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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Little Nemo" (1906) - Winsor McCay Sunday Pen and Ink

Merry Christmas and Season's Greetings!

Since I will be away for part of December, I thought this would be a good opportunity to post some Christmas/Holiday related art. To see other holiday related items, select "Category-Holiday" from the "Content by Category" list on the right.

Winsor McCay's work is VERY striking! If you look at the frames, the characters appear to be almost identical -- a template-oriented to drawing. This Christmas page is a great example of McCay's unusual style.

"Little Nemo" (1906) - Winsor McCay Sunday

I picked up this, a McCay drawing from "Gertie the Dinosaur" (1914) and some work by George McManus ("The Newlyweds" and his iconic "Maggie & Jiggs"). At about the same time, I remember hearing that McCay and McManus were good friends. As the story went, McManus made a bet with McCay that he couldn't produce an "animated" film within a certain amount of time -- I understand that McCay won the bet. What I found unusual was that McCay's combination of live-action and film -- like today's multi-media presentation. In "Gertie," McCay interacted with the animated Gertie to create a very unique program that wasn't repeated for many years.

Like many pioneers, the work of 'Winsor McCay' has been largely superseded by successors such as Walt Disney and Max Fleischer but he more than earns a place in film history for being the American cinema's first great cartoon animator. He started out as a newspaper cartoonist, achieving a national reputation for his strips 'Little Nemo in Slumberland' and 'Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend'. Inspired by his son's flick-books, he spent four years and produced four thousand individual drawings in making his first animated cartoon 'Little Nemo', completing it in 1911. But his biggest cartoon success was 'Gertie the Dinosaur' (1913), which was the centrepiece of a vaudeville act in which the live McCay would interact with his cartoon character. For this, he single-handedly produced ten thousand individual drawings, laboriously re-drawing the background every time. It is often wrongly cited as the first animated cartoon, but it was certainly the first successful one, and influenced dozens of imitators. His 1918 production 'The Sinking of the Lusitania' was even more ambitious: comprising 25,000 drawings, it was the first feature-length American cartoon, and the second one made anywhere. He retired from film-making in the 1920s, but would subsequently describe himself as "the creator of animated cartoons". This honour, strictly speaking, belongs to the Frenchman Emile Cohl - but McCay was certainly the first to bring them to a wide audience.
----- DATABASE NOTES -----

From “Little Nemo” (1906). From “Little Nemo” (1906) by Winsor McCay. An early pen & ink strip produced only 14 months after the strip's introduction. After 1909, McCay became districted by other projects and the quality of the strip weakened. The strip is unusual in that it has Little Nemo and in Princess in every panel of the page. In addition, this strip includes an "Eternal Theme" -- Santa Claus in his Toyland with his Elves, lists of 'good boys and girls' and getting ready to depart for his annual Christmas deliveries. [Image: 2 @ 22”W x 16”H; Frame: 30”w x 38”H] Acquired 2004. SeqID-1267 Updated: 7/26/2005

Seller’s Comments: The first thing you want from an original McCay is an early Sunday Page -- you know the early artwork is 'pure' McCay. After 1909 it generally starts to get a little weaker. This is only 14 months into the Strip. The other thing you want is graphics -- this has that as well and big time. That full top panel with the Sleigh and Reindeer is just amazing, as is the artwork in every panel on this (almost) 100 year old Sunday page. Look at the bottom panel -- incredible detail. This strip has 'Little Nemo' and the 'Princess' in every panel of the page. Plus, it has something more that I know you'll appreciate -- an Eternal Theme -- ''Santa Claus'' in his Toyland with his Elves and lists of 'good boys and girls' and getting ready to fly-off to do his annual Christmas deliveries. And a great image of 'Santa' and of both of 'Nemo's' Parents. It's a "KEY" page.


  1. Amazing piece of art. I have been a fan of Winsor McCay since I was 11 years old and started going to Comic Book Conventions. This is one of the best Sunday pages.

  2. Patrick-
    Thanks for the comment! For me, it's difficult to separate animation and comic art -- there are too many overlaps... I decided to close the comic art blog so that I could fold in some of the comic art in this blog (hence, the name change).
    - Glad you enjoyed it!