Donald may well have made his first printed appearance in Mickey Mouse Annual 3 (published 1932; the annual for 1933), a 128-page British hardback. This book included the poem Mickey's Hoozoo, Witswitch and Wotswot, which listed all of Mickey's then-current barnyard animal friends (most of Disney's major characters developed out of this barnyard scenario). Among them was a duckling named Donald Duck. Besides the name, however, there is little similarity between this character and the one introduced in The Wise Little Hen during 1934. Mickey Mouse Annual 3 was drawn entirely by Wilfred Haughton.
Comic strip debut
The Donald of The Wise Little Hen made his printed debut in the newspaper comic strip adaptation of that cartoon. It was released between September 16 and December 16, 1934 in the Silly Symphonies Sunday pages by Ted Osborne and Al Taliaferro. On February 10, 1935, Donald appeared in the Mickey Mouse daily strip by Ted Osborne and Floyd Gottfredson.
A supporting character in Mickey's strip, Donald came to dominate the Silly Symphonies strips between August 30, 1936 and December 12, 1937. At the time, Ted Osborne was credited as writer and Al Taliaferro as artist and inker. Later studies of their work, however, show that Taliaferro probably contributed plot ideas and gags as well. The duo turned Donald from a countryman to a city dweller. They also introduced the first members of The Duck family other than Donald himself, namely Donald's identical triplet nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, who debuted on October 17, 1937. The sons of his sister Della Duck (his sister in the animated shorts), the triplets were sent to spend some time with him as guests while their father recovered at the hospital from their latest prank. Nevertheless, Donald ended up serving as their adoptive parent.
Comic book debut
At this time the first Donald Duck stories which was originally created for a comic book made their appearance. In the United Kingdom, Fleetway also created original stories with Donald Duck. "Donald and Donna", published in Mickey Mouse Weekly # 67 (May 15, 1937) is the first Donald Duck adventure ever. The story was 15 pages long and published in weekly episodes. The last appeared on August 21, 1937. All episodes were drawn by William A. Ward.
Disney had also licensed the Italian publishing house Mondadori to create stories with the Disney characters as their stars. The first to star Donald, under his Italian name Paolino Paperino, was "Paolino Paperino e il mistero di Marte" (later reprinted in the USA as "The Secret of Mars", Donald Duck 286) by Federico Pedrocchi, first published on December 30, 1937. The story was only 18 pages long and crude by later standards, but it is credited as the first to feature Donald in an adventuring rather than a comedic role. It is also the first of many to depict Donald as a space traveler, in this case traveling to Mars (See Mars in fiction).
Developments under Taliaferro
Back in the USA, Donald finally became the star of his own newspaper comic strip. The Donald Duck daily strip started on February 2, 1938, and the Donald Duck Sunday page began December 10, 1939. Taliaferro drew both, this time co-operating with writer Bob Karp. Like before, Taliaferro continued to contribute plot ideas and gags, and some studies credit Taliaferro with most of the ideas that would turn his run of the strip into a so-called classic. He continued to work at the daily strip until October 10, 1968 and at the Sunday page until February 16, 1969.
Among other things, Taliaferro made several additions to Donald's supporting cast. Bolivar, Donald's pet St. Bernard first appeared in the strip on March 17, 1938, following his only animated appearance in Alpine Climbers (July 25, 1936). Donald's second cousin Gus Goose, the son of Fanny Coot, made his first appearance on May 9, 1938 -- the first member of the Coot Kin to appear (he would make the leap to animation a year later in 1939's Donald's Cousin Gus). Daisy Duck first appeared in the strip on November 4, 1940, following her first proper animated appearance in Mr. Duck Steps Out, first released on June 7, 1940. Donald's paternal grandmother Elviry (Elvira Coot, usually just called Grandma Duck) first appeared in a portrait on August 11, 1940 and in person on September 28, 1943. Taliaferro also reintroduced Donna Duck as a separate character from Daisy. This old flame of Donald rivaled Daisy for his affections between August 7, 1951 – August 18, 1951, before leaving him for another man. Though he did not create most of those characters, Taliaferro is credited with the development of their personalities as well as Donald's own personality. It has been said that Taliaferro set the foundations for the later development of the character under Carl Barks and his successors.
