Little Sammy Sneeze: Winsor McCay's anarchic precurson to Little Nemo in Slumberland, now a beautiful, giant book

Little Sammy Sneeze was the initial comic strip by surrealist comics pioneer Winsor McCay, best known for his masterwork "Little Nemo in Slumberland." McKay's strips were gigantic watercolors, taking up huge swathes of space in the newspapers of the 1900s and 1910s (Nemo ran full pages, while Sammy was a half-page). If you've seen these seminal comics reproduced in little comics histories, you haven't seen them at all — it's not until you get a chance to browse them at their full size that you really understand what made these such classics of the field.

That's just what you get with Sunday Press Books's Little Sammy Sneeze: Complete Color Sunday Comics 1904-1905, a gigantic (11"x16") book with a lay-flat binding that reproduces all the Sammy Sneeze strips at full size, interleaved with McCay's other experimental early works, like The Woozlebeasts (Dr Seuss-esque poetry captions for drawings of fantastical beasties) and Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo (comics whose illustrations can be read upside-down or right side up, so that eight panels become sixteen).

But the main attraction are the full color Sammy Sneezes, which all follow the same format: for the first six panels, supercilious grownups conduct a ridiculous or dull conversation or activity while Sammy, a little well-dressed boy, looks on, making pre-sneeze sound-effects ("Um, Eee, Aaa, Aah, Awww, Kah"). In the seventh panel, Sammy sneezes, blowing everything to hell and back. And in the concluding panel, someone kicks Sammy in the pants and shoves him out of the frame.

The strips have the elegant formality of a sonnet, and within each one, there's a little morality play or lesson about the world, and an obsessively elaborated scene of sneezular carnage for comic relief. They're as addictive as popcorn and far more anarchic than Sammy's descendants from Dennis the Menace to Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes.

Like the Little Nemo book, the Sammy Sneeze book is a work of art — beautifully made, and with a little bonus in the form of a Sammy Sneeze kleenex-box cover for proud display.

Little Sammy Sneeze

See also: Gigantic Little Nemo book does justice to the loveliest comic ever