Day #25: Little Nemo and the April Fools

"Little Nemo in Slumberland" dated April 01, 1906:


Transcript of Tweets by @LittleNemo1905 (June 21, 2020):


Another "holiday" strip, #LittleNemo is tricked by the Slumberland fools who wish to drag him into their pranks and fun on April Fool's Day 1906. - 1/27

While the Thanksgiving strip and Christmas strips of the past stood out against the others as unnecessary, this one acts to maintain the continuation of the narrative that McCay has begun utilizing recently. - 2/27

That he finds a way to use April Fool's day as part of the on-going narrative is new to #LittleNemo. This is, of course, because of the strip's shift in episodic stories to continuous ones. - 3/27

Possibly because of their episodic nature, the other holiday strips read rather like divertissements or interludes… As if they were obligatorily mined for material, but not meaningfully incorporated into the primary purpose of the story. That isn't the case here. - 4/27

The April Fool's strip seamlessly elides into the on-going narrative and seems just another obstacle in Nemo's way, as opposed to an editorially forced inclusion. - 5/27

It's interesting that we see Nemo and his entourage give up on the Flip costume idea here. Instead, Nemo is now garbed in "gold lace plumes, velvet and spangles". - 6/27

Nemo has, since strip #21 on March 04, 1906, been presented to us wearing different costumes; first his scale armour, then Flip's, and now this new, and very fancy, purple garment. - 7/27

What Nemo is *not* wearing anymore… are his pajamas. For the vast majority of the strip moving forward, Nemo's dreamworld replaces the pajamas with elaborate costumes, further emphasizing the shift from the surreal to the real when he wakes in the final panel. - 8/27

I'm finding this to be a wonderful change for the strip, because the costumes' sudden and immediate shift from colourful and otherworldly to plain and insignificant really increase the affect. - 9/27

I'm also interested in why it isn't Flip performing the trick here? He is, of course, Slumberland's resident trickster and we've already seen him perform acts of trickery and sabotage to great effect… is that the reason why he isn't the focal point of April Fools? - 10/27

Maybe another Flip prank wouldn't ring, as well? Wouldn't scream "April Fools" exactly because it is something we've seen before from him? I'm not sure, but I find it a puzzling choice. Thoughts? - 11/27

The "April Fool Princess" herself is a sort of hybrid character; built by the coming together of three of the four fools… it reminds me of a twisted Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers Megazord. - 12/27

Panel 5 is brilliantly composed. Nemo, at the top of the stairs, still has to look up towards the "little loidy" because she is so tall. This creates great affect through scale. - 13/27

The Princess herself is, as some of McCay's work has been, a bit problematic. The prank sprung on Nemo here is based on the fact that this undesirable Princess is who he has been travelling all of this time for. - 14/27

Whether he realizes that this isn't the real Princess in his moment of shock atop the stairs or not isn't mentioned, just remember that he did first see the Princess in strip #14 on January 14, 1906. Either way, he is stunned speechless in this moment. - 15/27

The fools' joke is entirely predicated on the fact that they've "built" an undesirable woman. She is designed by the fools to oppose the common qualities expected of femininity at this time. - 16/27

She has a receding hairline, buck teeth, red hair (prejudice against red hair was very common at this time), awful posture, large hands and feet, and is incredibly tall. - 17/27

In many ways, the April Fools Princess (AFP) is the anti-Gibson Girl [previously mentioned by @Dyezbick in a past thread]. - 18/27 [INSERT IMAGE]

The Gibson Girl (GG), named after the illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson, set the standards for beauty, fashion, and manners, from the 1890s until at least WWI. - 19/27

https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/gibson-girls-america/overview.html

Quoted from the @librarycongress site above, the GGs were a "vibrant, new feminine ideal" and "the visual embodiment of… the 'New Woman.' [A] Gibson Girl pursued higher education, romance, marriage, physical well-being, and individuality with unprecedented independence." - 20/27 [INSERT IMAGE]

By the time this strip was published in 1906, The GG would have been a well-established icon, meaning that McCay's visual subversion here would have been meant to incite giggles and jeers out of his readers. - 21/27

The question that most intrigues me though is, "For whom was this joke intended?", which leads to many alternating readings of the moment… - 22/27

It could be argued that McCay was poking fun at Gibson, the artist, by publicly undermining his ideal and turning it on it's head. A type of "in-joke" between artists… - 23/27

It could be argued that the AFP is an aggressive visual commentary about the 'New Women' and the "foolishness" of their endeavours… - 24/27

More positively, it may even be argued that the AFP calls attention to and challenges the more harmful physical notions of the wasp-waisted ideal GGs… - 25/27

I'm sure there are other readings too that I can't even think of and I'd be eager to hear your thoughts about her! I find the AFP the most fascinating part of this strip and would love to hear how others approached her reading. - 26/27

This is my reading of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" #25. What's yours? - 27/27