Main editor at the Beverly Hills office. She left Western in 1946.

The Showing

Roger Armstrong, who wrote and illustrated many stories for Western in the forties, wrote in a 1967 letter to Michael Barrier: "My recollections of Carl Barks go back to the days when I was barely out of my teens and landed my first honest-to-God comic strip (book) job with what was then the Whitman Publishing Company. In those days there was a ritual in the Beverly Hills office, to which we all wended our ways with our assorted bundles of 'Porky Pigs,' 'Sniffles and Mary janes,' etc., etc., ad nauseum - a ritual which I am convinced was nothing less than a refinement of the worst excesses of Torquemada at the height of the Spanish Inquisition! This ritual was called 'The Showing' - a harmless enough title on the face of it, but fraught with such agonies for the victim that my mind boggles at the mere recollection of it. The ritual consisted of the hapless cartoonist being taken to the inner office, the sanctum sanctorum of the Big Boss, a hard-driving lady named Eleanor Packer. She would plump herself down in a great soft chair in front of a large board of directors-type table. All the other people who were in the outer offices - secretaries, clerks, flunkies of all sorts and, most horrible of all, any fellow cartoonists who happened to be in the office, bringing in their stuff - were all summoned and grouped about the table. Then the art editor, a fellow with a waspish tongue (and a helluva fine cartoonists named Carl Buettner (since deceased, God rest his soul) would read - read out loud, mind you - the material spread out there on the table, that miserable extension of yourself that you had labored over for weeks, and all and sundry were invited to comment, look for mistakes, offensive dialogue, errors in punctuation, unclear drawing, anything, in short, that would confuse a five-year-old child. I will say one thing for the device: after a short apprenticeship at that outfit, there wasn't any comic book outfit, syndicate, etc., one could go to work where you wouldn't be the shining light of draughtsmanship, and one ended up an expert on the (written) English language. I honestly owe the great strides my drawing took in those days to 'the showing.' But it was no fun while it was going on!

"All this preamble to get to Carl Barks. Any of us fortunate enough to be on tap in the office on those days when Carl and his wife made the trip in from faroff Hemet (where he had a chicken farm) bringing in the latest episode of the sage of the Ducks, we would get in on 'the showing.' Needless to say, for Carl, it was nothing but cheers all the way through. He would stand, a painfully shy figure, in the background while the ritual proceeded. I'm convinced he turned his hearing aid off."

Chase Craig, a writer for Western in the forties and later a comic-book editor for the company,said in a 1978 letter: "I do beg to differ with Roger Armstrong in his saying that Carl was embarrassed by Carl Buettner's reading of Carl's stories orally at our office. We all went into hysterics of laughter, and such appreciation of his work certainly could do nothing but give him a lift. Carl loves recognition of his talent as much as anyone I've ever met, and that's exactly what he got every time he ever came to the office. In fact, it was a great day when Carl came in once a month to deliver his work. We all had lunch together and sort of celebrated the occasion. I repeat, he was not embarrassed by his reception. He loved it."

Barks himself said in 1978 that he had enjoyed the warm response to his work - "Like an actor on the stage, I like to see a little appreciation of my punch lines" - but he was glad when the "showings" stopped. "I think the reason for it was that Eleanor Packer and Buettner and those people were new at their business of editing comic books, and they felt that the best way to see how comic-book stories were put together was to read them out loud. If they would read well, as you read them out loud, they would read well to the children."

The "showings" ended when Eleanor Packer left Western in 1946. Barks's visits to Western's offices dwindled, and he worked thereafter mostly through the mail. Hemet, which Armstrong mentioned in his letter, is a town near San jacinto; Barks lived at various houses in the Hemet-San Jacinto area during his almost thirty years there.

Note: In a 22 May 1982 interview by Wim van Helden and Daan Jippes, Barks also mentions the showings. (This interview has only been published in the Dutch language.)


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