By Daniel Dern: (Note: I thought I was going to write a short-paragraph item, but it turns out that, once again, I was wrong, wrong, wrong – thrice, as in, in looking to address additional sub-topics, questions and such, this piece got longer three times (although at least not three times as long as my initial sally.)
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if you see something you think you want (and can afford), as Steve Goodman says in the unparenthesized part of the title of his song “You better get it while you can (the ballad of Carl Martin)”, because if you wait, by the time you change your mind, you may have missed your chance, either from availability or price.
COLLECTING NEMO. For me, this includes certain books, including some of Winsor McKay’s collections of his (insert list of superlatives) comic strip adventure of Little Nemo. (No relation to the fish.) Ditto, among other stuff, Theodore Sturgeon, translations and renditions of Green Eggs & Ham (over a dozen so far), and Pogo. (Absent surprises, I’ve got enough Pogo — not all, I think, and in any case, in a mix of editions, but certainly enough — some via the huckster table of the late David Hartwell, who was also a Pogophile. More Pogophilic information perhaps in a scroll-to-come, possibly in collusion with Chris Barkley.)
Last week, through the July 7 weekly email update from Bud’s Art Books (a.k.a. Bud Plant’s Art Books a.k.a. Bud Plant’s), which, while I may only buy one or two items a year through them, I love seeing what’s new — or on sale, I learned about an upcoming Complete Little Nemo collection.
And, having just pre-ordered a copy for myself, I’ll now share the info, with some related thoughts, info, suggestions, links, snakes-hands, and Internet-rabbit-hole entryways…and various free/budget ways to get/read much, if not necessarily all, of McKay’s Little Nemo.
ADVENTURES IN SUNDAYLAND. McKay was one of the seminal pioneers of newspaper comics (along with George Herriman (“Krazy Kat”), Harold Gray, and many, many others.) Nemo was main character in McKay’s weekly Sunday full-newspaper-page “broadsheet” size (16×21 inches) comic strip, usually titled Little Nemo In Slumberland, from 1910 through 1927.
Per the title, Nemo, a young boy, had adventures in dreamland, where, among other things, size and perspective, even direction, would morph from panel to panel — beds would grow legs, characters would stride buildings and walk on ceilings, and more. The art and detail remain mindblowing today.
I learned about McKay and Nemo through the various books of and about these early comic strips. (Feel free to read the Wikipedia entry on Little Nemo for more info.)
NOTE/DISCLAIMER. Like many comic strips, books, radio plays, movies, of a century ago (and before and after that), McKay’s Little Nemo strips include some characters/material that today is considered problematic/inappropriate, notably the character Impy.
Fellow Filer and Nemophile (though, in his own words, “more obsessed with George Herriman’s Krazy Kat”) Chris Barkley, who I checked with in writing this article, offers this thought: “As for Impy, I would say that he was a very common racial caricature of the period and that anyone who loves the arts of that era is certainly aware of the issue and accepts that it’s wrong.”
(For articles on this, web-search “Winsor McKay racism” or “racist”.)
I’m curious whether Braun’s essay in this Complete includes and comments/reporting on this. Helpful/informative comments on this welcome!
REPRINTING NEMO. Sometime during the 70’s, Fantagraphics put out one or two volumes collecting many of these strips… but I didn’t learn about them in time (and didn’t make an effort to find them, other than looking and inquiring every time I was in a comic shop or used book store, which, admittedly, back then was pretty often). (A friend of mine, it turns out, did splurge back then, and still has his copy.)
Come 1989, Fantagraphics started their six-volume set of Little Nemo. By then, I’d learned my lesson, and bought ’em as they came out; they’re on my shelf, along with a “Best of” and a few other Nemo collections, and a related book or two like the Winsor McKay: His Life and Art biography.
And when I learned about Sunday Press’ printed-in-full-original-size hardcover Little Nemo in Slumberland, I cheerfully ante’d up. (Here’s a sample page.) During the decade I was a weekly volunteer literacy tutor, usually to third-graders, on the day when I’d ‘bring in some of my books’ to show the class, I included this one as, with apologies to Norman Juster’s Phantom Tollbooth, “the biggest book I own.”) On the other hand, I decided I didn’t need Volume II when it came out, and, while it’s still available, I don’t feel the need to own it… and likewise, don’t have their Krazy Kat or any other of Sunday Press’ editions.
I apparently missed Taschen Press’ 2014 two-volume hardcover The Complete Little Nemo, with all 549 Nemo strips (some only recently public-domain available for projects like this) plus a long illustration essay by Alexander Braun. This gem was near-“broadside”-size at nearly 15×20 inches, weighed 18.32 pounds — and went for a near-modest (for what it was) price of $200. (Amazon currently lists a few copies available, starting at $800.)
Over the next few years, (according to a quick helpful phone chat with someone at Bud’s), Taschen followed up with slightly-smaller-page-size and softcover versions (which they apparently have done with other books as well), of the two volumes, and other publishers (Checker, for one) similarly published Best of or other Nemo collections. But I have not been proactively searching for more Nemo in quite a while (other than an occasional web search), although I will check the graphic novels and collections section in the occasional used bookstore, library sale or yard sale, just in case. (And of course I’m not just looking for Nemo.)
