying writers and artists a flat per-page rate, and then allowing publishers around the world to print the stories without payment to the creators.
Rosa is more popular with readers in Europe than in his native United States. According to him, even his next-door neighbors do not know his profession.
In 1980, Rosa married Ann Payne. Payne is a retired social studies middle school teacher.
Don Rosa describes himself as an introvert due to being socially isolated as a child. Also, he thinks of himself as a workaholic.
Rosa suffered from depression during the years before he quit. He believes that it was caused by working hard while taking little time for leisure, a result of his self-imposed work regimen due to his enthusiasm for Barks' characters.
Rosa is an avid collector of many things, including comic books, TV Guide, National Geographic, and movie magazines, fanzines, books, White Castle memorabilia, pinball machines and movies and more.
Rosa also grows exotic chili plants and tends nearly 30 acres of a private nature preserve with wildflower fields and numerous forest trails. That and taking semi-annual European signing tours to visit his fellow BarksDucks fans, takes up all of his time. He is also working to complete his collections of All American comic books published between 1945 and 1970.
In Europe, Rosa is recognized as one of the best Disney comics creators. Carl Barks and Rosa are among the few artists who have their name written on the covers of Disney magazines when their stories are published. Rosa enjoys including subtle references to his movies and comic as well as his own previous work. He normally uses about 12 panels per page, instead of the more common eight. He needs to use the extra panels, because his plot ideas usually are too long to be published if he does not condense them.
Rosa has an especially large following in Finland, and in 1999, he created a special 32-page adventure featuring Scrooge McDuck for his Finnish fans called; Sammon Salaisuus (translates to The secret of the Sampo, but it is officially named The Quest for Kalevala in English), based on the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. The publication of this story created a national sensation in Finland where Donald Duck and the Kalevala are important aspects of culture. It was published in many other countries as well. The cover for the comic book was a spoof of a famous painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela.
The latest work that Rosa has worked on is a cover for the album Music Inspired by the Life and Times of Scrooge by Tuomas Holopainen from Nightwish who is a fan of Rosa's comics.
With a bachelor of arts degree in civil engineering as his only real drawing education, Rosa has some unusual drawing methods, as he writes: "I suspect nothing I do is done the way anyone else does it."
Because of being self-taught in making comics, Rosa relies mostly on the skills he learned in engineering school, which means using technical pens and templates extensively. He applies templates and other engineering tools to draw what other artists draw freehand. He usually drew just under a page per day, but that depended on the amount of detail he puts in the picture.
Rosa's drawing style is considered much more detailed and "dirtier" than that of most Disney artists, living or dead, and often likened to that of underground artists, and he is frequently compared to Robert Crumb. When Rosa was first told of this similarity, he said that he "drew that bad" long before he discovered underground comics during college. He went on to explain these similarities to underground artists with a similar background of making comics as a hobby:
"I want to take everything Barks wrote and forge it into a workable timeline. My original dream was to become the new Carl Barks. I wanted to write, draw, and letter all my own stories. People tell me that my pencils look just like Barks, but my inks are pure Rosa, and I can't letter properly! So I'll have to settle for being Don Rosa." – Don Rosa in 1987
"Don Rosa has often been called the heir of Carl Barks, especially for the way in which he has carried on the Ducks' Family Saga. But I don't think so: in my opinion Don Rosa [...] is an author who has used Barks' characters to make stories that are completely new, 'Donrosian' rather than 'Barksian', just like Barks can't be considered the heir of Al Taliaferro only because he has worked on the Ducks after him." – Carlo Chendi, Italian Disney comics writer
Rosa's idol when it comes to comics is Carl Barks. Rosa builds almost all his stories on characters and locations that Barks invented. Many of Rosa's stories contain references to some fact pointed out in a Barks story. At the request of publishers in response to reader demands, Rosa has even created sequels of old Barks stories. For example, his Return to Plain Awful is a sequel to Lost in the Andes!, where the Ducks return to the same hidden country. To add more to his admiration and consistency to Barks and Barks' stories, Rosa makes all his ducks' stories set in the 1950s. This is because Barks writes most of the stories about Scrooge, Donald and all people of Duckburg in the 1950s (it also conveniently resolves potential continuity problems, such as Scrooge's age). As explained in text pages in the Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck and its companion volume, Rosa does intense research of time periods to ensure not only that he gets the physical details right, but also to ensure that all characters could have been present.
Barks either created most of the characters used by Rosa or is credited for greatly developing their personalities. Rosa thus feels obliged to make his stories factually consistent. He has spent a lot of time in making lists of facts and anecdotes pointed out in different stories by his mentor. Especially The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck was based mostly on the earlier works of Barks. Rosa admitted however that a scene of the first chapter was inspired by a story by Tony Strobl.
