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The Imp (character)

The Imp is a character in Winsor McCay's comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland. The Imp is a little boy from a tribe of cannibals, and accompanies Nemo and their friend Flip on various surreal adventures. The Imp, occasionally called "Impie", usually communicates in a nonsense language ("Ib ig de nuddle!"). In later strips, beginning in 1912, Impie sometimes speaks in an outlandish patois composed of snippets of several languages ("I bin sprecken bully good Amercano!"). Flip often teases the Imp, and the Imp takes a certain delight in seeing misfortune befall Flip.

The Imp is drawn as an extreme racial caricature, with features resembling minstrel show makeup. The Imp's portrayal is one of the more problematic aspects of the strip for modern readers. Defenders point out that McCay was engaging in the sort of racial humor common in his time and that there is no intentional cruelty to McCay's humor. The other characters generally treat the Imp as an equal in their adventures, and, unlike much of the racial humor of the period, he is not singled out for special humiliation in the storylines: Nemo and Flip suffer as many comic misfortunes and pratfalls as does Impie.


McCay's first major comic strip series was Tales of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle. Forty-three installments were published from January to November 1903, in the Cincinnati Enquirer. The strip was based on poems by George Randolph Chester, then a reporter and editor at the Enquirer. The stories concerned jungle creatures and the ways that they adapted to a hostile world, with individual titles such as How the Elephant Got His Trunk and How the Ostrich Got So Tall. In appearance, there is no difference between the imps in this strip and the character in Little Nemo.

Other media

Unlike the four other major characters of the Little Nemo comic strip, the Imp did not make an appearance in the anime adaptation Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland or the Nintendo adaptation of that game Little Nemo: The Dream Master.

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