Off-topic: Masonic sub-texts in Little Nemo


When I class a post on this blog as ‘off-topic’ I do so with caution, as it’s probably far too early to dismiss anything as being ‘off-topic’. Jeet Heer, a Comics Journal forum user sent me back to an earlier post of mine about Will Alsop and Winsor McCay to point out something that I’d most definitely missed.

Yes, Gray and McCay were both Masons. There is a subtle masonic joke woven into the famous “Little Nemo” page with the walking bed. The bed stumbles against a church steeple, causing Nemo to fall back into waking life: the idea being, as per Masonic doctrine, that organized religion is a stumbling block to the imagination and freedom.

There is a fair bit of Masonic themes in Gray’s work as well: the orientalism of many of Daddy Warbuck’s aids (Punjab, Wun Wey, the Asp) who form a brotherhood to protect innocence and goodness (Annie). Warbucks and company are an international fraternal order, held together by a common decency that trancends culture: the masonic ideal in a nutshell.

Or consider the figure of Mr. Am — a jovial diety in the Annie world. He looks like Santa Claus and dresses like an arabian sultan; he’s lived forever and testifies to the unchanging verities of reality (and of human nature); he’s a benign and jovial god, but somewhat distant from human concerns. He’s illustrates the principal of deism.

You learn something new every day…


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    "no words no action" was an experiment in academic blogging. The blog recorded the progress of reading, research and investigations that lead to a Masters in Architecture dissertation at the University of Sheffield in autumn 2007. You can find out more about the author's interest in blogging here.

    To find out more about the thesis, download the original dissertation proposal (pdf format) from February 2007 or the semi-formal first chapter (pdf format) from April 2007.

    Further research projects are in the works, and their dependence on human interaction and networking suggests more blogging will be inevitable when the time comes.


    At the time that this blog was created, James Benedict Brown was a fifth year Masters of Architecture student at the University of Sheffield. James' personal blog is here.

    James graduated in 2008 and now lives and works in Glasgow.


    This project was supervised by Renata Tyszczuk at the University of Sheffield


    If you want to correct me on something, offer an opinion on a particular artist or building, or if you'd like to recommend someone or something to find out about, please feel free to leave a comment. Just click on 'Comments' under the headline of the relevant post...


    Click here to browse James' bookshelf, and to purchase books being used in this project.


    I've managed to miss almost half a dozen compelling conferences around the world so far this year, simply because I have no (more) money to travel and no time to escape my studies in Strasbourg and Sheffield. However, if I had a magic plane ticket and plenty of time, here's my selection of essential conferences to attend. Hopefully I'll be there for more of them next year... click here for the diary (updated every time I miss another one).

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