Comic Development – Winsor McCay

I decided to do a comic based on Winsor McCay because he has an interesting life and is a part of animation history, he also had a really cool cartoon and animation style. The brief says that the comic must be influenced by the subject artists own style, so I have decided to do a black and white comic in McCays style, although if i have time and it looks right i will do a colour version as well, because McCays work was often but not always colourful, and he is remembered for these large vibrant comics in newspaper broadsheets, so it would be fitting to include a colour version. Anyway the comic is going to be, as the brief asks, about his rise and demise. Although his demise involves a few words about not being able to really reach his potential as his employers wanted him to be more available for the newspapers and not go gallivanting off doing his sideshow act. The last line being something like “who knows how famous and popular McCay could have been had he explored that possibility more instead of choosing to settle down and live his life in New York.” Something similar to that anyway, there are many reasons he will have chosen to stay in New York, but had he travelled with his act who knows where he would have ended up, certainly a Europe trip was proposed and rejected by his employers. So really its anyone’s guess just how big McCays act could have gotten and whether that would have influenced how many animations he ended up making. He was unhappy with commercialisation of the art-form, which is a big part of probably why he didn’t pursue that side of things, which is sad in a way.

Anyway the comic will start with a backstory up until McCay moves to NewYork. It will feature a little about each important cartoon strip; sammy sneeze, rarebit fiend and little nemo. Then the major animations: little Nemo, mosquito and Gertie, especially the interaction with Gertie the dinosaurus will be focused on in the animation. Maybe the final frame will be McCay riding on the back of Gertie like he does in his animation.


I decided to find some reference images for the comic and i thought i would share them here. These were helpful as reference when drawing ghe characters and their clothing and also the buildings style, etc. They are images from the early 1900’s (1905 mostly i think) from New York (mostly?). Also i found some stuff that was prevalent to McCay like adverts and also vaudeville stuff, because that where he performed and will be mentioned in the comic.

To make sure that i am able to represent McCays style appropriately i have looked at a lot of McCay cartoons, its really easy to just read more and more, there’s just so much available. I am going to first of all be thinking about how things will look in black and white and then moving to colour after. I want to therefore make sure that the black and white will look stunning and good on its own without colour.

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Classic early age animators/cartoonists – Winsor McCay

McCay1Winsor McCay, born Zenus Winsor McCay (McKay- his father changed this to McCay because C’s are obvs better than k’s, duh!) in Canada. His exact birth date seems to be up for debate, with birth records seemingly destroyed in his obituary in the New York Herald Tribune stated, “not even Mr. McCay knew his exact age.” His family moved to the USA and Winsor was raised in Michigan. Winsor began drawing at a very early age and when he was 13 he drew a picture of a shipwreck on the school blackboard which was photographed and copies were actually sold. He went to business school, as his family wanted him to have a proper job, but Winsor loved to draw and found work in Dime museums where he would draw customers portraits for 25c each, among other jobs. He got a taste for performing to an audience here and it never really went away, as he went on to perform on Vaudeville, which was a sort of variety show where musicians, dancers, singers, illusionists, comedians, animal acts, impersonators, clowns, jugglers, artists, short plays/scenes from plays, celebrities talkers, minstrels and movies. It was entertainment for everyone with a little bit of everything. It was said that his amazing ability to draw quickly and with great accuracy was able to draw crowds when he painted advertisements in public. Before vaudeville though he had various jobs and after starting a family and moving to Cincinnati in 1891 Winsor took a job as a cartoonist/reporter at the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, while doing freelance comics as well. Di.MuseumIn 1900 McCay took a job at The Cincinnati Enquirer, where he went on to become the head of the art department. In 1903 Winsor moved to New York to work for the New York Herald, doing illustrations and editorial cartoons. Winsor worked for the New York American and again for the New York Herald, he stayed in his Brooklyn home in New York until his death on July 26, 1934.


Comic strips 

January 21, 1904 – Mr. Goodenough – published in the Evening Telegram it was about a sedentary millionaire who would seek ways to become more active, with embarrassing results.

April, 1904 – Sister’s Little Sister’s Beau – McCay’s first strip with a child protagonist lasted one instalment.

May 1904 – Phurious Phinish of Phoolish Philipe’s Phunny Phrolics -appeared in the Herald ’​s Sunday supplement – his first color strip.



July 1904 – Little Sammy Sneeze – about a boy who’s sneeze built until he let it out with disastrous results, and was McCays first real success! It ran until December 1906.

September 1904 – Dream of a Rarebit Fiend – another success published in the Evening Telegram, it was aimed at an adult audience and he wrote it using an alias – Silas. The comics characters that appeared in the strip would have fantastic, sometimes terrifying dreams, only to wake up in the last panel, cursing the Welsh rarebit they had eaten the night before, which they blamed for bringing on the dream.

