June 17, 2013 at 9:28 am By:

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:



Filed Under: DISCUSS, Staff Picks

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