| 1905 — Git App! McCay’s very first dinosaur — drawn as ‘Silas’ with respect for the ‘paleontological facts…’ Dinosaur-jockey panel from Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, 4 March.|
by Huib van Opstal
Ulrich Merkl (b.1965) is a German historian, a tireless researcher, writer and designer who lives and works in eastern Germany near Chemnitz, in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland. This large-sized book in words and images is about much, much more than dinosaurs and comic strips alone. Many full-page newspaper pages are reproduced in it. It certainly is the book for McCay worshipers.
| 1910-11 — The lines of McCay (as Silas) in close-up.|
LINE DRAWN. Winsor McCay (1869-1934) did not have a particularly well-drawn line. Seen in close-up his lines were rarely singular and clearly drawn in hurried fashion. He manically scratched on in multifold-line mode. Outlines in his comic strips he often made thicker, giving panels and pages the look of lead framework in stained glass.
For the period around 1911 when he made his pioneering animated movies — films for which he made all in-between drawings himself, in pen on paper, thousands and thousands of them, for once inking in an even singular line to ensure the best registration — Merkl describes McCay’s working method as:
‘…Religiously adhering to a schedule of seventeen working hours a day, and drawing in lightning fashion…’
| 1910-11 — The Giant Hand. A regular nightmare in the Dream of the Rarebit Fiend series, 2 February 1913. A strip actually drawn 2 or 3 years earlier.|
A GIANT. What made McCay a real giant in the American comic strip field though, in the early 1900s, was his mastery of other vital aspects of the comic drawing trade. His mastery as a composer of giant newspaper strip designs in beaux arts styling, or his beautiful colouring and page layouts, or his giant editorial cartoons. His zany dream and nightmare subjects and various other absurdities make you nearly forget the plotless aspect of the larger part of his strips.
Merkl’s two visual McCay books (this is his second) automatically stimulate your viewing because McCay absorbed many influences from many sources, and Merkl attempts to find them all. Dinomania has a glossary, an index, a bibliography and notes, and is chockfull of annotation and inspiration. Bless you Ulrich, for your dandy finds, although the design and reproduction choices made in it gave me nightmares.
PICTURE RHYME. Here’s some lovely picture rhyme proof I found last month of the similarities between a real mining machine as seen by photographer Lewis Hine (b.1874), and a machine-like dinosaur as drawn by Winsor McCay.
| 1908 — PICTURE A. Mining machine photo by Lewis Hine who noted: ‘Machine used in Gary, West Virginia, mine that digs the coal and loads it on the car. With it 3 men can do the work of 50 in the old way. Yet they use boys to drive and trap.’|
| 1933 — PICTURE B. ‘Frightened By A Word — Technocracy,’ pagewide drawing by McCay, in San Francisco Examiner, Sunday 2 April, illustrating an Arthur Brisbane editorial.|
| 1905 — Disaster comic. Watching a circus parade, the eternally sneezing Little Sammy destroys half a New York city street. Large comic book cover.|
| 1934 — DINO. McCay’s long lost Dino strip, a cut out panel of original art.|
| 1928 — THE ŒUVRE. The cover of Frans Masereel’s L’Œuvre; Soixante Bois Gravés, a story in sixty woodcuts with nearly no text.|
| 1928 — THE ŒUVRE. Masereel’s story begins with a man who chisels away at a giant statue; a full-page woodcut.|
| 1928-33 — THE ŒUVRE vs KING KONG. Ulrich Merkl’s picture rhyme proof of the similarities between Masereel’s Belgian book L’Œuvre (1928) and the American monster movie King Kong (1933), produced by Merian C. Cooper.|
DINOMANIA is published by Fantagraphics Books, 674 numbered illustrations, 296 pages, 40 x 30 cm (16 x 11.75 inch), hardback with dust jacket, ISBN 978-1-60699-840-3.
See and read more of Ulrich Merkl’s Dinomania in his own article last year in Yesterday’s Papers HERE.
Read Huib van Opstal’s review ‘Dreams and Obsessions on Shelf and Screen’ of Ulrich Merkl’s first McCay book plus CD from 2006 — The complete Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (1904-1913) by Winsor McCay ‘Silas’ — HERE.
See the Dinomania book for:  on page 77,  on 162-163,  on 174,  on 158-159 and the flyleaves,  on 171,  on 4 and 16 and the dust jacket,    on 208. The pictures ,  and  are added here by Yesterday’s Papers.