Monday, July 28, 2008


"Meeting McCay" has quite a few posts under its belt now... So I thought I'd take a second, back up, and provide an overview of what we're doing here and where we hope to go.

Late last year a small group of Spring Lake residents met to discuss fellow Spring Laker, Winsor McCay, and the disturbing lack of recognition here in his hometown. We brainstormed fabulous ways to mark his time spent here, but quickly realized our first step was going to have to be Education. Before a town can applaud a man, they have to know who he is. And very few people in Spring Lake had ever heard of Winsor McCay. So we came up with five steps to reintroduce Spring Lake to its most famous unknown son.

Step One: Start a good collection of McCay resources at the Spring Lake District Library
And boy, they've done that. When we first started meeting, the library had maybe two books on McCay and one DVD. In just a year they've amassed a Super collection of resources. And they are prominently displayed in their own special area. I try to review many of these resources here on the site as they come in.

Step Two: Start this blog
This is the 60th entry so far. Hopefully "Meeting McCay" can be a one-stop-spot for anyone seeking information on McCay - his life, his art, and they many ways he's been honored over the years. And it's intended to be place (for anyone who is interested) to keep up-to-date on the progress we're making in Spring Lake MI to create a permanent, physical, tribute to the man and his legacy.

Step Three:
Launch "McCay Day"

The first McCay Day was held in Spring Lake last month, and it was a great success! (You can read about it in posts below...) We hope to make McCay Day an annual event. This last year was a learning experience, and we hope to make the event bigger, grander, and farther-reaching year by year.

Step Four: Post a Historical Marker
In less than a year, we've accomplished steps 1 through 3. Step four, a Marker, is our current focus. Right now there is Nothing physically acknowledging McCay's presence in Spring Lake. Not a plaque, not a sign, not a name on a bench. We'd like to get a big historical marker, with good biographical content, and place it near the location of his childhood home or school. We're looking at our choices, examining costs, and weighing all the options. This is a huge next step.

Step Five: A Permanent Physical Memorial
This is the ultimate goal. We've talked about lots of ways to pay tribute to McCay in his hometown. Here are a few of the many things we've discussed:
• Name a park after him
• Name a street after him
• Start a McCay Art Scholarship for local students
• Hold an annual Film Festival
• Sprinkle bronze Dinosaur Footprints around town with McCay content
• Start a collection of original McCay art
• Start a Tribute Gallery of art by other professionals inspired by McCay
• Build a Statue
All these are good ideas, and we hope to do as many of them as we can. But I think our hearts are set on the Statue most of all. A statue of McCay... or of Gertie... or of Little Nemo characters... or all of them mingled together. A statue to be placed either in an existing park, or a new park designed specifically for this. We're dreaming big.

Illustrator Aaron Zenz whipped up this concept drawing for us, and I think it's a good place to start. I won't repeat in this post what I've already said before, so you can read more about the statue ideas here. But that's what the Big Goal is. That's our Rarebit Dream. It'll be expensive, and take lots of planning and fund raising. But I think McCay deserves a monument Somewhere in the world. And why not here in his hometown?

So Reader, what do you make of all this? Is McCay and his work worthy of a physical Tribute? Feel free to throw your thoughts into the comments area...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2008 Winsor McCay Award Winners

One way that McCay's animation legacy is honored is the annual bestowing of ASIFA-Hollywood's Winsor McCay Award. It "stands as one of the highest honors given to an individual in the animation industry in recognition for career contributions to the art of animation." It has been given out since 1972 and recipients of the honor include people like Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, both Hanna & Barbera, and Hayao Miyazaki.

The 2008 Winsor McCay Award winners were announced last night at Comic Con. The three newest folks to join an amazing list of recipients are:

John Lasseter (Toy Story)

Nick Park (Wallace and Gromit)

and Mike Judge (King of the Hill)

For full information, check out the announcement here...

A Bed Likes to Get Out Once in a While

Here is what is probably the most famous of all of Winsor McCay's cartoons, published exactly 100 years ago today...