As most of the characters Rosa uses were created by Barks, and because Rosa considers Scrooge rather than Donald to be the main character of the Duck universe, he does not regard himself as a pure Disney artist, nor the characters really as Disney's. "Rosa prefers to say that the characters he uses are Barks's, Barks having reshaped Donald Duck's personality and creating everything else we know of Duckburg while working as a freelancer in 1942–1967 for an independent licensed publisher (Dell/Western Comics). Barks even claimed to have also created Huey, Dewey and Louie while working as a writer on Donald Duck animated cartoons in 1937." Because of his idolization of Barks, he repeatedly discourages his fans to use an absolutist way of saying his clearly different drawing style would be better than Barks's, and he found that notion confirmed when Barks himself spoke about Rosa's style in a critical tone though it is uncertain whether those comments were Barks's or those of his temporary "business managers" who filtered his communications.
"I usually don't like my stories. I mean I try really hard, but I know I don't draw that well. I know people like it because it's got lots of extra details, but art directors know good artwork, and they know mine is not good artwork. Now, people always say, 'You're being too modest, you're being too modest', and I say, 'What?' They just have to ask me the right question. I know it's not good artwork and I don't know if it's well-drawn, but I know it's entertaining." – Don Rosa, Torino Comics Festival, April 2011
"Don Rosa has a style that is a little bit different from the Disney style. I know that there is a great deal of people that like that style, which is extremely detailed. So there is room in the business for artists like Don Rosa and for others like Van Horn. They have a different style. But if they have a good story and tell it properly, then people are going to like it." – Carl Barks, interview given at Disneyland Paris, July 7, 1994
Beside Rosa's constant effort to remain faithful to the universe Barks created, there is also a number of notable differences between the two artists. The most obvious of these is Rosa's much more detailed drawing style, often with many background gags, which has been credited as being a result of Rosa's love of the Will Elder stories of MAD comics and magazines. While Barks himself discouraged the use of extreme grimacing and gesturing in any other panel for comical or dramatic effect, Rosa's stories are rich with colourful and bizarre facial renditions and physical slapstick. Barks had over 600 Duck stories to his name while Rosa only created 85 until his eye trouble set in, but whereas Barks made many short one and two-pagers centred around a subtle, compact gag, Rosa's oeuvre consists almost exclusively of long adventure stories.
Andrea "Bramo" Bramini identifies the following four differences between Barks's and Rosa's way of storytelling:
Most of Rosa's stories have the letters D.U.C.K. hidden within either the first panel or, if Rosa has created the cover art, within the cover art itself. D.U.C.K. is an acronym for "Dedicated to Unca Carl from Keno" (Carl being Carl Barks and Keno being Rosa's given first name). Due to Disney's refusal to allow artists to sign their work, early Rosa dedications to Barks were deleted as they seemed to be a form of a signature. Later Rosa began hiding the dedication acronym from his editors in various and unlikely places within his drawings.
Rosa has drawn covers for reprints of Carl Barks stories and has included his D.U.C.K. dedication within them as well.
Another curiosity is his Hidden Mickeys. Rosa is only interested in creating stories featuring the Duck family, but he often hides small Mickey Mouse heads or figures in the pictures, sometimes in a humiliating or unwanted situation. An example of this is in the story The Terror of the Transvaal where a flat Mickey can be seen under an elephant's foot. This is mostly a gag done for the fun of it. Rosa has admitted to neither liking nor disliking Mickey Mouse, but being indifferent to him.
In the story Attack of the Hideous Space-Varmints, the asteroid with Uncle Scrooge's money bin on it crashes into the Moon along with two missiles, creating a large Mickey Mouse head on the surface. When Huey, Dewey and Louie tell Donald that the missiles hit the "dark" (far) side of the Moon, Donald is thankful no one is going to see it — "For a minute there, I thought we were going to have some legal problems."
In the second Rosa story featuring The Three Caballeros, Donald Duck is shocked by the sight of a capybara standing on its hind legs, with shrubs, leaves and fruit in front of its body, coincidentally making it look like Mickey Mouse. José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, never having seen Mickey Mouse, ask Donald what is wrong, but Donald replies he is just tired. Later in the same story, the Caballeros free several animals from a poacher. One panel shows the animals fleeing; Mickey can be seen among them.
In The Quest for Kalevala this running gag can be seen on the original, Akseli Gallen-Kallela-inspired cover art. In the original work, Louhi is depicted as bare-chested, but the Disneyfied version has been drawn a top, of fabric patterned with Mickey Mouse heads.
