Donald Duck - 'Birthday Bugaboo' (Donald Duck #169, 1976). © Disney.

Harry Gladstone was the artist and writer of one 1976 'Donald Duck' adventure story - made in the tradition of Carl Barks - before becoming an artist with Walt Disney Design and Development in Florida and then Disney's merchandising office in New York.

Birthday Bugaboo
Born in 1937, Henry Edward Gladstone grew up as an avid reader of Disney comics - in particular the 'Donald Duck' and 'Uncle Scrooge' stories written and drawn by the then still anonymous Carl Barks. By the time comic fandom had brought this legendary "good artist" into the public spotlight, Gladstone decided to try his luck and make his own adventure story starring Donald Duck and his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. This became 'Birthday Bugaboo', in which the three boys find a little dog and try to keep it, despite their uncle's attempts to stop them. Gladstone fully developed his story in the tradition of Carl Barks's early 1950s ten-page stories - mimicking plot style, artwork and even lettering.

Gladstone sent his story to Western Publishing editor Chase Craig, who ran it in the March 1976 issue of Gold Key's 'Donald Duck' comic book (#169). Despite its Barksian look-and-feel, 'Birthday Bugaboo' remained the only Disney comic story drawn by Harry Gladstone. By the mid-1970s, the Gold Key Disney comic books were largely filled with reprints of older stories - with only some new material produced by John Carey and Bob Gregory. In the early 1980s, Harry Gladstone's teenage son Philip wrote the scripts for at least two stories - 'Saved By A Skateboard' (1981) and 'Musical Mice' (1982). They were part of the Walt Disney Studio's story production for its international licensees, and drawn by the Jaime Diaz Studio and the artist-inker team of Tony Strobl/Steve Steere.

Disney artist
After the publication of 'Birthday Bugaboo', the Walt Disney Company recognized Gladstone's talent, and hired him to work for their Walt Disney Design and Development division in Florida. Between 1976 and 1981, He was part of a team that produced artwork for merchandising projects and designs for new Disney World attractions. In 1981, Gladstone moved from Florida to New York to succeed Jim Tanaka as art director of Disney's Character Merchandising Division. He remained with the company throughout the rest of the decade, until health reasons forced him to retire in 1989. He then settled in Maine, where he devoted his time to painting. Gladstone passed away in 2005.

Debuting in the mid-1970s, Harry Gladstone was the first U.S. Disney artist to originate from Carl Barks fandom. His switch to commercial art and the decline of Western's comic book line ended his short tenure as a comic book artist. It took until the late 1980s and 1990s before the next generation of U.S. Disney artists - consisting of William Van Horn, Don Rosa and Pat Block - took direct inspiration from Carl Barks's legacy to create new American 'Donald Duck' stories. Harry Gladstone's son Philip Gladstone is a former gallery owner, now working in Maine as a fine artist.

Donald Duck - 'Birthday Bugaboo' (Donald Duck #169, 1976). © Disney.

Robert van der Kroft version
A second - unused - version of Harry Gladstone's 'Birthday Bugaboo' story exists. In 2017, Dutch comic artist Robert van der Kroft posted a ten-page 'Donald Duck' story he had penciled and inked for the Dutch Donald Duck weekly forty years earlier on his Facebook account. It was his final job for the magazine, done in 1976, but further context was missing; the work had no production code, no script and it was never printed in the Dutch magazine. Intrigued by this mysterious ten-page story, the weekly's present-day editors tried to retrace its origin. Former editor-in-chief Thom Roep had the answer: it was a Dutch redrawn version of Harry Gladstone's sole 'Donald Duck' story. Why the 1976 editors had Van der Kroft redraw the story in the first place remains a mystery; perhaps the American material was unavailable, or Gladstone's drawings didn't meet up with the artistic standards of the time. Why the story was never published in the Netherlands is also unknown. Perhaps one day it will be - either in Gladstone's or Van der Kroft's version.

'Birthday Bugaboo', unused redrawn version by Robert van der Kroft (1976).

Inducks entry

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