The literary world’s oldest seven and a half year old is coming to comic book shops this Wednesday like you’ve never seen her before.
For nearly a hundred and fifty years Alice, the heroine of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s book Alice in Wonderland, has been a fixture on the cultural landscape via books, film, animation and comics. One of literatures most endearing characters, Alice and all of the colorful characters she encounters, including the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and March Hair, the Jabberwocky and the Red Queen, have been reimagined and reinterpreted time and time again. While some interpretations stick to the innocent fairy tale aspect of Wonderland, others lean towards emphasizing the darker themes of madness that can be found in the original book’s subtext. In 2007 comic writer Raven Gregory brought a brand new chapter of the Wonderland mythos to life with Return to Wonderland, published by Zenescope Entertainment. Following the adventures of Alice’s teenaged children Callie and Johnny, Gregory enhanced the horror by creating a darker and deadlier Wonderland then anything seen before in print, and spiced the book up with twisted humor and fetish imagery. With three dimensional characters, Callie and Johnny wage war against Wonderland, and each other, in a story that pits sanity against madness and good against evil. Raven Gregory’s Wonderland became an instant cult hit, spawning two more mini-series, continuing Callie’s journey, and a series of one shot specials which further expanded Wonderland itself.
Now, Raven Gregory is finally bringing readers back to the very beginning and reintroducing readers to Wonderland’s original victim, Alice in the latest chapter of his Wonderland series – Alice in Wonderland. With his own Wonderland mythos as his backdrop, Raven is finally ready to tell his version of what happened to Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole, and how it turned her into the emotionally destroyed woman which readers were introduced to in the first issue of Return to Wonderland. With art by Robert Gill and covers by a host of top comic professionals, Alice in Wonderland will be the final mini-series in the Wonderland series, leading to a bigger story in the much anticipated Wonderland on-going series coming later in 2012.
One of my favorite writers in the comic book industry today, it is always a pleasure to talk to Raven about his work. With four comic book series currently in publication, Raven has one of comics busiest minds and biggest outputs. In fact, Wonderland isn’t the only hit mini-series that Raven is reviving again in 2012. Raven spoke to me about the return of The Waking which will also be returning later this year.
So let’s pour a cup of tea and let Raven Gregory be our guide down the rabbit hole and into a land of madness, murder and wonder.
CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESENTS
FEED YOUR HEAD:
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE WITH RAVEN GREGORY
Sam Tweedle: Now in keeping with the Wonderland series that you’ve already established, the real prequel to your series would have been the source material by Lewis Carroll. However, you are going back to do an Alice prequel of your own. What are you doing different with the already established story to make it fit into your distinctive Wonderland world.
Raven Gregory: Well a lot of it has to do with the fact that throughout [my] original [Wonderland] trilogy we’ve established this twisted different version of Wonderland from the Lewis Carroll version that everybody is so familiar with. So when going back to do this actual Alice story, a lot of the mythology that we’ve pulled from is what [I’ve] already established. You have this sense that Alice was there. In the Tales From Wonderland one shot [featuring Alice] you get a glimpse of her origin and the fact that she left the remnant of her sanity back in Wonderland, but you never get to play with everything that really happened to her. Calie was there, essentially, for a very short period of time while Alice was there for much longer, so her story will be more vast and epic in nature.
Sam: How close did you use the original source material when doing this story? Did you revisit the Carroll book at all, or are you just taking it in your own direction.
Raven: There are things that have to happen in the story, like the tea party and the croquet game. They have to be in it. When I did the first Return to Wonderland series most of it was pulled from the source material, and as we went to Beyond and Escape we kind of made the world our own. Now it’s not so much at looking at the source material, but it’s in the confines of the story we’ve already established. How will the prequel play out and how does Alice’s real origin story and her journey from being this little girl who was sacrificed to Wonderland to becoming what she ends up as at the beginning of Return to Wonderland is the adventure.
Sam: You’ve created a whole mythos surrounding her family and the generational sacrifice through the mirror. Will you be doing more with that element of the story?
Raven: Not particularly. This story is mainly focused on what happened in Wonderland. Not so much her story outside of Wonderland because we’ve seen almost all of that. We’ve explored that [already]. It would just be right for this series to just tell the hidden story that is in Wonderland. There are a lot of really cool elements that I am really excited to touch upon. Like, in Return to Wonderland there is no Jabberwocky, but in Beyond he’s a big part of that series. By the end of Alice you get to see why that is. It’s something that’s been planned for quite some time and all the pieces just kind of fit.
Sam: What is your own perception of the character of Alice in your world?