First treasure hunt
Donald had already been familiar to the American reading public through his newspaper comic strip by 1942. Then Disney licensed Western Publishing to create original comic book stories, with Disney characters as their stars. But the first American Donald Duck story originally created for a comic book was created by Studio-employed artists. More specifically it was Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold, first published on October, 1942. The plot for the story had been originally suggested by Harry Reeves and Homer Brightman for a cartoon that never reached production. The notes for the cartoon were given to Bob Karp, who had been assigned to write Western's script. As intended, he used it as the basis for his story. Then it was given to Carl Barks and Jack Hannah to illustrate. Each of them drew half of the story's 64 pages. More specifically Barks drew pages #1, 2, 5, 12-40, Hannah drew pages #3, 4, 6-11, 41-64. The story places Donald and his nephews on a treasure hunt for the lost treasure of Henry Morgan and it manages to combine elements of humor and adventure with dramatic moments and mystery rather well. Though it is an early drawing effort by Barks, his attention to detail is already visible. The script demanded him to draw a Harbor and a sailing ship. Barks decided to use issues of National Geographic, which he collected, as reference sources. The result was a largely accurate depiction of his subjects. Probably as a result of every person contributing in the story's creation being more familiar with the standards of cartoons shorts and/or newspaper comic strips, rather than those of comic books, the story had very few dialogue scenes. The story is considered significant as both the first Donald story drawn by Barks for a comic book and the first to involve Donald in a treasure hunting expedition. Barks would later use the treasure-hunting theme in many of his own stories.
Origins of the comic book version
Until this point, the development of both the animated and the comic strip version of Donald was the result of a combined effort by a number of different creators, rather than a single one. But the comic book version of Donald was mainly developed by Carl Barks beginning in 1943.
The comic version had already diverged from the animated one in a number of ways, as was the case with Mickey at the time. When Donald Duck gained his own separate newspaper comic strip, this meant that both he and his supporting characters had to be split off from the standard Disney cartoon world as featured in the Mickey Mouse strip. This same division between Mouse strips and Duck strips was generally followed in the comic books. This suited Barks who did not particularly like the Mouse stories. Carl later credited Floyd Gottfredson and his adventure stories for influencing his own work. However, he seemed to find Mickey and his supporting cast to be less than interesting as characters. In fact his only story with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Clarabell Cow as the featured characters was The Riddle of the Red Hat (first published in August, 1945, otherwise considered insignificant). Pete however remained his villain of choice for the first few years of his comic book work.
Barks largely did away with Donald's animated persona as a loafing, lazy hothead whose main quality is his hardly understandable quacking. To make him suitable for a comic-book story, Barks redefined his personality, gave him articulated speech, and shaded emotions. To give Donald a world to live in, Barks developed the city of Duckburg in the American state of Calisota. He was allowed to focus entirely on his own cast of Duckburg citizens like the richest duck in the world, Uncle Scrooge McDuck, lucky cousin Gladstone Gander, and the peculiar inventor Gyro Gearloose. In the comics, Donald lives in a Duckburg house with Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck.
Much of this scenario would resurface in the 1987 TV series DuckTales. In that cartoon, however, Donald works and lives as a sailor on an aircraft carrier, and Huey, Dewey and Louie live with Uncle Scrooge for a while.
Early developments under Barks
Barks quit working at the Studio and found employment at Western Publishing with a starting pay of twelve dollars and fifty cents per page. According to a later interview by Barks, the company originally expected him to illustrate stories based on the scripts of others. They had sent him a script along with the following note: "Here is a 10-page story for Donald Duck. Hope that you like it. You are to stage it, of course. And if you see that it can be strengthened, or that it deviates from Donald either in narration or action, please make the improvements." Wanting to script his own stories, Barks started working on the script provided, freely changing whatever he wished. When he had finished with it, very little of the original remained. The story was The Victory Garden, first published in April, 1943. Barks had made his point by improving the original script beyond what had been expected of him. From then on, Barks both scripted and illustrated his stories.
