Barnaby Vol. 4 is here!

Well, it is almost here.

Barnaby Volume Four is in press. The book will officially be released on December 1st. I hoped to have an advance copy to show you by today — Crockett Johnson’s 114th birthday. But I don’t.

I do, however, have a pdf from the page-proofs stage.

Barnaby from May 26-27 1948
Crockett Johnson, Barnaby, May 26-27, 1948. (From Fantagraphics.)

One of the classic comic strips, Johnson’s Barnaby is also difficult to excerpt. The continuous narrative unspools from one day to the next, typically motivated by the ever-changing schemes of Mr. O’Malley, the loquacious con-artist of a fairy godfather to 5-year-old Barnaby. When the fifth and final volume is published (2021? 2022?), you’ll be able to read the entire ten-year run in full for the first time! I mean, unless you collect clippings of mid-century newspaper strips, this will be your first time: the full 1942-1952 run of Barnaby has never been reprinted in full. Indeed, the strips in this volume — covering 1948-1949 — have never been published in book form.

But, like O’Malley, I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s an excerpt from September 1948, when Barnaby is going back to school, and Mr. O’Malley comes along to, er, help. (Note: the page trim is larger than what you see below. I’ve zoomed in on the strips.)

Crockett Johnson, Barnaby, September 17-18, 1948. (From Fantagraphics.)
Crockett Johnson, Barnaby, September 20-21, 1948. (From Fantagraphics.)
Crockett Johnson, Barnaby, September 22-23, 1948. (From Fantagraphics.)
Crockett Johnson, Barnaby, September 24-25, 1948. (From Fantagraphics.)

Yes, “A red box. And a button inside it…” Who could resist pushing such a button? Not O’Malley…

To see the rest of the narrative, in a readable size (the book’s physical dimensions are 10.5″ × 6.75″), seek the book, which includes:

  • a foreword by cartoonist and comics historian Trina Robbins
  • an introduction by comics scholar Jared Gardner
  • an afterword by Philip Nel (that would be me)
  • an essay roughly contemporary with the strip — Stephen Becker (1927-1999) from his Comic Art in America (1959)
  • notes by Philip Nel (me again), just in case you’re curious about the strip’s political or cultural allusions. You don’t need to know the referents to enjoy the humor. But since the strip is a mix of fantasy and satire, I thought some readers might like a guide.
Barnaby Vol. 4: 1948-1949, co-edited by Philip Nel & Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics, 2020)

Since it is a Fantagraphics book, you also get lots of bonus artwork, including some of Johnson’s draft material.

from Barnaby Vol. 4: 1948-1949, co-edited by Nel & Reynolds (Fantagraphics, 2020)

Keen-eyed readers will note that the above is draft material from April 12-14, 1951. Those strips will be in the next and final volume of Barnaby. Why include these drafts here? Two reasons. First, draft material for these years (1948-1949) is scarce. Second, when the fifth volume appears, you can place both books side-by-side for a comparison.

In addition to all the cool bonus material, there’s the great design by Daniel Clowes (yes, the Daniel Clowes) and Keeli McCarthy.

back cover: Barnaby Vol. 4: 1948-1949, co-edited by Nel & Reynolds (Fantagraphics, 2020)

So. Happy days to all fans of classic comics!

And happy 114th Birthday to Crockett Johnson!


Crockett Johnson birthday posts from previous years

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