May 10, 1911 [Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and His Moving Comics]
[Once more the Editor apologizes for the above video's sound--this time, sound effects, more Hanna-Barbera than Hearst.]
McCay's comics never fail to make me stop and stare. They are at once tableaux and tumblings, carefully proportioned displays of figure and posture, pleasantly arched lines--combined with stately verticals and soothing horizontals. The overall effect is mesmerizing: It's a world I cannot stop gazing upon, and one I am vaguely relieved I do not have to live in, as recognizable as may be the hats and cars and bedposts of any of his Slumberlands.
Like all of his faithful, I am most attached to Little Nemo. A genuinely new approach to illustration--to art?--emerges in this Oz/Wonder-Never-land McCay has so conveniently supplied himself. Of course, McCay does not stand alone--but his drawings have a new quality, less earthbound even than John Tenniel or Maxfield Parrish. Like the former, he understands the gleefully upsetting effect of planting the ordinary in extraordinary situations. But like the latter, he posits that extraordinary in an imaginary landscape--and more: one whose physics refuse to behave, and whose geometry staggers under its blithe willingness to allow parallel lines to connect, for circles to shift into squares as soon as one's back is turned. In my typical fashion, I find myself attracted to aesthetically pleasing upheavals, opposites forced together in metaphysical contortions of logic.
It seems natural that McCay should make his way to the screen. We've already seen his rarebit fiend --but the fun there was in the attempt to propel us into his world via camera tricks. But now McCay comes forward--literally, as an actor in the piece--to labor over his thousands of comics (settling a bet, like Muybridge and Leland Stanford) and make one chase after another, frames in a film--hearkening back to the kineograph, but with something approaching the fluid frames of his newspaper comics. Here, our favorites are stretched and pulled, put through simple paces--eventually, perhaps prophetically, drawing one another into animation.
I'll admit the newspaper strip is more satisfying--but the filmed version portends much. One by one, it appears, the arts will tumble like Flip into cinema's inkwell--well, lens.
Posted by Paul J. Marasa at 2/29/2008 11:15:00 AM