Winsor McCay's classic Sunday comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland, turns 100 years old this month, but the turn-of-the-century strip couldn't look better in a new, lavishly produced book that collects 110 of McCay's magnificently illustrated, full-color Sunday strips, completely restored and reproduced in their original dimensions.
This oversized hardcover edition, Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays! , will be published by Sunday Press Books on October 15, the 100th anniversary of the strip's debut in the New York Herald. The project reproduces McCay's strip at its original full broadsheet newspaper size (16 x 22 inches) in full color.
The book is published and edited by Peter Maresca, a comics collector, digital entrepreneur and founder of Sunday Press, who has worked tirelessly to re-create the color and print quality of Little Nemo's original newspaper publication. The price is a hefty $120, but the book will still likely be very attractive to comics fans as well as libraries. The initial printing is roughly 5,000 copies.
Hailed as one of the most beautifully illustrated and intricately designed comics strips ever produced, Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland was first published in 1905. The strip chronicles the nightly dreams of Nemo, a little New York City boy summoned to slumberland by the king of dreams. In the last panel of every strip, Nemo wakes up, interrupting his latest dream adventure.
Maresca is a comics collector who originally became obsessed with the McCay strip after he purchased a large collection of newspaper comics in the 1970s. "Nemo just struck me," says Maresca. "This was in the 1970s and because the strip was so strange and psychedelic, I figured McCay must have been on drugs. But McCay was just a drawing genius and his comics collected his childhood dreams."
Over the years, Maresca tried to get publishers interested in a full-size reprint of the broadsheet strip but all were reluctant. "I knew the 100th anniversary was coming," he says, "so in 2004 I decided to do it myself." With the assistance of Art Spiegelman and comics collector and author Bill Blackbeard, Maresca was able to convince French designer Philippe Ghielmetti to design the book. Maresca selected 115 comics from his own collection. He scanned the material and did corrections and restoration work himself—removing yellowing, stains and tears, but leaving in original color bleeds and misregistrations—spending an average of five to six hours, sometimes more, restoring each strip.
"I wanted to duplicate how the comics looked when they were new," says Maresca. "You can get a sense of what the color was like. This was before radio and TV. It was the first time that we had a mass culture product that was read by everyone at the same time on Sunday morning."
Maresca declined to say how much the book cost to publish. "I may take a shower," says Maresca, "but it won't be a bath."