Thierry Smolderen, Jean-phillipe Bramanti (Illustrator), Titan Comics (OCTOBER) Hardcover $49.99 (232pp), 978-1-78586-885-6
Actual events from the life of famed cartoonist Winsor Mccay are combined with fantasy and science fiction elements to create a unique hybrid in the graphic novel Mccay.
Winsor Mccay is revered among fans of comic strips, perhaps best known for the elaborately drawn Little Nemo in Slumberland, which ran from 1905 to 1914 and again from 1924 to 1926, documenting a young boy’s nightly adventures in a fantastic dream world. A typical biography of Mccay might prove interesting enough, but—true to Mccay’s most famous creation—smolderen instead infuses Mccay with a surreal, dreamlike plot. The book features a fictional killer who escapes capture by traveling via the fourth dimension, as well as historical figures like Charles Hinton, a mathematician and science fiction writer; Harry Houdini; William Randolph Hearst; and, of course, Mccay.
Bramanti’s art is stunning, a combination of photo-quality realism—some panels use actual photographs as models—and a fuzzy, impressionistic influence that fits perfectly with the book’s conceit: reality, plus a bit more.
Collected and translated from the original French editions, the book includes a series of twenty-four “imagined covers,” as if the book had been published as a monthly comic. These are excellent, but according to Smolderen’s afterword, their inclusion required the sacrifice of the original historical background dossiers and details—a questionable decision, given the complex interplay of fact and fiction at work in Mccay.
An inspired book in every sense of the word, Mccay is likely to please the artist’s fans, even while challenging their expectations.