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Comic Strip: Barnaby

A comic strip created by Crockett Johnson which ran from 1942 through 1952, and was later revived in the early 1960s. It centered on Barnaby Baxter and his fairy godfather, Mr. Jackeen J. O'Malley.

Barnaby is a curious and good-natured child who, after hearing a bedtime story regarding a fairy godparent, wishes for one of his own. This prompts Mr. O'Malley to fly in through his bedroom window. Not only is Mr. O'Malley incompetent, but he also seems hardly able to do magic at all. He generally ignores or shoves aside Barnaby's requests in favor of rambling on about the events of his own life or raiding the Baxters' icebox. What little magic he can do requires the consultation of a pocket guide and ends up backfiring; even his flying is erratic and low to the ground. Barnaby doesn't seem to mind this; O'Malley is rather good company, and what little he can do is impressive on its own.

Ellen and John Baxter, Barnaby's parents, seem hell-bent on disbelieving O'Malley's existence, even once he is elected their councilman and takes over the engineering plant John works at. O'Malley, they believe, is merely a figment of Barnaby's imagination. They are wrong, but attempts to prove otherwise are usually undermined because O'Malley is just out of their line of sight or they leave just as he shows up.

O'Malley is not the only mythical creature. Gorgon, the family dog, has the gift of speech. Unfortunately, he rambles more than Mr. O'Malley and eventually has to be bribed into shutting up. Gus the ghost is scared and intimidated easily. Launcelot McSnoyd is an invisible leprechaun with a heavy Bronx accent who often pokes fun at O'Malley's incompetence.

After the comic spent nearly thirty years out of print, both in reruns and in book form, Fantagraphics Booksnote  began releasing The Complete Barnaby Collection in June 2013.


This comic strip provides examples of:

  • Catch Phrase: "Cushlamochree!"
  • Cigar Chomper: Mr. O'Malley. The cigar is also his magic wand.
  • Delayed Reaction: During the scrap metal drive arc:
    Barnaby: I found a piece of tire chain and a part of an egg beater and a steamroller named Trilby.
    Pop: Fine, Barnaby. Every few ounces help—and a what?
  • Easy Amnesia: To be fair, falling two stories isn't easy, per say, but he recovers by falling out of a tree.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Convincing Mr. and Ms. Baxter—or anyone else, for that matter—that O'Malley is real.
  • Fairy Companion: Mr. O'Malley
  • Fantastic Racism: "Anything a Leprechaun has anything to do with means trouble!"
  • Funetik Aksent: McSnoyd has one.
  • Growing Up Sucks: After Barnaby reaches the age of six, he's no longer allowed to have a fairy godfather and Mr. O'Malley must leave him.
  • Invisibility: This is McSnoyd's default mode. O'Malley's attempt to render him visible backfire and make him invisible, which is only fixed by chemical reactions caused by eating the free lunch at Paddy's Bar and Grill.
  • Last Name Basis: O'Malley and McSnoyd with each other. Since Barnaby tends towards calling them both "Mr.", it can be hard to notice that they even have first names.
  • Leprechaun: McSnoyd, naturally.
  • Magic Carpet: Shows up in a dream sequence when Barnaby is fantasizing about life will be like with O'Malley around.
  • Magic Misfire: O'Malley tries to turn McSnoyd viable and instead turns himself invisible.
  • Magic Wand: O'Malley's is a cigar.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Mr. O'Malley, to the point where he becomes John's boss, and later gets elected to Congress, and neither John nor Ellen acknowledge his existence (thinking the name is just a coincidence.)
  • Pass the Popcorn: McSnoyd's response to O'Malley attempting to render him visible is something along these lines.
    O'Malley: Don't run off, McSnoyd.
    McSnoyd: Me? And miss this?
  • Pegasus: Barnaby dreams O'Malley brings him one (see Magic Carpet). Dream O'Malley calls it a pony, for some reason.
    Barnaby: Gosh! Pop can put the car up now!
  • Unintentional Period Piece: It takes place in The Forties, making this inevitable. Mentions of things like World War II ration stamps and air raid drills abound, and Barnaby is often seen lounging in front of a massive radio.
  • Useless Superpowers: Mr. O'Malley can fly, become invisible (although by accident) and do card tricks...and, erm, that's about it, really.
    • He can also use one end of a rope to escape a hole...provided Barnaby and his friend Jane pull on the other end.
  • Talking Animal: Gorgon turns out to be one, to the displeasure of O'Malley.

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alternative title(s): Barnaby
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