Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

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Review Index 2002 - 2001 - 2000 - 1999 - 1998
 
Crockett Johnson
Comics Legend

            Born in 1906, Crockett Johnson meekly tiptoed into the cartoonist Hall of Fame. 

            He began a career he never anticipated drawing editorial cartoons for The New Masses magazine (1934-'40), a weekly panel for Collier's magazine, The Little Man with the Eyes (1940-'43), and his comic strip masterpiece, Barnaby (1942-1946).

            It is the simplicity of his art in Barnaby and its gentle whimsy that places his comic strip squarely in the pantheon of masterpieces. No line or detail was added to the little boy, Barnaby Baxter, or his inept Fairy Godfather, unless absolutely needed, and few panels failed to illicit the smile of familiarity and quiet joy that is whimsy.

            In addition, how could one but smile as Baxter's Godfather, Mr. O'Malley, innocently negotiates the value of hot furs while flummoxing the thieves who stole them, the police, and little four or five year old Baxter at the same time? Johnson's comic strip left only one question unanswered.  Was Barnaby's Godfather the invisible, imaginary companion shared in common by some many young children, or was he real? The answer may have been "both".

            Johnson produced the comic strip Barkis & Family in 1955. Jack Morley and Ted Ferro ghosted Barnaby from 1947-'52 with Johnson as consultant (1946-'52). It was revived (1960-'62), and republished in the magazine Comics Revue (starting with issue #165). Johnson died in 1975.

            Included in Johnson's work are: the Barnaby Quarterly (3 issues-1945-'46); Barnaby (Holt & Co. '43); Barnaby & Mr. O'Malley (Holt & Co, '44); Barkis (Simon & Shuster, '56); Barnaby #s1-6 (Ballantine paperbacks, '85-86).

            Crockett also wrote and/or drew reviews, plays, films, TV, filmstrips, paintings, a pamphlet, and over 20 children's books including Harold and the Purple Crayon ('55). He also illustrated books by other authors.

            The work of Crockett Johnson is highly recommended.

            Some older comics are expensive or difficult to locate.  Price guides or comics dealers help. Comics shops, conventions, mail order companies and trade journals are good sources. Prices vary; shop around.

            Review by Michael Vance

 

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