Cartoon Alley: Reviews and commentary #17… Gordon Campbell

My favourite cartoon (this month) : Winsor McCay’s black and white cartoons

by Gordon Campbell

In these few words, I don’t pretend to summarise the genius of Winsor McCay ( 1867 – 1934) beyond to say that McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland – and George Herriman’s Krazy Kat – are the standards by which everything else in this field is measured, and also not : because they’re such original works, nothing else comes close. For those who don’t know McCay, Maurice Sendak’s In The Night Kitchen is a homage to McCay. Among all his other achievements, was also the father of carton animation, with his Gertie the Dinosaur cartoon in 1909. The beautiful, dreamlike and fantastical images in Little Nemo are the place to start.

This past month though, I’ve been looking at McCay’s black and white drawings. Some are allegorical statements in war and morality, some were illustrations for futuristic newspaper articles. In recent years, some of the best have been collected in Daydreams and Nightmares – The Fantastic Visions of Winsor McCay, published by Fantagraphics.

Without further ado, here are a few of McCay’s great black and white cartoons from that period 1898-1934.