by Crockett Johnson

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A legendary comic strip finally given the Fantagraphics treatment.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


A legendary comic strip finally given the Fantagraphics treatment.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 will introduce 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 will collect 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Young Barnaby Baxter wishes on a star in hopes of gaining a Fairy Godmother. Instead, Barnaby gets a cigar-chomping, squat little man named Mister O’Malley who claims to be an expert Fairy Godfather. O’Malley is at best an inept Fairy Godfather, but soon Barnaby is caught up in nearly daily adventure, accompanied by an ever expanding cast of characters, including Gus the ghost and Gorgon the talking dog. For all the sweetness and silliness of the strips, they are consistently disrupted by the dark reality of the time when the strip began, in 1942. Air-raid warnings, Nazi spies, and rationing all seep into various plotlines. Along with concerns about the outside world, Barnaby’s parents spend most of their time fretting about their son’s obsession with what they believe is his imaginary Fairy Godfather, and the deep concern that Barnaby will not be normal. Johnson’s strict and sharp lines, along with an ever-consistent typeface, give the strip a smooth and accessible appearance, appealing to both kids and adults. This first volume is also filled with the history of the strip and background on Johnson, giving testament to the weirdness and joy of childhood, and the eternal struggle to be yourself. (June)
Chris Ware
“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 stripsworth rereading, but none are this great; this is great like Beethoven, or Steinbeck, or Picasso. This is so great it lives in its owntimeless bubble of oddness and truth.”
Rich Barrett
“One of the great, hard-to-find, classic comic strips.”
Michael Taube - The Washington Times
“Crockett Johnson’sBarnaby[is] one of the finest and most thought-provoking comic strips ever created.… As expected, this book meetsFantagraphics’s usual high standards for bringing the pen-and-ink classic comics back to life.”
Dorothy Parker
“A formidable accomplishment. The language is beautiful, the footnotes are helpful yet unobtrusive: Washburn has performed a great service by making this groundbreaking novel, written in the eleventh century, available to the English-speaking world in a version worthy of the Japanese masterpiece.”
The Comics Reporter
“Award-winning translator Dennis Washburn’s lucid and accessible rendering will introduce new readers to the entrancing narrative world of this great classic.”
Terry Harpold - ImageText
“That's the unalloyed brilliance of Johnson's strip: in the end there's nothing extraordinary in this world — only little flying men, ghosts and imps of all sorts, talking dogs, and the like, and a well-balanced little boy who doesn't consider that anyone should think any of this to be unexpected. ... These are gorgeous and charming books, fine harbingers of future volumes in the series, and a necessary reminder of the gentle pleasures of, as [Chris] Ware observes, the last great uncollected comic strip.”
Jesse Walker - Reason
“[Johnson's] worldview… gave us one of the 20th century's most entertaining comic-strip characters, J.J. O'Malley. He might not be the fairy godmother a boy wants, but he's the egotistical lowlife of a fairy godfather we all deserve.”
Johanna Draper Carlson - Comics Worth Reading
“A wonderful read with humor that stems from the tension between suburban expectations and a yearning for a more creative, magical way of living.”
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—Originally published as a daily newspaper strip, albeit in small circulation, this collection introduces the daily expostulations and exasperations of preschooler Barnaby Baxter and his rotund, inappropriate fairy godfather. Mr. J.J. O'Malley uses his cigar as his magic wand and has a host of acquaintances from the magic world that casually abuts our own: a prankster leprechaun, a morose ghost, and other members of the Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes, and Little Men's Chowder and Marching Society. The adventures are very much of the time in which they were written, with references to wartime rationing, scrap-metal drives, and machine politics, as well as many casual pop-culture allusions that may escape today's readers, but the chatty glossary at the back will help. The artwork is redolent of the ligne claire school, with little shading and with a slight stiffness to the characters' positioning. The humor can be a slow burn, immune to the gag-a-day requirements of many newspaper strips, with a cumulative effect causing an unexpectedly familiar chuckle every few pages and a sense of delight as the ever-expanding cast comes together en masse. Highly verbal and quietly unexpected, the strip is a clear antecedent of the sort of comic situations experienced by Calvin and Hobbes-and the visuals predict Johnson's own Harold with his purple crayon, but with a peculiar picaresque aggregation as each story line tumbles almost imperceptibly into the next chaotic chapter. Cleverly absurd, with solid contextual reference material to aid readers.—Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH

Product Details

Fantagraphics Books
Publication date:
Barnaby Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.80(w) x 10.80(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
8 - 10 Years

What People are saying about this

Dorothy Parker
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.

Meet the Author

Crockett Johnson was the pen name of cartoonist and children’s book illustrator David Johnson Leisk (October 20,1906–July 11, 1975). He is best known for the Harold series of books begun with Harold and the Purple Crayon and for the comic strip Barnaby. He was married to the children’s book author Ruth Krauss, with whom he collaborated on several books, including The Carrot Seed.

Daniel Clowes is a celebrated graphic novelist, Academy-Award nominated screenwriter, and frequent cover artist for the New Yorker. He lives in Oakland, CA. He is

a multi-Harvey, Eisner, and Ignatz Award winner, and his papers were recently acquired by the University of Chicago library.

Eric Reynolds is the Associate Publisher of Fantagraphics Books and lives in Seattle, WA.

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