Sunday Color Barnaby: O’Malley in Winter

As has been noted twice before on this blog (see here and here), a color Sunday version of Crockett Johnson‘s Barnaby ran from 1946 to 1948.  Courtesy of Colin Myers, here’s a full-page one from the winter of 1948.  Though it’s undated, “winter” would have to be January or February because the color Barnaby concluded in May of 1948.  Most of the Sunday strips are half a page; this one is unusual in that it’s full-page.

Barnaby, Winter 1948

The artist is Jack Morley, the words are by Ted Ferro.  For the daily strips during this period, Johnson was serving in an advisory capacity; I assume he was also serving as a story consultant for the Sunday strips. While they’re not up to Johnson’s exacting standards, the Ferro-Morley strips are still fun.

Not incidentally, my blog has been unusually quiet during this past week because of two Crockett Johnson projects:

  • The Complete Barnaby, Vol. 1. My afterword (complete!) and notes (nearly complete!) are due in to Fantagraphics on December 1st.  The book is due out in June 2012.  You can learn more about it in the Spring/Summer 2012 Fantagraphics catalogue.
  • Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How An Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature.  The copyedited text arrived on November 18th, right at the beginning of a Thanksgiving “break” during which I already had an impossibly long list of tasks to complete.  It’s due back on December 9th. The book is due out in September 2012 from the University Press of Mississippi.

 

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Complete Barnaby: flyer

The first promotional flyer for The Complete Barnaby is here.  And no, the strips you see on it are not of the resolution that you’ll experience in the book itself.  Fantagraphics is still working on cleaning up the scans.  But, at least, a hazy glimpse of what’s to come… in June 2012!

Here’s a pdf:

And, below, jpegs of each side of the page.

Complete Barnaby flyer, page 1, Sept. 2011

Complete Barnaby flyer, page 2, Sept. 2011

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Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art

This piece appeared in Comic Art in 2004.  As the magazine is now (sadly) defunct, I’m posting the article here.  Until The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss appears in 2012, this essay is the most thorough account of Johnson’s life available.  Enjoy!

For those who prefer ‘em, jpegs are below. Click to enlarge.

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 2

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 3

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 4

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 5

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 6

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 7

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 8

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 9

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 10

 

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 11

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 12

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 13

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 14

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 15

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 16

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 17

Philip Nel, "Crockett Johnson and the Purple Crayon: A Life in Art," Comic Art 5 (Winter 2004), p. 18

The above article represents the state of my research in 2004.  While the essay is accurate, I’ve learned a great deal since then — so, if interested in learning more, please check out the book (due from the University Press of Mississippi in mid 2012).  Thank you.

 

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Cushlamochree! Barnaby on stage!

Mr. O'Malley69 years ago today, the first daily strip of Crockett Johnson‘s Barnaby ran in the newspaper PM.  One year from today, Fantagraphics will begin reprinting Barnaby in full (co-edited by me and Eric Reynolds) — and the University Press of Mississippi will publish my biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss.  In anticipation of both events, I bring you … Barnaby on stage!

Charles Friedman and Tommy Hamilton, 1946.  Friedman was the director. Hamilton portrayed Barnaby.

In September 1946, Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley made their stage debut. Adapted by Jereome Chodorov, the play initially seemed like it would be a great success.  After reading Chodorov’s script, Elia Kazan thought the play would be a hit.  Before its debut, Columbia Pictures bought film rights.  But, as was the case with the previous year’s radio adaptation, Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley did not live up to initial expectations.  It had but four performances — two in Wilmington, Delaware, and two in Baltimore, Maryland.  Before ever making it to New York, it closed for repairs… and that turned out to be the last of it.

With thanks to Thomas Hamilton (who played Barnaby), above is a photo of himself and director Charles Friedman.  Also thanks to him, here are a few pages from early the script, leading up to Mr. O’Malley’s entrance.  (Sally is Mrs. Baxter, Barnaby’s mother; John is Mr. Baxter, Barnaby’s father.)

Jerome Chodorov, Barnaby and Mr. O'Malley, Act I, page 6

Jerome Chodorov, Barnaby and Mr. O'Malley, Act I, page 7

Jerome Chodorov, Barnaby and Mr. O'Malley, Act I, page 8

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Color Sunday Barnaby: March comes in like…

As has been noted previously on this blog, a color Sunday Barnaby ran from 1946 to 1948 — apt, because when in 1942 Crockett Johnson showed cartoonist (and PM Art Editor) Charles Martin a Sunday strip, Martin then shared the strip with PM Comics Editor Hannah Baker.  She decided to run it, beginning Barnaby‘s ten-year run.  Apart from these Sunday strips, Barnaby ran six days a week — Monday through Saturday.  Courtesy of the generous Colin Myers, here’s a Sunday Barnaby from 64 years ago — March 2, 1947 — commemorating the transition from February to March.

Barnaby, 2 March 1947

(Don’t forget: clicking on the image will provide you with a larger version.)

You’ll note that the author of the script is Ted Ferro, and the artist is Jack Morley.  Morley does a good job of approximating Johnson’s precise line, but Ferro’s wit is not as sharp  — though, to be fair, few people had a wit that measured up to Johnson’s.  Recognizing the lesser standard of the Morley-Ferro Barnaby, Johnson in 1948 resumed writing the words himself, though he left the art to Morley.

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Here Comes the Barnaby Truck

Barnaby exclusively in the Chicago Sun!” Here’s a photo of a Chicago Sun delivery truck in the 1940s.

