Zenescope Crew talks “Tales from Wonderland”

Having introduced readers to dark and modern interpretations of the stories of the Brothers Grimm and Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Zenescope is set to further flesh out its fairy tale universe with Tales From Wonderland, a three-issue prequel to last year’s hit Grimm Fairy Tales: Return To Wonderland. CBR News caught up with the writers of each issue to discover what new horrors will befall Alice Liddell and family.

Providing a bit of background on the original Grimm Fairy Tales: Return to Wonderland, Zenescope Executive Editor Raven Gregory explained, “The story takes place years after the original tale” by Lewis Carroll. “Alice is now an adult with a family of her own, but suffers from a mental illness that leaves her catatonic more time than most.”

“The Tales from Wonderland miniseries reveals more about the origins of the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, and Alice; how they came about to be transported to Wonderland, and the effect the realm has had on them to transform them into what they are today,” Gregory said. “The series will also reveal some hidden mysteries that will play a much larger role in the upcoming Beyond Wonderland series.”

The first prequel issue, featuring the Queen of Hearts, debuted with an exclusive edition at the New York Comic Con last weekend, with the direct market edition on sale now. Joe Brusha wrote the issue and told CBR that his Queen is a bit more intense than the one we know from fairy tales. “The Queen of Hearts is the self-imposed ruler of Wonderland. She's basically a tyrant and a psychopathic one at that. She's definitely not quite right in the head. She's similar to the character in Lewis Carrol's book but taken to the furthest extreme. And while she appears to be a beautiful, normal woman, she is really hiding a hideous deformity that was revealed in issue #5 of Return to Wonderland.”

Ralph Tedesco writes the second prequel issue, starring the Mad Hatter. “The Mad Hatter in Return is a your typical sociopathic rapist and murderer who preys on pretty much anybody who has the misfortune to run into him,” Tedesco said. “He literally wears different skins in order to lure potential victims into a false sense of security. When Calie first stumbles into his 'cozy' home he appears as this dapper, handsome and charming man but later that skin comes off and we see his true physical appearance which is quite disturbing.

“I thought Raven really nailed the hatter scenes in the serie, and the Mad Hatter prequel is hopefully going to surprise a lot of people,” Tedesco continued. “We're going to find out who this guy used to be before he ended up in Wonderland and also why he ended up there. Was he always a sick pup or did Wonderland do it to him or was it a little of both? It's definitely a disturbing story considering some of the themes I had to touch on but there's also some tongue-in-cheek humor woven in throughout parts of the issue...well, I hope the humor is apparent. Either way, it'll hopefully give fans the answers they crave about this really sick but fascinating character. It also is going to introduce the March Hare, who didn't get a chance to appear in the 'Return To Wonderland' series.”

Raven Gregory is the writer of the final prequel chapter, featuring Alice, and is also writing an origin of Wonderland backup story called “The Experiment” running through each issue of Tales from Wonderland. Taken as a whole, the prequels both lead in to Return to Wonderland and set up the forthcoming Beyond Wonderland.

What vital new insight will readers gain into Alice's extended adventures? “Much of Tales deals with the discovery of Wonderland and how that plays into where this whole story has been leading to all along,” Gregory said. “Alice is a key piece in what Wonderland's final goal in all this really is, but in truth, she is only one small piece of a much larger puzzle.”

Brusha teased some upcoming pieces of that puzzle. “We've only scratched the surface of where we want to go with Wonderland and Grimm Fairy Tales,” he said. “We have some other projects in development similar to those two and The Piper series that we released last month. All of these series are connected in terms of the mythology we're developing and all of them are tied together in a way that we haven't revealed yet.”

With the Wonderland books and the broader Grimm Fairy Tales universe, Zenescope’s creators spend a good amount of time reinventing classic stories in the publisher’s particular aesthetic. Asked about the appeal that reimagining well-known stories held for them, the writers expressed a desire to unearth the hidden, subversive elements inherent in the originals.

“I was a huge fan of the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales and the dark nature of those,” Tedesco said. “We all grew up on the Disney-fied versions but I always felt it would be fun to re-write them as dark and creepy and more in tune with the originals--but at the same time be able to add new twists and turns and surprises. It does get a little addictive to write this stuff and I'm just glad that readers have responded so well to what we're doing.”

Gregory agreed, “With eternal stories such as these there's always the sense of another, creepier, darker story lying just beneath the surface of the classic tale...and sometimes in order to get to it, all it takes is a little digging.”

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