His production during that year seems to be at the pace he would follow for much of the following decade. Eight 10-pagers to be published in Walt Disney's Comics and Stories, published in a monthly basis, and one longer story for the sporadically published Donald Duck. In this case the story was The Mummy's Ring, 28-pages long, first published in September, 1943. The shorter stories would usually focus on Donald's everyday life and on comedy, while the longer ones were usually adventure stories set in exotic locales. The latter would often contain more dramatic elements and darker themes, and would place Donald and his nephews into dangerous and often near-fatal situations. To add realism to his illustration of those stories' settings, Barks would still seek reference sources. The magazine National Geographic would usually provide most of the material he needed.
In both cases the stories presented Donald's personality as having multiple aspects that would surface according to circumstance. Or as Barks would say later: "He was sometimes a villain, and he was often a real good guy and at all times he was just a blundering person like the average human being." Adding another note of realism was the fact that Donald could end up being either the victor or the loser in his stories. And often even his victories were hollow. This gave a sense of realism to Donald's character and the characters and situations around him.
His nephews accompanied him in those stories and Barks also gave many aspects to their personalities. In some cases they acted as the mischievous brats Taliaferro had introduced, often antagonizing their uncle. In some cases they got in trouble and Donald would have to save them. But in others they proved remarkably resourceful and inventive, often helping their uncle out of a difficult situation. But most of the time, they would appear to have developed a deeper understanding of things and level of maturity than their uncle.
An early supporting-cast addition
The first recurring character that Barks would introduce was Donald's next-door Neighbor Jones. He was mentioned by name and made a cameo in Good Deeds, first published in July, 1943. He was mentioned as a neighbor that Donald likes to harass, but more as a form of teasing than anything more serious. Then he made his first full appearance in Good Neighbors, first published in November 11, 1943. There Donald and he appear to have agreed to a truce. But when they misinterpret a number of chance events to be covert attacks by their respective neighbor, they resume their fighting with renewed determination. In the process of their backyard warfare, they almost managed to destroy each other’s houses. The Nephews, who had enough of this fighting, reported it to the houses' owners. The two neighbors had to find new houses to rent. But to their disappointment, they found themselves as next-door neighbors. The fighting, not surprisingly, continues. Jones seems to always be in a bad mood and Donald just serves to make him angry. The two irrational and easily irritated neighbors would serve as the focus of a number of 10-pagers.
Introduction to Scrooge and Gladstone
The next two recurring characters to be introduced by Barks were arguably more significant. Donald's maternal uncle Scrooge McDuck made his first appearance in Christmas on Bear Mountain, first published on December, 1947. The first member of The Clan McDuck to appear, his name was based on Ebenezer Scrooge, another fictional character from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. The story's title was based on A Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky, presumably better known to Disney fans from a scene of Fantasia featuring Chernabog. Scrooge's first appearance was almost immediately followed by that of Donald's first cousin Gladstone Gander in Wintertime Wager, first published on January, 1948. In fact this is acknowledged in the stories' internal chronology. The first story occurs at December 24, 1947 and has a scene occurring on the night of December 25, 1947. The second occurs on the morning of December 25, 1947.
Both characters didn't yet have their familiar characteristics. Gladstone was presented as a rather arrogant cousin that had a claim on Donald's house. More specifically, in summer he had gotten Donald to agree to a wager. On Christmas he had to either swim in a lake near his house or to pass his house to Gladstone. Gladstone does not yet lay claim to the title of The Luckiest Duck In the World. Daisy, who saves Donald from losing his house, still seems to have no interest in Gladstone. Their love triangle hadn't formed yet.
As for Scrooge, he was a bearded, bespectacled, reasonably wealthy old man who is visibly leaning on his cane. He was living in isolation in a Huge Mansion, which is said to be influenced by that present in Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. Concerning his sense of humor, he planned to entertain himself by inviting his nephews to his mountain cabin and then scaring them out of it.
