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Rarebit Fiend!

Posted by Joshua Glenn  November 11, 2007 08:00 AM

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I've produced another Brainiac audio slideshow, a print version of which appears in today's Ideas section. Click here to watch "Fiendishly Inspiring."

Fiendishly Inspiring

What is today's slideshow about? Not long ago, I blogged about "The Complete 'Dream of the Rarebit Fiend'," a gorgeous archival collection -- edited by independent scholar Ulrich Merkl -- of the wildly imaginative comic strip published in American newspapers from 1904 to 1911. "Rarebit Fiend" was written and drawn by Winsor McCay, who -- according to Merkl -- supplied many ideas later used in comic strips, animated cartoons, and movies. (Ed Park once located McCay's influence in a Cornell Woolrich novel and an Astaire/Rogers movie.) I found Merkl's case so convincing and amusing that I wanted to present it to Brainiac/Ideas readers myself. Now you know.

For example: The 1930 surrealist classic "L'Age d'Or," directed by Luis Buñuel, so outraged audiences that it was banned in France, and wasn't released in the United States until 1979. This is ironic, since the scenes in which a man kicks a dog, slaps a lady, beats a blind man, and throws a cleric out of the window bear a striking resemblance to a 1906 "Rarebit Fiend" episode in which a girl dreams that her father kicks a dog, slaps an elderly woman, beats a blind man, and throws his grandmother out of the window.

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Merkl also points to scenes in "King Kong," "Dumbo," "Mary Poppins," and Tim Burton's 2005 film version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Now that every screenwriter in Hollywood is on strike, Merkl’s book, which is only available at www.rarebit-fiend-book.com, might come in handy.

PS: In January 2006, Ideas published an essay by Jeet Heer on "Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend." Heer was writing about another fine collection of McCay's work, titled "Dreams and Nightmares" (Fantagraphics).

PPS: Did you miss the first Brainiac audio slideshow? Check out "The Iconography of Boing Boing."

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
contributors
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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