John Lustig was engaged in July 1996, and Pat Block showed the finished ink art to Barks in April 1997. Barks and Lustig communicated by fax, and Block seems to have entered the scene only when the script was already finished.
Early 1997, there was some confusion on the Disney comics Mailing List when the new story was mentioned. The first confirmation came from Gerhard Tank, who wrote on February 5, 1997:
"Didier asks about a new 28 page comic from Carl Barks. I talked to him this morning and can assure you that he has not written a new comic. He does admit talking about a scenerio that goes along with that title, but as far as writing a new comic of DD, the answer is NO."
A few days later, on February 9, Guido Tiberga wrote:
"Excuse me for my bad English. I'm an italian journalist, very fond of Disney comics, and I've recently written a short article about new Barks story on the front page of La Stampa daily paper. A collegue of mine, Fabio Pozzo, had an interview (a phone interview from Rapallo, Italy) with Carl Barks. And Barks himself confirmed: he has written the scenario of "Somewhere in nowhere". The story, 28 pages drawn by Pat Block (who is he? can you give me some more information about him? Barks said he's an american artist, 45, who used his own style), will be published in Europe by Egmont in July 1997. The story tells about a Donald's trip in Alaska that, "for many reasons", doesn't arrive anywhere. The articles (Pozzo's interwiew and and my report) were published on thusday february 6th. I don't know personally Fabio Pozzo (we work in two different town) but I have no reason to doubt his interview: he said me Barks have friends in Rapallo (italian Disney cartoonists Chendi and Bottaro live there, and Barks himself went in Rapallo during his european tour in 1994. One of these (I don't know who) helped him to call Barks. That's all... Arrivederci!"
The story tells about Donald's career hitting rock bottom, being a "junior
assistant sidewalk super-intendent" for the McDuck Crackless Cement Company.
Donald ponders that everything he does always ends up in disaster,
blaming the awful jobs he gets from Uncle Scrooge. Donald learns that Bearflanks
in Alaska is a place where Scrooge doesn't own anything and he bets with Scrooge
that he will be a succes there. If Donald succeeds Scrooge will pay the travel
and give him a better job, but if Donald fails he'll have to pay the travel
himself and go back to inspecting sidewalks at half salary.
But instead of at last finding a place where everything isn't owned by just one person, he finds out that Bearflank's leading citizing is pig villain Hamalot McSwine, the inventor of hot-peppered Blubbersicles. McSwine's dislike of Donald means that he can't get any job in the city, except for Sourdough Sally who's working as postmitress at the Bearflank Post Office.
Sally hires Donald to deliver mail in the wildernes, where "a few rugged loners live who can get by without anything - except their mail!" Equiped with a dog sled and a book how to ride it, Donald starts with the dangerous job. He survives the first day, but for some reasons his destination on the second day is somewhere in the zillion miles of frozen nothin' but nothin' at the north of Bearflanks: The Great Nowhere. This is the beginning of a dangerous travel through rain, wind, hail and... sabotage.
Publishers Egmont and Geïllustreerde Pers both found the price that the Carl Barks Studio wanted for the story too high. The story was said to be published by Egmont Publishing in July 1997, but it didn't seen print until November 2000, in Italy.
When asked about the story, John Lustig told the following on 23 September 1997:
It's been reported (and this part is true) that I worked on a story with the Carl Barks Studio -- developing an idea of Carl's into a script. Unfortunately, various information has also gotten out about when this story should have appeared. Per Starback [maintainer of the Disney-comics Mailing List, DvE] asked me for some information about this months ago, but at the time I couldn't really comment. I've been asked privately by a number of other people since then.
All I can really say is that the story went through a very convoluted process -- both on a creative and business level -- that I've never run into or even heard of before. As a result a number of problems came up and because of those problems the story has not been purchased and has certainly not been scheduled for publication. I don't think that's very likely to change in the next few months. Whether the story will ever appear and if it does what form the story will take -- well, I really don't know.
If anything changes and the story is purchased and scheduled then I will be happy to let everyone know. In the meantime, this remains a rather touchy subject for me -- and for other people involved with the story -- and I really don't think it's wise for me to answer further questions about the project.
