Day #26: Little Nemo and the Slumberland Band

"Little Nemo in Slumberland" dated April 08, 1906:


Transcript of Tweets by @LittleNemo1905 (June 22, 2020):


This is a fun little strip that really leans heavily into absurdity, which I enjoy. As a past music student (BMus. UWO'13), I also appreciate the musical elements being toyed with here. - 1/19

What is most immediately fascinating about this strip is the fact that the disruption occurring here doesn't REALLY get in Nemo's way, at all… at best, what halts Nemo's progression is a sort of humourous rubbernecking to witness the calamity in the street. - 2/19

Its as if he can't look away from the ridiculous situation unfolding in front of him… but it's not physically in his way. He could continue on the sidewalk towards the car without the band if he wished. - 3/19

There is some very strange gestural/motion issues happening in the second tier. For starters, it's quite clunky. Each panel progresses to show you the characters that follow the one from the previous panel… - 4/19

…but there is some mental gymnastics required to read the motion; it's a very choppy experience. This is primarily a result of the sidewalk and it's uniformity across the panels which gives off a faux-polyptych impression combined with the characters walking speed. - 5/19

The speed at which the characters are moving just doesn't make any sense. Either Nemo, Popcorn, and Candy are walking so slowly that the band can pass them, or the band is racing down the street. - 6/19

It is the only way to explain how the characters end up beside all of the many members of the band in different panels. But, it also sets up wonderfully the return of all these characters on the right side of the panels. - 7/19

As characters who have passed through their panels into the gutter space on the right return to inspect what is happening, we get a marvellous traffic-jam effect where the band is crammed against the hyperframe and thus blocking forward motion (panels 7-9). - 8/19

As the faux-tuba player enters the scene and becomes the centre of attention, their return foreshadows the fact that we're not actually getting anywhere with this strip… - 9/19

That said, McCay does do a phenomenal job of communicating through the picto-gestural here. From the moment the clogged Tuba-thingy enters the strip, it's clear that there is a problem and that it has to do with the lack of sound. - 10/19

Characters shove their heads in the bell, inspect the tubes, check the valves, all while the players face becomes frantic and his cheeks become red as he tries to sound his note. - 11/19

Obviously, comics are a soundless medium (hence the proliferation of onomatopoeic effects used in comics… BAM!), but here the soundlessness doesn't negatively impact the moment in any way. - 12/19

In fact, it culminates during the penultimate panel which (in my reading at least) sees the player finally sound their note, having pushed so much air into the instrument that the tubes have "exploded" outwards and blown the Drum Major's shako clean off his head. - 13/19

Again, the lack of sound doesn't really matter in this moment; the reader can insert it by strength of their imagination. What the reader must have is a clean indication that they *should* insert the sound, and McCay's use of picto-gestural communication here is exactly that for me. - 14/19

All of this comes together, I think, to present a compelling and brilliantly crafted strip. I would argue that even the moments that *seem* inconsistent or frustrating by their design are consciously attempting to confound the reader's experience in a similar way to Nemo's. - 15/19

At every "step" of the way, we are faced with something that slows our reading down… whether it's processing the band's progression on the second tier, witnessing the traffic jam of bodies, or watching them scatter in every way but forward when the horn blows… - 16/19

…our reading journey is consistently interfered with, mirroring Nemo's journey by extension. - 17/19

Whether this affect was intentional or not doesn't really matter to me because my reading sees it anyway. Be it sloppy composition (which I don't buy, by the way) or the flourish of a master's pen(cil), I enjoy this episodic musical interlude more than I probably should. - 18/19

This is my reading of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" #26. What's yours? - 19/19