Carl Barks invented the Beagle Boys as a bungling band of thuggish thieves who prefer to work alone; although they have been known to team up with other criminals such as Magica de Spell and Flintheart Glomgold. The boys are the main reason for most of Uncle Scrooge’s worries, focused as they are on the old miser’s money. They entered the scene in WDCS134 and never left Scrooge’s side since. To the dismay of Scrooge – and to the delight of us.
This page tries to give a small glimpse of who they really are according to Barks.
When the Boys appeared for the first time they looked a bit more like the beagle hounds they supposedly got their name from. But quickly after their prolonged snouts disappeared making them look almost more bearlike than doglike. Still, they are considered characters from the dogs’ world.
The members of the Beagle Boys wear red sweaters with a logo, blue trousers and caps, and it all appears to be some sort of a uniform. Quite strange, really, as crooks usually never flaunt themselves. Further, they are all wearing black masks which presumably should disguise their identity but on the other hand they for some obscure reason are openminded enough to reveal their prison numbers for all to see as a (wooden?) sign across their chests.
From U$42 (The Case of the Sticky Money) we know of another way of identifying them: When swimming in the pool with their sweaters off we can see the prison numbers tattooed on their bodies.
At one time (FC1161 The Reversed Rescue) we also learn that they wear bulletproof vests and steel caps.
The Boys are often operating in more or less apparent disguises but they never remove the black masks. Still they are not recognized…
Undoubtedly Barks saw his gang of crooks as one organism without special features just as Huey, Dewey, and Louie. And it is hard to tell them apart. The Danish publisher Egmont tried some years ago to distinguish between them in a personality guide but the result was at best useless. However, a few characteristics can be deducted from the stories:
176-176 is the dumber one (FC1184 Mighty but Miserable).
176-860 takes the lead (U$04 ‘The Menehune Story’).
176-761 is well informed and educated. He writes good English and masters nautical terms in his S.O.S. letter (U$08 ‘The mysterious Stone Ray’).
176-167 likes cooked prunes (U$08 ‘The mysterious Stone Ray’ and U$58 The Giant Robot Robbers).
Further, a number of them surprisingly have a degree in various scientific subjects such as Psychology, Medicine, and Chemistry.
The Beagle Boys are more than just members of a large family. They are a family clan of organized criminals. In fact they are ‘the most awful gang of crooks in the country’ according to Donald in U$01 (Only a poor old Man). Barks did not reveal that much about the ancestry – as was also the case for all the other members of the duck universe – and the few pointers we are dealt are not really that helpful.
In U$GTD1 (‘The Fantastic River Race’) which is set in the past we meet Blackheart Beagle who is presumed to be the grandfather of today’s Beagle Boys. But how can this be true? After all, we see Scrooge already as an elderly, bearded duck coming up against what are probably the fathers of his later – maybe still unborn – adversaries, but their prison numbers matches the ones used in the future stories meaning that fathers and sons carry the same numbers!
In the present we are presented with a story about Grandpa and Grandma Beagle who had a hideout for posses at a lot called section 26 (U$21 The Money Well) and a picture of Grandpa Beagle is hanging on the wall at the grandsons’ hideout. Further we see a poster of a bearded Papa in U$01 (Only a poor, old Man). But whose daddy is it? One might be in doubt when 176-831 leaves the cabin to go fishing in the nearby lake announcing: There used to be trout in there when I was a kid. This might lead one to believe that the Boys have more than one father (and they should have as there are more than 30 Boys!). If that is the case how come they all look like identical twins?
In U$GTD1 (‘The Fantastic River Race’) we learn about pappy Blackheart Beagle – the supposed grandfather of today’s Boys – who is making an honest(!) living as a riverboat captain helped by his three sons. We also learn that grandpa and grandma Beagle had a hideout for posses outside Duckburg (U$21 The Money Well). Said grandpa carries the prison number 186-802 and would be the Boys’ grandpa on their mother’s side.
Astaunding as it may seem the Boys have been involved in honest work as well. It is revealed in U$23 (The strange Ship-Wrecks) that they actually served as lighthouse operators for a period of two years! In order, of course, to perform a great crime. But still…
This kind of dedication is also revealed in U$35 (Gift Lion) in which we are surprised to learn that they have listened in on Scrooge’s phone calls for ten years.
But there can be no doubt that they spend the majority of their time behind bars:
U$24 (The Twenty-four Carat Moon) – the Boys carry a suitcase with stickers from Sing-Sing and Folsom.
U$51 (How Green was my Lettuce) – 176-671 was known as the Gopherman of Alcatraz.
U$58 (The Giant Robot Robbers) – they meet a cellmate from Sing-Sing, and 176-167 wishes to serve time at Leavenworst.
U$63 (House of Haunts) – they serve time at Studious House Prison.
What the Boys actually do for a living is hard to tell as we hardly ever hear of other ‘jobs’ than Scrooge’s acres of money of which they never get permanent hold.
