The Saturday Comics: Little Nemo in Slumberland

11 Feb

February 11, 2012

This is easily one of the most revered and influential comic strips ever to grace the newspaper. Little Nemo may not be a household word today (and indeed, it wasn’t in its own time either) but after the gallery I’ll attach a couple of modern homages you may recognize.

From wikipedia, whose Little Nemo entry is unusually  pretty good:

Little Nemo is the main fictional character in a series of weekly comic strips by Winsor McCay that appeared in the New York Herald and William Randolph Hearst’s New York American newspapers from October 15, 1905 – July 23, 1911 and September 3, 1911 – July 26, 1914; respectively.

The strip was first called Little Nemo in Slumberland and then In the Land of Wonderful Dreams when it changed papers. A brief revival of the original title occurred from 1924-27.

Although a comic strip, it was far from a simple children’s fantasy; it was often dark, surreal, threatening, and even violent. The strip related the dreams of a little boy: Nemo (meaning “nobody” in Latin), the hero. The last panel in each strip was always one of Nemo waking up, usually in or near his bed, and often being scolded (or comforted) by one of the grownups of the household after crying out in his sleep and waking them. In the earliest strips, the dream event that woke him up would always be some mishap or disaster that seemed about to lead to serious injury or death, such as being crushed by giant mushrooms, being turned into a monkey, falling from a bridge being held up by “slaves”, or gaining 90 years in age. The adventures leading to these disasters all had a common purpose: to get to a place called Slumberland, where he had been summoned by King Morpheus, to be the “playmate” of his daughter, the Princess.

Sometime during early 1906, Nemo did indeed reach the gates of Slumberland, but had to go through about four months of troubles to reach the Princess. His problem was that he kept being awakened by Flip, who wore a hat with “Wake Up” written on it. One sight of Flip’s hat was enough to take Nemo back to the land of the living during these early days. Although at first an enemy, Flip went on to become one of the recurring heroes. The others included: Dr. Pill, The Imp, the Candy Kid and Santa Claus as well as the Princess and King Morpheus.

The “Slumberland” of the title soon acquired a double meaning, referring not only to Morpheus’s fairy kingdom, but to the state of sleep itself: Nemo would have dream-adventures in other imaginary lands, on the Moon and Mars, and in our own “real” world, made fantastic by the dream-state.






Of all of the various tributes and homages, this next strip may be my favorite. It is a page from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, itself one of the most revered and influential comics of recent times. although taken out of context, I think the page makes its point perfectly. the characters are all from DC Comics/Vertigo.

And lastly, everyone’s favorite, Spongebob Squarepants!



16 Responses to “The Saturday Comics: Little Nemo in Slumberland”

  1. Daniel February 11, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    It’s strange that you should bring up Little Nemo. I have been watching clips on good old Youtube from the movie ” Yellow Submarine ” & think that on some levels, Nemo’s strange dream world synchs up with the world of Pepperland, Young Fred, Blue Meanies, & the animated analogues of John, Paul, George & Ringo uncannily.


    • bmj2k February 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

      Ok, THAT deserves looking into. And any excuse to watch Yellow Submarine is a good one


      • Daniel February 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

        Oh, dear Lord YES. I had a VHS copy of it, there are clips of it on Youtube, I’d be SURPRISED if Hulu didn’t have it in its entirety, & I’m sure Netflix has it available.
        A lot of people ( including ** moi ** ) have credited the 60’s – 70’s psychedelic artist Peter Max, but I’ve heard that it was someone else whose name I can’t recall straightaway.

        I’ve heard that Disney Studios – I’d suspect Disney Pixar – is contemplating a remake, but can’t confirm or deny. I hope not, really.

        They always seemed to show it around the Christmas & Easter holidays when I was a kid, for some reason


        • bmj2k February 11, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

          I will tolerate a remake only if they keep the songs intact. A Justin Beiber cameo? No.


