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Comic Strip: Little Nemo
Little Nemo (originally Little Nemo in Slumberland, much later renamed for copyright reasons to In the Land of Wonderful Dreams), was a weekly Sunday comic strip written by Winsor McCay, which ran from 1905 to 1914. It featured the strange and surreal dreams of a young boy named Nemo. Strips often ended with Nemo waking up from terrifying situations his dreams had led him to.

In 1911 McCay produced a short animated film entitled Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and his Moving Comics, also known simply as Little Nemo, featuring characters from Little Nemo comic strip. The film is considered an early landmark in animation and was admitted to the National Film Registry.

Years and years of Sunday strips, now in the Public Domain in the US, can be found in The Comic Strips Library.

A Live-Adaptation was made in 1984, titled Nemo or Dream One, and a feature-length Animated Adaptation, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, was produced in the late Eighties. A video game adaptation, Little Nemo: The Dream Master, was released by Capcom for the NES in 1990, as well as an arcade game named simply Nemo. Comic book publisher IDW Publishing and writer Eric Shanower began a sequel series, Return to Slumberland, in which a modern child named Nemo is invited to Slumberland to become the princess's new playmate.

The music video for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Runnin' Down a Dream" is an homage to the strips, as is the Genesis song "Scenes from a Night's Dream". Its 107th anniversary was celebrated by a very lengthy Google Doodle on Google's site.

Has nothing to do with Finding Nemo, in case you were wondering.


