Reviews: Little Nemo

(newspaper comic review) Surreal, creative, and very original... while it lasted

I've found Little Nemo very interesting ever since I first heard about it, and I eventually bought a collection of the 1905-1914 strips. Having read all of them, I can afford to review the comic throughout a decade's worth of strips.

It starts out on a very high note. Each strip, originally self-contained, was about a surreal trip Nemo takes through the land of dreams as things ranging from the slightly surreal, to the truly trippy, occur. Many of them end in disaster - either comedic or disturbing. Some of the dreams contain things such as a forest of giant fragile mushrooms that falls apart at the slightest touch. Others have events such as Nemo meeting a man who owns a filing cabinet full of "years" (think like the numbers in The Phantom Tollbooth) - as Nemo picks one up, he changes to the appropriate age. Until he picks up a "year" nearly a century later, and becomes a blind old man.

Each strip ends with Nemo waking up, either being startled by what happened, or having fallen out of bed and being yelled at for making noise.

It didn't take long for the comic to turn to story arcs. The first was an attempt to get Nemo to visit the princess of Slumberland, while Flip the Clown, an enemy, shows up and tries to thwart these attempts by waking him up. Eventually, Flip makes a Heel Face Turn, and he and the princess both join Nemo as friends, going on a series of adventures together. Some of their adventures include visiting a jungle that exists on the back of a giant animal, taking a trek to visit Santa Claus, exploring a miniature city as giants, and more. Another character, the "jungle imp", a racist caricature of an African boy, joins them (and is portrayed rather neutrally).

Over time, though, the comic begins to lose its creative edge. One arc has Nemo visiting famous cities around Earth and learning facts about them. Who wants to read that? The next arc takes place in a city on the moon, so all is good for a while, until much later on when the comic switches tones again.

The comic changes its name to In the Land of Wonderful Dreams, and Flip the Clown pulls a Face Heel Turn and starts causing comic chaos. The surrealism is gone, and it becomes just another series of comic antics. What a sad way to go.

Still, when this comic had it, it was fantastic and unique. Worth checking out.