          • Daniel February 12, 2012 at 1:38 am #

            If they do a remake, they can only use CGI if they duplicate the original images FAITHFULLY ( I’m a purist ), no new musical numbers ( Again, purist ), Justin Bieber anywhere NEAR the movie ? That’s worthy of a public beheading, or covering him in tar & setting the tar on fire.

            I can take only so much artistic license re. : remakes.


  2. Mac of BIOnighT February 11, 2012 at 9:28 pm #

    In front of such beauty, one can only stare in awe and wonder why these are not hanging from the walls of art museums instead of all that crap that passes itself off as art…


    • bmj2k February 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

      BTW, Little Nemo is more or less public domain world-wide.


      • Mac of BIOnighT February 11, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

        Somebody will find a way to change that, I’m afraid 😦 BTW, in 1989 a horrible film was made that, apart from being horrible, butchered the original beauty entirely and was really horrible (did I mention it was horrible?).
        How anybody could thing of turning such a marvelous work into such a huge pile of stinking c**p, I will never understand.
        Those who said it was nice simply have no idea what the original was and what they were talking about….


        • Daniel February 12, 2012 at 1:48 am #

          That’s because Hollywood lost its originality. They have to cannibalize things that were wonderful 50 or so years ago & make them into something that bears just a tenuous resemblance to the original.


          • Mac of BIOnighT February 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

            True. And Japanese animation is not doing any better, I haven’t seen anything worthwhile since Neon Genesis Evangelion, and even that was an exception. It’s too sad and hasty a world to create beauty anymore…


            • Daniel February 12, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

              Japanese animation / anime – little subtlety, a lot of action. ” Fan – service ” : Whole other creature.
              If I see an anime show with depth & substance ( ” BIG O ” ) I give it LOTS of attention.

              Did I ever mention the Disney influence on anime ?


              • Mac of BIOnighT February 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

                “little subtlety, a lot of action” – it used to be the other way round, that’s what makes me sad 😦 After the early 80’s, all changed for the worse….

                Did I ever mention the anime influence on Disney (which would be better defined as plagiarism)? 😉


                • Daniel February 13, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

                  ” Big O ” is one of the better anime that I’ve seen. Lots of references to Metropolis, & other influences. They have one character who is an Orwellian Big Brother wanna be in charge of Paradigm City.

                  ” Ghost in the Shell SAC ” & ” GitS : 2nd Gig ” oscillates between semi – deep discussions of philosophy, political history, etc., & shoot – outs that make ” Die Hard ” seem like a martini social at the country club, but it’s still watchable.
                  Oh, yeah, didn’t Disney borrow from an anime / manga series called ” Simba ” ?


                  • Mac of BIOnighT February 13, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

                    The first Ghost in the Shell is awesome, but the second was so immensely boring and pretentious that I just couldn’t take any more of it. However, maybe some day I’ll have a look at the series. Big O is on my list, but it’ll be a long while before I have enough dough to spare for it, unfortunately 😦 From what I’ve seen, though, it’s really good, and good things don’t get worse with age 🙂
                    Disney didn’t exactly borrow, it was an out-and-out copy of Kimba (or Leo, in japan (Jungle Taitei is the original title) by Osamu Tezuka, the forefather of all anime and manga. Shame on them.


                    • Daniel February 14, 2012 at 4:13 am #

                      They went from The Laughing Man ( Who borrows from J.D. Salinger a lot, apparently ) plot to the Original 11 without a whole lot of transition time, almost jarringly, & it DID get rather dull & boring.

                      Big O is extraordinarily well done, they leave a lot of loose ends dangling, possibly because they thought they might get a 3rd season. The character of Schwarzwald is also very interesting. He appears to go from antagonist to ” guide ” through the series.

                      Disney has a history of plagiarism. I’m not sure if the estates of some of the creators ( A.Dumas, Jules Verne for 2 examples ) that have had their work copied have ever taken their cases to court or not.


    • Daniel February 12, 2012 at 1:44 am #

      The 2nd page looks like a mural or perhaps something from an illustrated manuscript. Something that might be found in The Hermitage or maybe a Vatican gallery.


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