Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
It seems like alternate versions of Alice in Wonderland will be created until the heat death of the universe. Ever since Lewis Carroll wrote the story of a little girl who follows a jittery white rabbit down a hole, it seems as if everybody wants to put their unique stamp on her sometimes-haunting adventures.
Director Tim Burton, for example, turned Wonderland — sorry, Underland — into an epic battlefield where rival queens commanded armies as vast as the ones found in The Lord of the Rings. The Jabberwocky, originally just a character in a nonsense poem (and imaginatively illustrated by John Tenniel), is upgraded to boss battle status that must be defeated with the legendary vorpal blade. Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars novels (which had spun off a comic called Hatter M) sees Alice — I’m sorry, Alyss — as a princess of Wonderland who’s a fierce warrior in combat. Alice has been upgraded from wide-eyed little girl to a vengeful Valkyrie.
Editor, comics collector and designer Craig Yoe has an ideal subject for his latest coffee table-ready anthology: Lewis Carroll’s Alice and the myriad ways in which she has appeared in comics, almost since the medium existed. What makes the subject so perfect for such a book is that it’s so broad that it’s impossible to even attempt to be comprehensive, or even all that representative.
As Mark Burstein, the president of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, notes in his introduction to Alice in Comicland, appearances by characters from Carroll’s Alice books, references and allusions to the works, and the instances of direct and palpable influence by them in comics are simply innumerable. In 2003, he and some colleagues put together a book titled Pictures and Conversations: Lewis Carroll in the Comics: An Annotated International Bibliography, and they tracked some 500 comic books in which Alice characters appear. That was a decade ago.
Now, Alice in Comicland is only about 170 pages long. You could fill a collection five times as big with Batman comics in which he fights villains derived from the Alice books. You could fill books bigger still collecting all of the horror or action or sexually exploitative material derived from Carroll’s Alice stories. The almost-astronomical breadth of the subject matter thus gives Yoe and company a pretty valuable pass from any critics. Why isn’t this here, or why is that there instead of that other thing? Such second-guessing is natural to a reader, and I found myself wondering why there’s a Superman comic rather than a Batman comic, for example, or why there’s no mention of, say, Tommy Kovacs and Sonny Liew’s Wonderland or Roger Langridge’s Snarked or any weird Zenescope books or manga or that Hatter M comic or whatever. But the answer’s obvious, isn’t it? It can even come in the form of a (bander)snatch of dialogue from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: No room! No room!
Close readers of this weekly interview column will realize that I have interviewed Roger Langridge a couple of times. And I never tire of chatting with Langridge about his storytelling approach. Next Wednesday, November 2, marks the release of the second issue for his Kaboom! creator-owned Snarked series. The series has been building its audience, first through the $1 #0 issue,and then Snarked 1 sold out of its first printing–warranting a second printing. In addition to discussing Snarked, we also got a chance to discuss his recently released The Show Must Go On (BOOM! Studios) as well as his writing the Marvel five-issue limited series, John Carter: A Princess of Mars. If you want evidence why I love interviewing Langridge, the man revealed a slight connection between his work and musician Robyn Hitchcock’s The Soft Boys. After reading the interview, please chime in with which current Langridge projects you’re enjoying the most.
Tim O’Shea: What was the most enjoyable aspect, in the run-up to Snarked’s premiere, of building up the potential reading audience through the Snarked website (Snark Island)?
Roger Langridge: Partly just to see if I could do it, and to try to be creative about what could be done with it. I’m planning to continue putting content up on the site each time a new issue comes out, so it’ll be a constant, evolving thing – but mainly, I wanted to do a letters page, and having somewhere to direct people so they could e-mail us was essential. It helps if there’s some other stuff to look at when they visit, of course!
Recently I was lucky enough to see a preview of Roger Langridge‘s Snarked! #0, his all ages series for Kaboom where the writer/artist uses Lewis Carroll‘s “Walrus and the Carpenter” poem (from Through the Looking-Glass) as a springboard for his storytelling. For every consumer that railed against the cancellation of Langridge’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger, here’s your chance to support Langridge again. For every pundit and website commenter who opined that Thor would have flourished, had it not been caught in the deluge of Thor titles that dashed any chance of it succeeding, take note.
A quick look at the CBR front page reveals a full court press for every new DC #1 coming our way in September. And we should be covering the DC relaunch, don’ t get me wrong. But I am fearful that some great books coming out around the same time, say this one, for example, are going to get overlooked. Roger Langridge’s Snarked! should not be overlooked. This is the comic that non-comics reading parents are looking for when they wander into a store seeking something to give their kid. This is a fun comic. This is a funny comic. This is an intelligent comic. This is a comic with puzzles, mazes and word searches. This preview issue is only a $1. This is a project that I hope to see on many folks Best of 2011 lists (I know it will be on mine).
Langridge chatted with me briefly in this email interview, and Kaboom was kind enough to give us a preview of Snarked! (provided at the end of our discussion). While the preview is not on sale until August, of course it is in Previews this month, with orders due June 30 [Diamond Code: JUN110963]. I can count on one hand the number of active creators that write and draw as engagingly a story as Langridge. If that does not win you over, the book stars a talking walrus (Wilburforce J. Walrus, as noted by Kaboom: “that’s right, the same Walrus that inspired the Beatles song “I Am the Walrus” is now in Roger Langridge’s merry, mad hands”) for the love of God. Check it out, I think you’ll agree it should be on everyone’s must-read list, no matter your age. To paraphrase Langridge fromthis interview, I hope this project is something that people will want to re-read many times–and if that’s not the definition of a great comic, I don’t know what is.
Tim O’Shea: How long have you been a fan of the work of Lewis Carroll?
Roger Langridge: It’s tempting to say “since I could read”; I’m sure it can’t have been quite that long, but I know I was very, very young when I first read the Alice books. And I’ve gone back and re-read them every couple of years since then, pretty much. They’re that rare thing, books which hit you in one way when you’re a kid, and in a different (yet equally powerful) way when you’re an adult, when you appreciate some of the really black humor and the general pricking of pomposity. They reward repeated re-readings more than most.