Little Nemo #2: Farel Dalrymple

In which I sit in my tiny apartment, reading a giant book that is a tribute to a very important cartoonist that I was heretofore not familiar with.

Hello again, we are back with Farel Dalrymple’s two page Slumberland spread. The giant book is propped open on my sturdy laundry hamper, and from above it looks like it is floating in the air. I sit down in the easy chair next to the book and briefly put my feet up on it, just to try that out.

I know from reading Farel’s stories that he knows his way around magical children in situations that are troubling yet imbued with human kindness. With his Winsor McCay entry, he seems to have decided, “It’s ok if this doesn’t make sense” and then loaded a dreamscape with feelings and easter eggs.




Because Imp is now (for better or worse) the Waldo of this book, I looked right away to see if he was there, where he was, and how he was drawn. Ahh, I see, said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw. He’s riding a bird, and when Nemo asks him why he can speak English now, Imp responds, “Maybe you just used to be more racist in your dreams.”

“Maybe you just used to be more racist in your dreams”

Now this makes sense. It makes dream sense. It’s like how last night, I dreamt that I slept with an acquaintance and in the dream he had washboard abs. I woke up laughing because my dream self seemed to celebrate washboard abs a lot more than my waking self. So maybe tonight I will dream about him again, and I’ll say, “Wait, why do you have a normal, middling physique now?” and he will say, “Maybe you just used to be more shallow about male beauty standards in your dreams.”

If there’s anyone who can get to the heart of that real weird dream logic, its Farel Dalrymple. Nemo goes through wardrobe changes in every panel, flies, and doesn’t know who he can trust as dream-reality shifts all around him.


Underneath the pastel candy colors the pages are anxious, and maybe weary. Like underneath all the razmatazz, dream Nemo really just has a plane to catch and a calculus examthat he had forgotten about, for a course he didn’t know he was enrolled in.




The $8 Comic Book as an Object

The tweet went something like “IWAH is gorgeous, but I can’t justify $8 for a single issue.”


The three installments of It Will All Hurt each have more than twice as many pages as most comic book issues, on big sturdy pages, with no ads. But let’s not quibble about that. We all spend too much money on entertainment sometimes. As Ulises Farinas said, a comic book needs to be at least as enjoyable as eating a big fancy cupcake, because they cost about the same and take about the same amount of time to consume.

Unlike a big fancy cupcake, which I would dispatch immediately, I’ve been carrying the three IWAH issues around in my shoulder bag for weeks. I read them on the bus in the morning. Then I jam them back in my bag and go to my office job. Later I take them out again when I get back on the bus. I’ve read them dozens of times.

Another comic book I like these days is Gotham Academy, part of DC’s bat family. I could go on about that one; it’s fun. It passes the cupcake test. But like a cupcake, I can’t leave it in my bag and cart it around. It would fall apart. The pages would come unstapled, and then they would start to crumple. The wear and tear would be too much. Then my shoulder bag would just be belching out ragged scraps of thin, shiny paper. I would just be able to make out Nick Lachey’s face, hocking Twix bars right underneath the panels.

But even before it arrived at that sorry end, could I even read an issue of Gotham Academy dozens of times? I do smile at the antics of Maps, and I love a good Pommeline dig. Oh let me count the ways the story of these children is better than everything else I’ve seen from DC lately. Maybe I just like stories of children, and how they are sad old funny souls. And I like the way this big committee came together to create this thing that in many ways works. If you were to imagine an animation of its creation, you would see the pieces flying together from all these different minds and sources along an assembly line. Ah yes, this product is approaching economies of scale! The machinists come and tinker with the settings, and then a different product flies out.

And if you imagined the creation of It Will All Hurt, it would just be the weird kid in the back of the classroom, doodling gross things with eyeballs exploding, and the gore would bloom off the page and out into the room as his own eyeballs turned inside out in slow motion, like thick pink and red noodles. It’s entertaining, but it’s not entertainment. It’s expression. For a slight premium per page, you get to crawl around inside the mind of one Farel Dalrymple.

It Will All Hurt is about children too. They don’t seem fully lucid about where they are and why. “We are all dreaming the same nightmare,” they say, and it preserves the feeling of a dream that we remember in scraps once we wake up. The story is always in motion—trekking, climbing, flying, falling—but it’s also a still life. The characters spend a lot of time looking small in wide landscapes. The roughly rectangular panels float apart from each other. The speech goes like—someone says something. Then there is silence. Later someone else says something. When someone finally speaks, it is often such a throw-away kid thing to say. You crack a smile. You feel sad. It is funny and strange. These kids live in a world where they feel safer alone, but they find tiny ways to play.

The tweet was also wrong about IWAH being gorgeous. It’s not gorgeous. It’s brutal and kind, and makes you feel things.

Fighting the Good Fight: 2014 Comic Book Highlights


STACKEDD magazine debuts today! I sneak in a last look at some great things in comics in 2014.