The book went to press earlier this month, and will be out in the spring. Â I can’t wait for you to see it. Â Crockett Johnson’sÂ Barnaby Volume 1 is truly a thing of beauty.
If you read any books published by Fantagraphics, this last sentence will not surprise you. Â But in case you are not (yet) a Fantagraphics devotee, let me give you a little behind-the-scenes look at why this book looks so great. Â (If you can’t wait to see a few glimpses, please scoot on over to Fantagraphics’ post on Barnaby Volume 1: it includes images and Daniel Clowes‘ rough sketch for the cover.)
Fantagraphics is perfectionistic in all the right ways. Â At each phase of the process, Eric Reynolds – who is co-editing theÂ Barnaby books with me – contacted me with specific questions. Â Most recently, at page-proofs phase, we talked about the layout of my essay, as well as those by Chris Ware and Jeet Heer. Â Dan Clowes put the epigraph for the first section of my essay in a Barnaby-style speech bubble. Â I thought: that looks cool. Might we try the same treatment for the other epigraphs? We did, and liked the result. Â Eric, Dan, and Fantagraphics designer Tony Ong also experimented with how to lay out my notes. Â We proofread everything many times, had conversations about grammar and word choice. Â Eric worked hard on getting the spacing just right on the back cover’s panels (visible, if too small to read clearly, on Fantagraphics’ postÂ – and below). Â If these details sound boring to you, they really shouldn’t. Â This sort of keen attention to detail makes for a beautiful book.
Fantagraphics works with the best people. Â Daniel Clowes! Chris Ware! Jeet Heer! Â Dan designed the book to look as if it were designed by Crockett Johnson in the 1940s. Â When you look at (for example) the back cover, it does not look as if it was designed using contemporary software. Â The lines look hand-ruled because (I believe) they were hand-ruled. Â For the typeface, Dan used Futura because that’s the distinctive typeface of Barnaby — and, incidentally, of Ruth Krauss‘sÂ The Carrot Seed, which Johnson illustrated & designed. Â Chris wrote a beautiful, insightful introductory piece on Johnson andÂ Barnaby. Â I’m tempted to quote it here, but I think I’ll leave it as a surprise. Â I will say, though, that there are few comics creators who can speak as lucidly as Chris can about how comics work. Â I’ll also say that Chris’s piece will make you look at Harold (of purple crayon fame) in a new way. Â And… that’s all I’ll say. Â Comics scholar Jeet Heer’s introductionÂ features the best description of Mr. O’Malley (Barnaby’s fairy godfather) that I’ve ever read: “half-pixie and half-grifter, an otherwordly being most at home in low-life dives and gambling dens, raider of other people’s fridges and cigar boxes, an inept wizard whose magic only works intermittently and often with unintended consequences, a self-mythologizer whose account of his own past glories is an improbable farrago of tall tales, a rhetorician quick to smooth over any difficulty with rococo eloquence and irrelevant digressions.”
Fantagraphics – specifically, Eric Reynolds – communicated with me clearly and regularly. Â He was always clear, polite, and had the best interests of the project at heart. Â A great guy to work with. Â I’m delighted that we’ll be working together on volumes 2 through 5! Â (We’re collecting the full ten-year run ofÂ Barnaby, 1942-1952, with two years in each volume.)
Finally, we could not have done this without the help of collectors who loaned us their newspapers or scanned strips – the Smithsonian, Harvard University, and Charles Cohen, in particular. Â So. Â Thanks to them! Â Note to the curious: a complete collection of old newspaper strips are not just lying around in an archive. Â You have to go looking for them. Â It’s an enormous amount of work, and is one of the reasons Volume 1 took so long. Â The other is Fantagraphics’ admirable perfectionism.
So. Â This spring. Â Barnaby Volume 1. Â Get it!