Ten-cent ideology: Donald duck comic books and the U.S. Challenge to modernization

Daniel Immerwahr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The comic-book artist Carl Barks was one of the most-read writers during the years after the Second World War. Millions of children took in his tales of the Disney characters Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. Often set in the Global South, Barks's stories offered pointed reflections on foreign relations. Surprisingly, Barks presented a thoroughgoing critique of the main thrust of U.S. foreign policy making: the notion that the United States should intervene to improve “traditional” societies. In Barks's stories, the best that the inhabitants of rich societies can do is to leave poorer peoples alone. But Barks was not just popular; his work was also influential. High-profile baby boomers such as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas imbibed his comics as children. When they later produced their own creative works in the 1970s and 1980s, they drew from Barks's language as they too attacked the ideology of modernization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalModern American History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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