(FINALLY!) COMING SOON, PERHAPS TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU. But the Coming Soon section in the July 7, 2022 weekly mailing from Bud Plant caught my eye with Winsor McCay: The Complete Little Nemo, a single-volume hardcover 704-page reprint of the 2014 Taschen two-volume set including “all 549 of Nemo’s nighttime escapades through Slumberland alongside a 140-page illustrated essay from art historian Alexander Braun.”
Price: $80 (from Plant, Taschen, and Amazon, not including tax or shipping) — less than half the original 2014 $200 price.
This version isn’t quite as big or heavy as the 2014 — according to the Taschen listing it’s 11.3 x 14.4 inches, weighing 4.23 kg (9.31 lbs), in English edition, with German and French translation as download.
While this page size is smaller than the original collection (which was close to the original Sunday funnies page size), it’s still decently sized — similar to the Fantagraphic and other reprint volumes I already have. Slightly bigger than an iPad Pro 12.9’s display, for a probably more familiar comparison. (And this version, again, has strips that hadn’t been public-domain-available back when those earlier reprint books were done. And it’s got new extra material I’m optimistically looking forward to reading.)
So, like I said at the top, after a few minutes of dithering, I advance-ordered a copy (from Bud Plant, ponying up for modest postage).
THE LITTLE DUDE ENDURES. Meanwhile, Nemo, like the Dude, endures, both in post-McKay continuations (Eric Shanower and others) and homages. For example, in issue #11, “Moving In” of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (collected in “The Doll’s House” volume of Sandman), there two-pages of when Jed (Rose’s younger brother) is being held captive by Brute and Globe that mimic McKay’s Nemo layout and style. (Sorry, not finding an image to cite, or at least not one I’m sure is fair to link to.)
In 2014, Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, a 144-page collection of new McKay/Nemo homages, by artists and writers including Bill Sienkiewicz, Charles Vess, P. Craig Russell, done full “broadsheet” size like Sunday Press’, appeared. (Which I didn’t discover until 2019 — see my File770 Item (10) RE-FINDING NEMO — as I type this, available from Bud Plant for the close-out price of $50.
(See the Cultural Influences section in Little Nemo‘s Wikipedia page for additional Nemologisms.)
TOM KIDD: FINDING GNEMO. Speaking of snakes-hands, one Nemo-influenced deserves (and is getting) its own sub-section here, if for no other reason than its sfnal aspects.
SF/F artist Tom Kidd is another McKay-influenced, as alluded to in his “Gnemo” drawings and paintings, many set in McKay City. (See his Gnemo’s Sketchbook blog posts.)
If Kidd (or at least his art) is in the Art Show at a con you’re attending, be sure to check the Print Shop for affordable copies (or buy directly from Kidd) (they’re well worth framing), and admire any originals on display.
For non-wall-at-home gratification, consider buying (or library-borrowing) one or both of Kidd’s art/sketch collections, which include many of his Gnemos. (it looks like Kidd is selling highly-affordable copies via Etsy.)
- Kiddography: The Art & Life of Tom Kidd — pricey on Amazon, but I’m seeing “$30+” via Etsy
- Tom Kidd Sketch Book ($15 via Etsy).
FINDING FREE OR LESS EXPENSIVE NEMOS. If you want to check out some Nemo before splurging, or spending at all, you’ve got options:
- Free: The Comic Strip Library has free-to-browse scans of Nemo strips that are now in public domain. (Also some Krazy Kats.) (Note, there’s a “View High Quality Image” option at each page’s top.)
- GoComics (see my Reading Daily Comic Strips Online Scroll) includes Little Nemo. You can get to them free, or subscribe.
- Borrow/E-borrow: I’m not, oddly, seeing any Little Nemo — or any Winsor McKay at all — e-borrow-available via Hoopla (), but I’d be surprised in your local library (or its inter-library loan network) doesn’t include one or more Nemo collections.
- See whether your local comic shop or used book store has any used McKay/Nemo.
- E-read: Kindle includes about a dozen one-year-runs for $2.99 each, e.g., for 1909 if you want to dip a small toe into the water.
- E-Read: Google Books offers a bunch of digital Little Nemo books — most are the single-year ~53-pagers, for $1.03 each (versus $2.99 on Kindle) — but for the same buck-and-change, there’s also this 423-page “Little Nemo – The Complete Comic Strips (1905 – 1914) by Winsor McCay“ with 422 full color comic strips in ultra high definition (ca. 1700 pixels by 2200 pixels). You can buy and read them through your desktop/notebook web browser — or on your Android or iOS mobile device, using the Google Play App. (Yes, I’ve tried and confirmed you can read them on an iPad.) (You’ll need a Google account, e.g., a Gmail account.)
Brief general compare/contrast observations/comments about reading Nemo digitally, even on a 12.9″ tablet (or my 32″ desktop display), versus one of my 11×13″ books. The bigger the image, the easier to read — and there’s a lot of text, both captions and word balloons.
On the other hand, digitally, the color on many images seems crisper. How the new Taschen book will compare, I should know by Labor Day.
(At this point, like Nemo, I fell out of bed and woke up, wondering whether the new collection will have me consider selling my six volumes of Fantagraphics Nemo…)