I believe it was either Christmas of 1987 or 1988 when a very good friend introduced me to A Christmas for Shacktown. It was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.
A Christmas for Shacktown is a comic book story that first appeared in issue 367 of the Dell Four Color Comics series, published in 1951. It features Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, and the many other denizens of Duckburg. Well into adulthood, it was my first real exposure to classic Disney comics, and more importantly, to the storytelling genius of Disney legend Carl Barks.
As I have chronicled earlier, my passion for all things Disney developed fairly early in my childhood. But interestingly enough, it never extended to Disney comics until much, much later. In my youth, I read comic books. Tons of comic books. Dennis the Menace, Archie, Harvey and Superman, just to name a few. But I have little to no memories of reading Disney in a four color format. It wasn’t a lack of desire; it was just at that time, the late 1960s through the early 1970s, they were extremely hard for me to find. Disney comics were then published by Gold Key, and at least in my neighborhood, were not to be found on the normal comic book spinners. The only place I remember seeing them was on a coloring book rack on a fairly distant Woolworth’s.
So on that day so many years ago when my friend gently and lovingly slid a copy of Donald Duck Four Color #367 out of its plastic protector, and proceeded to read to me panel by panel the story of A Christmas for Shacktown, I became immediately and forever taken in by the imagination of Carl Barks.
A Christmas for Shacktown would be a great piece of storytelling in any genre; in the realm of comics it is a pure classic. Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, in their desire to bring holiday cheer to the underprivileged children of Shacktown, set in motion a sequence of events that is fast-paced, funny, occasionally ironic, at times both cynical and endearing, and with just the right doses of morality and sentiment. This is not the typical critical assessment warranted by a 1950s era “funny book” and it is an example of why Barks and his library of duck tales have endured for so long.
My friend’s gift of Shacktown extended far beyond the physical copy he would later present to me. In the years that followed, I immersed myself in the many adventures of Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge, the Junior Woodchucks and countless other memorable characters as chronicled by Mr. Barks. I have long lost contact with that very good friend, but every year I unwrap A Christmas for Shacktown and appreciate it every bit as much as I did that first time. And my bookshelves are filled with volumes of Carl Barks collections that I consistently revisit, and that my own children have come to discover and enjoy.
Thanks, Marc. And Merry Christmas.
“More fun than we ever had in our lives!”
Gemstone Comics has reprinted A Christmas for Shacktown, and it can be ordered through their website.