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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Off to Slumber Slumberland: Little Nemo at the Society of Illustrators

If you’re going to sit down and study the history of children’s literature, you cannot skip the Little Nemo section of your textbook.  Maurice Sendak’s wild imaginings, for example, would not have had their distinctive flavor if a certain little boy had been able to keep his dreamlife under control.  Cartoonist Winsor McCay kicked off the twentieth century in fine style when he penned the wildly imaginative comic known best as Little Nemo in Slumberland.  So for those of you who count yourselves as Little Nemo fans I have fantastic news.  Currently showing at The Society of Illustrators is the show Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream. It’s up until March 28th.  If you’ve spare time in NYC in the next 11 days, I highly recommend a visit.  Here’s the description:

In an exhibit based on Locust Moon Press’ anthology LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM, many of the world’s finest cartoonists pay tribute to the master and his masterpiece by creating 118 new Little Nemo strips, following their own voices down paths lit by McCay. Contributors to the exhibit include Paul Pope, Gregory Benton, Dean Haspiel, Yuko Shimizu, Jim Rugg, Ronald Winberly, Andrea Tsurumi, Raul Gonzalez III, and more!

Naturally I had to see it myself.

Attending any kind of an event with a 3-year-old and 10-month-old is a harrowing experience but I was lucky enough to have relatives in town who were willing to (A) visit this exhibit and (B) run interference on the aforementioned preschooler.  On the bottom and first floor of the Society is a show called Alt-Weekly Comics.  And since I have only a single lens that I see the world through, I zeroed in on all the children’s author/illustrators who were also alt-weekly comic creators at one time or another.  Mark Alan Stamaty (Shake, Rattle and Turn That Noise Down: How Elvis Shook of Music, Me, and Mom). Mark Newgarden (Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug).  Jules Feiffer (Bark, George).  And so on and such.

Up where the actual Nemo exhibit was taking place there was a television playing the 1989 film Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland.  The three-year-old was immediately entranced by the wiles of Flip, as voiced by (and I am not making this up) Mickey Rooney.  The screenplay was by Chris Columbus and the soundtrack by the Sherman Brothers. It’s actually not that bad. Then again, I only watched about 20 minutes of it.

As for the exhibit itself, it was just wonderful.  Using the constraints set by the original strip, various cartoonists tried their hand at a range of Nemo inspired art.  There was a Charles Vess that was heavily influenced by his connection to Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book.  There was a Paul Pope, whom you might kn0w best from his Battling Boy graphic novel series.  Raul Gonzalez, better known to us as Raul the Third, created some art that definitely brought to mind last year’s Lowriders in Space. There was also a Jill Thompson with art that was looking not all that different from her Magic Trixie series.

Here’s the format that all the strips had to follow, roughly:

For an interview with the Publisher and Creative Director behind the book that inspired the exhibit, head on over to Bleeding Cool.

Note: I have been searching and searching in vain for a Little Nemo comic that eludes me. It’s the one where all the characters start dancing, one by one. The image of Flip doing this funny little dance where he lifts his feet and then plants them firmly is fixed in my mind.  I’ve never found it in any of the collections.  If anyone knows of its existence and can confirm it for me, I’d be obligated to you.

And now, the Tom Petty video you’ve all been waiting for.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.