Day #12: Happy New Year, Little Nemo!

"Little Nemo in Slumberland" dated December 31, 1905:


Transcript of Tweets by @LittleNemo1905 (JUNE 8, 2020):


As 1905 becomes 1906, #LittleNemo is greeted by this particularly fascinating interpretation of Father Time and given an opportunity to see himself as he will be when he gets older. - 1/25

The top tier triptych features the young toddler (1906) in the far left panel and the tired, old man (1905) walking out of the frame in the far right. A beautiful (if not cliched) use of pictorial communication to represent the beginning of a new year! - 2/25

I'll happily forgive the cliché (maybe it wasn't so much one back in the early 1900s?), because this represents a moment where McCay moves away from the predominantly linguistic discourse that has, thus far, defined his #LittleNemo strips. - 3/25

In this moment, there is no linguistic communication at all; the pictorial does the heavy lifting! Sure, it is ornamental and not connected to the primary narrative of Nemo's adventure, but it is a positive step towards a more complex communicative system. - 4/25

I'm intrigued by this Father Time because he is blended with the traditional representation of Death. I've seen depictions of FT as an old man with an hour glass chain, and of Death with the wings of an angel and a scythe, but never have I seen them as the same person. - 5/25

It makes sense; Death comes for all and is ushered towards us by the ever looming shadow of time. While this version of the FT/Death fusion is new to me, I wonder if there is classical precedent for it in other works? - 6/25

I imagine that child readers (and adults recalling this pasts) can really connect with Nemo in this strip because the narrative conceit is a dream that I think I can safely say we all had as children; the desire to grow up and do grown up things! - 7/25

As a result of Father Time's magical vault of years, we see our five-year old protagonist transformed into a 15, 25, 48, and 99-year old! That these transformations happen so quickly within the gutter creates a wonderful sense of disorientation and surprise. - 8/25

Nemo though isn't really concerned about the momentary transformations, and in fact even enjoys them, up until the point that he turns 48. Jumping from the prime of one's life (25) to the near-half century mark must have felt… abrupt. - 9/25

While we can't quite categorize these moments as body horror, I wonder if it wouldn't have similar psychological affects on Nemo? To him, his rapidly changing body (particularly at 99) may seem monstrous. - 10/25

Though, admittedly, it is less his body that frightens him at the end of the strip, and more the fact that he can't see to put them back in the vault. - 11/25

There is a contradiction here though. In panel 11 (captioned 8), all Nemo had to do to revert back to himself is let go of the numbers, but in the penultimate panel, he has dropped the pair of 9s and remains old. - 12/25

It's possible, I suppose, that Father Time has within himself some magical influence here (since he takes the numbers from Nemo in panel 11 and isn't present in the final dream panel). He does tell Nemo to "give [him] back the numbers" so he'll be ok… - 13/25

…which may suggest that he himself has to take hold of, or put back, the numbers in order to cause the reversal of the aging process. It's one of the more curious parts of this already fascinating strip for me. - 14/25

Also, there are some very important implications to the existence of Father Time's year vault, isn't there? What is McCay saying about fate, for instance? Or about agency? - 15/25

If each year is enclosed within one of those vaults, and can be explored on a whim (like Nemo is doing here), does that not mean our lives are planned out? Do we see Nemo at these ages here and now know for certain that he is alive in that year? - 16/25

What would happen if Nemo had opened the year 2000's vault? 2004? 2020? Would we see a 100, 104, and 120 year old Nemo, or would he have erased himself in some sort of temporal paradox? - 17/25

And what does that mean for how we live our lives/what we do with them? From 25 to 48 Nemo's body has changed significantly… is that a given? Can Nemo be actively involved in changing the appearance of his 48-year old self, or is that a concrete certainty? - 18/25

I, for one, have never been an advocate of the idea of fate… I like to imagine that my life is my own and that my experiences and choices are not preordained by an omnipotent being or beings. - 19/25

I suppose then the implication that the years are all locked away, waiting to be released, is rather unappealing to me… but, if that is the case, then maybe someone should have prevented FT from opening 2020… - 20/25

A note about formal concerns, the staircase spatial design has returned in this strip, creating an interesting formal and narrative juxtaposition. - 21/25

As Nemo experiences magical "aging" the panel designs move in a step-by-step downward progression. There's almost a sense that the further "down" he goes into FT's vault, the more he puts himself in danger by increasing his age. - 22/25

Finally, just a quick mention about the ending of the strip (which I really like). As the 99-year old Nemo stumbles blindly in the dark, he calls out for his mama, who, in the next panel, doesn't admonish him as she has in the past, but holds him closely and comforts him. - 23/25

Sadly, it's likely that 99-year old Nemo hasn't seem his mother in many years. If this momentary aging results in possession of memories from that age, then the shift from cold dark vastness to the intimacy of his mother's hug in incredibly touching. - 24/25

This is my reading of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" #12. What's yours? - 25/25