Many years before inventing Jiggs and Maggie in “Bringing Up Father,” George McManus offered this mild sendup of his friend Winsor McCay’s wildly popular “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” “Nibsy the Newsboy in Funny Fairyland” ran in Pulitzer’s New York World for just two months in 1906, but it remains one of the best attempts to mimic McCay’s dreamscapes. T
This works so well because McManus upends most of McCay’s conventions. While Nemo is a privileged middle-class boy with doting parents who serves mainly as spectator, Nibsy is an Irish street urchin who peddles papers to survive and wise-cracks and schemes his way through the fantasy sequences. McCay’s Slumberland royalty are majestic, aloof, empowered. McManus’s are foppish, inept, centers of the comic sequences. And yet McManus reverses all of Nemo’s conventions while replicating McCay’s precise, Deco line work and lush architectures. It is a great example of how self aware the comic strip and its artists could be this early in their history.