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Little Nemo: 1905-1914 (Evergreen) Hardcover – April 1, 2000
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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The Taschen/Evergreen (the book reviewed here), it turns out, has renderings of Little Nemo in Slumberland that are evidently taken from the same source as those in the Richard Marschall book I just referred to. The colors and even the occasional imperfections are the same, as well as the size. This volume, however, has many more episodes, over 400, probably. The Marschall has a few that are not in this, but they appear to be mainly late (after 1920) episodes, and are generally not up to the quality of the earlier work.
Looking at the reviews of the Peter Maresca 2005 version of Little Nemo in Slumberland ("So Many Splendid Sundays"), I was highly impressed and I discovered that my library had a copy, and of course I checked it out. The full size presentation and superior production was so astonishing that I decided to buy a copy of my own, and it arrived yesterday. I'm still glad I have the Taschen/Evergreen because it has more than three times as many episodes as the Maresca (which has about 110 episodes) and it's nice to have that for continuity (there are often serial runs of episodes). This book is adequate to get the stories and conveys a lot of the majesty and McCay's genius, but having seen the Maresca it's hard to be satisfied with the 2:1 reduction and the inferior colors. They are certainly OK, but the Maresca is breathtaking.
Little Nemo is a comic strip about the adventures of a young boy as he encounters a great many surreal situations in his dreams. Each comic starts off with Nemo either in the dreamworld at the start, or in bed, and about to enter it. Each comic contains one final panel of Nemo waking up, often startled by what happened in the dream.
Things start out on a fantastic note. In one early strip, Nemo is taking a walk through a forest made of giant mushrooms. He is told not to touch the mushrooms, because they are very delicate. At one point, he accidentally bumps into one, and it breaks neatly into several giant pieces, which then fall and hit another mushroom, which in turn breaks onto another, and so on, thus starting a chain reaction. Another early comic has Nemo accidentally causing disaster in a world made out of living glass people.
The early strips are more about individual surreal adventures rather than telling a continuing story, and they work quite well. At one point, however, McCay must have decided that he had to create a storyline to tell, and that is where each comic tends to be directly related to the story in question.
That's not a bad thing. The stories at first are generally used as vehicles to get him from one original dream sequence to another. Sometimes these sequences are directly related to the story at hand, but oftentimes they are detours. The comic continues in this style for a long while.
At one point, the character of Flip the clown is introduced, and quickly becomes one of the main characters. Flip is a troublemaker who is not allowed to join the Princess of Slumberland, but he eventually does so anyway after a great many failed tries. He soon joins Nemo as a constant companion, with plots that occasionally result in him being thrown out of or separated from the group, with him later either trying to rejoin, or just causing trouble on his own.
Once Flip gets involved in the comic, the comic begins to slowly revolve more and more around him, but for a long time, the stories continue to be largely Nemo-centric affairs about the strange and unusual experiences he has in Slumberland. One wonderfully creative plot had Nemo and the Princess visit the North Pole, and experience, among other things, a snowmaker, which ends up causing more trouble than it's worth when Nemo climbs up a tower to see it in action. During this plot, Flip constantly tries to catch up with the group, often getting thwarted, and serving as a mild sideshow rather than the main attraction.
Later in the strip, though, McCay begins to have an increasing reliance on story arcs. That becomes a problem, however, when some of these story arcs don't really fit in with the dream-like stories that make the comic so original. For instance, at one point there is a story arc that revolves exclusively around Nemo and a crew on an airship traveling to famous cities around the US and Canada, visiting them, and learning facts about them. There is nothing surreal or dream-like that happens in these stories, and they contribute nothing to the comic. As if realizing this, McCay later had Nemo and his crew land on Mars, where the story becomes wonderfully surreal and creative again.
After continuing that re-energized creative spark, McCay loses it again late in the book. During the last two years of Little Nemo, the comic degenerates into slapstick comedy involving Flip and his efforts to break into Slumberland. The title begins to reflect this. This is where "Little Nemo in Slumberland" is now known as "In the Land of Wonderful Dreams", and each story now has its own title. Each title tends to be about Flip; i.e. "Flip Breaks In", "Something's Up, Must Be Flip", etc., sadly showing that Flip has succeeded in hijacking the comic, derailing it from its original form, the story of Nemo's trips through surreal dreamscapes. Some surreal dreamlike elements continue to present themselves even after this transformation, but the story had gone downhill, and the collection ends on a sour note.
I loved this comic collection and I'm very glad I got a chance to read through 10 years worth of the most original newspaper comic I'd ever seen. Even so, I did notice the comic's bumpy quality, ranging from just plain fantastic to downright bland.
I still recommend you check out this collection. There's a lot going for it, and don't let the later drop in story quality get to you - all great things go through that kind of phase. McCay may not have kept up his creative spark forever, but when he had it going for him, he turned out wonderful, amazing, truly original work, work that was ahead of its time, work that's rare and original even in our time, work that is worth seeing for yourself.
The master work of Winsor McCay is revered up to this great graphic work of the Sunday Press, the only negative point was the damage caused by shipping, I found the packaging very fragile to accommodate such a large book, on the cover were a few dents but nothing that compromises reading and appreciation of the work, I recommend to all readers from Amazon!
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STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to everybody who loves BEAUTY!!!