Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Little Nemo in Slumberland

Remarkable early example of the US newspaper Comic strip, recounting the Dream adventures of a small boy, created and drawn by Winsor McCay. It appeared in the New York Herald (1905-1911), then under the series title In the Land of Wonderful Dreams in Hearst newspapers (1911-1914) and, later, the Herald-Tribune (1924-1927).

The story begins with a messenger from King Morpheus summoning Nemo from his bed to visit the kingdom of Slumberland. Nemo mounts the spotted night horse, Somnus, and rides off into the night sky, where he encounters fantastic animals, who race him until he falls off and lands on the floor beside his bed. Each subsequent episode has a similar format: Nemo experiences incredible adventures in fantasticated locations peopled by fabulous creatures and weird and whimsical characters; in a final small frame we find him sitting up in bed or, more often, falling out of it.

He eventually reached Slumberland on 4 March 1906 and discovered why he had been summoned: to be a playmate for the king's daughter, the Princess of Slumberland. Other Companions become Flip, a green-faced dwarfish hooligan and a taciturn jungle cannibal, Impy, a refugee from another of McCay's strips.

McCay's elegant Art Nouveau linework and abundant imagination brought the strip great success, and a stage musical based on it travelled the country in 1908. McCay made a pioneering Animated-Movie version in 1911. A modern animated version – with Moebius one of the principal creators – is Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1993). Many book versions and collected reprints have been published (see Winsor McCay for bibliographical details).

With its luxurious handling and tremendous sense of scale, this was one of the most imaginative and innovative comic strips ever produced, and almost a century after its first appearance its appeal remains undiminished. [RT]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.