"Little Nemo In Slumberland" (later retitled "Little Nemo in the Land of Wonderful Dreams")is the most enduring work of the prolific cartoonist Winsor McCay. The first title ran from October 15, 1905 – April 23, 1911, and the second from April 30, 1911 – July 26, 1914 in the Hearst newspaper syndicate. Both incarnations lacked dailies, spinning lengthy storylines through huge, detailed, full-colored sunday pages. The format of Little Nemo, a story contained within a dream, originated in McCay's earlier work, "Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend." It had no recurring characters, and instead chronicled the nightmares of assorted victims of the eponymous cheese sandwich. It was usually black-and-white, and dream manner tended to be slightly darker than that of its succesor, prompting several modern critics to call it a more grown-up version of Little Nemo.
The protagonist was a boy called, unsurprisingly, Little Nemo, who appeared to be about six years old. His name, which is the latin word for nothing, highlights the fact that he has no defining personality traits whatsoever, and instead functioned as a vehicle for complex plots and artwork. In the beggining of each story, a messenger from Slumberland, ruled by King Morpheus, would try to take him to aformentioned kingdom to be a playmate for the princess. Invariably, he would wake up and land in his bed just before a crucial moment in his journey, often due to the bumbling of the incompetent Doctor Pill, or the malevolent trickery of the cigar-chomping, green-faced Flip.
When Nemo finally arrived in Slumberland, he became fast friends with Flip, who provided a humorous contrast to the bland but good-hearted Nemo. Other character included the Candy Kid, a courtier made entirely out of candy, and Impy, one of the most offensive, if not mean-spirited, charicatures in comics. Later on in the strip's run, Nemo, Flip, Impy and occaisonaly the Princess journeyed farther afeild. They visited Mars in a proto-science-fiction scenario, toured the United States, magically renovated a slum, and, in one of the most visually innovative sequences in comics, lost themselves in Befuddle Hall. McCays's rich artwork and carefully plotted storylines have influenced artists as diverse as Alan Moore and Maurice Sendak.
McCay's work was also characterized by an inherent fragility of the fourth wall. Characters would on occasion break through panels, or eat the letters in the title, in the latter case consequently swelling like balloons. The idea that a character could be aware of a world outside its own was brought to the comic page through Nemo and his contemporary, another McCay creation, "Little Sammy Sneeze." Despite all its innovation, "Little Nemo In Slumberland" was brought to a premature end when Hearst forced McCay to abandon the comics page and concentrate on editorial cartoons, but the characters appeared again in animation. The cartoons were drawn entirely by McCay, whose Gertie the Dinosaur was one of the very earliest animated characters.