Day #17: Little Nemo Flies Through the Air with the Greatest of... Ease?

"Little Nemo in Slumberland" dated February 04, 1906:


Transcript of Tweet by @LittleNemo1905 (June 13, 2020):


This is one of the more kinetic strips that McCay has presented to us so far and features a great deal of gestural movement and motion. There's a lot to unpack here, but let's begin from the top with the gnomes. - 1/23

The note that the three central fellas are reading suggests that they have received an invitation from King Morpheus to assist with bringing Nemo to the palace. This seems about right; Morpheus is willing to try anything to get Nemo to his future playmate, the Princess. - 2/23

But "scare him. It's the only way…"… WHAT?! These gnomes have CLEARLY not been following along with the weekly strips very well, because, if they were, they'd know this was a horrible idea… - 3/23

Of the 16 strips we've looked at, maybe 2 or 3 could be read as Nemo waking up for a reason that doesn't involve fear. Literally, every other time he's awakened, it is resultant from his being afraid of a situation, creature, or feeling. - 4/23

That this plan is destined to fail is pretty much set up right from the very beginning… poor gnomes. They never stood a chance at success. - 5/23

That said, this also seems a wonderful moment to mention the subtle worldbuilding that @Totter87 and I we were discussing yesterday. - 6/23

The gnomes are not directly involved in the strip at all beyond the first tier. Does this mean that the dream experienced by Nemo is influenced or concocted by said gnomes? Do they have control over the dream as Nemo experiences it? - 7/23

What this would suggest is that the dreamscape is not static, but rather responds to the needs and intentions of a certain group of people; in this case the gnomes. - 8/23

Are they the only ones who can manipulate Nemo's dreams? How exactly do they control the dream? Are they shapeshifters taking on the role of Uncle Alexander? - 9/23

That Uncle Alexander, a character from Nemo's waking world, features so prominently in this strip is particularly interesting considering no other waking world character has been anything more than a secondary or tertiary concern in strips past. - 10/23

Here, Alexander is literally the driving force of the strip. This might tell the reader many things about Nemo and his waking world. - 11/23

Does Nemo looks up to his Uncle? Is Nemo happy that his Uncle is visiting thus incurring the dreams? Does Nemo believe that his Uncle is capable of things other adults are not? Does Nemo believe his Uncle to be strong and capable? - 12/23

All of this without even touching on the action of the strip at all. I am absolutely astonished at the spatial design and how it provides opportunity for gestural communication. - 13/23

Look at panels 10-19 (captioned 9-18). If you read only the pictorial, how brilliantly do Alexander and Nemo swing across the page? It presents such a wonderfully animated reading experience! - 14/23

Of course, this was something McCay was adept at because of his experiences drawing circus posters. - 15/23

The influence of the carnivalesque on McCay can't be understated. Canemaker (2018) says, "the world of the circus informed the imagery in McCay’s art…the frozen action of the characters’ poses suggest the spirit of kinetic live performances by people and animals." (47). - 16/23

Indeed, this is one of this strips most alluring features. Nemo begins atop Alexander's head before a beautifully smooth gestural flourish begins that sees Nemo and Alexander perform a full trapeze swing. - 17/23 {INCLUDE PHOTO]

That panel 20 (captioned 19) disrupts the swinging flourish as it does is in keeping with the way that McCay has generally ended these gestural movements (see Strip #1). It abruptly jolts the reader back to reality; that this is a strip not animation. - 18/23 [INSERT IMAGE]

One other very important thing worth noting is the constantly changing setting/landscape. The pair begin by going to a gymnasium that Nemo "had never known" existed before then are transported to a circus tent high wire (including audience) followed by an arctic setting. - 19/23

Obviously, this shifting landscape speaks to the surreality of Nemo's dreamworld, but I also wonder if it could be considered "Freudian material"? - 20/23

McCay makes sure to reference the fact that "the performance uncle went through destroyed certain ambitions Nemo was known to possess for circus life". - 21/23

Could it be that Uncle Alexander had taken Nemo to the circus in the waking world, prompting this dream to present itself? Certainly, not a confirmable reading, but one that make sense given previous discussions about Freudian inclusions. - 22/23

This is my reading of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" #17. What's yours? - 23/23