Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mr. O'Malley Flies Again

I'm a big fan of comics, but I hadn't realized that Crockett Johnson had a comic strip back in the 1940s. Of course, it was a little before my time, but I had thought Harold and the Purple Crayon and his subsequent adventures were his only work.  Turns out it was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Johnson's Barnaby ran between 1942 and 1952, but failed to find a significant audience, despite praise from Dorothy Parker and other writers of the time.  He found himself overshadowed by the far more successful Blondie.  Barnaby eventually took off with the release of bound volumes of cartoons by Henry Holt (pictured above).   Johnson would have a big influence on Maurice Sendak, and inspire Charles Schulz and Bil Keane, whose Peanuts and Family Circus became international institutions.

Fantagraphiics books has collected the first two years of Barnaby in a beautiful volume, and plans to release further volumes in the near future.  I think much of the renewed interest in Johnson was the result of the successful reprinting of Harold and the Purple Crayon,  A shame that Johnson couldn't enjoy this new interest in his work.  He passed away in 1975.  These books are a real treasure.

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