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Frank Beddor
Jared Hoffman
July 3, 2024

A Royal Affair: The Suit Families Who Rule Wonderland

In Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars trilogy, he reimagines the iconic characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Whimsical, silly, nonsense characters become fantastical warriors, fierce creatures, and politically savage families grasping for power. I’m just scratching the surface but here are my favorite examples: Hatter Madigan is Beddor’s reimagined Mad Hatter. Instead of a caffeine-addicted crazy person, he is a multiple-blade-wielding bodyguard for Princess Alyss. General Doppelgänger, who is based on Tweedledee and Tweedledum, is a fierce general who can split into two separate entities. And, of course, there is the Cat. Frank Beddor’s take on the Cheshire Cat, the Cat is Queen Red’s faithful assassin. Frank expanded and transformed the already rich world Carroll created into his own. This is most obvious when it comes to the different suit families.

The suit families in The Looking Glass Wars are the rulers of Wonderland. Every royal in Wonderland is allied with one of the four suits: Hearts, Diamonds, Spades, and Clubs. With each suit family, there is a unique culture, skillset, and card soldier fighting force. Instead of simply stating each family’s culture and such, I think it would be fun to compare the suit families with other families from media and history.

An illustration by artist Vance Kovacs of the Heart royal family from Frank Beddor's "The Looking Glass Wars" universe.
Still image from the HBO fantasy series "Game of Thrones" featuring Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark, and Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark.

Let’s start with the Hearts. The Hearts are the oldest suit family in Wonderland. They are the ruling house, where the matriarch rules as the Queen of Wonderland. Due to the family’s deep history, they value loyalty above all else. Another fictional family that shares a lot of similarities with the Hearts is the Stark family from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV adaptation, Game of Thrones. The Stark family, much like every family in Game of Thrones, is put through the wringer, especially after that whole “Red Wedding” debacle. No matter what happens to them though, they are always there for each other. This is just like the Heart family. In The Looking Glass Wars, there is a coup that can be compared to the Red Wedding. The family leader, Queen Genevieve, is killed, leaving Princess Alyss Heart on her own, forcing her on a long arduous, journey towards becoming a warrior princess, much like Arya Stark in Game of Thrones.

An illustration by artist Vance Kovacs of the Spade noble family from Frank Beddor's "The Looking Glass Wars" universe.
Promotional image from the Showtime series "The Borgias" featuring Francois Arnaud as Cesare Borgia, Holliday Grainger as Lucrezia Borgia, and Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia.

Next up are the Spades. The Spade family today are known for their stealth and wild technology. Their cities are so technologically advanced they look similar to central Tokyo in our world. The Spades are essentially addicted to technology, so much so that mad scientists carry out forbidden experiments in dark towers and castles on the outskirts of Spade cities. The Spades have the bloodiest history of all the suits. Originally slaves, they managed to stage a successful rebellion against their rulers. Due to their past enslavement, the Spades are a tight-knit group who are wary of outsiders. The Spades have fought for their power and will do anything to keep it. A great comparison for the Spades is the Borgia family. The Borgias were a power-hungry Spanish noble house active in Italy during the Renaissance. The Borgia family murdered, bribed, and stole their way to the top of the Catholic Church then did some more murdering, bribing, and stealing to maintain control of the Vatican. In fact, we still are feeling these effects today. I want you to close your eyes. Now I want you to open your eyes because I realized you won’t be able to read this. But imagine Jesus in your mind’s eye. You see that blonde-haired, blue-eyed guy, right? Well, that’s Cesare Borgia, SON of POPE Alexander VI. That’s a golden calf if I’ve ever seen one. While some may refute this, many other smarter people don’t. This is the type of power the Borgias had and if I’m comparing them to the ruthless Spades…I’ll let you figure out the rest.

An illustration by artist Vance Kovacs of the Club noble family from Frank Beddor's "The Looking Glass Wars" universe.
Illustration of Orks bearing weapons inspired by the miniature wargame "Warhammer 40,000".

Alright, now we are onto the Clubs. The Clubs came from explorers and wandering outcasts, rebellious against authority and valuing freedom above all else. I’m stuck between two different options for comparisons. The first are the Orks from Warhammer 40,000. These are not your Tolkien-esque orcs of yesteryear. No, these Orks are extremely aggressive semi-psychic space fungi who are most happy bashing heads on the battlefield. Okay, extremely aggressive semi-psychic space fungi might not sound like the Clubs at first but allow me to persuade you. Like the Clubs, Orks are broken into different clans (tribes). They value absolute freedom (on the battlefield to kill whoever they want), are fantastic warriors, and are green which is the regimental color of the Club military. Right, so that’s option one for the comparison. My second comparison for the clubs is the United States. Actually, if you switch out Orks with the U.S., it has the same sentiment, so I’m going to say it’s both.

An illustration by artist Vance Kovacs of the Diamond noble family from Frank Beddor's "The Looking Glass Wars" universe.
Still image of Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen from Denis Villeneuve's epic sci-fi film "Dune".

Finally, there are the Diamonds. The Diamonds are descendants of merchants and traders and have an insatiable lust for acquiring wealth. The Diamonds, much like their literal gemstone counterparts, enjoy flaunting their wealth. Their desire for financial gain makes them exceptionally cunning in their political schemes. A great comparison is House Harkonnen from Frank Herbert’s Dune. For those of you who only saw the movies that came out recently, Dave Bautista and Austin Butler were members of House Harkonnen. While Dave and Austin’s characters were extremely volatile, Baron Harkonnen, who was played by Stellan Skarsgård, embodies the Diamonds the most. He wanted acquisition at all costs, manipulated politics into his favor using “spice” and the money he made with it, and was extremely opulent. Those black goo baths had to be expensive, no one else partook in them.

While these comparisons are not exactly apples to apples, I wanted to show those who have not had the pleasure of reading The Looking Glass Wars what the different suit households of Wonderland were like in a very digestible form. Comparing one intellectual property to another can sometimes be a bit reductive. The suit families are more complex than the descriptions I used just as the other IPs are more complex. That being said, I’m remaining hopeful that one day in the future an underpaid writer will create a blog comparing their boss’s characters to other IPs and use something from The Looking Glass Wars TV show as an example.

Jared Hoffman Headshot

Jared Hoffman graduated from the American Film Institute with a degree in screenwriting. A Los Angeles native, his brand of comedy is satire stemming from the many different personalities and egos he has encountered throughout his life. As a lover of all things comedy, Jared is always working out new material and trying to make those around him laugh. His therapist claims this is a coping mechanism, but what does she know?

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