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The Complete Dream of the Rarebit Fiend – Book Review

Dream of the Rarebit Fiend book cover art

Everyone knows Winsor McCay. He created Little Nemo in Slumberland. He created Gertie the Dinosaur. He also created Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, a comic strip about what happens when you dream after eating a bit too much of something (sometimes Welsh rarebit) before bed. Wonderfully drawn and decidedly whacked, it ran from 1904 to 1913.

Now, who is Dr. Ulrich Merkl? Well, we’ll tell you that in a moment. But first, let’s tell you what Dr. Merkl has done: he’s self-published The Complete Dream of the Rarebit Fiend. As you can tell from the dimensions in the picture there, it’s a foot tall and seventeen inches across, to give the comic strips reprinted within enough room to be reproduced at their original size. The book weighs about ten pounds. In other words, it’s only slightly sturdier than a Roman soldier’s shield and could probably be used to stop small caliber bullets.

Dream of the Rarebit Fiend

Inside are not just 369 Fiend strips, but illustrations out the wazoo (a number of them in color), info on McCay and the strip itself (including a wealth of background information and context) and more. You also get a DVD containing all 821 episodes of the strip that are known to have been published. So the book and the DVD together do truly make this a complete collection. But wait, not to sound like Ron Popeil, but there’s more: the DVD also comes with a catalog of the episode, more info on them, the complete text of the book which you can search through, and extant animated bits of the film “Gertie on Tour” by McCay. The book also explains how, as the author explains, “McCay introduced the entire ‘giant monster attacks metropolitan city’ genre, predating King Kong and Godzilla.” McCay, the original kaiju meister? Amazing.

Now, here’s the best part: the book looks freaking amazing. The strips are all reproduced quite nicely and the front pages with all the lead-in information are amazingly laid out. We’ve got a serious contender for the 2007 Best Graphic Novel/Collection Chazzie here, folks.

Dream of the Rarebit Fiend

The book costs US$114 and is available from Dr. Merkl’s website. Only 1000 copies were printed. And people who would be interested in this range from art historians to fans of McCay to fans of vintage comic strips to just anybody who likes to drool over fine art books.

Who is Dr. Ulrich Merkl? Well, he self-published this monstrosity. Which makes him a maniac. As a fellow self-published author (who manages to do so with books that are much easier to carry than yours), I salute you, sir.

See more about the book with more images (and how to buy) on the book’s website.