Never has a children’s book spun so many heads or blown so many minds as Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” – the immortal tale of a little girl who eats things to change size, gets in riddle-filled arguments with giant garden bugs and inadvertently starts up civil and political unrest in the titular land of fantastic and scary things. And while modern readers have carried one aspect or another from the book (from imagined drug themes to quotable Mad Hatterisms) into their daily lives, Dynamite Entertainment looks to get back to basics with “The Complete Alice In Wonderland” – their latest six-issue adaptation written by Leah Moore and John Reppion and drawn by Erica Awano.
“I think [readers] will be surprised by the length of some of the scenes, and by the scenes they might not have seen at all in other versions,” Moore told CBR. “We have tried to include, where possible, as much as we can of each interaction between Alice and the characters in Wonderland. This means their long conversations are more than just the catch phrases which people immediately think of when they try to remember ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ We have preserved the strange argumentative atmosphere of Wonderland too, instead of smoothing off the rough edges and making it all friendlier, we have left the awkward bits, the bits where it seems to be a bit too crazy, or a bit creepy, because they give Wonderland its distinct flavour. We have left all that good stuff in.”
Kicking off this November, “The Complete Alice” features a first issue that includes a storybook-themed die-cut cover by John Cassaday, a novel concept even for the publisher known for its special and variant covers. “I think it was Dynamite’s Juan Collado who came up with the idea,” explained Reppion. “It’s a great concept, and the cover for #1 looks really, really good! I think it adds a bit of intrigue – makes you want to peek inside and see the rest. It’s the perfect wrapper for the story.”
Reppion went on to explain that the story starts in issue #1 covering “‘Down the Rabbit-Hole’ (chapter 1 of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’) to ‘The Pig and the Pepper’ (chapter 6). There’s so much to get in that we’ve had to be quite arbitrary with how much space we allow ourselves per chapter (as with ‘The Complete Dracula’), but we do have a bit of wiggle room here and there. The original story is so well paced that we didn’t want to mess with things anyway. The issue ends with the discovery of the March Hare’s cottage and Alice wishing she’d gone to see the Hatter instead. Naturally, this means that #2 opens with probably the most iconic scene from Wonderland: the Mad Tea-Party.”
However, because there are many iconic scenes readers feel they know back to front, the prevalence of so many previous Alice adaptations that jammed in scenes from Carroll’s other work like “Through The Looking Glass” and “The Jabberwocky” may have mucked up the average fans view of the original novel. “Just as with Dracula and Holmes and even Doctor Who, the Alice stories are things that seem to be omnipresent – they’re kind of in your blood,” said Reppion. “I don’t clearly remember ever reading or being read either of the Alice book,s but of course I was familiar with them. Disney’s fantastic 1951 Alice in Wonderland cartoon was almost certainly my first exposure to the world of Wonderland. The film is still probably most people’s idea of a definitive adaptation, but, brilliant as it is, it’s actually a kind of mash-up of Carroll’s two books. I was certainly less familiar with ‘Through the Looking Glass,’ which is a bit stranger and more complicated than ‘Wonderland.'”
Luckily, in the case of this adaptation, Moore brought the goods in the form of a beloved copy of the original text along with its classic illustrations. “The book we have been working with for the first two Issues is one I have had for about twenty years or more,” she explained. “I think visually my brain is half full of the Disney images and half full of John Tenniel’s original illustrations. It’s hard to know when we are laying out the pages and drawing out all the shots whether I am subconsciously stealing the scenes or shots from the Disney version or one of the other others I’ve seen over the years. I hope it will end up with something of each version in it, and obviously I hope it’s the good bits.”
To help define a new, yet classic style, Dynamite brought in Awano, who has a background in both western illustration techniques and manga. “We threw in our own personal favourites, John Tenniel and Arthur Rackham, as reference for her, and the end result is a wonderful dreamy but incredibly crisp world,” said Moore. “Erica’s layouts are better than most people’s pencils, and her pencils are to be honest better than most finished pages of inked artwork that artists would be proud to have in their portfolios. I haven’t seen her work colored yet, but I imagine it will be a joy to color; it’s all I can do not to drag pages into Photoshop or printing it off and start colouring it in myself”
Overall, the pair of writers hope to bring the best elements of the entire book to the fore from Carroll’s sly mathematical messages to his ribald poetry. “There’s this idea that creating stories which kids will like but adults can also enjoy is quite a new thing – shows like ‘The Simpsons,’ etc – but Carroll’s Wonderland stories seem so simple on one level whilst managing to cram in so much information,” explained Reppion of the challenge to adapt. “Much of it might be dismissed as ‘silliness’ at first glance, but if you scratch the surface, there’s almost always something more there.
“A good example is when Alice, attempting to check that she is still herself, tries to remember her times tables “Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is-oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!” This seems like an amusing bit of nonsense at first until you learn that Alice’s calculations are actually correct: 4 X 5 = 12 in base 18!!! For all the cleverness, however, I think the poems and songs are some of my favourite parts of the stories. We made it a priority to try to give the verses as much space and attention as we possibly could. They’re often stories within stories with their own unique cast and plot twists and add a whole extra dimension to the world of Wonderland.”