Why Wonderland?

By | Wednesday, August 10, 2022 Leave a Comment
As you may know, I'm something of a fan of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I've watched many adaptations for film and television, and I have decent number of comics that also either retell the original story or take more than a few cues from it. Some go farther afield than others, but I'm not really a purist -- I enjoyed seeing Alice as a modern secret agent and the follow-up "sequel" to the Disney movie focusing on Mary Ann and the wacky adventure comedy that Roger Langridge came up with! I actually tend to find problematic the versions that try to adhere too closely to the original, and lose the element of whimsy and play that nonsense verse like Carroll's requires.

I'm not especially a fan of the "dark" versions of Alice, either, but I can apprciate where they're coming from. Honestly, it really isn't a far jump to take the story into drug-induced delusions or gothic horror or anything like that. Those particular genres and/or tonal angles never especially appealed to as a whole but, as I said, I can see where someone might be coming from with those kinds of takes and I'm cool with reading thosein comic form, provided the execution is still pretty good. I never bothered with other media, though, like the video games by American McGee.

And that brings us to the latest Alice story I'm reading: Alice Ever After by Dan Panosian, Giorgio Spalletta, and Fabiana Mascolo. Alice is a bit older here -- I don't recall seeing it specified but probably late teens/early twenties -- and her continued sojourns to Wonderland via a drug habit eventutally wind her up in an asylum. She's treated very poorly -- as were pretty much all inmates of asylums in the 1800s -- and it becomes clear that the establishment's proprietors are mostly running things to grift as much money as they can through their operation. Many of those who work at the asylum bear a passing resemblance to notable Wonderland characters, and Alice's seemingly omniscient kitties provide Greek chorus style commentary throughout. Things go from bad to worse, however, when Alice recalls witnessing some not-totally-ethtical behavior from her father after she passed, and the ayslum's matron begins to take advantage of what she's overheard.

The story isn't bad, but I find myself scatcing my head a lot at it. The first thing I noticed was that the names were all wrong. All of the Wonderland-influenced characters are changed, of course, but most of them don't seem to come from anywhere. The closest I can think of is that Tweedledum and Tweedledee have been renamed Theodore and Thomas -- all the names start with "T" -- but the Red Queen character is named Hulda and I don't get where that might come from; none of the name's origins I can find seem to match this character or either of Carroll's Red Queen characters. But more critically, while they've named Alice and her sisters Edith and Lorina, they've got all the rest of the family wrong. They've given them the family name Lutwidge (not the actual family's name: Liddell) and made the father a dentist, as opposed to an ecclesiastical dean of Christ Church, Oxford as the real Henry Liddell was. They've also drawn him with slicked back hair and a waxed mustache, whereas the real Henry Liddell had wirey, white hair and was clean-shaven. Henry's wife, unlike in the story where she has notably passed away before the narrative even begins, in fact lived until 1910, decades after Alice's sister Edith passed.

All of that information is available on Wikipedia, if not on Alice's own entry then the one about her father. Bother were notable enough figures to have had much written about them, so I don't understand why you might make up names for people that are easily Google-able. I can almost see putting the dentist angle in and killing the mother off for the sake of getting Alice into an asylum, but it seems like the story is really going out of its way to invent elements that don't need inventing. If Alice is already addicted to drugs, what more reason do you need for institutionalizing her? Wouldn't her being institutionalized be enough to blackmail a well-to-do family that wouldn't want unseemingly behaviors from their daughter? Why invent the additional ethics problems for the father? Just a lot of it seems unnecessary, especially since this is all available in two fairly short Wikipedia entries.

And for what? Even after Alice is put in the asylum, there's no exploration of her mental state. She's not psychoanalyzed in any way (to be fair, Sigmund Freud didn't publish his ideas on psychoanalysis until several years later) and there's no attempt at treating her addiction. In fact, even the poor treatment of inmates is largely only suggested via vague comments/threats from one of the doctors. And Alice's excrusions into Wonderland are brief and seem to be only there to provide a short mental escape from her current situation; she doesn't seem to gain any wisdom or insight from talking with Wonderlanders.

The story's not bad, as I said, but I don't really see the point of it. At least, I don't see a point to using Alice. They've substantially changed her family and situation; they're barely even utilizing the Wonderland references they do drop. The character here doesn't seem to be driven in any of the ways that Carroll's Alice was. The characters bear a slight resemblance to the ones John Tenniel designed back in the day, but their designs here don't see to be relevant to the story or their characters at all. The story doesn't, as far as I can tell, seem to be commenting on Carroll or his work. Really, not even the time period or anything even later associated with the Alice stories (e.g. drugs). It's lifting a few of the most superfiial elements, and not really leveraging even them. You could change the character's name to Allison, and it would still read the same.

So ultimately, it's fine, but I can't suggest it if you're looking for an Alice or Wonderland story of any sort. The Zenescope stuff -- with all its sexist depictions of women and gratuitous T+A -- is more of an Alice story than this is. The last issue should be out later this month, and I already put an order in for it but I'm not going to race to find out the conclusion.
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