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.
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.)
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.
Since it is a Fantagraphics book, you also get lots of bonus artwork, including some of Johnson’s draft material.
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.
So. Happy days to all fans of classic comics!
And happy 114th Birthday to Crockett Johnson!
Crockett Johnson birthday posts from previous years
- Barnaby, Vol. 4: 1948-1949 (20 Oct. 2019). More on this book.
- Harold and the Deluxe Edition (20 Oct. 2018). In the second of two birthday posts from 2018, an announcement! Harold’s Imagination, a collection featuring three Harold stories, plus an illustrated Afterword by Yours Truly… featuring a photograph of Johnson’s nephew Harold!
- Donald and the Golden Crayon (20 Oct. 2018). In the first of two birthday posts from 2018, an interview with the author and publisher of Donald and the Golden Crayon — the first book-length political satire inspired by a Crockett Johnson book.
- Crockett Johnson Tells the Story of Money (20 Oct. 2017). A look at the very first children’s book that Johnson illustrated — Constance Foster’s This Rich World: The Story of Money (1943).
- How to Read Harold (20 Oct. 2016). A short excerpt from a book I’m working on — How to Read Harold: A Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson and the Making of a Children’s Classic.
- Harold is 60. So is his purple crayon (20 Oct. 2015). On the occasion of Johnson’s 109th birthday, tributes to Harold from Lane Smith, Bob Staake, and others.
- Harold Around the World (20 Oct. 2014). Harold and the Purple Crayon has been published in many languages. Here are some of the covers.
- Happy 107th Birthday, Crockett Johnson! (20 Oct. 2013). A photograph of Johnson laughing, plus news of contemporary Johnson exhibit and talk.
- Crockett Johnson in New York: A Walking Tour, in Honor of His 106th Birthday (20 Oct. 2012). The childhood homes of Crockett Johnson.
- A Title Is to Read (20 Oct. 2011). Announcing the title of my biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss.
- Happy Birthday, Crockett Johnson! (20 Oct. 2010). Newspaper ad for Johnson’s Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley (1944).