Call it serendipity: I was poking around looking at something else, and somehow I stumbled on the Coconino Classics website, a stunning treasure trove of early comics. The site includes beautifully designed sub-sites for a number of artists, including Krazy Kat creator George Herriman and Little Nemo creator Winsor McKay, that feature biographies, bibliographies, and generous samples of their work. Artists from the pre-history of comics, such as Hokusai, George Cruickshank and Rodolphe Töpffer, and more recent creators such as Rube Goldberg and George McManus get more modest pages that still include digitized versions of their work and the occasional article by comics scholar Thierry Smolderen.
It’s all part of a larger site, Coconino World, that features contemporary as well as classic comics. It’s a French-language site, but much of the text is translated into English, and of course the comics are in their original languages.
The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon breaks the welcome news that Barnaby, the classic comic strip by Harold and the Purple Crayon writer/artist Crockett Johnson, will be collected by Fantagraphics beginning in April 2012. Designed by Wilson and Ghost World cartoonist Daniel Clowes, the collections will include the strip’s entire ten-year run from 1942-1952, including the strips created by Jack Morley and Ted Ferro after Johnson assumed a story-consultant role on the comic.
Long beloved by the comics cognoscenti, Barnaby tells the tale of young Barnaby Baxter and his cigar-chomping fairy godfather, Mr. O’Malley. As Spurgeon notes, old collections like the one pictured above have been hard to come by, making the strip one of the last great gets available in this, the Golden Age of Comics Reprints — which Fantagraphics arguably kicked off with its similar, Seth-designed Complete Peanuts collections. Barnaby joins Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse and George Herriman’s Krazy Kat dailies on the list of eagerly awaited archival reprint projects headed our way from the publisher over the next several years. (As an aside, my suspicion is that Johnson’s fine line, the whimsy of the material, the rounded and jolly character designs, and even the typeset lettering will all find a receptive audience in the webcomics age.)
Click here to read Spurgeon’s thorough report on the announcement and the strip itself.
Ever stumble across a comics treasure trove when you least expected it?
The other day I was looking around for the websites of artists associated with the late, lamented Buenaventura Press when I clicked a random link USSCatastrophe, the site of cartoonist Kevin Huizenga. Suddenly I found myself looking at a hidden repository of out-of-print comics by an astonishing range of cartoonists from throughout the history of the medium. An entire book of dog cartoons by Barnaby artist Crockett Johnson … early minicomics by two of my favorite altcomix artists, Dave Kiersh and John Hankiewicz … crazy-gorgeous strips and cartoons by C.C. Beck, Abner Dean, and Garret Price … links to, samples from, and miniature reviews of dozens more titles … sure, some of the links are broken — it’s been years since the stuff was updated, it seems — but what’s there is more than enough to keep me blissed out on hidden gems for hours on end.
Have you ever wandered into a similar motherlode of comics goodness online? Superheroes or scanned minicomics, a killer collection of original art or a webcomic you never knew existed, a site full of classic strips or a gallery of stunning covers — whatever it is, post your links in the comments. Face it, tiger — you’ve just helped thousands of readers kill an afternoon!
Shaenon Garrity digs up some of the original Little Lulu comics from the pre-John Stanley days. It turns out that creator Marge Henderson’s vision was a little bit darker and definitely of her time; as Shaenon says,
I admit to being a sucker for 1930s-1940s magazine cartooning, whether it’s the inhuman crispness of Gluyas Williams or the funky scribblings of William Steig–or Marge’s style, which is somewhere in between. I can see why Seth and those guys want to draw like this, but honestly, you can’t fake it with a modern line. It’s about more than men in walrus mustaches and matronly women with triangular noses; you’ve got to capture that understated wit that says, “It’s the Depression, people–we can’t waste a single ounce of comedy. Also, we will be very grey.”