Little Nemo is a fictional character created by American cartoonist Winsor McCay. Nemo was originally the protagonist of the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. The full-page weekly strip depicted Nemo having fantastic dreams that were interrupted by his awakening in the final panel. The strip is considered McCay’s masterpiece for its experiments with the form of the comics page, its use of color, its timing and pacing, the size and shape of its panels, perspective, architectural and other detail.
Little Nemo in Slumberland ran in the New York Herald from October 15, 1905, until July 23, 1911; the strip was renamed In the Land of Wonderful Dreams when McCay brought it to William Randolph Hearst’s New York American, where it ran from September 3, 1911 until July 26, 1914. When McCay returned to the Herald in 1924, he revived the strip, and it ran under its original title from Aug 3, 1924, until December 26, 1926, when McCay returned to Hearst.
A weekly fantasy adventure, Little Nemo in Slumberland featured the young Nemo (“No one” in Latin) who dreamed himself into wondrous predicaments from which he awoke in bed in the last panel. The first episode[a] begins with a command from King Morpheus of Slumberland to a minion to collect Nemo. Nemo was to be the Princess of Slumberland’s playmate, but it took months of adventures before Nemo finally arrived; a green, cigar-chewing clown named Flip was determined to disturb Nemo’s sleep with a top hat emblazoned with the words “Wake Up”. Nemo and Flip eventually become companions, and are joined by an African Imp whom Flip finds in the Candy Islands. The group travels far and wide, from shanty towns to Mars, from Jack Frost’s palace to the bizarre architecture and distorted funhouse-mirror illusions of Befuddle Hall.
The strip shows McCay’s understanding of dream psychology, particularly of dream fears—falling, drowning, impalement. This dream world has its own moral code, perhaps difficult to understand; breaking it has terrible consequences, as when Nemo ignores instructions not to touch Queen Crystalette, who inhabits a cave of glass—overcome with his infatuation, he causes her and her followers to shatter, and awakens with “the groans of the dying guardsmen still ringing in his ears”.
Although the strip began October 15, 1905 with Morpheus, ruler of Slumberland, making his first attempt to bring Little Nemo to his realm, Nemo did not get into Slumberland until March 4, 1906 and, due to Flip’s interfering, did not get to see the Princess until July 8. His dream quest is always interrupted by either him falling out of bed, or his parents forcibly waking him up.
On July 12, 1908, Windsor McKay made a major change of direction: Flip visits Nemo and tells him that he has had his uncle destroy Slumberland. (Slumberland had been dissolved before, into day, but this time it appeared to be permanent.) After this, Nemo’s dreams take place in his home town, though Flip—and a curious-looking boy named the Professor—accompany him. These adventures range from the down-to-earth to Rarebit-fiend type fantasy; one very commonplace dream had the Professor pelting people with snowballs. The famous “walking bed” story was in this period. Slumberland continued to make sporadic appearances until it returned for good on December 26, 1909.
Story-arcs included Befuddle Hall, a voyage to Mars (with a well-realized Martian civilization), and a trip around the world (including a tour of New York City).
Little Nemo in Slumberland debuted on the last page of the Sunday comics section of The New York Herald on October 15, 1905. The full-page, color comic strip ran until July 23, 1911. In spring 1911, McCay moved to William Randolph Hearst’s New York American and took Little Nemo??’?s characters with him. The Herald held the strip’s copyright, but McCay won a lawsuit that allowed him to continue using the characters. In the American, the strip ran under the title In the Land of Wonderful Dreams. The Herald was unsuccessful in finding another cartoonist to continue the original strip.
McCay left Hearst in May 1924 and returned to the Herald Tribune. He began Little Nemo in Slumberland afresh that August 3. The new strip displayed the virtuoso technique of the old, but the panels were laid out in an unvarying grid. Nemo took a more passive role in the stories, and there was no continuity. The strip came to an end in December 1926, as it was not popular with readers. Hearst executives had been trying to convince McCay to return to the American, and succeeded in 1927. Due to the lack of the 1920s Nemo’s success, the Herald Tribune signed over all copyrights to the strip to McCay for one dollar.
In 1937, McCay’s son Robert attempted to carry on his father’s legacy by reviving Little Nemo. Comic book packager Harry “A” Chesler’s syndicate announced a Sunday and daily Nemo strip, credited to “Winsor McCay, Jr.” Robert also drew a comic-book version for Chesler called Nemo in Adventureland featuring grown-up versions of Nemo and the Princess. Neither project lasted long. In 1947, Robert and fabric salesman Irving Mendelsohn organized the McCay Feature Syndicate, Inc. to revive the original Nemo strip from McCay’s original art, modified to fit the size of modern newspaper pages. This revival also did not last.
In 1966, cartoonist Woody Gelman discovered the original artwork for many Little Nemo strips at a cartoon studio where McCay’s son Bob had worked. In 1973, Gelman published a collection of Little Nemo strips in Italy. His collection of McCay originals is preserved at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University.
Collector Peter Maresca self-published a 21-×-16-inch (53 × 41 cm) volume of Nemo Sundays as Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays!. The volume was large enough to reproduce the pages at the size they originally appeared in newspapers. Restoration work took Maresca five to twenty hours per page. A second volume, Little Nemo in Slumberland: Many More Splendid Sundays!, appeared in 2008.
Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez revived the characters in 2014 in an IDW comic book series entitled Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland.
52 weeks 1913,1914
1911,1912,1924, In Slumberland 1-3, Jack Frost, The visit to Mars