Before authoring one of the most beloved children’s book series of all time — Harold and the Purple Crayon — cartoonist Crockett Johnson created the comic strip Barnaby for over ten years (1942 to 1952). Its subtle ironies and playful allusions never won a broad following, but the adventures of 5-year-old Barnaby Baxter and his fairy godfather Jackeen J. O’Malley was and is a critical favorite.
Fantagraphics introduces the wonders of Barnaby to a new generation of children and parents alike. Co-edited by Johnson biographer Philip Nel (Dr. Seuss: American Icon) and Fantagraphics Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds, with art direction by graphic novelist Daniel Clowes (Ghost World), this five-volume Barnaby series will collect the entirety of the original newspaper strips from 1942-1952. The first volume collects all the strips from 1942 and 1943.
Barnaby revolved around a precocious five-year-old named Barnaby Baxter and his fairly godfather Jackeen J. O’Malley. Yet O’Malley, a cigar-chomping, bumbling con-artist and fast-talker, was not your typical protector. His grasp of magic was usually specious at best, limited to occasional flashes, often aided and abetted by his fellow members in The Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes, and Little Men’s Chowder & Marching Society.
Barnaby’s deft balance of fantasy, political commentary, sophisticated wit, and elegantly spare images expanded our sense of what comic strips can do. With subtlety and economy, Barnaby proved that comics need not condescend to readers. Its small but influential readership took that message to heart.
"I think, and I’m trying to talk calmly, that Barnaby and his friends and oppressors are the most important additions to American arts and letters in Lord knows how many years." – Dorothy Parker
"One of the best comic strips of the 20th Century and one of the most beloved older strips for a generation of devoted adult comics fans, Barnaby had become in the last decade and a half the great unsigned strip collection." – The Comics Reporter
After we received our first batch of advance copies of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby Vol. 1, we noticed that the flexi-bound softcovers planned for the series weren't well-suited to the landscape format of the book, so we had the printer re-bind the entire run in hardcover (without requiring an increase in cover price). We just got our first copies of the hardcover and we're much happier with how it came out.
Fortunately Daniel Clowes's beautifully minimalist cover design didn't require any alteration, and of course the book still comprehensively collects the first two years (1942-1943) of Johnson's beloved strip. Our revised release date is late May, and you can still sample 20 pages, and pre-order your copy, right here.
Saturday, April 6th // 1:00 - 2:00 PM Guest of Honor Bill Griffith in conversation with Paul Di Filippo [in the Programming Room in the Lower Level]
Where will all these wonderful books and artists be, you might be wondering? Why, tables B64, B65, C80, C81 -- right in front as you walk through the main entrance! (See a bigger version of this map here.) Our PR/Marketing duo of Jacq & Jen will be happy to see you at MoCCA!
We're so excited about the arrival of advance copies of Crockett Johnson's Barnaby Vol. 1, we all busted out our cameraphones for these snapshots! Eric Instagrammed this one:
This one's by Jen, of Jacq's desk:
Good gravy this book's a beaut! Boasting art direction by the one and only Daniel Clowes and comprehensively collecting the first two years (1942-1943) of Johnson's beloved strip between flexi-bound covers, it's one of the last items to cross off the list of "uncollected great American comic strips." And it's finally almost here! You'll be able to get your hands on a copy in late March or early April; for now you can sample 20 pages, and pre-order your copy, right here.
Earlier this month we wrapped up what has been my favorite project I've ever worked on. I've been pretty lucky to work on some amazing books by many of my favorite cartoonists, but this... this is something else. This is Crockett Johnson's BARNABY . This has been my #1 dream project for well over a decade, and it's now real.
Which is all to say, I'm genuinely thrilled to be the first one to present this sneak peek at Vol. 1.
If you're unfamiliar with BARNABY, let me allow Chris Ware to set the stage. This is from his introduction to Vol. 1:
"I never thought I'd see this day, but the book you hold is, well... the last great comic strip. Yes, there are dozens of other strips worth rereading, but none are this Great; this is great like Beethoven, or Steinbeck, or Picasso. This is so great it lives in its own timeless bubble of oddness and truth..." — Chris Ware
BARNABY is the long-lost comic strip masterpiece by Crockett Johnson, legendary children's book author (Harold and the Purple Crayon) and illustrator (Ruth Krauss' The Carrot Seed).
Featuring the misadventures of five-year-old Barnaby Baxter and his cigar-chomping, bumbling con-artist of a Fairy Godfather, J.J. O'Malley, BARNABY deftly balanced fantasy, humor, politics and elegant cartooning in a strip that captured the imaginations of kids and intelligent adults alike, including Dorothy Parker, Charles Schulz, W.C. Fields, Gardner Rea and Milton Caniff. We will be collecting in five volumes the entire, original ten-year run from 1942-1952.
Speaking of BARNABY superfans, our books are being designed by Daniel Clowes, which would sound more inspired if he weren't really the only man ever considered for the job. Dan is the person who first introduced me to the work of Johnson over 15 years ago, and I know this series means as much to him as anyone. I couldn't be happier with his designs. You've seen Dan's final cover for Vol. 1 above. Here's Dan's initial thumbnail rough from his sketchboook earlier this year; as you can see, he pretty much nailed it on the first take:
Here's a similar peek at one of Dan's initial "storyboards" for the book, this time for the opening spread of Jeet Heer's introductory essay:
... and here's the final, more-or-less identical final version, executed by our own esteemed Tony Ong and Clowes:
Dan makes things easy.
