Little Nemo #7 & 8

For awhile this giant book became just another surface, a substrate, and the life of my kitchen table was carried out on top of it. But then I had to enlist the book in my battle against light pollution. I barricade myself in each night. Between the book and the cardboard it came in, I can block a lot a light out.

But I have to keep going through this book. Ronald Wimberly, Matt Huynh, and Yuko Shimizu await me, deeper in. And though I am often too sleepy at night in my little apartment, I like communing with all these dream snippets.

David Petersen’s Little Nemo page has an old-fashioned, vintagey feeling. I think these might be my favorite, because to me they are new and nostalgic at the same time. Unfortunately, it also seems to mean a racist imagining of Imp (again).

But we meet the Princess in a yellow dress.

Her father, the king, sends mice to pick up Little Nemo and the Princess who are out on a children’s adventure. There is nothing too scary, and Nemo knows he is dreaming. He wants a lullaby to keep him asleep on his journey. He and the Princess are sweet little friends.

Then, on the facing page, Jonathan Tune and Eleanor Doughty (on colors) tell a very different story of a different kind of dream. It’s the same Princess in her yellow dress, but she and Nemo are grown up now and their friendship has fallen on hard times.They are on opposite sides of a war. And through a moment’s haste, a misunderstanding, she is shot.

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Little Nemo doesn’t know he’s dreaming, and all the fantastic air ships his mind created turn to dust when he wakes up grieving over the Princess.

In David Petersen’s page, the dream whimsy is contained and defined in clean inking and neat colors.The fantasy is safe for children.  The orderly, carefully described fur of the mice contrasts with the looser inks and water colors of Tune and Doughty’s page. In the war story, the underlying paper is nubbled, the pigment is washed and pooled. The shadows feel contaminating, hard to separate from the bright yellow of the Princess’s dress.

These pages make me want to write a series of novels about these two growing up together, growing hardened, growing apart. Like the Harry Potter novels, the tone would deepen and become more emotionally complex from book to book.

 

 

 

Little Nemo #6: Andrea Tsurumi

January 22, 2016

As soon as I got home from work, I took this daylight photograph of my houseguest Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream laid out on my kitchen table by the window. The way my journal goes with this page has given me outsized pleasure.

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Like the best dreams, Andrea Tsurumi makes the mundane surreal and the surreal mundane in her contribution to Locust Moon’s Winsor McCay tribute anthology. She takes a simple play on words and flips it into the most charming, distinctive, and weirdly classic page in the book so far. Two mammaried oddballs guide — or maybe shanghai — Nemo on this adventure in Slumbraland.

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We look down on the scene of the department store floor as these three figures wander through and cross paths with an array of breasted feminoids. Bras and department stores do stretch back just about to Winsor McCay’s time a century ago, making this scene both modern and vintage. Tsurumi also strikes a perfect vintage note with her matte pastels (pitched down a step) and her clean noodly lines. Her art reminds me of boomerang formica tabletops:

Tsurumi makes all the bras taupe and telegraphs “fun” by using squiggly lines instead of bright colors. This is how she keeps her whole page locked into a handful of carefully selected hues. The color scheme is distinctive, disciplined, and pleasing–the playful black lines neatly corral each flat shape. The page is full of uncluttered movement as a cheerful, anxiety-inducing tangle swallows up Nemo.

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Surrounding this little boy with breasts and bra jokes might seem daffily subversive but it’s also just what happens to little kids obliged to tag along after mothers and older sisters. It’s along the lines of the neighbor woman nursing her baby on the porch on a hot day — no big deal. This is classic childhood stuff, just the usual nibbling at the edges of the adult world that sometimes turns into a Fourth of July dunking booth. It’s a page that’s funny because it’s true, and funnier because a woman made it as a humorous shrug and a roll of the eyes. That authenticity also makes it laugh-out-loud funny when Nemo takes a peek under his nightshirt in the lower right, “waking-up” corner of Tsurumi’s page.

 

 

 

Little Nemo #5: Peter Hoey & Maria Hoey

(Reading Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream; Part Something of Many)

It’s important to have fun with objects, and I am having the most fun I’ve had since I bought a manual typewriter in 2012.