Little Nemo provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Nemo's parents threaten to spank him for things that he does in his sleep that he really has no control over, like falling out of bed, yelling in his sleep, and even kicking the covers off his bed. Pretty standard parenting for 1905.
  • All Just a Dream
  • April Fools' Day
  • Banister Slide: Nemo and Flip slide down a very long and winding banister in one issue, which ends up going in zig-zags, wavy bumps, and cork screws. It was later also done in the movie.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: There are a surprising amount of nude scenes, but both Nemo and Princess Camille lack anything resembling genitals or nipples.
  • Bedmate Reveal: There is one installment of the comic strip where Nemo wakes up, thinking his dream has ended, and to his suprise sees Flip in bed next to him, meaning he's still dreaming.
  • Black Bead Eyes
  • Captured by Cannibals: During the Candy Island story arch this happens to Nemo and Flip.
  • Catapult Nightmare: At the end of about every strip.
  • Christmas Episode: There was one just about every year.
  • Cigar Chomper: Flip
  • Comic Book Time: Although it's also heavily Lampshaded at times, with characters complaining they feel like they've waited "for weeks" for something to happen.
  • Cyclic Trope: McKay enjoyed a publishing environment that allowed an extravagant art style that subsequent generations of sequential artists would be unable to approach until Web Comics became practical.
  • Dreadful Musician:
  • Dream Land
  • Dream Within a Dream
  • The Edwardian Era
  • Every Episode Ending: Nemo either falling out of bed or being woken up at the end of each comic.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The early strips concern the king's subjects' various attempts to simply get Nemo to the flipping palace. This always goes awry.
  • Frame Break: Among its many fourth-wall gags.
  • Floorboard Failure: In Little Nemo in Slumberland, Nemo and Flip are served a new kind of breakfast food that gives them a Balloon Belly. The chairs start to collapse underneath their weight, and then the floors, leading to the entire house being demolished.
  • For the Evulz: Pretty much Flip's entire motivating force, at first.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Happened to Flip and Nemo once when a goat ate their clothes.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • In one comic there's a giant named Boob. Hearing someone say "Wait until I see that Boob!" can make modern readers chuckle.
    • "I want to stop and rest a bit, I'm fagged out from running!"
  • Heel-Face Turn: Flip does one in the comic, starting out as the main antagonist by waking Nemo up from his dream to eventually becoming Nemo's friend. Though he was never really "evil" per se, but more of a nuisance. Much later in the comic, he went back to being a nuisance again. Being a nuisance was only the beginning for Flip. His vindictiveness was what caused the real damage. Whenever the people of Slumberland took measures to keep him from ruining their events by being a major nuisance, he retaliated, often ending up wreaking havoc on parts of Slumberland (or having his uncle melt them). At one point, he has his uncle melt down the whole city. Oddly enough, this same tendency is what also what starts his Heel-Face Turn as he saves the group after they're captured by pirates.
  • I Hit You, You Hit The Ground: The (possible) Trope Maker.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The natives of Candy Island try to eat Nemo and his friends.
  • The Imp: The Imp (yeah, that is his name too).
  • I Wish It Were Real: In one comic Nemo wakes up and wishes Flip were real.
  • Kid Hero
  • Made a Slave: When Flip captures Imp and introduces him to Nemo, he essentially says "He belongs to me now." There's a reason Imp doesn't show up in the animated movie.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: In an installment where Nemo is taking a bath and ends up swimming through the sea, climbing onto an iceberg and getting chased by a polar bear. Of course, we don't actually ''see'' anything, but he is naked the entire time.
  • Medium Awareness:
    • In one installment, Nemo, Flip and Imp are so hungry that they begin tearing off lines from their comic panels and knocking down letters from the Little Nemo in Slumberland logo, eating them. Nemo worries that this will upset the artist but Flip maintains that it will teach the person who draws them a lesson. When Flip asks what's in the letters they're eating Nemo replies that it's printer's ink as far as he knows.
    • And something similar happens in this comic, where eventually the entire panel collapses on itself and Nemo complains to the artist.
  • Nightmare Sequence
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Though Flip's being a cigar-chomping Trickster is somewhat ironic, he's far from a Monster Clown.
  • Ominous Owl: It is averted by the owl in the comics from 1910, when Nemo is touring Earth in his dreams.
  • Pajama Clad Hero: The title character.
  • Pig Latin: The Professor (who is not to be confused with Professor Genius from the movie) speaks only in Pig Latin.
  • Police Are Useless: McCay lampshades it.
  • Post Modernism: With all of the lampshading, Medium Awareness, Rage Against the Author and the like, it's probably the Ur Example. Very much ahead of its time.
  • Public Domain Character
  • Puppy Love: Nemo and the Princess, in-universe.
  • Recurring Dreams: The entire comic. Suffice to say, if your dreams keep continuing every night as an ongoing story arc, it's time to see a shrink.
  • Remember the New Guy: The Professor mainly debuted this way because he was first introduced in a popular Little Nemo stage show based on the comics, which also makes him a Canon Immigrant.
  • Save the Villain: When Flip was still the antagonist Nemo did save him a few times, most notably when King Morpheus' firing squad was about ready to execute Flip, and Nemo ran in front of him to stop it. Of course Flip was less than grateful, because in the next installment he convinces his Uncle Dawn to bring forth the sun and ruin the King's Thanksgiving dinner by waking everyone up.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Show, Don't Tell: Boy howdy, in the early strips this is averted right into Viewers Are Morons territory. The running captions explain every little detail that you can either plainly see or can infer with only minimal brain-power.
  • Sky Pirates: They attack the royal airship in one installment.
  • Spiritual Successor: Before Nemo', McCay wrote a strip called Dream of the Rarebit Fiend'', which was about random people having surreal dreams thanks to eating Welsh rarebit (a kind of cheese stew).
  • Sunday Strip
  • Taken for Granite: Nemo is turned into a statue for a week to hide him from Flip in one issue. And the next week Flip gets turned into a statue.
  • There Are No Therapists: You'd think that Nemo's parents would try to get some sort of help for him, seeing as he appears to wake up screaming from nightmares every night, or at least stop feeding him the food they keep blaming it on.
  • The Trickster: Flip
  • The Unintelligible: Imp
  • Vague Age: We never find out just how old Flip is. He's sometimes referred to as a child, and he's certainly the same height as Nemo, though he has a receding hairline and smokes cigars. At one point he claims to be 23 years old but even that is debatable.
  • Walk the Plank: In an issue where Nemo, Flip and the princess are abducted by pirates.


Tropes featured in the 1911 film:

  • Animated Adaptation: It might be the very first one.
  • The Bet: McKay is challenged by his friends to make a four-thousand frame animated cartoon, within one month. He does so. The animated portion takes up the final quarter of the 10-minute film.
  • Deranged Animation: The animation is quite surreal, with characters stretching and shrinking, materializing out of random lines, etc. McKay is demonstrating potential of the art form.
  • Line Boil: Present, as one might expect for a hand-drawn cartoon.
  • Medium Awareness: One of the characters in the animated short draws another character, which he then interacts with.
  • Smoky Gentlemen's Club: Where McKay and his friends are hanging out when they make the bet, and where he shows them the finished cartoon.
  • Splash of Color: The cartoon characters are hand-colored.
  • Undercrank: Employed when McKay is sketching out his Little Nemo characters for his friends.


Kokos Earth ControlThe 50 Greatest CartoonsLonesome Ghosts
Little AudreyPublic Domain AnimationGertie the Dinosaur
Little LuluNewspaper ComicsLittle Orphan Annie
BécassineThe Edwardian EraKrazy Kat
The TerminatorNational Film RegistryMabel's Blunder
White Fawns DevotionEarly FilmsThe Cameraman's Revenge

alternative title(s): Little Nemo In Slumberland
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