Gregory talks Beyond Wonderland

Last year, writer Raven Gregory put a modern day twist on Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland stories in Zenescope’s “Return to Wonderland.” The book followed Alice Liddle’s daughter Calie on her journey to the same twisted world her mother had famously visited before her. Gregory followed up the project with “Tales from Wonderland,” a series of three one-shots that chronicled the origins of the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, and Alice, before Wonderland left its stamp on them. Now, Calie’s journey continues in “Beyond Wonderland,” and CBR News caught up with Gregory to get the on the six-issue miniseries, the first two parts of which are on sale now.

During her first visit to Wonderland, Calie Liddle made a startling discovery: Wonderland is the source of all madness and insanity in the real world. What’s more, her mother Alice’s gradual descent into madness can be traced back to the time the elder Liddle’s spent in that twisted dimension. Come “Beyond Wonderland,” young Calie has lost everything.

“Her mother, Alice, committed suicide in a vain attempt at saving her daughter from her own fate,” Gregory told CBR. “Her adulterous father was murdered by her brother, Johnny,” after which Calie sacrificed Johnny to the looking glass mirror before she and her boyfriend Brandon set out for New York City. “Along the way, she discovers she is pregnant, and that a piece of Wonderland may have indeed escape out into the real world.”

Months after returning from the realm of madness known as Wonderland, a jaded and bitter Calie does her best to eke out some semblance of a normal life in the city that never sleeps. “But she soon realizes that things in her brand new life are going to get really bad, really fast,” Gregory teased. “Something from the realm of insanity has found its way out and Calie knows that she could very well be the only one who has a chance to send it back.”

Gregory said that his Wonderland stories have been, and continue to be, directly influenced by the original novels, “Alice’s Adventures Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” but, he added, “It didn't take long for the story to venture off into new and uncharted territories. The story has really become a creature all of its own with its own Lovecraft-like mythology.”

And while Gregory foresees a number of spin-offs and one-shots in the series’ future, he promised that Zenescope’s Wonderland saga would not go on forever. “We have a definite end in mind for the series and everything, in one way or another, is leading us there.”

Artist Rich Bonk was originally slated to pencil “Beyond Wonderland,” but a bout with personal issues forced the artist to withdraw from the project. “We needed to find a replacement artist fast and as luck would have it, I thought of Dan Leister,” Gregory said. Gregory was familiar with Leister’s work on books like “The Sire,” and had met the artist years earlier through “The Sire” writer Mike Dolce. Gregory had wanted to jam with Leister ever since that fateful meeting, but their schedules didn’t sync up until “Beyond Wonderland.”

Gregory characterized his collaboration with Leister as one of the highlights of his career. “Not only can he nail the action, but he has slowly become a master at nailing those quiet emotional moments that are at the heart of every great story,” Gregory said. “He's really grown as an artist and brings such energy to everything he does.”

The writer was also brimming over with praise for colorist Nei Ruffino. “She’s such an amazing talent,” Gregory said. “She brings so much to the table in finding just the right mood to convey the scene in such a way that blows my mind each and every time I see it. I can't think of another person I'd rather have on colors than her.

“We all spend hours chatting on the phone about ideas of what we can put in the book, different techniques we can try, always trying to push the envelope to get the best possible story we can,” Gregory continued. “And through working together, we have become really good friends. And really, what more can you ask for in this business?”

Zenescope has snagged some of the industry’s leading artists to provide guest covers for “Beyond Wonderland.” “Two of my favorite artists ever did us the honor of doing the covers for issue one: Dave Finch and J. Scott Campbell,” Gregory said. Upcoming issues will feature guest covers by Mike Deodato, Jr. and Joe Benitez, among others. “Most of these guys I've met while running the convention circuit over the years and have been nothing but supportive of me and my books and the fact that they would take the time out to do these amazing covers for an indie book really means the world to me.”

“Beyond Wonderland” is not the only project on Raven Gregory’s horizon. He’s contributing a story to BOOM! Studios; “Cthulhu Tales” #10 and a two-part Red Sonja story coming up in Dynamite Entertainment’s “Savage Tales.” “I also co-wrote Zenescope's first ‘Giant Size Grimm Fairy Tales’ with [Zenescope President] Joe Brusha, as well the upcoming ‘Grimm Fairy Tales Annual 2008’ with [Editor in Chief/VP] Ralph Tedesco and Mike Kavolda (The Piper). ‘The Waking,’ my second creator-owned series, is currently in production and should be coming out early next year. And for fans of ‘The Gift,’ the maxi trade edition collecting the entire series should be out towards the end of the year.”

“Beyond Wonderland” #1 and #2 are available now from Zenescope Entertainment.

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