Nibsy meets His Majesty. Artist: George McManus.

NIBSY THE NEWSBOY IN FUNNY FAIRYLAYD

Original medium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: The New York World
First Appeared: 1906
Creator: George McManus
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Fantasy was popular in the first dozen or so years of 20th century American comics. Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland undoubtedly sparked the trend, but not all representatives of the genre …

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… were direct imitations of McCay's Sunday page, e.g., Mr. Twee Deedle and The Explorigator. Some, however, were, an early example being Nibsy the Newsboy in Funny Fairyland.

Nibsy was also an example of a great cartoonist in the beginning days of comics, doing a variety of short-lived features early in his career before striking it rich with the creation he's best known for. Other examples include George Herriman's Major Ozone, which he did years before Krazy Kat; and McCay's own Little Sammy Sneeze. In this case, the great cartoonist is George McManus, who is remembered mostly for Bringing Up Father. Other pre-Jiggs McManus work includes Panhandle Pete, Let George Do It and The Newlyweds.

Like Nemo, Nibsy was an ordinary mortal exploring a magical realm, where he regularly hobnobbed with royalty. The means of his transportation differed. In the opening episode (May 20, 1906), he was going about his regular business of hawking copies of The Funny Side — the Sunday section of Joseph Pulitzer's New York World in which Nibsy himself appeared — when a fairy came along and took him there. Later, he'd simply be walking along and find himself there, or appear there some other way. On at least one occasion, the king and some of his hangers-on visited Nibsy on Earth.

Usually, the king wound up not too happy about having seen Nibsy. That's because the newsboy, being a normal American of minuscule economic means, took an unimpressed commoner's point of view toward aristocrats — and he had a sense of humor about expressing his somewhat hostile attitude, too. He'd show His Majesty the most painful and humiliating aspects of his homeland, bless/curse him with a dozen demanding babies, etc. The closest he came to being serious about their relationship was when he stole the royal treasury.

McManus had fun with Nibsy and his royal foil, then moved on. Its exact tenure isn't very well documented, but references to its continuation beyond 1906 are sparse. Today, it's simply an example of the cartoonist's early work — but is generally regarded as a particularly funny one.

— DDM

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Text ©2006-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art ©: Nibsy the Newsboy is in the public domain. This image has been modified. Modified version © Donald D. Markstein.