Cushlamochree! Barnaby, the Small Press Expo, & more

Chris Ware, poster for Small Press Expo 2012

Do you like comics? Any chance you’ll be in the vicinity of Bethesda, MD this weekend?  If so, then come to the Small Press Expo!  On Saturday the 15th, you can hear Daniel Clowes, Mark Newgarden, Chris Ware, Eric Reynolds, & me talk about Crockett Johnson‘s Barnaby.  Here’s the panel description:

Barnaby advertisement, 19 April 1942Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby and the American Clear Line School

12:00 pm | White Flint Auditorium

In a canny mix of fantasy and satire, amplified by the clean minimalism of Crockett Johnson’s line, Barnaby (1942-1952) expanded our sense of what comics can do. Though it never had a mass following, this tale of a five-year-old boy and his endearing con-artist of a fairy godfather influenced many. To mark the launch of The Complete Barnaby,Dan ClowesMark NewgardenChris Ware, and the book’s two co-editors — Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds and Crockett Johnson biographer Philip Nel — discuss the wit, the art, and the genius of Barnaby.

Later that day, I’m chairing a panel on “Comics as Children’s Literature,” featuring Françoise Mouly, Renée French, and Brian Ralph:

Comics as Children’s Literature
5:00 pm | White Flint Auditorium

Comics’ fraught historical legacy as children’s literature and children’s comics’ status as an expanding category of contemporary publishing will be discussed by cartoonist and picture book author Renée FrenchFrançoise Mouly, founder of the TOON Books imprint and co-editor of The TOON Treasury of Classic Children’s ComicsMark Newgarden, co-author of the “Bow-Wow” children’s comics and picture book series; and Brian Ralph, author of the all-ages graphic novel Cave-In. Children’s literature scholar Philip Nel will lead the conversation.

I’m honored to be in such august company.

But there’s more!  Perhaps you would like to buy a 20″ x 39″ print of Chris Ware’s beautiful cover for my biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss?

Chris Ware's cover for Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature

I will be selling prints specially designed by Mr. Ware.  (He’s removed all of the text except the title and my name.)  Find me at the Fantagraphics booth (tables W40-44), where we’ll also be selling (and I’ll be signing) copies of the biography itself:

  • Saturday, September 15, 1:00 – 2:00 PM    Daniel Clowes // Philip Nel
  • Sunday, September 16, 2:00 – 3:00 PM    Philip Nel // Rich Tommaso

Both items will be available while supplies last.  You can see a full signing schedule on Fantagraphics’ website.

There’s much more.  Artists Gilbert & Jamie Hernandez, Paul Karasik, Adrian Tomine,… plus a full panel each devoted to Ware & to Clowes, footage of cartoonists screened by Mark Newgarden,… comics scholars David Ball, Sara Duke, Ken Parille,… and, oh, go read the conference schedule.

Hope to see you there!

(And… here ends my commercial announcement.)

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Crockett Johnson draws Mr. O’Malley, 1962

Cushlamochree!  It’s a portrait of Barnaby’s fairy godfather, Mr. O’Malley, in … 1962!  Yes, 1962 — which makes it unusual for several reasons.  First, Crockett Johnson didn’t draw Barnaby for its 1960-1962 revival.  Warren Sattler did.  Second, it’s a bit looser than Johnson’s drawings of O’Malley during Barnaby‘s original 1942-1952 run.  As a result, you can see more clearly the individual pen strokes that create his hat, face, wings, arms, and buttons.

Mr. O'Malley, as drawn by Crockett Johnson, 1962

The drawing comes to us courtesy of Vicki Smith, the daughter of a friend of Frank Paccassi, Jr.  When her mother (who had inherited the drawing from Ms. Smith’s late father) passed away, she sent me Mr. Paccassi’s collection of 1960-1962 Barnaby strips, along with the above drawing and a couple of penny postcards from Crockett Johnson.  A fan of Barnaby, Mr. Paccassi had written to Johnson in the fall of 1962 about obtaining copies of the 1960-1962 run (which had then just concluded).  Johnson obligingly sent him “some extra release proofs I have no use for,” and signed Mr. Paccassi’s copies of Barnaby (1943) and Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley (1944).

As readers of this blog will already know, this is shaping up to be a good year for Crockett Johnson fans:

  • The Complete Barnaby Vol. 1 (co-edited by yours truly and Eric Reynolds), covering the first two years (1942-1943) of Barnaby, is due out late summer / early fall from Fantagraphics. Indeed, on Free Comic Book Day (first Saturday in May), watch for Fantagraphics’ free Barnaby comic book featuring a 30-strip sequence from The Complete Barnaby Vol. 1!
  • Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature (my biography, a dozen years in the making) will be out in September from the University Press of Mississippi.

Indeed, the page proofs for the latter arrived this past Tuesday.  I’ve been reviewing them and constructing the index.  Since they are due back at the end of the month and since I have many other deadlines this month, the blog may be slightly quieter than usual — or the posts may be more brief.

But the many posts devoted to Crockett Johnson and Barnaby should (I hope) keep you amused.  Depending on your stamina and level of interest, there’s a great deal here related to the creation of the biography.  I’ll list some (well, far too many) below:

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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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