Keno Don Hugo Rosa (often just called Don Rosa) is a famous illustrator of Donald Duck and other Disney characters. He was born on June 29, 1951 in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. He is considered by many to be the greatest Duck artist since Carl Barks. His most famous work is The Life and Times of $crooge McDuck.
The name Don Rosa originates from Italy. His grandfather, Gioachino Rosa, lived in Moniago, a small village at the foot of the Alps in North-Italy. Gioachino Rosa emigrated to Kentucky, United States in 1915 just after the birth of his son Hugo Rosa. Hugo Rosa was later married in Kentucky. His wife was born to a German-American father and a mother with both Scottish and Irish ancestry.
Hugo Rosa and his wife became parents to Keno Hugo Don Rosa on June 29, 1951. The boy was named after both his father and grandfather. Gioachino was called 'Keno' for short.
Don Rosa had always been fond of making cartoons. Don began drawing comics before being able to write. But he was always mostly focused on the story. The drawings were just mere illustrations to get the story told. Until high school his featured characters were mostly small men called Holey and Joe.
His favorite comic books while growing up were reportedly Uncle Scrooge by Western Publishing and the Superman titles by DC Comics.
He entered the University of Kentucky in 1969. He graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in civil engineering
His first real cartoon was a comic strip featuring his own fictional character Lancelot Pertwillaby. He created the strip in 1971 for Kentucky Kernal, a college newspaper of the University of Kentucky which wanted the strip to focuse on political satire.
Don later talked them into letting him feature adventures starring Lancelot Pertwillaby and drew the story Lost in (an alternative section of) the Andes.( The title being 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.
Meanwhile Don participated in a fanzine. His contribution was An Index of Uncle Scrooge Comics. According to his introduction: "Scrooge being my favorite character in comic history and Barks my favourite pure cartoonist, I'll try not to get carried away too much."
After receiving his bachelor degree, Don continued to draw comics as a side job. He did not earn very much though from his creations. His main source of income came from working in the Keno Rosa Tile Company, a company founded by his paternal grandfather which had by that time been taken over by Hugo Rosa.
He was a columnist of the fanzine "The Rocket's Blast Comicollector" from 1974 to 1979. He also revived the Pertwillaby Papers from 1976 to 1978.
Don took a chance at more professional cartooning with his creation of 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. 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.
Don married school teacher Ann Payne in 1980. No children would result from the marriage. But the couple remains together as of 2005.
Working for Gladstone
In 1985, he discovered a Gladstone comic book in the window of a small comic shop. This was the first American comic book that contained Disney-characters after the 1970s. Since early childhood Don Rosa had been fascinated by Disney stories about Donald Duck and $crooge McDuck. Artist Carl Barks was an especially big idol for him and would remain so for the rest of his career. He immediately called the editor, Byron Erickson, and told him that he was the only American who was born to write and draw Uncle $crooge comics. Byron agreed to let him send a story, and Don Rosa started drawing his first Duck story: Son of the Sun the very next day.
Son of the Sun was a huge success and was even nominated for a Harvey Award (the comics equivalent for the Academy Awards). The plot of the story was exactly the same as his earlier story Lost in (an alternative section of) the Andes. As Don Rosa formulated it, he was just "(...) turning that old Pertwillaby Papers adventure back into the story it originally was in my head, starring $crooge, Donald Duck, the nephews, and Flintheart Glomgold."
Don Rosa did a few more comics for Gladstone till 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 by selling the originals. Without that extra money, he could not make a living by making cartoons.
He was not unemployed for long though because soon after, the publishers of an American Disney comic book for children called DuckTales offered him employement. They even offered him a much higher salary than the one he received at Gladstone. Don left the publisher after just one script (Back in time for a dime), mostly because of trouble in receiving his promised payment.
Working for Egmont
While working with Ducktales, Don Rosa found out that the Danish publisher Egmont had been publishing reprints of his stories and wanted more of them. Don joined Egmont in 1990 along with Byron Erickson, the former editor at Gladstone and has been working there as a freelancer since then.
In 1991 he started creating The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, a twelve chapter story about his favorite character, Scrooge McDuck. The series was a huge success, and in 1995 he won an Eisner Award for best continuing series. The life of Scrooge McDuck fascinates him. After the end of the original series, Don started producing additional "missing" chapters. Some of the extra chapters were turned down by Egmont because they were not interested in any more episodes about the life of Scrooge McDuck. Fortunately the French publisher Picsou was eager to publish the stories. From 1999, Don started working freelance for Picsou as well.
During early summer 2002 Don 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 put down work for a while and try to come to an agreement with Egmont. His main issues were that he had no control over his works. Don had discovered far too often that his stories were printed with incorrect pages of art, improper colors, poor lettering, or pixilated computer conversions of the illustrations. Another matter was that his name was used in promotion of books and collections of stories without his agreement and without sending royalties to him. He came to an agreement with Egmont in December of the same year, which gave him a bit more control over the stories and the manner in which they were publicized.
Don remains popular with readers across Europe but considers himself rather obscure in his native United States. An irony worthy of a satirical artist.
In Europe Don Rosa is recognized as one of the best Disney comics creators ever. Carl Barks and Don Rosa are the only two artists who have their name written on the covers of Disney magazines when their stories are published. His stories are very easily recognized due to his unique drawing style. His pictures are extremely detailed. He enjoys including subtle references to his favorite works of fiction as well as his own previous work. Don normally uses about 12 frames per page, instead of the more common 8. He needs to use the extra frames because his stories usually are too long to be published if he does not minimize them.
With a bachelor of arts degree in civil engineering as his only real drawing education, Don Rosa has some unusual drawing methods, as he writes himself: "I suspect NOTHING I do is done the way anyone else does it". Because of being self-taught in making comics, Don relies mostly on the skills he learned in engineering school. Which means using technical pens and templates a lot. He applies forms of plastic artifacts to draw curves, circles and ovals. He usually draws just under a page per day, but that depends a lot of the amount of detail he puts in the picture.
Don Rosa's greatest idol when it comes to comics has always been Carl Barks. Don Rosa builds almost all his stories on characters and locations that Carl Barks invented and his favorite character Scrooge McDuck was in fact invented by Carl Barks too. Many of Don Rosa's stories contain references to some fact pointed out in a Carl Barks story. Don Rosa has even created sequels of old Barks' stories. For example his Return To Xanadu is a sequel to Tralla La where the Ducks return the same hidden country.
Carl Barks either created most of the characters used by Don or is credited for greately developing their personalities. Don Rosa thus feels obligated to make his stories factualy correct. He has spend a lot of time in making lists of facts and anecdotes pointed out in different stories by his mentor. Especially the series The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck was based mostly on the earlier works of Barks. Don admitted however that a scene of the first chapter was inspired by a story by Tony Strobl .
Most Don Rosa stories have the letters D.U.C.K hidden somewhere usually in the first panel. This is an acronym for "Dedicated to Uncle Carl from Keno". Because Disney would not allow for personal signatures in the comics, Don Rosa has made a habit of hiding the letters in various unlikely places. Many of his readers have made a sport out of finding them.
Another curiosity is his "hidden Mickeys". Don Rosa is only interested in creating stories featuring The Duck family. But often hides small Mickey Mouse heads in the pictures. This is mostly a gag done for the fun of it. Don has admitted to neither liking nor disliking Mickey Mouse, but being indifferent to him.
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46