cover image Barnaby


Crocket Johnson. Fantagraphics, $34.99 (336 p) ISBN 1-60699-522-7

Young Barnaby Baxter wishes on a star in hopes of gaining a Fairy Godmother. Instead, Barnaby gets a cigar-chomping, squat little man named Mister O’Malley who claims to be an expert Fairy Godfather. O’Malley is at best an inept Fairy Godfather, but soon Barnaby is caught up in nearly daily adventure, accompanied by an ever expanding cast of characters, including Gus the ghost and Gorgon the talking dog. For all the sweetness and silliness of the strips, they are consistently disrupted by the dark reality of the time when the strip began, in 1942. Air-raid warnings, Nazi spies, and rationing all seep into various plotlines. Along with concerns about the outside world, Barnaby’s parents spend most of their time fretting about their son’s obsession with what they believe is his imaginary Fairy Godfather, and the deep concern that Barnaby will not be normal. Johnson’s strict and sharp lines, along with an ever-consistent typeface, give the strip a smooth and accessible appearance, appealing to both kids and adults. This first volume is also filled with the history of the strip and background on Johnson, giving testament to the weirdness and joy of childhood, and the eternal struggle to be yourself. (June)