I’m a fan of newspaper comics, although these days I seem to enjoy them more for ironic reasons such as the snark at Comics Curmudgeon. My childhood seemed to be a last golden age for comics with the likes of The Far Side, Bloom County, and Calvin and Hobbes (I think even Garfield was funny back then). But starting during my teenage days I also gained appreciation for older comics from long before I was born. Back in the early 20th century newspapers ruled the media world, and comics were given full page treatment full of great artistry, quirkiness, and subversive humor. Granted many of them make little sense today without knowledge of then current events much less the dialects of the times. The major exception is George Herriman’s Krazy Kat whose humor is timeless.
Last year when I visited Milwaukee I was pleased to be there as the Masters of American Comics exhibition was on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum. There I discovered another classic comic, Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend by Winsor McCay. More famous for the children’s comic Little Nemo in Slumberland, McCay’s Rarebit Fiend was a comic for adults with surreal visions and intelligent humor. The punchline was always the same, with the protagonist of the strip waking up and blaming the bad dreams on eating Welsh Rarebit (one of my favorite pub foods). Along the way were visually stunning and hillarious depictions of these wild dreams. The strip is said to have Masonic references as well. The strips are collected in a new book, which would make a great gift (especially if you’re shopping for your favorite blogger).
McCay was also an innovator in animation with Gertie the Dinosaur being one of the earliest animated films.
He also made several films based on the Rarebit Fiend:
Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)
The Pet (1921)
The Flying House (1921)
Bug Vaudeville (1921)
This Friday Silly is partially inspired by this post on MetaFilter: The Moving Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend.
I’m hungry for some cheese now (even though it’s almost bedtime).