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Still Life with Giant Book
Today’s page is a crowd-pleaser, and I never miss a chance to be among a pleased crowd. The bull’s eye look of Peter Hoey & Maria Hoey’s page was already familiar to me because it shows up in a lot of marketing materials for the book. The dream story they tell is serviceable, but the real deal with this page is that it looks good at a glance. It goes down in a big glug. It’s eminently quaffable. Clean black lines. Thick white gutters. Creative paneling decisions that don’t get tangled. Dark teal dominates the page, with pops of muted red. Not too much is said (what a relief some days, huh?) and what is said is in big clear block letters.

I took a photo from above the page–and even on my phone, with crap lighting, the picture turned out crisp, clear, and legible. So much so that it didn’t seem sporting to include that picture! So here is this one instead.

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For scale: Evidence of my ongoing fascination with colorist Jordie Bellaire
In our next installment, we get excited about that business on the right by Andrea Tsurumi.

 

(Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream is a Winsor McCay tribute anthology by Locust Moon Press, which I am not affiliated with.)

 

Little Nemo #4: Jeremy A. Bastian

(In which I “review” a book with giant pages, page by page.)

Jeremy Bastian’s contribution to this Little Nemo project is in black and white and full of pleasing details in the wall paper and around the edges of the panels. It’s a few small things done lovingly. Bastian fleshes out the kernel of a dream–“there was a ship that was also a giant shoe… and I think the crew was insect pirates!”

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His lettering and word balloons are unassuming, and they go well with Nemo’s boyishness. Nemo isn’t so much boyish as he is kiddish. His curiousity, his exclamations, the way he tips over the lip of the bath tub and into this dream–everything right up to and including his rumpled “Yikes!” when he wakes up in the last panel–everything is endearing. Everything makes us feel a little tender toward him.

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If you think about it, you really only have the patience to hear the dreams of people you feel especially tender toward, like little children. “Any dreams last night?” my mom will ask my nieces at the breakfast table. Her eyebrows will be lofted in receptive encouragement and if one of them nods yes, she will start to beam. Not so for me; I have grown too far past that cherubic phase. If I started to tell my mom how I had to haul a casio keyboard up a slippery ladder to find a skein of yarn, her eyes would glaze over faster than you could say “rapid-eye movement.”

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I can think of one exception to the general rule that dream-reporting is a children’s game. My friend Gina’s entire family has a way with dreams and the telling of them. She recently texted me in the middle of the workday: “Uncle Ferd had a dream that he tried to google ‘mayonnaise juice’ on the piano.”

 

(For this series, I’m reading the anthology Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream by Locust Moon Press. It’s a tribute to the newspaper comic strip by Winsor McCay, which came out over one hundred years ago and is still blowing people’s minds)

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.

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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.”

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“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.

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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.

 

 

 

Little Nemo #1: Roger Petersen

January 2, 2016

My first glance at Roger Petersen’s page made me realize that going in blind might have been a mistake. Too late now!

On this page, Nemo’s dream friends Flip and Imp are looking for him high and low in a domed library that’s on the moon… where it’s snowing.

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The storyline is clever, I eventually see. The art goes straight to the “Love it — LOVE IT” part of my brain, stroking all those primitive receptors that are the reason people put bold black and white designs in babies’ cribs.

But what I really see and notice and think about first is the fact that Imp is  a gross caricature of a dark-skinned “Native” and says things like “UG UN RUGGLE!” instead of speaking English.

I know, I know–different time, 105 years ago, part and parcel with the culture Winsor McCay lived in. And I registered pretty quickly that Peterson wrote “after McCay” after his own name in the lower right hand corner, as if to say, “not my idea.”

Still, it’s like when you’re meeting your boyfriend’s dad for the first time, and your boyfriend’s talked him up a lot, and you really want to like him — and then the guy almost immediately tells a racist joke.

So my thoughts caromed around the inside of my head in the uncomfortable pinball path of a white person of 2016 who doesn’t want to be a racist asshole. And who thinks the Washington Redskins are way overdue for a name change.

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I mentally sputtered, “Well-what-hey-now-I-I-I would REALLY like to know what Ron Wimberly thinks about this!” Then I remembered that Ron Wimberly has a page coming up in the book, so maybe I will find out what he thinks then. I calmed down a little.