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January 1905 – The Story of Hungry Henrietta – the child protagonist visibly ages week by week, and eats compulsively in lieu of the love she craves from her parents.

June 1905 – A Pilgrim’s Progress by Mister Bunion – another “Silas” strip for the Evening Telegram, which ran until December 1910. Mr. Bunion spent each strip unsuccessfully scheming to rid himself of his suitcase, labelled “Dull Care”.


Oct 1905 – Little Nemo’s Adventures in Slumberland – Nemo, a little boy (based on McCay’s son Robert) had amazing and marvellous dreams which he woke from every week in the last frame. It was basically like dream of a rarebit fiend aimed at a more broad audience.

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While Winsor may not have been the first person to create animation, he was certainly one of the first, and it can be said that Gertie the dinosaur was the first character created just for the animation, making her the very first original animated character. Winsor is credited with being the first person to use key frames, but no matter what he considered it a gift to the community and the art-world, not something to be patented or anything. When it became commercialised Winsor was not happy about that at all, the art being turned into a business was something it seemed Winsor didn’t want to happen. He created ten animated films between 1911 and 1921. mccayworld

Winsor is quoted as saying “My goal is to make something that once you’ve seen it  you cannot ever have not seen it.”



Little Nemo – 1911

McCay drew almost 4000 separate drawings on rice paper, testing and re-testing each one so that the transition from one drawing to the next-each drawing representing one frame of film-would appear smooth and seamless, without jerks or shakiness. And each drawing featured his beautifully rendered line drawings of his characters.No previous animation had featured such strong graphics or care in presentation.

While there was not much of a story, it shows off animation well by morphing the character, which was its principle job, as a further attraction to McCays vaudeville act. Originally black and white Winsor went on to hand colour each frame individually afterwards as the films popularity grew.


How a mosquito operates – 1912

Based on a rarebit fiend comic, this had more of a story to it than the last animation, about a mosquito who goes looking for his next meal, which he finds in a man who he feeds on for the length of the animation. The mosquito is quite a character with hat and case, the grinding wheel it uses to sharpen its tip and McCays attention to how the creature moves is apparent in the animation and makes the character of the mosquito really come to life on the screen.


Gertie the dinosaur – February 1914


Gertie the Dinosaur debuted as part of McCay’s vaudeville act where he introduced Gertie as ‘the only dinosaur in captivity’, and commanded the animated beast with a whip. Gertie seemed to obey McCay, bowing to the audience, and eating a tree and a boulder, though she had a will of her own and sometimes rebelled. The finale shows McCay walk off-stage then reappear in animated form in the film, and had Gertie carry him away.

Winsor McCay cartoonist

A modified version was prefaced with a live-action sequence and replaced the interactive portions with intertitles, which meant it could be played in regular movie theaters, reaching a wider audience and undoubtedly increasing its popularity.

The sinking of the Lusitania – July 1918

McCays serious cartoon, about the infamous sinking of the Lusitania ship carrying civilians from america to Britain by the German military in May 1915.

This was the first film McCay did on transparent celluloid sheets, as had been recently patented by others. Using this technique, the same background painting could be used over and over. It still took almost 25,000 separate drawings, and over eight months of McCay’s time.

Later Animations

The Pet – One of the first monster movies where the monster storms through a cityscape. In fact Winsor used dinosaurs a lot as well, in cartoons and animation. It seems that Winsor may in fact be responsible for influencing popular culture far more than we previously thought!

McCay was a visionary artist who always wanted to push the envelope and try new things. He made some of the earliest animations and left a legacy of incredible comic strips behind him. He also drew many editorial cartoons and illustrations and certainly impacted on the art world in a big way. Unfortunately for Winsor he never really reached the fame and success he deserved, his employers stopped him from travelling and performing his acts more, they stifled his creativity at times and generally made his life difficult. So he was unable to achieve everything he wanted, although he still managed to do a lot. In the end McCay enjoyed a career where he was recognised as a talented artist and illustrator, and also a competent film-maker/animator who made some lovely films. All in all he was a name to be remembered and his art should be enjoyed by more people, his place in animation history is secured and deserved.

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References [accessed on 07/01/16]


Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The title is a reference to the ancient capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis. [1]

Persepolis was released in comic form from 2000 – 2003. There is also a Persepolis 2 now as well.

It was made into a feature length animated film in 2007 and stayed very loyal to the art style from the graphic novel. I really like the black and white style used for Persepolis, although its not colourful and it uses simple lines and inking (no shading really) i think it looks good and the style works well with the content. It won the Jury Prize at Cannes film festival and also was nominated for an academy award in 2007 for best animated feature.


