Dreams of the Rarebit Little Ego

« RAREBIT n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be solemnly explained that the comestible known as toad-in-a-hole is really not a toad, and that ris-de-veau à la financière is not the smile of a calf prepared after the recipe of a she banker. » — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

It’s dicey to make a broad generalization about what people have heard of and what they haven’t, so I’ll just say that, for a comic strip more than a century old, likely Canadian Winsor McCay‘s Little Nemo in Slumberland is rather well remembered (and represented) in the greater culture.

The strip has inspired numberless adaptations and the cultural landscape is quite peppered with Nemo references, both overt and veiled.

In the early 1980s, Italian cartoonist Vittorio Giardino (1946–) created a series of short pieces (first published in issues of Comic Art and Glamour International), intended as an erotic pastiche of McCay’s brainchild.

Here are the Little Ego pieces I value most.

I must admit I only enjoy the earlier, less grandiose ones, in no small part because they’re scarcely Nemo-like. Instead, they’re patterned after an earlier McCay creations, and my personal favourite, Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend (1904-25), which I’ve long treasured in its beloved and exemplary Dover collection.

« I wonder what’s come over me to have such dreams… I’ll never be able to speak of them… even to my shrink!! »
Here’s the cover art of the original French collected edition (1989, Glénat).

To quote the late cartoonist and local favourite Richard Thompson:

« There are strips that are classics that I respond to on many levels without loving them (Little Nemo is one). I can enjoy such strips without really learning too much from them. »

I share Mr. Thompson’s ambivalent sentiment about Nemo. It’s an indisputable masterwork, mind-bogglingly accomplished, and best enjoyed in its original size.

See what I mean? An original-size Little Nemo showcase cleverly included in Graphis Magazine‘s Comics: The Art of the Comic Strip (1972, The Graphis Press, Zurich).

But its epic scale and themes fail to move me. I far prefer the quotidian-turning-absurd magic of the Rarebit Fiend.

At length, feeling perhaps constrained by the two-page format, Giardino moved on to a longer, sustained narrative full of aerial derring-do, treacherous desert vistas, opulent palaces, and lots and lots of rapes (a fumetti standard). Not my thing, thanks all the same.

I drew from the French edition of the strip since it’s the one I own, but also for its superior reproduction and as the English translation is rather flat and witless in comparison. [ see for yourself! ]

Here’s a tasty pair of sample Rarebit Fiend strips.

… and we return to Richard Thompson, who introduced his own ‘strip within a strip’ parody with Little Neuro within his Cul de sac (2004-2012).

Cul de sac’s March 26, 2008 daily, wherein Little Neuro is first touched upon. « Little Neuro is a parody/homage to the great fantasy strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. I thought up Little Neuro in the early ’80s, but I had to invent Petey before I knew what to do with it. »
Cul de sac’s Sunday, September 6, 2009 strip. Thompson: « Obviously an excuse to draw a dragon. I don’t get many. »

-RG

Don’t Feed the Sooti!

« I used to be Snow White, but I drifted. » — Mae West

Spring has most definitely arrived, even up here in the Northern latitudes.

Last week, while wandering the neighbourhood on a gorgeous, inviting day, we roamed farther afield than usual, and happened upon a mostly-deserted parking lot flanked by a humongous pile of sooty snow. I’ve always been fascinated by these filthy behemoths; where I grew up, increasingly crusty and grotesque snowbanks would endure midway through June each year.

It always made sense to me that, being dark, these mounds would absorb more heat from the spring sunlight and melt faster than pristine snow. Counterintuitively, they just stuck around. As it usually turns out, there are more factors at play than one might initially suspect. Here’s a handy scientific explanation.

Another individual who shared my bemused interest in the phenomenon was incredibly-gifted cartoonist Richard Church Thompson (1957-2016), who bestowed upon the unsightly obsidian lumps some intriguing bits of mythology, as he so often and compellingly did to the base materials of the everyday.

This Richard’s Poor Almanac entry « … predates Cul de Sac by some years, yet keen eyes will note the kids in silly hats and the pile of parking lot snow, which have both found their way into the strip. »
Thompson: « CUL DE SAC began as a Sunday-only feature in The Washington Post Magazine in 2004. I painted them in watercolors instead of the process color needed for most newspaper comic strips. »
The syndicated strip remake, from Sunday, January 9, 2011. Rats! Now we’ll never hear about the bathtub drain bogy…
Alice retells the Sooti legend with some slight distortions… but you just wait until Dill recounts it his way. Sadly, this was the final allusion to these mysterious creatures. This is the Cul de sac daily from Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2010.
We set off on a quest just yesterday and indeed, there are abandoned shopping carts by the score… if you know where to look.
And a bonus seasonal entry to wrap things up! Then it snows.

For more Thompson marvels, do check out our general category, The Stupendous Richard Thompson, and expect massive doses of both awe and amusement.

-RG

Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 19

« You know what I wish? I wish that I when I got mad I could pull my own head off and throw it at people. » – Alice Otterloop

There’s simply no justice. Richard Thompson (not the former Fairport Convention guitarist, béret enthusiast and all-around musical authority) was, in my view, the greatest cartoonist of his generation, and, in his prime, his voice was stifled by Parkinson’s disease. Sigh.

Here, then, is a trio of seasonally-and-thematically pertinent excerpts from his Richard’s Poor Almanac, a feature that made its august début in The Washington Post in 1997. Mr. Thompson is somewhat better known for his (other) masterpiece, the beyond-brilliant suburban family comic strip, Cul de Sac (2004-2012).

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And since I brought up Cul de Sac, and insolently pilfered a panel from it for this post’s preview image, I would be remiss in my duties were I to not include the strip in its entirety. Here you are.

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This one originally saw print on Sunday, October 26, 2008.

For more of Mr. Thompson’s Almanac, check out, if you will, this earlier post on the topic.

-RG

Hey, Easy With the Jackhammer!

I understand that this image has to do with the tradition of greeting the new year by banging on pots and pans and generally making a racket, but I presume that both sailor-garbed primate and pneumatic drill were optional, particularly in times of scarcity.

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Art by Stephen Douglas, from Famous Funnies no. 138 (January, 1946). FF number one (July, 1934) was likely the second comic book issued, and the first one *sold*. It was published by Eastern Color / Dell Comics.

Read the issue here: http://comicbookplus.com/?dlid=35200

And while we’re on the subject of ushering in the New Year by making a hellacious din, let’s treat ourselves to a couple of relevant Cul de sac pieces. The first returns us to the strip’s formative, water-coloured years, when it appeared weekly (2004-2007) in The Washington Post‘s weekly magazine section.

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The Washington Post Magazine, Dec. 31st, 2006. Richard Thompson: « From when Petey played the trombone, and I found it too hard to draw. »

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The master tackled the theme again in this brief sequence from Dec. 31, 2008- Jan. 1st, 2009.

Nothing left to do now but to wish a joyful 2018 to all you monkeys and assorted critters!

– RG