Day #22: Little Nemo Wakes at Dawn

"Little Nemo in Slumberland" dated March 11, 1906:


Transcript of Tweets by @LittleNemo1905 (June 18, 2020):


Today's strip marks a significant shift in the way that McCay handles narrative captions and synoptic linguistic content. Truthfully, it is a very welcome change. - 1/23

Rather than having the narrative captions strung together beneath the pictorial content of each panel, McCay opts instead to provide a brief summary of the contents within the first tier. - 2/23

I like how this alteration continues to demonstrates McCay's desire to experiment with the form. That these sorts of summaries only last for six weeks before being done away with entirely shows us McCay's continual efforts to try new things with the medium. - 3/23

To that end, I believe that they certainly work better than the narration that we've seen up to this point. Those clunky mid-sentence breaks were obviously no longer acceptable to McCay (I wonder what his readership thought?) prompting the change. - 4/23

That said, they aren't without their problems. For one, they give the entire strip away. Those interested in the plot alone need only read the first tier. This imaginary reader, able to resist McCay's glorious drawing, would have no reason to continue reading. - 5/23

It also leads to very awkward panel transitions, which clearly reveals a newly initiated (or, at the very least, a much more pronounced) reliance on the linguistic content as a result. - 6/23

Take the transition from panel 6-7, for example. When Flip goes to get his "night mare" we see three panels of him walking to the stable, speaking to her, and riding her. But, panel 6-7 jumps from the Slumberland palace to [wherever Dawn is] in an instant. - 7/23

It isn't that McCay hasn't done this type of spatial teleportation within the gutter before, but it seems far more obvious here and it makes me wonder why? - 8/23

It's certainly possible that the captions provide a sort of narrative bridge over the gutter that, in their absence, becomes a far less smooth crossing. - 9/23

I think this would be MY personal feeling (I went back and read a few previous strips w/out the captions to establish this), but I'd be interested to hear how others experienced the change. - 10/23

Narratively, this strip focuses far less on Nemo and much more heavily on Flip, which I also welcomed. Nemo is only physically depicted in 5 of the ten panels, while Flip graces 7 of the 10. - 11/23

Indeed, it's as if blindfolding Nemo (which prevents him from seeing) also prevents the reader from experiencing the narrative through him (the protagonist we've been following from the beginning). - 12/23

Instead, we accompany Flip as he tries to prevent Nemo from being successful. This places the reader in quite the quandry: Whose side are you on? - 13/23

If I can borrow from W.J.T. Mitchell for a moment, it's as if this strip WANTS us to struggle with this decision… it works very hard to keep the reader unsure and thrives in that uncertainty. - 14/23

Indeed, I found myself quite torn… These few short panels allowed me to connect with Flip in such a way that it created pathos in me and, in my feeling sorry for him, momentarily wanted him to succeed. - 15/23

This fellow who is treated poorly by the rest of Slumberland (including his Uncle who declares "they ought to" treat him that way because "you're always in trouble"), rides in on a emaciated horse drinking vinegar, and wants only to be the Princesses friend. - 16/23

It was enough to hook me. Though, admittedly, I do bring in a bias here because I am already a fan of Flip's from his later adventures with Nemo, which may have impacted how I approached this one. - 17/23

This is, of course, until the penultimate panel when the Dawn comes up revealing Nemo back in his pajamas at which point you realize that Flip's success means spoiling Nemo's (and thus our) journey. - 18/23

Because, no matter how our perspective changes during the strip, our involvement in the world of Slumberland is tied entirely to Nemo's sleeping… by waking him up, Flip removes us, as well! - 19/23

I found the moment of realization (as the sun came up) just brilliant. The surprised face on the sun (was he called forth a bit earlier than he expected?) and the change of Nemo's garb both combine to visually reflect the reader's shock, as well. - 20/23

The "Night Mare" is another fun part of this strip. It's so very "punny" that Flip (Slumberland's resident troublemaker) rides a nightmare horse because he is, in fact, Nemo's (and the reader's) worst nightmare… the one who wakes him/us up. - 21/23

I feel though that the horse is maybe used to quickly here? Sure, it's a good moment, but the idea of bad dreams (person?)ified seems to have been worth exploring in far more depth and makes me wonder if it was a missed opportunity. - 22/23

This is my reading of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" #22. What's yours? - 23/23