Locust Moon is a Philadelphia, PA based small press, art gallery and comics shop. Locust Moon has published several highly regarded anthologies, including Once Upon a Time Machine, which features the work of Brandon Graham, Ryan Ottley, Farel Dalrymple, Jill Thompson and a number of other cartoonists and creators.
In late June, Locust Moon announced a Kickstarter for their upcoming Little Nemo: Deam Another Dream anthology. Little Nemo was a groundbreaking and influential comic strip by Winsor McCay, a cartoonist and early pioneer of animated film. The anthology features the work of over a hundred different comics creators, including Paul Pope, Mike Allred, Peter Bagge, Yuko Shimizu, J.G. Jones, J.H Williams III, Craig Thompson, and Jill Thompson (a full list of creators whose work appears in the anthology can be found on their Kickstarter page.) With 20 days left, the Kickstarter campaign has already received pledges for169% of their initial $50,000 goal.
I spoke to Josh O'Neill, co-owner of Locust Moon via email about the project, Winsor McCay's legacy and more.
Christian Hoffer: Why did you decide to make an anthology honoring Winsor McCay's work?
Josh O'Neill: Winsor McCay is my favorite cartoonist of all time, and at our comic shop in Philly he's a huge figure. We talk about his work all the time, and the two Sunday Press editions of his Little Nemo strips are well-worn and well-loved to say the least. He's this giant, outsized inspiration for cartoonists and illustrators and animators, but the average person -- even the average comic book fan -- doesn't even know who he is.
We wanted to shine a light back at him, refracted through the visions of the incredibly diverse, brilliant artists in the book. And we knew that the awe-inspiring intimidation factor of McCay would bring out the best in the people we were lucky enough to work with.
Hoffer: What sort of influence do you think Little Nemo has had on comics?
O'Neill: He was such a singular mind and original storyteller that he's incredibly difficult to imitate -- so his influence, while gigantic, isn't as obvious as some of the other forefathers of the medium, like Toth or Eisner, who spawned armies of imitators and clones. You can point to a lot of ground he broke formally -- the metafictional interaction with the fourth wall, the richness of his art nouveau style, the continuing sagas that were not yet common in newspaper strips of the time, his hallucinatory head-trip illustrations -- but ultimately his genius was less something that could be copied than something to aspire to. He had this huge broadsheet page to work with, and he treated it as a canvas of unlimited potential. There was nothing you couldn't do on a page, and every page was its own experiment, its own adventure. It was a clarion call for how to approach this medium, and it's been sounding in people's ears ever since.
Hoffer: How do you feel Little Nemo and McCay's other work is still relevant in today's comic landscape?
O'Neill: McCay's work is timeless. It has an old-fashioned charm, but it's as riveting today as it was on the day it was made. It's been 120 years since Little Nemo began, and the medium is still playing catch-up.
The joyous, frightening fantasy in his work, too, is timeless. He was pointing at something very deep and human, something that doesn't change in a century or two.
Hoffer: Have you been in touch with McCay's family at all while working on this project?
O'Neill: No, but not for lack of trying. The McCay family is very private, and doesn't seem to be active as any kind of estate for Winsor. We've reached out through intermediaries, and they're aware of the project. We'll certainly be making sure they get a copy!
Hoffer: How long have you been working on this project? How many hours a week have you been putting into making sure the anthology sees publication?
O'Neill: A little over two years. In terms of hours per week, I don't even know how to begin calculating. It's been incredibly time consuming, and for the last six months this project has had our spellbound attention. But more important than the hours than Andrew and Chris and myself have put in are the thousands upon thousands of hours that our amazing army of 140+ creators put in to making the actual artwork happen. This is their book -- we were just the curators and midwives lucky enough to usher this amazing creature into the world.
Hoffer: How did you recruit/contact various creators to contribute artwork for the campaign?
