Department, School, or Program

School of Professional and Continuing Studies

Degree Level



This article suggests that comic scholars and historians of American culture take a closer look at Winsor McCay’s A Pilgrim’s Progress by Mister Bunion. Known as the father of animation and the artistic virtuoso behind the classic children’s comic Little Nemo in Slumberland, McCay actually did most of his comic work for adults. Published in the daily The New York Evening Telegram, McCay’s adult works included Dream of the Rarebit Fiend (1904-1911), A Pilgrim’s Progress by Mr. Bunion (1905-1909) and Poor Jake (1909-1911). McCay signed his work for adults as Silas and all three explored themes rooted in a working-class experience. Pilgrim’s Progress is the most focused on these issues, and while it artistically pales in comparison to McCay’s more well-known creations, it contains all of the typical McCay cues: amusements, dime museum entertainers, animals, menacing transportation, and the occasional pratfall. Neither is the strip lacking in excitement and action: Mr. Bunion suffers thievery, explosions, a cyclone, gunfire and continual conks on the head by his valise of Dull Care. Most significantly, the strip includes social commentary by McCay, something not yet common in comics. A thorough reading of Pilgrim’s Progress offers a deeper understanding of early 20th century American culture and who Winsor McCay was as a person, as well as an artist.

Document Type

Post-print Article

Publication Date



This article was originally published in the International Journal of Comic Art, Vol.17, Issue 1, July 2015.