Classic Comic Review – “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” by Winsor McCay (1906)


#13 on 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die

Winsor McCay
Launch dateSeptember 10, 1904
End datec. 1925
Alternate name(s)The Dream of a Lobster FiendMidsummer Day DreamsIt Was Only a DreamRarebit Reveries
Publisher(s)New York Herald

Statistical information taken from


From Wikipedia, “”Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” is a newspaper comic strip by American cartoonist Winsor McCay, begun September 10, 1904. It was McCay’s second successful strip, after Little Sammy Sneeze secured him a position on the cartoon staff of the New York HeraldRarebit Fiend appeared in the Evening Telegram, a newspaper published by the Herald. For contractual reasons, McCay signed the strip with the pen name “Silas”.

The strip had no continuity or recurring characters, but a recurring theme: a character has a nightmare or other bizarre dream, usually after eating a Welsh rarebit—a cheese-on-toast dish. The character awakens in the closing panel and regrets having eaten the rarebit. The dreams often reveal unflattering sides of the dreamers’ psyches—their phobias, hypocrisies, discomforts, and dark fantasies. This was in great contrast to the colorful fantasy dreams in McCay’s signature strip Little Nemo, which he began in 1905. Whereas children were Nemo‘s target audience, McCay aimed Rarebit Fiend at adults.”

My Thoughts

“Rarebit Fiend” is a piece of comic history. Winsor Mccay, who also wrote, “Little Nemo,” created this comic bit series as a response to the prevalent comedic strips of the time. It was a variety of the “serious but not funny” type. 

Each comic has a recurring theme, eating of Welsh Rarebit before bed, and the resulting nightmare it caused. None of the comics have any continuity or recurring characters. Each of the nightmares it “often reveal unflattering sides of the dreamers’ psyches—their phobias, hypocrisies, discomforts, and dark fantasies. (“Dream of the Rarebit Fiend,” 2018) Also, I find it highly amusing the McCay used rarebit as the plot device in his comics. “The rarebit is a dish typically made with rich cheese thinned with ale and served melted on toast with cayenne and mustard mixed in. McCay used it despite its innocuousness—cultural theorist Scott Bukatman states rarebit was not the sort of dish a person would associate with having nightmares. (“Dream of the Rarebit Fiend,” 2018)”

This is a worthwhile comic to note in history due to the use of political or social topics as a means of dealing with daily life. The comic spanned most class types finding something dark and worthwhile to talk about in the pauper or the playboy. In McCay’s mind, we all dream and we all have a darker self that can be rendered into a dream. 

“Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2018,


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