All the while, Petersen’s art went to work on another part of my brain. The page is magical–the moonscape, the falling snow, the mystery of the domed building among the craters, the contrast of white and black, the thick lines, the convex and concave lines of the building, the bindings of rows and rows of books that are each are drawn a little differently from others but repeat along a curve in an almost-pattern.

And then there is Imp, a beautiful assemblage of shapes and lines. He bounces and scampers from panel to panel, always compositionally important and always drawing the eye. I just don’t want to see him this way again. Maybe this sensitivity is just part of what separates McCay-adoring journeyman cartoonists from a McCay-agnostic comicbook-eater like me.

 

Writing about Comics, with Slightly Regimented Glee

2014 flowed, and 2015 ebbed. Good riddance, 2015. I want 2016 to count, and so I’m gearing up and probably over-doing my plans. But I don’t care.

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“I’m starting my coffee, if anybody cares…”

2014 was the year I got back into comics and started blogging about them for fun. I pretty quickly stumbled into a weekly writing gig with the Best Shots team at Newsarama. I got to work with David Pepose, who is a great editor. I got in the groove of deadlines. I learned a lot about reviewing. I learned a lot about comics. I got over my fear of stating a strong opinion, or looking stupid. It was sometimes stressful, but it was increasingly just fun and manageable. It had a rhythm that fit into the other rhythms of my life.

THEN WHAT HAPPENED IS, near the end of 2014, I attracted a little more notice. I got invited to write meatier, more featurey stuff at Paste’s new comics section, and I was also encouraged the be the main comics-opining lady for a new Seattle feminist magazine, STACKEDD.

Around March, of 2015, I officially flamed out of all my writing gigs. The increased pressure and the writing deadlines that were a month out for more complex pieces (as opposed to the tighter weekly schedule for simple reviews) did not mix well with what was a very busy, often-stressful year at my day job (which is sometimes more like a day career). I WASHED UP. I was so stressed. I knew it was mostly in my head and that I did not need to actually have that level of deadline anxiety and shyness about editors and writing dread. But I just did. So I stopped writing altogether and felt dumb and embarassed.

A few months ago, I came moseying back in the form of “I’ll just say whatever I feel like on my own blog that has 21 followers” and that has felt good. I remembered why I started writing about comics in the first place: Because they are fun, they are bite-sized, I love visual art, and every issue is a perfect little “story school” lesson unit.

My weakest point in my general writing life — be it technical writing or long-form non-fiction or short stories — has always been structure and the rise and fall of energy. I’ve been better at the fabric of the thing and not so good at making a dress out of it. In a way that says, “Hey don’t take yourself so seriously!” and also, “Have some eye candy!”, comics gave me a way to digest some basic concepts about story-telling. I’m at the point of my long, stumbly, half-assed writing life, where I do not mind being remedial AT ALL. Just give me the make-up work and put me in summer school.

So in 2016, I am not aspiring to go back to a wider readership or get back in with publications. But I do want to write about comics a lot. On my official list of three writing goals for 2016, I wrote “Write about comics with gleeful abandon.” But because I need structure too, I am giving myself a schedule to write about some of the books I’ve been buying but not reading– the ones that look really cool and I haven’t gotten around to. And I’ll write about them in pieces at a regular pace. Copra, by Michel Fiffe, starting back at #1. Brandon Graham’s Island, which I clued into late, and which I hope will persist (you had me at Farel Dalrymple). Matt Huynh’s webcomic The Boat. Locust Moon’s Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream, which is broken up into nice little units to chomp through systematically.

I’ll try to keep an eye on stuff as it comes out too, to the extent that I am having fun and not getting over-whelmed. To the extent that I can keep everything at the nice clip of essay-writing drills. I want to get better at writing something decent pretty quickly. Then hold that pace steady and try to ratchet up the quality through repeated practice.

My other two writing goals have to do with 1) a big ambitious book project that I shelved a few years ago and have always itched to return to, and 2) nerding out further and better on technical/business writing and editing (relates to day job as well as schemes for transitioning to the self-employed writing life).

That is all. Happy New Year.