I guess that's about it.
Fortunately, he told a bit more on 2 October 1997:
The story was commissioned by the Barks Studio. The studio paid me and artist Pat Block to create the story. As a result, the studio owns the story. It's selling price was considerably more than the going rate at Egmont and this was a concern. But there were definitely other reasons besides just money that story was not purchased.
At this point, I think both Egmont and the Barks Studio would probably prefer that I not say too much about the project. I know I certainly don't feel like talking about it. So I guess that's really all I have to say on the subject. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.
It might be interesting to add that Barks' manager Bill Grandey first asked Daan Jippes to do the drawing of the story (and also part of the writing: page layouts etc., like Van Horn did with "Horsing Around with History"), but Jippes found he didn't get enough money for the job.
Reportedly, Jippes has been plotting with Barks and the story went from 10 pages to 25 pages. Donald's profession was changed from mailman to "crack-measurer". After a collision with Barks' managers (about money), Daan Jippes decided to quit working on the story.
Concerning this information the story may have been enlarged from 25 to 28 pages after Jippes departure, but it's also possible that this information isn't fully correct because of being based on indirect communication.
In an August 1998 letter to Rasmus Pallesen, Pat Block told that the story "is due to be published in Italy any time now." About the story he told: "Yes, Carl has written a delightful new 28 page adventure story starring Donald. I was lucky enough to have him ask me to draw it, and I even got to keep his many changes and notations on my pencil roughs! Carl is still a wonderful author at 98 years old... and getting to meet him was one of the most memorable moments in my life!" Accompanying the letter, Block included a drawing of Donald in his outfit from the story.
On 13 July 2000, John Lustig wrote about the long-awaited publication of the story:
In regard to the questions and comments about "Somewhere in Nowhere"...well, yes, the story is going to be published at long last. Disney Italia will be distributing it in a hardback book in early November. (I believe the publisher is hoping to have some copies to show around at the Frankfurt Book Fair prior to that.) If it's going to be in both English and Italian then my guess is that its the same format that was used when Disney Italia published Barks' "Horsing Around With History." I don't have a copy of that book, but if I remember correctly that book printed each page of "Horsing" in color in Italian and then on the opposite page the same part of the story was printed in English in black and white.
(If I'm wrong about this format then someone please correct me.)
Sometime later (possibly March of next year), "Somewhere" will be reprinted in the "Zio Paperone" magazine with some extra background material.
I really don't know much more about it than that.
It's been over two years since I first learned that Disney Italia had purchased "Somewhere." In the past, Disney Italia had asked me not to say anything about this to fans. Why? Well, I was told that Disney Italia didn't know when it was going to be publishing the story. Fearing that fans would overwhelm Disney Italia with questions, the editor wanted to keep things quiet.
I agreed not to talk about it as a courtesy to Disney Italia. I have to admit, though, that I had no idea it would take this long to be published. When questions about the story surface on this mailing list, I e-mailed the editor. I curious myself as to what was going on. The editor promised to get back to me shortly. Several months passed. Recently a different person at Disney contacted me and I learned that project is going ahead.
This thing has been hush hush for so long that I'm not really sure what I can or want to say about it. I'd feel a lot more comfortable talking about this if Disney Italia had made a formal announcement about the publication.
I also have very mixed feelings about this story. I know there are a lot of rumors about "Somewhere." I'm not going to go into detail here. I've already given Disney Italia a great deal of information about the story's creation and some of that will appear when the story is printed.
I do, however, want to chip away at a couple of rumors. Carl Barks' involvement in the story was somewhat less than was announced by the managers of his former studio. At the same time I must point out that rumors that Carl wasn't involved in the story at all are equally untrue. The original idea for the story came from Carl. During the time that the story was fleshed out more fully Carl made a number of suggestions. Later on, he also contributed some additional gags.
I think it's probably best if I don't go into detail about any of this until after "Somewhere" is published. I think people should be less concerned with the politics of the story's creation and more interested in the story itself.
Drawing showing Pat Block, John Lustig and Carl Barks (Circa 220Kb)