Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Winsor McCay's Dream of a Rarebit Fiend: Nightmares on the Funny Pages

When you think of comic strips, a few different genres come to mind--fantasy/adventure (Prince Valiant), superhero (Spider-Man), and humor (Calvin and Hobbes). What doesn't come to mind is horror. You don't see Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers stalking their way across the funny pages on Sunday morning (though I sure wish you did).

But back in the early, early days of the comic strip, there was one particular series in which Freddy Krueger would have felt right at home. A full year before he launched his famous Little Nemo in Slumberland, cartoonist Winsor McCay debuted Dream of the Rarebit Fiend. The basic conceit of the two stories are the same--after a brief but fantastic adventure, the star of the strip awakens to find that it was all a dream--but whereas Nemo's adventures were full of flights of fancy and whimsy in a magical dreamscape, the characters in Rarebit (they were different every time) suffer disturbing dreams or nightmares, brought on by consuming Welsh rarebit, a dish of melted cheese poured over toast.

These nightmares often explored the darker side of the character's mind, exposing their fears and innermost secrets in increasingly surreal and bizarre ways. If Nemo had grown up full of self-doubt and neuroses, this is probably what his Slumberland would have become.

Check out a small sampling below.


DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND
An amateur boxer destroys any and all comers...

DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND
An alcoholic finds himself devoured by an enormous python...

DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND
A man finds himself in hell, tortured in oceans of melted cheese...

DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND
A man watches his own funeral, and is seemingly buried alive...

DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND
A man's heater transforms into a demon and pursues him...

And the nightmares just go on and on and on...

Winsor McCay's work has fallen into the public domain, so they can be viewed for free online HERE.  If you like what you see, however, and have a pile of scratch lying around, you may also want to check THIS out, which collects all nine years worth of the strips into what seems to be a gorgeous hardcover.

Watch out for that cheese, hipsters!
--J/Metro

1 comment:

  1. If McKay was publishing today, he'd probably find himself boycotted for slandering rarebit. :)

    ReplyDelete

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