Developments on Gladstone
In the following years both characters would become prominent members of Donald's supporting cast. In Gladstone's case, he soon started to rival his cousin in a number of personal wagers and organized contests. His incredible luck was introduced in Race to the South Seas, first published in 1949. This story also was the first to present Donald and Gladstone trying to win Scrooge's favor in order for one of them to become his heir. They both claim to be Scrooge's closest living relative, as Donald is the son of Scrooge's sister and Gladstone is the son of Scrooge's sister's sister-in-law. Scrooge would later express his doubts that the latter constitutes an actual familial relationship. Gladstone would also rival his cousin in a treasure hunt in Luck of the North, first published in December, 1949. The later story is still considered as one of his strongest appearances. It is one of the rare occasions where his luck is combined with conscious efforts on his part and he proves to be a rather competent and resourceful adventurer in his own right. Gladstone soon also became Donald's rival for Daisy's affections. The love-triangle of Donald, Daisy and Gladstone would become an on-going theme for the following decades. Daisy actually dates both cousins and is said to have them both wrapped around her little finger.
Losing ground to Scrooge
While Gladstone's development and establishment seemed to take about a year after his appearance, Barks continued to experiment with Scrooge's appearance and personality for the following four years. Barks would later claim that he originally only intended to use Scrooge as a one-shot character, but then he decided he could prove useful in further stories.
Scrooge was soon established as a recurring character and various stories cast him as a featured character alongside Donald. By 1952, Scrooge had gained a magazine of his own. From then on Barks produced most of his longer stories in Uncle Scrooge with Scrooge as their star and focusing in adventure, while his ten-pagers continued to feature Donald as their star and focused on comedy. Scrooge became the central figure of the stories while Donald and their nephews were cast as Scrooge's Helpers, hired helping-hands who followed Scrooge around the world. Other contemporary creators also reflected this change of focus from Donald to Scrooge in stories. Since then Scrooge remains the central figure of their Universe, coining the term Scrooge McDuck Universe.
Donald as Paperinik. Art by Marco Rota.
Barks wasn't the only author to develop Donald. All over the world hundreds of other authors have used the character, sometimes with great results.
For example the Disney Studio artists, who made comics directly for the European market. Two of them, Dick Kinney and Al Hubbard created Donald's cousin Fethry Duck.
The American artists Vic Lockman and Tony Strobl, who were working directly for the American comic books, created Moby Duck. Strobl was one of the most productive Disney artists of all time, and drew a lot of stories which Barks wrote after his retirement. In the 1990s, these scripts were re-drawn by Dutch artist Daan Jippes.
Italian publisher Mondadori created many of the stories that were published throughout Europe. They also introduced numerous new characters who are today well known in Europe. One example is Donald Duck's alter-ego, a superhero called Paperinik in Italian, created by Guido Martina and Giovan Battista Carpi.
Giorgio Cavazzano and Carlo Chendi created Honkey Go-Kart (Umperio Bogarto in Italian), a detective whose name is an obvious parody on Humphrey Bogart. They also created OK Quack, an extraterrestrial Duck who landed on earth in a spaceship in the shape of a coin. He however lost his spaceship, and befriended Scrooge, and now is allowed to search through his moneybin time after time, looking for his ship.
Romano Scarpa, who was a very important and influential Italian Disney artist, created Brigitta McBridge, a female Duck who is madly in love with Scrooge. Her affections are never answered by him, though, but she keeps trying. Scarpa also came up with Dickie Duck, the granddaughter of Glittering Goldie (Scrooge's possible love-interest from his days in the Klondike) and Kildare Coot, a nephew of Grandma Duck.
Italian artist Corrado Mastantuono created Bum Bum Ghigno, a cynical, grumpy and not too good looking Duck who teams up with Donald and Gyro a lot.
The American artist William van Horn also introduced a new character: Rumpus McFowl, an old and rather corpulent Duck with a giant appetite and laziness, who is first said to be a cousin of Scrooge. Only later, Scrooge reveals to his nephews Rumpus is actually his half-brother. Later, Rumpus also finds out.
Working for the Danish editor Egmont, artist Daniel Branca and script-writers Paul Halas and Charlie Martin created Sonny Seagull, an orphan who befriends Huey, Duey and Louie, and his rival, Mr. Phelps.
The most productive Duck-artist today is Victor Arriagada Rios, who is better known under the name Vicar. He has his own studio where he and his assistants draw the stories send in by Egmont. Vicar created the character Oono, a pre-historic princess who travelled to Duckburg in the 1990s by using Gyro's time-machine.
