The following interview was conducted by 14-year-old John Iatrou, a Greek aspiring journalist, in August 2010. It was first published in a Greek translation at GreekComics.
John Iatrou: First of all, tell me a few words about your first steps in the comics industry … If I’m not mistaken, you began as a cartoonist.
William Van Horn: I got into cartooning in 1961 in animation at a small studio in San Francisco, California. I spent many years in the film business. From there I went into children’s books and from there into comic books. All of these disciplines had their influence on me to one degree or another.
JI: I would like to ask you a few things about Nervous Rex, the first character you created, since he hasn’t been published in Greece. Your drawing style in Rex hasn’t changed a lot in your Duck stories. What about your narrative style, the hilarious gags and dialogues?
WVH: Nervous Rex was a feature (my entry into comic books in 1985) influenced greatly by the work of George Herriman. The loopy somewhat surreal world that he created for Krazy Kat is very much reflected in Rex. Rex and the Ducks are worlds apart in terms of style and content. Only the goofy sort of humor exists (I think) in both.
JI: Who are your favorite creators?
WVH: My favorite cartoonists were (and are) Carl Barks and Chester Gould, the creator of the comic strip Dick Tracy.
JI: Let’s move on to the Ducks. I’m interested in hearing a few words about the probably best period of your career – when you illustrated a script written by Carl Barks. How did you feel? Did Carl help you with the drawing part, or was it you who managed it all alone?
WVH: Working with Carl on Horsing Around With History was both a pleasure and an honor. I had gotten to know Carl prior to that project and we were comfortable working together. Carl did not interfere with the artwork side of the project. He left that up to me. He considered it a great relief not to have to do the art. He was, after all, 93 years old during that project.
JI: Before Horsing Around With History, you had worked on the Ducktales series with a few stories. Was that your choice, or was it the editor who asked you to do so?
WVH: I was asked by editor Byron Erickson to do the Ducktales stories. It was at that point that working with the Ducks became a full time job.
JI: It’s notable that your Ducks stories rarely surpass 20 pages. Why’s that?
WVH: As for my not doing many long stories, I prefer to do the shorter comedies. Long stories are usually more adventure oriented rather than humor oriented.
JI: Why don’t we see Mickey in your stories?
WVH: I do not believe that Mickey and Donald belong in the same stories. They each have their own worlds. I do not like it when they are thrown together in the same story.
JI: During your career, you have created a few characters. The most famous is Scrooge’s brother, Rumpus McFowl. Why did you create a character like that? Was it because you felt that you had to contribute to the Duck’s family tree?
WVH: Rumpus McFowl was created only because he was the sort of character needed for one particular story. I had never planned to make him a regular at the beginning. It just happened because opportunities came up to use him. Carl created most of his characters the same way. Scrooge was intended for one Christmas story in 1947. Carl saw he had possibilities and went on with his development.
JI: Your stories, here, in Greece, are being published in ΚΟΜΙΞ magazine. Do you know about this?
WVH: The only Greek Disney book I have some examples of is ΜΙΚΥ from the early nineties. They ran our Ducktales stuff and used some of the covers.
JI: What do you think of younger creators? Do you generally watch what goes on?
WVH: I’m not very familiar with the younger creators. I rarely see the Disney books anymore.
JI: What is your opinion about Disney comics’ situation in America?
WVH: Disney comic books in North America have been virtually a dead issue (no pun intended) for over a decade, possibly two. Sales here hover around 4000 copies a month! This on a continent of over 350 million people! Egmont has never tried to publish here. They thought about it years ago and decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
JI: It’s notable that every (Disney) story of yours has a lot of mosquitoes here and there. What’s the meaning of this special, personal signature?
WVH: No special reason for the flies in the pictures.
JI: Are you working on something this period?
WVH: I plan to continue to do maybe three or four stories a year, but I am 71 years old, and sometimes working is a pain in the ass. But mostly it’s fun. So there you are.