Barnaby on Chicago Sun delivery truck

The occasion for sharing the photo is the quest for original Barnaby strips!  As readers of this blog know, Eric Reynolds and I are co-editing The Complete Barnaby for Fantagraphics.  We’re currently working on gathering strips from 1942-1943 — volume 1 (featuring those strips) is due out in April 2012.  Should you have any of these strips (or later ones), do drop me a line!  (My email address is at right, under “A note on mp3s.”)

Also, I love the fact that Crockett Johnson‘s comic strip is being used to sell newspapers.  Despite the many great strips being written these days (Cul de Sac, Doonesbury, Zits, Non Sequitur, etc.), you don’t see them deployed to help boost a paper’s circulation.  Which is a missed opportunity, I think.

Photo credit: Thanks to Charles Davis for sharing this! (Photographer unknown.)

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Barnaby Fan Club

In a tribute to the Barnaby fan clubs of the 1940s, Del Rey created its own “Barnaby International Fan Club” — or, at least, the laminated plastic card announcing such a club — to promote the six Barnaby volumes it published in 1985 and 1986.  Here’s the front of the card:

Barnaby International Fan Club (Del Rey, 1985), front of card

Here’s the  back:

Barnaby International Fan Club (Del Rey, 1985), back of card

Del Rey only managed 6 of its planned dozen Barnaby books.  Judy-Lynn del Rey passed away in February 1986, and, lacking an advocate, this unprofitable collection of Crockett Johnson‘s great strip found itself discontinued.

As readers of this blog likely know, Eric Reynolds and I are co-editing The Complete Barnaby for Fantagraphics (designed by Daniel Clowes!).  The first volume of The Complete Barnaby is scheduled for April 2012 — timed to coincide with The Purple Crayon and a Hole to Dig: The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (my biography, published by UP Mississippi) and the 70th anniversary of the debut of Johnson’s influential strip.

Thanks to George Nicholson for the card, and to Del Rey’s Betsy Mitchell for sending it on to him!

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Merry Christmas from Mr. O’Malley

As noted last month, a color Sunday Barnaby ran from 1946 to 1948 — apt, because the original Barnaby strip that helped Crockett Johnson sell the comic to PM was also a Sunday strip.  Courtesy of the generous Colin Myers, here’s a Christmas Barnaby from 63 years ago — December 21, 1947.

Barnaby, 21 December 1947

(Don’t forget: clicking on the image will provide you with a larger version.)

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The Complete Barnaby: Coming Soon!

Cushlamochree! 70 years after Crockett Johnson‘s Barnaby made its debut, the entire ten-year run (1942-1952) will be published in full … for the first time!  Daniel Clowes will design the books — five in all, the first of which will appear in 2012. I’ll be providing biographical & historical notes.  The publisher is Fantagraphics, whose lovingly produced Complete Peanuts serves as a model for the Complete Barnaby.

Barnaby advertisement, 1943

These will be the original strips, and not the redrawn ones that appear in the collections published by Holt in 1943 (see above advertisement, courtesy of the generous Colin Myers) and 1944 — and republished by Dover in 1967 and 1975.

A favorite of graphic novelists (today) and of the culturally influential (in its day), Johnson’s Barnaby reflects its author’s wide-ranging interests — political satire, popular culture, classic literature, modern art, and mathematics.  Its subtle ironies and playful allusions never won a broad following, but the adventures of 5-year-old Barnaby Baxter and his bumbling con-artist of a fairy godfather was and is a critical favorite.  Confessing her love of Barnaby, Dorothy Parker wrote, “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.”  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 their readers.  Its small but influential readership took that message to heart.  As Coulton Waugh noted in his landmark The Comics (1947), Barnaby’s audience may not “compare, numerically, with that of the top, mass-appeal strips. But it is a very discriminating audience, which includes a number of strip artists themselves, and so this strip stands a good chance of remaining to influence the course of American humor for many years to come.”  His words were prophetic. Barnaby’s fans have included Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, Family Circus creator Bil Keane, and graphic novelists Daniel Clowes, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware.

And, now that these strips will be available to new generations of readers, here’s hoping that Barnaby continues to influence and delight creators and fans of comic art!

For more on this news, check out Tom Spurgeon’s article in today’s Comics Reporter.

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Barnaby on the radio

O'Malley on the micThe first dramatic adaptation of Crockett Johnson‘s Barnaby appeared on the Frank Morgan Show of June 12, 1945.  Morgan (best known as the title character in MGM’s Wizard of Oz) played Mr. O’Malley, Norma Jean Nilsson played Barnaby, and Ralph Bellamy played Mr. Baxter. The radio dramatization begins in the second half of the show — at 15:30 of the broadcast.

Click to play The Frank Morgan Show: Barnaby Audition (12 June 1945)

I presume that this goes without saying, but, since this is 1945, some jokes may offend: racial & ethnic stereotypes, sexism, and so on.  A few references:

  • James Petrillo was the President of the American Federation of Musicians.
  • Victory Gardens: during the Second World War, the U.S. government encouraged people to grow their own food.

In my view, this was the lesser of the two radio adaptations.  It uses little of Johnson’s original material, and doesn’t capture the strip’s comic tone.  This broadcast was its one-and-only episode.  Barnaby also inspired another radio show (two episodes), two stage versions, two TV adaptations, and an animated cartoon.  Neither the 1946 nor the 1948 stage version was a hit.  In 1959, the pilot for first TV version — which starred Bert Lahr as O’Malley and Ron Howard as Barnaby — aired to strong reviews, but that was its sole episode.  Produced by Norman Lear, the second TV version (1966) never aired.  I’ve never seen either TV version, and nor have I seen the animated cartoon.  Since it (the cartoon) did win a prize at the 1967 Venice film festival, I presume a print is out there somewhere….

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