Early Works, Vol. 1
by Winsor McCay
(Checker, 2003)

It is more difficult to blaze a trail than to follow one, and Winsor McCay was a trailblazer.

Winsor McCay: Early Works, the first volume in a collection of McCay's work as a comic strip pioneer, reprints four of his strips: Tales of the Jungle Imps (1903), Little Sammy Sneeze (1904), Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend (1905) and A Pilgrim's Progress (1905).

McCay's groundbreaking bird's-eye views, unusual perspectives, outstanding composition and inking all added to the popularity of his incredible artwork. His background as an architect and the dreamlike quality in each of his comic strips seeded by his amazing imagination place him firmly as a giant in the pantheon of comics artists and writers. Because they were created at the turn of the 20th century, the visual history in his work adds an unintentional joy to these four marvelous comic strips.

McCay's dialogue wasn't chopped liver either, but for those looking for character development and plot, prepare to be slightly disappointed. McCay's work focused on ideas, not story. McCay was a genius, but not a faultless one.

Each of these strips was built around one idea that was reworked over and over. Because you won't be reading one strip a week as originally published, this redundancy of idea can become irritating.

Tales of the Jungle Imps was created for children and recounts how animals received unique characteristics like a tiger's stripes. Little Sammy Sneeze is about a boy with a huge sneeze and the chaos it creates. Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend reveals the bizarre dreams brought about by eating fried cheese, and A Pilgrim's Progress focuses on a man's attempt to rid himself of "dull care."

Early Works is highly recommended for comic strip fans or students of the history of the most popular art form in the world.

- Rambles
written by Michael Vance
published 22 May 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.