I probably haven’t read enough McCay, but it seems to me that he used panels conventionally, with quite a lot written exposition, to tell a weird dream story that began and ended in the same way. McCay did use circular panels, though which seems odd.
This video focuses on how Krigstein altered the layout to convey a sense of pacing.
Upload a readable McCay that disproves this thesis? I’d love to find a Nemo archive that I could browse.