Not just comic art fans but any student of popular culture or architecture will be delighted by this edition. Winsor McCay’s inventions of perspective, his psychedelic and fantastic renderings of breath-taking strange environments are presented here for the first time ever in the complete edition containing all (really all!) 549 episodes of Little Nemo.
So what you get in this edition is the complete Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905-1911 and 1924-1927) as well as Little Nemo in the Land of Wonderful Dreams (1911-1914), when McCay was under contract from another newspaper. It is plain to see why the colored episodes immediately caught the reader’s attention with their surreal ideas, art deco environments and bright colors in newspaper size when they were published in the early years of the last century.
Compared to other comics of the time, Little Nemo enjoyed the luxurious color full page space of the Sunday editions, while most other comics were limited to just a black-and-white strip (or a tier) of a few single pictures in the ordinary daily editions.
While we follow Little Nemo, we’d better have a solid table ready to place our edition, since on more than 560 pages the superb printing quality finally resulted in a massive book of more than 18 lbs that comes in the awesome dimensions of 3.2 x 15 x 19.8 inches.
Winsor McCay (1869-1934), an ‘artist extraordinaire’ of New York, imagined, dreamed up, and drew the most complex flying machines, giant elephants, and visualized space and planets like no other painter or cartoonist before him ever dared to.
The raw energy of US modernism in the early 20th century with all its inventions, timely designs of science fiction and new approaches to alternative forms of societies as well as unique perceptions of the arts, film, music and science had a strong influence on McCay, who would not be content with merely inventing sequel comics and animated cartoons (long before Walt Disney!), but who also presented to millions of newspaper readers the power of human imagination that was not limited to adventures on earth or inventions and machines that had only one single purpose.
Countless comic artists after McCay owe to him the panel management, detail in architecture, machinery and unusual perspective. And we must not forget his influence on science fiction and horror comics; imagine the comic culture of the 1950s without his groundbreaking links to the subconscious, the inner self and psychological motivation for the actions and deeds of the hero.
Among the many artists influenced by McCay were R. Crumb as well as many super hero comic artists. And the world may never have been presented with a single edition of the comic magazine Heavy Metal, nor would we ever have heard of the bizarre works of one Tim Burton, if it had not been for McCay.
Alexander Braun, comics expert, art historian and founder of the German Academy of Comic Art, has compiled a magnificent 142 pages compendium, where he presents an in-depth study of Winsor McCay’s many, many talents.
Braun has compiled some 600 photographs and reproductions of McCay’s sketches, stills from his animated pictures and tons of biographical data.
All of these facts are perfectly blended in with a good overview of the development of American media and historical events of McCay’s time. This book alone may well be worth the purchase of the heavy cardboard box which contains Braun’s Winsor McCay. A Life of Imaginative Genius and The Complete Little Nemo.
Looking back on 2014, I cannot think of another comic book publication that could touch this giant hardcover edition celebrating the almost forgotten genius of Winsor McCay.
The Complete Little Nemo really made my heart jump and my bookshelf ache.
(This review is of the US edition.)
Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2015
Alexander Braun (ed.) Winsor McCay. The Complete Little Nemo. Taschen, 2014, 2 Vols., 708 p., ISBN 978-3-8365-4511-2.