June 17, 2013 By: Seth Peagler Category: DISCUSS, Staff Picks

SETH’S PICK :: BARNABY VOL. 1 HC: With the behemoth of HeroesCon taking all our time and energy in recent weeks, we understandably put our weekly Staff Picks on temporary hold.¬†¬†That said, it’s good to be back¬†writing about new releases. ¬†Regular readers of the Heroes Blog know well that Andy Mansell, stalwart blogger and HeroesCon panel coordinator, is something of an expert when it comes to comic strip history. ¬†You might think he’d be the one to talk about Barnaby, a long forgotten, under appreciated gem of a strip, but no, it’s me this time.

Barnaby started in the early forties, and ran for over a decade. It was produced by cartoonist Crockett Johnson, who is best known for his timeless masterpiece Harold and the Purple Crayon. ¬†Though Harold is considered the classic, Barnaby received lots of critical acclaim in its day. ¬†One look at it and you’ll see why. ¬†To begin with, there’s the simple, fluid line work in Johnson’s art. ¬†Then you see the intricate typeset letters, which Johnson produced with a kind of mathematical clarity – he knew exactly how many letters would fit on each line of a word balloon. ¬†Then you have the subject matter. ¬†Though the stories revolve around five year old Barnaby and his fairy godfather (along with a ghost, lion, and more), the seemingly whimsical strip dealt with¬†important issues in a way that didn’t talk down to children.¬† Thus it’s one of those great strips that provided entertainment for young readers and their parents.

I had the pleasure of seeing a Barnaby panel at last year’s Small Press Expo. ¬†Panelists included editors Eric Reynolds and Philip Nel, and cartoonists Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes, who helped contribute to the book’s design. ¬†That panel got me excited about seeing this strip find its way to a new audience. ¬†I’m not a huge reader of comic strips, but this one has numerous seemingly disparate elements in it that tie together nicely.¬† I hope some of you pick this one up and give it a try.

For a video tour of the book, check out this page on the Fantagraphics site:



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