(Thanks goes out to the Comic Strip Library!)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Winsor McCay's first recorded picture

I've long known about Winsor McCay's childhood/schoolhouse drawing of the sinking ship... Well apparently the Tri-Cities Historical Museum has a copy!

I was looking through David Seibold's new book on the history of Grand Haven MI, In the Path of Destiny, and was amazed to see this included in the section about Winsor McCay:
"Spring Lake's Great fire of 1893 destroyed the school and all the records which might have revealed some of the genius of the budding artist. But perhaps all was not lost. On October 15, 1880 the ill-fated Goodrich steamship Alpena left Grand Haven bound for Chicago with 46 persons aboard. It was never seen again. The event stunned everyone in the Grand Haven Area. In 1880, at age 11, Winsor McCay made a chalk drawing on a slate of his impression of the Alpena as it was sinking on a story Lake Michigan. The teacher was so impressed with the rendering she had a photographer take a picture of it, who then sold copies. A postcard appeared at that time which showed the sinking of the Alpena and, presumably, was the photo of the Winsor McCay drawing. A copy is in the Museum files."
I've never seen this photo reprinted anywhere else before... What a great find! The photo dates from the right time and is certainly white chalk on black slate. This whole story is especially interesting when one considers McCay's later animated masterpiece which depicted the sinking of the Lusitania. Perhaps the creation of that film was spurred, in part, by the emotional connection to this first moment of artistic celebrity from his childhood...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Slumberland Titles!

It has always astounded me how someone with drafting skill like this:

...could fill dialog balloons like this:

Wha...? Clearly Winsor McCay was a master draftsman. And certainly the wonder of his comics is in the art, not the writing. But even though the the content of the dialog is inconsequential, still it seems he would have taken care with its visual presentation, yes? Perhaps the blight of his word balloons serves a purpose -- making the art all the more astounding by contrast?? Naw, there's no defense. They stink.

Anyway, it's not that he couldn't do lettering well. After all, he had a career as a poster designer for a while. And his title panels show exquisite lettering. So... to celebrate the fact that McCay COULD do excellent lettering when he put his mind to it, I've put together a collection - just a mere handful - of his gorgeous and varied title panels... Enjoy!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Winsor McCay Sketching

I found this photo a while ago... I thought I'd wait until today to post it since the date on the photo reads 7/17/08 -- of course that's 1908, a hundred years ago today. McCay is the fellow in the dapper hat. He's sketching his son Robert at an Actor's Benefit event.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Superman meets McCay

In 1998 Stuart Immonen created a series of Superman comics retelling origin stories the villains. The premise was that Lex Luthor was reading bedtime stories to his daughter, and Immonen illustrated them in the style of Winsor McCay's Slumberland comics!

You can see a whole slew of them here!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Michelangelo's Pieta

In addition to introducing Spring Lake citizens to Winsor McCay, we also hope to use this blog to introduce its visitors to Spring Lake. Those of you with a taste for art history will be especially interested to discover that Spring Lake, Michigan is home to one of only three exact replicas of Michelangelo's Pieta.

In 1964 Michelangelo's original Pieta was put on public display at the World Fair. Millions of people who otherwise would have never gotten the chance to see this masterpiece now could enjoy it firsthand. However, just in case some unforeseen disaster should befall, before moving the statue from Rome, a mold was made directly from the original marble and three replicas were cast.

The first casting resides at the Vatican, the second is in Iowa, and the third is right here in Spring Lake Michigan. It resides outside St. Mary's, right up the street from Spring Lake District Library and the former sites of Winsor McCay's childhood school and home. The statue boasts exact reproduction of every minute detail from Michelangelo's original. You can read more about this treasure at St. Mary's website, here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

At The Mountains Of Slumberland

Question -- What do you get when you cross H.P. Lovecraft,
Winsor McCay, and a bunch of mimes?
Answer -- One of the oddest thing you'll ever lay eyes on:
"Necropolis 3: At The Mountains Of Slumberland"
If you dare, check it out here...