Here's a teaser of the entire jacket:
I can't end this post without mentioning my series co-editor, Philip Nel. Phil knows more about Crockett Johnson than anyone. Period. If you like Barnaby, please read Nel's definitive bio: Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature from the University Press of Mississippi.
In addition to his invaluable help behind-the-scenes, Phil has provided two indispensible resources for our first volume: a comprehensive biographical essay on Johnson focusing on the creation of Barnaby, as well as "The Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes, and Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society: A Handy Pocket Guide," a stunningly comprehensive glossary to everything referenced in BARNABY. He'll even explicate formulas like this:
Anyway, there's much more to be had in this first volume, but I'm honestly reluctant to tip our hand too much. I can't wait for people to see this book. Featuring the first two calendar years of the strip, 1942-1943, you're in for a dense, rewarding treat. Look for it in stores by late-March or early-April (we'll update you as we go).
And once you finish Vol. 1, look for Vol. 2* in Spring 2014:
The saltiest sounds of the ocean's Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Interview: Dubbing them "The Four Horseman of AltComix" Sean T. Collins interviews Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Chris Ware and Dan Clowes all in one go onRolling Stone. What a beautiful meetup of minds. Ware says, "Well, there are better cartoonists now than there ever have been. I firmly believe that. There's some amazing work being done." While Gilbert laments the change in alt comics, "That's what was missing from alternative comics after us: The art got less and less good."
• Interview (video): George O'Connor with co-host Natalie Kim recap SPX on InkedTV, including an interview with Gilbert Hernandez, and George shows off his Love and Rockets shirt.
• Plug:Dan Clowes is interviewed on what inspires him by the NY Times : "I didn’t really listen to the Kinks growing up at all — I was just vaguely aware of them, like everybody else — so when I was in my mid-20s I bought a couple of their records, just on a whim, and got sort of obsessed with them."
• Review:Comics Alliance reviews Lorenzo Mattotti's newest collaboration The Crackle of the Frostwith Jorge Zentner. Sarah Horrocks points out,". . . what you're looking at in The Crackle of the Frost is a largely amazing new Mattotti release for North American audiences, with fantastic art that has to be seen to be believed. It is a work that is better than most of what you can get on the stands on any given Wednesday. But it's also a book that is hurt by how achingly close it gets to its own perfection."
• Review:InkedTV reviews Joe Daly's Dungeon Quest Volumes 1-3 on their new video reviews featuring Natalie Kim and George O'Connor. "You will never find a book or a series of books that is so genetalia-obssessed as this book." Take a gander at our back catalog and you might find more.
• Plug:The Comics Journal lets Philip Nel tell a bit of the tale before the legend of Crockett Johnson, from his biography on the man called Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss. Fans have their eyes on the horizon for Johnson's Barnaby, edited by Nel and Eric Reynolds. Nel writes, "But before Barnaby, there was Crockett Johnson. And before Crockett Johnson, there was David Johnson Leisk."
• Review:Broken Frontier covers King of the Flies by Mezzo and Pirus. "King Of The Flies by Mezzo & Pirus is one hell of a hardcore comic. It is noir on acid, dark and unrelenting. It is one of the most thorough examinations of the cimmerian darkness the human species can dwell on and it will hit you square in the chest." But what about Book 2? "King Of The Flies 2 : Origin Of The World is maybe even better than its original and though it bears the number 2 it can just as well be read on its own."
Join Fantagraphics this weekend for the 2012 Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland! On September 15th & 16th, we'll be filling the Marriott Betheseda Conference Center with some dazzling debuts, panels, and signings! Come meet your favorite artists and get your books signed:
Don’t miss Free Comic Book Day this Saturday, May 5. Fantagraphics is offering two stellar titles for comics enthusiasts of all ages: Donald Duck Family Comics by Carl Barks and Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley. The first 50 visitors to Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle will also receive a coveted copy of Unseen Peanuts from 2007. No matter where you live, get out and show some love to your local comics shops.
Don’t miss Free Comic Book Day at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle. On Saturday, May 5, the Georgetown shop will be giving away free copies of specially produced comic books by master cartoonists like Carl Barks, Crockett Johnson and, while supplies last, the coveted Unseen Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.
Celebrating its 10th year in 2012, the annual Free Comic Book Day promotion is a national effort on the part of publishers and retailers to attract new readers to the medium as well as show appreciation to loyal customers.
Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books offers two new titles for Free Comic Book Day this year, appealing to readers of all ages. Donald Duck Family Comics features 34 pages of full color comics by the great Carl Barks. Join Donald, his nephews, Uncle Scrooge and others on amazing adventures in some of the most acclaimed comics ever created. Also in store is Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley by Crockett Johnson. This rollicking strip follows the tyke Barnaby and his mischievous fairy godfather Mr. O’Malley. These wonderful cartoons will soon be collected in a handsome edition by Fantagraphics Books.
The first 50 customers at Fantagraphics Bookstore on May 5 will receive a free copy of Unseen Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. This delightful edition serves as both an introduction to the classic strip and a treasury of fascinating oddities designed to appeal to even the most fervent Peanuts fans. First issued by Fantagraphics Books for Free Comic Book Day five years ago, Unseen Peanuts became an instant collectible.
Fantagraphics Bookstore is located at 1201 S. Vale St. (at Airport Way S.) in the heart of Seattle’s historic Georgetown arts community. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone 206.658.0110.
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