O'Neill: One by one -- at conventions, through friends, online. One of the most exciting things about the project was how many of our favorite creators turned us on to people we weren't aware of -- Gabriel Ba introduced us to Gustavo Duarte, P. Craig Russell to Galen Showman -- we had this incredible braintrust constantly recommending new contributors and giving their input on one another's work. A lot of brilliant people approached us, or submitted strips blind. By the end of the process, wonderful Nemos seemed to be flying at us every which way. Depending on how you look at it, comics is either a really small industry or a really big family. Either way word gets around.
Hoffer: Were there any requirements that creators had to follow when contributing to the anthology?
O'Neill: Only that you stick, more or less, with the Nemo format -- it's a dream, and the dreamer awakens in the last panel. Though a few strips broke that rule, and were simply to good not to include!
Hoffer: Do you have a favorite page or submission in the anthology?
O'Neill: So many! It's like ranking your children. If we forget the word "favorite," I can say that David Mack, J.G. Jones, John Cassaday and Farel Dalrymple all did strips that spoke to me deeply on a personal level.
Hoffer: Are there any particular creators that you were surprised or excited about receiving a contribution from?
O'Neill: God, if you had told us a couple years ago that we would soon be working on a book with Paul Pope, Michael Allred, J.H, Williams, Dean Haspiel, Charles Vess, et-fucking-cetera, I would have thought you were high. We're surprised and excited by the insanity of this whole project, honestly. Again, on a personal level, getting pages from Peter Bagge and Gerhard were a big deal for me -- CEREBUS and HATE were incredibly formative books in my love of this medium.
Hoffer: What sort of challenges have you faced while editing the anthology and preparing it for publication?
O'Neill: The usual logistical challenge of herding 140 geniuses and getting them all to do the same thing at the same time. A lot of challenges in how to format the files so they all print well and read the way they should. Questions about layout and design. A lot of people dropping out and signing on at the last moments. Deadlines getting pushed back over and over. But, considering the scale and beauty of this project, it honestly went much more smoothly than we had any right to expect. Which, again, is a tribute to the contributors.
Hoffer: What will the Kickstarter funds be used for?
O'Neill: The Kickstarter funds will be used to pay for printing and shipping of the book. We set our goal at $50,000 because we calculated that as the bare minimum amount of money we would have had to raise to make this project happen -- it's not nearly enough to cover all our expenses, or even just to pay the printing bill. If we do end up making enough to cover expenses (we haven't yet) then the rest will reimburse us for the budget we put into making the book. Once all costs are covered, any other amount raised goes into a profit share with the contributors.
Hoffer: What do you plan on doing with the original artwork after the book has been published?
O'Neill: We're planning a gallery show at the Society of Illustrators featuring a number of original pages in February 2015 -- we're looking into the possibility of making that into a traveling show!
Hoffer: Outside of the Kickstarter campaign, will there be any way to purchase a book once it's been published?
O'Neill: Starting in October, we'll have limited bookplate editions available for sale online and at comic conventions. We'll have a small batch of advance editions for sale at SPX in September. We're planning a large-scale release in comic shops and book stores in the Spring.
Hoffer: With the success of this Kickstarter campaign, do you plan on organizing any more anthologies?
O'Neill: We're currently hard at work on a sequel to our ONCE UPON A TIME MACHINE collection for Dark Horse, and we continue to put out our periodical comics magazine QUARTER MOON, which is anthology format. Honestly, we're kind of addicted to this anthology thing. It's just such a rush to see all these brilliantly diverse voices in one place, and such a pleasure to be able to work with so many people you admire. So without peering too far into the crystal ball, I think you can realistically expect many more anthologies from Locust Moon.
In order, the images that appear in this article were drawn by: Jim Rugg, Winsor McCay, Peter Bagge, Dave Chisholm, Gerhard, Roger Langridge and Joe Quinones. The Kickstarter for the Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream anthology can be found here. Locust Moon's website can be found here. Additional information about McCay can be found here. If you have the opportunity, be sure to visit the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum in Columbus, OH, which has a large collection of Winsor McCay original art, including a number of Little Nemo strips and a frame from McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur animated film.