In U$07 (‘The seven Cities of Cibola’) we learn that they are on welfare checks, but they must earn money from other sources in order to pay for their numerous vehicles: a car (FC1161 The Reversed Rescue), a bus (FC1184 Mighty but Miserable), another car (U$35 Gift Lion), an official Get-Away car (U$63 House of Haunts), and a Loot Wagon (U$66 The Heedless Horseman).
Further they can afford to buy land: U$01 (Only a poor, old Man) and U$21 (The Money Well) are a few examples. In numerous stories they also seem to have endless means to buy expensive and heavy machinery.
So, where does all the funds come from? Some clues are scattered around: In U$39 (Tricky Experiment) they advertise: Jobs wanted! Bank jobs our specialty. They also might receive some of their income from a union shop called Burglars, Thugs, and Pirates Union, Local No. 6½ which is revealed in U$41 (The Status Seeker).
Further they are members of (another) union called Burglars, Thugs, Safe-Crackers, and Robbers Local No. 303, and of The Beneficial Brotherhood of Footpads, Forgers, Friskers, Fanners, and Fleecers, which might also be of some service (U$70 The Doom Diamond).
U$66 Although they are always portrayed as brainless thieves there must be more to the Boys than first meets the eye:
U$08 (‘The mysterious Stone Ray’) – 176-761 is fairly educated according to the contents of the message in the bottle.
U$39 (Tricky Experiment) – 176-716 invents a wall puncturer.
U$63 (House of Haunts) – 176-176 has a degree in Brain Fibrillation and Cranial Encephalography, 176-617 a degree in Psychology, 176-671 a degree in Chemistry, and 176-716 a degree in Metallurgy and Electropyrotechnology.
U$66 (The Heedless Horseman) – the Boys invent an explosive substance which is named Beaglemite.
U$70 (The Doom Diamond) – they have obtained a diploma from ‘Folsom School of Dynamiting’ , and 176-176 studied medicine in prison.
U$31 Barks was always very laid-back when it came to the portraying of the Boys, presumably because he regarded them as just one character. He was otherwise extremely careful of making things right but he slipped numerous times when it came to the number of Boys used in one story as well as their prison numbers.
Apart from their first appearances in which they had no numbers (WDCS134 ‘The Anti-Beagle Cannon’), and the odd number 176-84 (WDCS135 ‘The Money Bin Freezes’) Barks made some foul-ups as described here:
WDCS252 (Mr. Private Eye) – only 3 Boys are shown but they have 4 numbers (176-167, 176-176, 176-617, and 176-671).
FC1025 (Mastering the Matterhorn) – only 3 Boys are shown but they have 4 numbers (176-617, 176-671, 176-716, and 176-761).
U$GTD1 (‘The Fantastic River Race’) – again, only 3 Boys are shown but they have 4 numbers (176-167, 176-617, 176-671, and 176-716). Further, these Boys are supposed to be the fathers’ of today’s Boys but they carry the same numbers.
U$07 (‘The seven Cities of Cibola’) – a total of 9 Boys are seen according to their prison numbers, but only 6 are kicked out of the welfare office, 4 are present at the diner, and 5 are travelling the desert. So how many were really in that story?
U$21 (The Money Well) – a picture of grandpa Beagle is hanging on the wall at the grandsons’ hideout. But his prison number is as high as 186-802 which is quite staggering as he must have been dealt this number at a later date than his grandsons.
U$31 (All at Sea) – 176-176 is portrayed two times – in the same panel!
U$38 (The unsafe Safe) – only 3 Boys are shown but they have 4 numbers (176-167, 176-617, 176-671, and 176-716).
U$58 (The giant Robot Robbers) – the story calls for 4 Boys in order to operate the 4 robots but 6 numbers are shown (176-167, 176-176, 176-617, 176-671, 176-716, and 176-761).
U$63 (House of Haunts) – in the three final panels the standing Boys are – according to their prison numbers – moving around in front of the judge.
Now for the big question: Just how many Boys are there in all? The answer is that it is impossible to say for sure, but counting strictly from the prison numbers shown the total comes to 36. But the count should be a bit higher (for instance in WDCS135 (‘The Money Bin Freezes’) we see 4 Boys of which only one number (the odd 176-84) is shown in plain view, but one might guess that the 3 others had similar numbers).
Barks only showed us a total of 15 in the same story (U$04 ‘The Menehune Story’) but 30 were present according to Scrooge who grumbles: I washed the dishes for thirty Beagle Boys. The highest number of Boys in one single frame is 13 and they appeared (partly in silhouettes) in their bus in FC1184 (Mighty but Miserable).
Here follows the complete list of ‘registered’ Beagle Boys:
176-000 – 176-001 – 176-032 – 176-040 – 176-070 – 176-071 – 176-080 – 176-117 – 176-167 – 176-176 – 176-300 – 176-301 – 176-321 – 176-330 – 176-360 – 176-602 – 176-606 – 176-616 – 176-617 – 176-666 – 176-671 – 176-702 – 176-716 – 176-730 – 176-760 – 176-761 – 176-824 – 176-825 – 176-830 – 176-831 – 176-836 – 176-838 – 176-840 – 176-860 – 186-802 + 176-84