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‘Scrooge McDuck’ Legend Don Rosa Retires From Comics, Citing Eyesight Problems And Frustrations With Disney

Don Rosa, best known as the creator of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, one of the great comics epics of the 20th century, has quit comics. After a career spanning 40 years, 20 of which were spent following in the footsteps of his idol, Carl Barks, Rosa laid out his reasons for leaving comics in an epilogue meant to run at the end of a nine-volume career retrospective put out by his European publisher, Egmont.

According to Rosa, however, the epilogue was taken out of the final book when “at the last moment the Disney Corporation refused to allow my text to appear,” instead prompting Rosa to put it on his website. In it, he covers his reasons for departure, ranging from depression to increasingly poor eyesight to — unsurprisingly given the company’s objections — his frustrations with Disney.Rosa organizes his list as a countdown, covering the top (or bottom) six reasons that he’s quitting comics. The direct cause, he writes, was worsening eyesight and a retinal detachment suffered in 2008:

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.

This, however, is not what Rosa calls his most important reason. Instead, that honor, dubious as it might be, goes to “The Disney comics system” and the frustrations that contributed to his depression:

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.

The full text of Rosa’s epilogue can be found on his website, including his interesting reasoning on why he never moved into creating original, creator-owned characters.

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