Barnaby. In Color.

Here is one origin story for Crockett Johnson’s classic Barnaby. At some point in early 1942, PM‘s Art Editor Charles Martin visited Crockett Johnson at his home in Darien Connecticut.  There, he saw a half-page color Sunday Barnaby strip.  Johnson had been unable to sell it.  Martin liked the strip, took it back to New York, and tried to sell it to King Features.  They rejected it.  PM‘s Comics Editor Hannah Baker loved it, and Barnaby made its debut on April 20, 1942 (preceded by the ads I posted on Monday).

I don’t know what ever happened to Johnson’s original color Sunday Barnaby, but from 1946 to 1948, a color Sunday Barnaby did appear in a few newspapers.  When it started, Johnson was serving as a story consultant on the Monday-Saturday Barnaby, having ceded the writing to Ted Ferro and the artwork to Jack Morley back in January 1946.  Johnson returned to writing the Monday-Saturday strip in September 1947, with Morley staying on to do the art (Ferro left at that point).  I believe that Johnson’s involvement with the Sunday strip mirrors his involvement with the weekday strip.  If that’s so, then the strip below – dated 13 July 1947 and reproduced courtesy of generous collector Colin Myers – is from just before Johnson ceased being merely a story consultant and resumed actually writing the text.

Barnaby, 13 July 1947

(Aside: The mendacity of the Tootsie Roll advertisement above is so cheerfully amoral: hey, kids, eating candy gives you energy!  Sure, the energy is very short-lived, but, uh… why not eat more candy? )

I haven’t seen many of the Sunday Barnaby strips, but those I have seen tend to recycle an idea from earlier Monday-Saturday strips – and by “earlier,” I don’t mean “earlier in the week.”  I mean “at any point earlier in Barnaby‘s run.”  But not all of them merely recycle.  The concluding Sunday sequence – published in May 1948, written by Crockett Johnson – is new material.  And quite clever, too.

Well.  Other tales of Barnaby‘s origin, along with about half a dozen weekday strips, will appear in The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi in 2012).  Yes, this is a shameless plug for my biography.  Thanks again to Colin Myers for the strip!  And, for those who need reminding, clicking on the strip itself will allow you to see it in its full size.


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