The best-known and most popular Duck-artist of this time is Keno Don Rosa. He started doing Disney comics in 1987 for the American publisher Gladstone. He later worked briefly for the Dutch editors, but moved to work directly for Egmont soon afterwards. He created a lot of sequels to Barks' stories, and even a 12-part series of stories about the life of Scrooge McDuck, which won him two Eisner awards. Not all Barks-fans are happy with his work, though, and they claim he's destroying Barks' carefully built world.
Other important artists who have worked with Donald are Freddy Milton and Daan Jippes, who made 18 ten-pagers which some claim are as good as Barks' work.
Donald's character history
According to Disney comics author Don Rosa, Donald was born somewhere around 1920—however, this is not an official year of birth. According to Carl Barks' Donald Duck family tree (later developed and re-built by Don Rosa for the Danish publishing house Egmont), Donald's parents are Hortense McDuck and Quackmore Duck. Donald’s sister is named Della Thelma Duck, but neither she nor Donald's parents appear in the cartoons or comics except for special cases, like The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. According to Rosa, Donald and Della are twins.
According to Donald Duck comics #85, Donald Duck grew up in Elm City, a town not far from Duckburg. 
Barks's comments on Donald and his stories
"The thing that I consider most important about my work is this: I told it like it is. I told my readers that the bad guys have a little of good in them, and the good guys have a lot of bad in them, and that you can't depend on anything much; nothing is always going to turn out roses." - May 29, 1973.
"In fact I laid it right on the line. There was no difference between my characters and the life my readers were going to have to face. When the Ducks went out in the desert, so did Joe Blow down the street with his kids. When Donald got buffeted around, I tried to put it over in such a way that kids would see it could happen to them. Unlike the superhero comics, my comics had parallels in human experience."
"I always felt myself to be an unlucky person like Donald, who is a victim of so many circumstances. But there isn't a person in the United States who couldn't identify with him. He is everything, he is everybody; he makes the same mistakes that we all make."
"I carried in my head the idea that there was a whole town and a whole family of characters around these ducks at all times, he recalls. There were cousins and nephews and nieces, and villains and bankers and all kinds of people that they dealt with in everyday life. So whenever I needed a character, I would create one that apparently had been around but just hadn't been used yet. The way I presented these characters was the way they were in my head: they had been there all the time". - August 4, 1975.
"I've always looked upon the Ducks as caricature human beings. Perhaps I've been years writing in that middle world that J. R. R. Tolkien describes, and never knew it." (After his retirement Barks started reading Tolkien, and discovered similarities between their stories. At this point he was comparing his Ducks to Tolkien's hobbits of Middle-earth.)
"I broadened his character out very much. Instead of making just a quarrelsome little guy out of him, I made a sympathetic character. He was sometimes a villain, and he was often a real good guy and at all times he was just a blundering person like the average human being, and I think that is one of the reasons people like the duck." - Spring, 1981.
"I didn't expect any great rosy things out of life for my characters and it's a good way to be, I think. If you get too darned optimistic, your stuff gets sweet like Pollyanna."
"I even tried to tone down the malicious streak in Donald's character. I resented it in Bugs Bunny; it just turned me off. I thought: why put that same character into Donald and turn off millions of readers? It was okay for the Ducks from time to time, provided there were reasons for it."
A famous quote from Donald Duck himself:
"Four dollars is very little money when you got'em; but a heck of a lot of money when you ain't got'em." (From the Carl Barks story "A Christmas for Shacktown".)
Taliaferro introduced Donald's car, a 1934 Belchfire Runabout, on July 1, 1938. Donald is said to have constructed it himself from spare parts of various sources. It is recognizable by its license plate number 313. The car is modeled around the 1938 American Bantam. Though Donald briefly drove other cars both in Taliaferro's strip and in later stories, this car would stay with Donald throughout the following decades. The car's constant breakdowns and need of repairs is often used as a source of humor. Immediately recognizable by readers, it seems to have become as much a trademark of Donald as his sailor shirt and cap. His alias Paperinik on the other side has the 313 (which sports a different plate, namely X) equipped with a lot of high tech gadgets by Gyro Gearloose to combat crime. in "Recalled Wreck", Donald tells his nephews he can't buy new car parts instead of having them fixed because his car is made of parts that are no longer produced.