His work has won Rosa a good deal of recognition in the industry, including nominations for the Comics' Buyer's Guide Award for Favorite Writer in 1997, 1998, and 1999. Heidi MacDonald of Comics Buyer's Guide also mentioned Rosa's 1994 story Guardians of the Lost Library as "possibly the greatest comic book story of all time".
In 1995 Rosa was awarded the Eisner Award for "Best Serialized Story" for The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. In 1997 he won an Eisner for "Best Artist/Writer – Humor Category".
Rosa's story The Black Knight GLORPS Again! was nominated for the 2007 Eisner Award in the category Best Short Story. While The Prisoner of White Agony Creek, Rosa's latest Duck story to-date, was published in 2006, he was also nominated for the 2007 Harvey Awards in five categories (more than any other creator was that year) for his Uncle Scrooge comics: "Best Writer", "Best Artist", "Best Cartoonist", "Best Cover Artist", and "Special Award for Humor in Comics." In 2013 Rosa received the Bill Finger Award which recognizes excellence in comic book writing for writers who have not received their rightful reward and/or recognition.
International "Best Cartoonist of the Year" awards include:
See also: List of Disney comics by Don Rosa
In 1997 the Italian publishing house Editrice ComicArt published a lavish volume about Rosa's biography and work related to the Disney characters. It was titled Don Rosa e il Rinascimento Disneyano ("Don Rosa and the Disneyean Renaissance") and written by famous Disney and Rosa scholars, Alberto Becattini, Leonardo Gori and Francesco Stajano. This work not only discusses all of Rosa's creative life up to 1997, but it also gives a comprehensive biography, lists up to that date his Disney work and presents an extensive interview with Rosa.
In 2009, Danish director Sebastian S. Cordes shot a 75-minute documentary called The Life and Times of Don Rosa, consisting of exclusive interviews with Rosa himself on his farm near Louisville, Kentucky. According to the project's Facebook group, the English-language DVD was released in Denmark on April 16, 2011.
In 2011, Italian Disney fan forum papersera.net published Don Rosa: A Little Something Special (edited by Italian Rosa fan Paolo Castagno), a large folio format, bilingual (Italian and English) book about Rosa's life and work, containing interviews with Rosa and articles by many Italian and European Disney artists, Disney scholars, and established art critics commenting on Rosa's work and career, also including many exclusive, rare Rosa drawings and illustrations. The book was originally made as a gift by papersera.net for Rosa himself upon the occasion of Rosa's April 2011 visit to Turin, Italy.
In 2017 the book, I Still Get Chills!, featuring text by German journalist Alex Jakubowski and photographs by Lois Lammerhuber, was published by Edition Lammerhuber in honour of Rosa's 66th birthday and the 70th anniversary of the first appearance of Scrooge McDuck.
A feature documentary about Don Rosa and Scrooge McDuck by French director Morgann Gicquel titled The Scrooge Mystery was released in December 2017 and was released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2018.
Apart from the Don Rosa Collection in Germany and Don Rosas Samlade/Samlede Verk and Don Rosan kootut in the Nordic nations, the following collections only contain Rosa's work for Disney.
|Brazil||— Tio Patinhas e Pato Donald – Biblioteca Don Rosa 1-10||2017–2020|
|Denmark||— Hall of Fame: Don Rosa – bog 1–10
— Don Rosas Samlede Værker 1–9
Including non-Disney comics
|Finland||— Don Rosan Parhaita
— Don Rosan kootut 1–9
Including non-Disney comics
|France||— La jeunesse de Picsou 1-3/Les trésors de Picsou 4–7
— Intégrale Don Rosa 1–7
|Germany||— Onkel Dagobert von Don Rosa 0–32
— Hall of Fame: Don Rosa 1–8
— Don Rosa Collection 1–9
— Don Rosa Library 1–10
Including non-Disney comics
|Greece||— Βιβλιοθήκη Κόμιξ vol 1-6||2008–2012||Not including The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck and The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion collections and the story A Little Something Special|
|Indonesia||— Komik Petualangan Paman Gober Karya Don Rosa 1–8||2011||Incomplete|
|Italy||— The Don Rosa Library - Zio Paperone & Paperino||2017–2019|
|Netherlands||— Oom Dagobert 53–74
— Het levensverhaal / De reisavonturen van Dagobert Duck
|Incomplete (only upper collection)|
|Norway||— Hall of Fame: Don Rosa – bok 1–10
— Don Rosa Samlede Verk 1–9
Including non-Disney comics
|Russia||— Дядюшка Скрудж и Дональд Дак - Библиотека Дона Росы||2017–2019|
|Sweden||— Hall of Fame: Don Rosa – bok 1–10
— Don Rosas samlade verk 1–9
— Don Rosa-biblioteket 1–10
Including non-Disney comics