Gladstone Gander is the lucky cousin of Donald, son of Goosetave and Daphne Duck. He was invented by Carl Barks and made his debut in the 1948 comic story Wintertime Wager, when he came to the house of his unlucky cousin Donald to evict him and take possession of his property.
The original prototype of Gladstone which debuts in the comic story Wintertime Wager is a friendly trafficone who resorted to very little cheating at the expense of others and was much more like a typical salesman, but soon Barks evolved the character into a snooty and haughty higher-class duck.
Gladstone Gander is introduced into the world of the ducks as the cousin of Donald Duck, and remains so in all the stories in which he appeared. However, his family relationship with the other ducks is unclear and sometimes conflicting.
According to the family tree, Private Carl Barks Gladstone, an orphan, was adopted by Matilda 'Scrooge, which would explain his relationship, albeit non-biological, with the multi-billionaire; this version, however, is incompatible with the family tree developed by Don Rosa, where Gladstone is the son of Daphne Duck and Scrooge Gustavo, and the cousin of Donald Duck (and Paperoga) as all three descend from Grandma Duck, but without any blood relationship with Scrooge.
The first creature born from the pencil of Barks was a far cry from the current Gladstone, he was more worn, slightly bald and devoid of his classic aristocratic hair. Eventually, Barks evolved his character by giving all him features that made the duck appear arrogant and full of himself. To mark this change, the beak was drawn upward, leggings were added to the legs, and he was given a fedora. The tuft became much more thick and nice, and the jacket more elegant. These features have been preserved intact until today, save some details, such as the stick or headscarf.
In many stories, he is attracted to Daisy and tries unsuccessfully to steal her from his cousin: this, of course, is another reason to fight with Donald. The two indeed have a peaceful relationship. The choleric temperament of both of them always creates conflict during their numerous meetings, and only in a few stories do the two manage to find some understanding and manage to work together. The duck also has to undergo intense misfortune even twenty-four hours a year, that being, ironically, his birthday, when lightning struck him at an early age. If Gladstone triumphs thanks to good fortune, however, there is the classic exception to the rule where the luck can do nothing for his pupil. Daisy Duck, despite continued courting and the attention he floods her with, still prefers the unlucky Donald, although she has agreed to go out with the lucky duck just to make her boyfriend jealous. In the Ultraheroes saga, Gladstone adopts the superhero identity of Clover Leaf, and joins Ultraheroes, in order to defeat the evil organization Bad-7. In the saga, his superpower is of course his luck.
The sheer luck that Gladstone has is his most striking feature. He manages to have all that he wants for free without ever having to work. A typical day for Gladstone is an endless succession of random discoveries of valuables that he collects from the ground, and prizes and winnings that are delivered to his home. Because of this, Gladstone Gander is really boastful, conceited and full of himself. He always has a cavalier attitude and carries himself with a lot of swagger. He has no intention of finding a stable job and and is convinced that luck will get you all you want. In fact, he has only worked on a single occasion for an amulet in a story he told Donald, where he confesses with great shame and dishonor that he has tried it, justifying it as a moment of weakness. Conscious of having luck on his side, Gladstone is often grumpy and arrogant with his relatives, especially with Donald, his rival in love: he often, in fact, refuses to help Donald and does not show the slightest solidarity with him. In general, it seems that Gladstone doesn't feel affection for anyone, and does not do very well with either love or bonds of friendship. Even when courting Daisy, he apparently does it more to annoy Donald than because he's really in love with her.
However, in some episodes, especially the newer ones, the authors have tried to re-evaluate the character, and Gladstone appears even generous with his cousin, enough so to help him when he is in trouble. Usually though, 'Gladstone's "help" often boils down to trying to "teach" his unfortunate cousin to live a comfortable and less frantic life. Also, in some recent Italian stories, Gladstone is made into a more sympathetic character to readers, with the authors using narrative devices to make him lose his fortune so he can live the life of an ordinary duck. Obviously, at the end of the adventure, the luck comes back from his pupil returning everything to normal.
- The American publication company Gladstone, named itself after this character, because of it owning the rights to Donald Duck comics in the 80's.