(film poster)









[1] [accessed on 11/11/15]

Stuff to access: [accessed 12/11/15]

Classic early age Animators/cartoonists – Norman McLaren


Norman McLaren (11 April 1914 – 27 January 1987) was a Scottish born British/Canadian animator, director and producer known for his work for the national film board of Canada. He was a pioneer in a number of areas of animation and film-making, including hand-drawn animation, drawn-on-film animation, visual music, abstract film, pixilation and graphical sound.

These videos are great because they have interviews from people who worked with him and also his animations and films as well. (These videos feature Norman films that i post later in this blog post as well)

From the videos description:

A retrospective I curated about Norman McLaren for TAAFI (Toronto AnImation Arts Festival International) 2014. I have produced new interviews with NFB veterans Kaj Pindal, Gerald Potterton and Bob Verrall who knew and worked with McLaren. Their terrific insights help us know McLaren personally and gain a deeper appreciation for his films.
Jane Gutteridge of the NFB has helped us greatly with access to the classic films and the permission to have them online as part of the program. Be sure to visit the NFB’s Norman McLaren page:

I was reading about Norman (here: and decided to have a look at a few of the films he made that were mentioned.

Hell Unlimited (with Helen Biggar), an anti-war film, a melange of live action and drawn and object animation. This film, full of the heat of idealistic youth, became celebrated outside the amateur film community.

I thought that this film would be interesting as its really early in his life and it was about the wars, stuff that was affecting him and everyone at the time, so it was a film and a message that was important to him.

He also made three experimental films, Polychrome Phantasy, Colour Cocktail and Hand-painted Abstraction (with Stewart McAllister). The last two were first attempts to use film for abstract motion. Hand-painted Abstraction was also McLaren’s first essay into painting directly on the surface of the film stock.

From the video description:

by Norman McLaren — 1959

A color cocktail by Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambart, translating into moving patterns of color and light the moods of music written for a jazz ensemble by Eldon Rathburn. Inscribed and colored directly on film.

Production : National Film Board of Canada (

I kept reading and saw ‘electric vibra-drill’ so i had to check that out obviously.

In 1959, McLaren made three more etched films – the mostly figurative Short and Suite, the totally abstract Serenal on 16 mm film (with an electric vibra-drill) and Mail Early for Christmas.

From the video description:

by Norman McLaren — 1959

A gay fantasia of patterned sound in which Norman McLaren salutes the West Indies, painting the spirit of fiesta on film to the lively beat of an island tune by Trinidad’s Grand Curacaya Orchestra.

Production : National Film Board of Canada (

During the second half of the fifties, McLaren would also do three films with paper cut-outs. Rythmetic (with Evelyn Lambart) was an arithmetic game film for children; Le Merle, a folk song, featured the only white blackbird in creation losing and regaining his body parts on a travelling colour-pastel background; Wonderful World of Jack Parr (with Evelyn Lambart) were the titles and credits for a NBC television program.

Rythmetic – This is really satisfying for some reason..

Le Merle – I didn’t even realise that Le Merle was made with paper cut outs when i watched it earlier in that documentary. When i re-watched i noticed the background movement was beautiful in a way, really precisely done and added a ton to the animation as a whole while the bird while falling apart was still totally alive. I really like this song and the French singing as well! 🙂 

This video gives a lovely overview of Normans work:

Classic early age Animators/cartoonists – Oskar Fischinger


Oskar Wilhelm Fischinger – (22 June 1900 – 31 January 1967) was a German-American abstract animator, film-maker and painter, notable for creating abstract musical animation many decades before the appearance of computer graphics and music videos.

oskar fishy

This is just a silly illustration i did of Oskar because his last name sort of looks and sounds like fish finger!

Comic Styles

Adrian Tomine – artist/illustrator from Sacramento, California, USA. He is a fourth generation Japanese American, his parents divorced when he was two and they each spent part of their childhoods in Japanese internment camps during World War 2. He self published his comic Optic Nerve which he continues producing as a regular comic book series for Drawn & Quarterly, a publishing company based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It specialises in comics and graphic novels, and at least initially in underground and alternative comics, but has since expanded to include classic reprints and foreign works too.


Tomine has a contemporary style.




Vincent Mahé – Paris based illustrator who also goes by the name Mr Bidon. He illustrated the life and work of Le Corbusier, a prolific Swiss-born architect who pioneered modernist designs and was responsible for the city of Chandigarh in India; a massive urban planning development.

Vincent’s peach and mint green illustrations trace the architect’s life, from his beginnings in a small Swiss city near the French border studying at the local art school to his stint contributing to and later editing the magazineL’Espirit Nouveau with painter Amédée Ozenfant. They also capture everything in between designing his famous Villa Savoye and living out his days, largely naked, by the Mediterranean at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.



boop cvent