Windsor McCay

By | Tuesday, August 09, 2011 Leave a Comment
About five or ten years ago, I got a book publishing all of Windsor McCay's Little Nemo strips. I'd seen examples of McCay's work here and there, but I though it high time that I really took a look at larger, consecutive chunk of his work. The book runs 432 pages, and it took me quite a while to read through the whole thing cover to cover. I don't think they were the best reproductions, but they were more than readable and it was wonderful to see so much of his work like that.

Of course, I was aware that McCay did more than Little Nemo. His Gertie the Dinosaur animations are relatively well-known, after all, and I've seen snippets of his Sammy Sneeze comics. I was aware that some of these works had been republished relatively recently, but there's just so much comics stuff out there that I want to read and absorb, I never took the time to really track any of it down.

Until last night, when Dad gave me some copies of Windsor McCay: Early Works. These are his various political cartoons and illustrations and what-not that generally didn't fall under a single title. Dad gave me three books (volumes 2, 5 and 6) and apologized that he couldn't find 1, 3 and 4. I flipped through them and was amazed at not only the gorgeous artwork, but the sheer volume. Page after page after page of cartoons and illustrations, all of which ON TOP OF the Little Nemo stuff I knew he'd also been working on.

After I thanked Dad and vocalized how impressed I was with McCay, he then gave me volumes 7, 8 and 9. I didn't even know there were another three volumes! All of them just as filled with just as gorgeous work.



McCay did a ton of early animation work. Over a decade before Steamboat Willie, McCay was not only doing his "Gertie" shorts, but also cartoons of Little Nemo and Rarebit Fiend and just about anything else that struck his fancy. And he did all the animations himself! As in, every cell of animation was drawn by McCay!


He took his animations on tour and performed them as a sort of Vaudville act, interacting with the animations that were projected onto a drawing board.

I'm increasingly astounded at not only his mastery of the craft, but the sheer volume of material he produced. As near as I can tell, he must have worked 30 hours a day, 10 days a week from 1903 through 1927! To say that he was an impressive artist, I think, is vast understatement.

Let me leave you with How A Mosquito Operates from 1912. (Don't forget, too, that McCay drew every frame of the animation himself and he maintained at least three comic strips simultaneously during this time!)
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