Trade Paperback (ISBN: 978-1-63140-322-4) $9.99 USD
Writer: Eric Shanower
Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
Colorist: Nelson Dániel
Lettering/Collection Design: Robbie Robbins
Editing: Chris Ryall & Scott Dunbier
Release Date: June 17, 2015
Sweet Dreams ’til Sunbeams Find You…
As namesake of a famous Disney character AND coincidentally the best ever playmate of the Princess of Slumberland young James Nemo Summerton finds himself spirited into a series of nightly adventures when summoned to replace the original Little Nemo. This IDW Publishing release compiles the first four issues of Little Nemo: Return To Slumberland (begun in August 2014) into a single 88 page, digest-sized (6” X 9”), full color trade paperback.
Like Alice in Wonderland, Nemo enters a topsy turvy dream terrain where the laws of daytime physics do not apply. It’s the deftly drawn and daftly scripted handling of the premise that made cartoonist and writer Winsor McCay’s character so popular from its beginning in the pages of the New York Herald in 1905. A bold draftsman McCay often broke the fourth wall in his cartoon strips (Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend) and even went so far as to destroy the panel frames in his classic Little Sammy Sneeze.
Sharing creative duties on Return To Slumberland are writer Eric Shanower and artist Gabriel Rodriguez. Return To Slumberland represents a new series of stories which contemporize the lead character but do not lack the visual grandiosity or inventiveness of the McCay strip. Slumberland’s architecture remains rooted in McCay’s homage to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (AKA Chicago World’s Fair) and fin de siecle Luna Park of Brooklyn’s Coney Island. Each panel is absolutely spectacular in detail and vibrant coloring (by Nelson Dániel), not only honoring the stylized work of McCay but later 20th Century work by Max Fleisher and Maxfield Parrish. Escapades in the “tessellated tower” give Rodriguez a chance to render his best M. C. Escher inspired dreamscapes. At one point our adventurers find themselves in a lake of india ink surrounded by dip pen spires and stacks of paper that I believe are a whimsical wink to the thousands of individually drawn pages McCay created for his early animated opuses, including Gertie The Dinosaur (1914).
This all-ages, Eisner Award nominated, book will be enjoyed by those who are read to, as well as those who read it to them. I believe it will be a keeper in any library and returned to often over years.
Little Nemo: Return To Slumberland is also a really wonderful way to introduce youngsters to the rich heritage of the graphic novel, fantasy art from Gustave Doré through Frank Frazetta, and a jumping off point to explore early cartoon animation. Go find Gertie the Dinosaur on YouTube, I had to buy it on 8mm reel.
The story’s updating has the added benefit of eschewing the extremely unfortunate sexist and ethnic characitures that, while “of their times,” mar some of the original strips for a modern audience. That said, those collectors who become enchanted by the little dreamer might avail themselves of Winsor McCay: The Complete Little Nemo the entire run of 549 strips in full color as a gigantic magnum opus from Taschen Publishing.