Raven: Well, one of the things that was fun when I was writing Calie was that in the first series [I was] discovering who the character was so by the time I got to Beyond I knew exactly who she was, and I could explain fluently what she was all about. With Alice it’s almost like working backwards. We know how she ends up. Essentially, here’s this little girl who is betrayed by two people who she trusts more then anybody else in the world, and she’s growing up in a realm of insanity. Even though there is the separation of her sanity and the part that comes back into the real world, there is still the idea that there is this massive journey for this person who is essentially innocent and virtually childlike but growing up around nothing that makes sense. To me it’s a story about a lost little girl trying to find herself and put herself back together, but at the same time you know it’s kind of futile.
Sam: Does that mean that Alice will never find any sort of redemption in the Wonderland you’ve created for her?
Raven: She does,but it’s a very strange redemption. When you read the Alice story you see that she is going to make a huge sacrifice that is the kind of sacrifice that changes the way you read everything you’ve read before. I don’t want to give it away but it’s a pretty big moment.
Sa m: Now in the original source material for Alice in Wonderland, Alice is seven years old. Seven and a half to be totally correct. How old is your Alice supposed to be? I mean, on those covers she’s a lot older then seven and a half, not that I’m complaining mind you.
Raven: In the first issue you see her grow up. That’s the cool thing about writing a story in Wonderland. Nothing has to make sense. We’ve established throughout the entire series that time seems to shift and bend. So when she goes into Wonderland and her sanity is left behind, she’s still a child, but by the time we get into Wonderland she’s a full grown teenager.
Sam: Now you have the six issue prequel. Is this the first of another trilogy, or does this bring us to the beginning of Return to Wonderland?
Raven: It brings [the story] full circle.
Sam: So in the Wonderland Dream Eater Saga one shot readers saw Calie and Violet again, and it opened a lot of doors for new stories and a lot of new questions. It was said that Escape from Wonderland was the end of Calie’s journey, but does that still hold true? Is there more to come for Calie and Violet?
Raven: Oh yeah. We have a plot and a plan for all of this. You are going to see The Red Knight. He’s definitely going to be back. It’s been well known for quite some time that we are going to do a Wonderland on-going series. The Dream Eater story was supposed to lead into the Wonderland on-going series, but what was decided was that before we did the on-going, which will hopefully never end, we’re going to tell Alice’s story first.
Sam: So let me get this straight. The plan is that you are going to do the six part Alice story, and then we’ll see a Wonderland on-going starring Calie and Violet?
Raven: Yes. You’ll see a Wonderland on-going in 2012. It’s a wild and crazy story.
Sam: Meanwhile, you are still writing three other on-going series; Fly, Myths and Legends and The Theater. I was under the impression you were giving up Myths and Legends.
Raven: I actually was originally. I was giving that story up to James Patrick. He left the Grimm Fairy Tales series for a while and was supposed to take over but there were some schedule conflicts. So I’m still on Myths and Legends. The problem with Myths and Legends is that as soon as I’m ready to leave we come up with a new story and I think “Oh no! Beauty and the Beast! It’s such a good story! I have to write that!”
Sam: There is a rumor out there that you are bringing back The Waking. Is there any truth to that?
Raven: Yes. It’s been in talks for a long time. Originally we weren’t going to do any more Waking. I wrote it intent on that was the end of it. There is nothing more. And it’s pretty closed up. You can’t kill anymore. That’s the bottom line. And then fans kept coming up to me at the shows and saying “There should be more.” I kept saying “No, that’s the end of it.” But then somebody said something that sort of sparked and idea and from there on I thought “Oh my God. That makes perfect sense. We could really make this work.” So there is a series. I have the first issue written now and it should be coming out later this year.
Sam: You have a huge year.
Raven: Yeah. Fly will keep going, and The Waking and The Theater and a few other creator owned series that haven’t been announced yet are still in the works now.
Sam: Just how many books can a guy write?
Raven: Wow. I can’t even tell you. It changes from month to month. It averages out to three to four scripts a month. Every once in a while a script will get thrown out of me for no reason, so there is no rhyme or reason. But it will be about forty books this year.
Sam: That’s an incredible output from one writer.
Raven: That’s what happens when you don’t play video games. The world doesn’t want me to play video games.
The first issue of Raven Gregory’s Alice in Wonderland hits comic stores on Wednesday January 25th so call your comic shop and make sure that they save you a copy. Meanwhile, if you haven’t read Raven’s other Wonderland books, not to mention his other series such as Fly, The Waking, The Theater and Myths and Legends, most of these books are available in trade paperback and available here. Do yourself a favor and order your copies today. Raven’s books are not necessarily for everyone, but each is a masterpiece in fantasy and horror. That’s why Raven Gregory was named PCA’s Comic Book Professional of the year. I’ll be picking up everything Raven puts out this year, and if you want something truly unique make sure to put all of Raven Gregory’s books, as well as the other fine books published by Zenescope Entertainment, on your pull list. You will not be disappointed.