Mr. Sandman meets Little Nemo

While I would never pretend that Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman appear very similar, I could not help but think of how both authors depict the “dreamworld”. In class we talked about panels that we found to be disturbing or ‘trippy’, and I couldn’t help but make comparisons with how dark and haunting both graphics are. Sandman, a far more modern spin on the dreamworld and all realms beyond that of the living, doesn’t shy away from what could certainly shock and disturb the reader.

But the similarities do not simply remain within the subject matter; both McCay and Gaiman experimented with panel usage. The differences in panels from the mundane brick by brick makes the reader take notice, and adds in some senses even more uneasiness. They both walk a fine line between artistic and confusing, both both works pull off this creativity flawlessly. I think it takes a certain degree of genius to not only manipulate the image and text, but the very method by which these two are confined. Both McCay and Gaiman seem to be, literally, thinking outside of the box.

What also struck me about McCay’s artwork (and not just Little Nemo) is how dark the material appeared. Little Nemo seemed to be an odd combination of patterned jokes and nightmarish scenes. Gaiman tends to show this darker side through the use of coloring and storytelling, but McCay’s seems less by-the-book, and more unintended. There isn’t really anything outright terrifying about a turkey eating a house (in fact it is almost comical) and yet the panel set up and the expressions of the people make it more so.

Gaiman has obviously been influenced by McCay, and dream land itself has evolved a lot over the years, but I still feel that the real genius lies in McCay’s first creations.

(c)1988 Neil Gaiman
(c)1988 Neil Gaiman


(c) 1905 Winsor McCay
(c) 1905 Winsor McCay

  2 comments for “Mr. Sandman meets Little Nemo

  1. September 6, 2015 at 5:18 pm

    Yes! And there’s a direct quotation and thematic reference in Sandman Volume II:

    The imagery is straight out of McCay, intentionally so, but of course since it’s Sandman, the context makes it much more disturbing when you find out what’s really happening to the kid in the story.

  2. holyguava
    September 6, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    Did Sandman take any inspiration from McCay’s other works? Like the Rarebit fiend or animations? He does show the experimental paneling and dream world of Nemo. But Rarebit has more obvious darker tones than Nemo.

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