Tinkering With Mad Hatters and March Hares

With every passing year more and more of our cultural touchstones tumble into the public domain, becoming available to the evolutionary process of “re-telling”. Spin-offs and re-imaginings can illicit delight or despair. They might give us more of what we crave from our favorite characters —or they might dash our previous conceptions of something we thought familiar.

Deeply embedded stories and fantasies are precious to us. They can invoke righteous passions if someone dare alter that which we hold as “truth”. For an example just look at the responses to Blood and Honey, an off-color horror comedy take on A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh after it entered the public domain in January 2022.

“Who is allowed to tinker with classic works of literature?” might read as a somewhat odd question to those who don’t have a dog in the fight—but for die-hard fans of the classics, it’s an unsettled battlefield of ideologies.

Brian Viner, of the Independent, did a fantastic job digging into the proud tradition of playing with classic literature while analyzing if Frank Beddor “had the right” to embark on his bold retelling of Britain’s beloved classic Alice in Wonderland.

For the full story, read Brain’s article: Tinkering with Mad Hatters and March Hares.

Rabbit hole revisited: Beddor finishes Wonderland trilogy

The first step may have been the hardest—but “finishing” was a tight contender as Frank Beddor found out while battling to satisfy his fans in ArchEnemy the conclusion to his main Looking Glass Wars trilogy. The series has garnered attention from fans of all demographics, just as its inspiration Alice in Wonderland has done for over a century.

Beddor shared the inception of his works, the unexpected demands for more Alyss, and his future plans with Louis B. Parks of the Houston Chronicle. Detailing the unlikely avenues that graphic novels opened to his storytelling, the first-time author turned New York Times Bestselling world creator was candid about the ups and downs of a decade spent crafting the Wonderverse.

To learn more, read the full article: Rabbit hole revisited: Beddor finishes Wonderland trilogy

Beddor is his own wonderland

The Minnesotan responsible for "There's Something About Mary" is now a fantasy-book mogul with dreams of being the next J.K. Rowling.

By TOM HORGEN, Star Tribune

Frank Beddor has known many heights in his career: world-champion skier, stuntman, actor, Hollywood producer and, most recently, New York Times best-selling fantasy author. (In that order, too.) Beddor couldn't have imagined a better story line had he written it himself.

"All I've been doing my whole life is rolling the dice," he said by phone recently from Los Angeles. 

Beddor, 51, lives under the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills. But he grew up in Minnesota, a lake kid who still comes back to his childhood home in Chanhassen.

While his life has taken many twists and turns since he left Minnesota, it is this role as a fantasy writer that has turned out to be his calling.

Beddor is the author of "The Looking Glass Wars," a trilogy of young-adult novels that has spawned two graphic novels, an online video game, weekly school readings and talks of a big-budget movie. The books are an action-packed reimagining of "Alice in Wonderland" that heightens the darker tones of Lewis Carroll's classic and flips the 1951 Disney film on its head.

In Beddor's novels, the familiar tale of Alice's journey down the rabbit hole is all wrong. The truth is this: Princess Alyss and her allies are locked in a bloody civil war with the evil Aunt Redd for control of Wonderland.

But this Wonderland is not full of Mad Hatter tea parties and singing white rabbits. Many of the beloved characters seem to have taken on action-movie roles. Cheshire Cat, for example, is reimagined as an assassin tasked with hunting down Alyss.

On Oct. 15, Beddor released the trilogy's final installment, "ArchEnemy," as well as a second graphic novel based on the series. The first two novels ("The Looking Glass Wars" and "Seeing Redd") spent a combined 31 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for "children's chapter" books.

Minnesota roots

Beddor, who grew up in Excelsior, is actually Frank Beddor III. His father, who died in 2007 at age 83, was Frank Beddor Jr., a well-known businessman who followed his own father (also Frank) into the printing business. At one time, Beddor Jr. owned a multimillion-dollar printing empire that stretched across the Midwest.

As a young man, Beddor's father was also a showman of sorts -- something he definitely passed on to his children. Topping his many exploits was the time he water-skied 1,800 miles down the Mississippi River in 1953 while wearing a Paul Bunyan costume (it was publicity for his Brainerd-based ski show).

Beddor learned how to water-ski when he was 6 years old. He won the world championship in freestyle snow skiing in 1981 and 1982. He retired from professional skiing at 23, but later landed stunt roles in several Hollywood movies. While a full-time transition into acting never took off, he kept his Hollywood connections. In the mid-1990s, Beddor wrote a script he called "Whiteout," about the World War II army unit he described as "The Dirty Dozen" on skis. It was never made.

But skiing would eventually pay off big time. On a chairlift during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Beddor pitched his friends' idea for "There's Something About Mary" to a highpowered movie executive. The movie's release in 1998 made bigger stars out of Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller, while its mix of romance and crude humor made it the highest-grossing comedy of the year. More important to Beddor's financial future, it went on to gross $370 million globally.

A producer role was fine, but Beddor was itching to get in on the creative process. That's when (as Beddor tells it), "destiny" happened. While in London for the premiere of "There's Something About Mary," he visited the British Museum and became fascinated with a partial set of playing cards that were adorned with bizarre versions of the "Alice in Wonderland" characters. A chance encounter with an Oxford collector who owned the rest of the set led Beddor down his own rabbit hole. It was all the inspiration he needed to start writing "The Looking Glass Wars." Five years later, the Minnesotan who grew up on Jack London adventure novels had a fully realized fantasy epic, brimming with magic, violence and, of course, a love story.

The book was rejected by every major publisher in the United States. "It was painful," Beddor said. However, a British publisher, Egmont, found it intriguing and released the first installment in the U.K. in 2004. British readers and media types ate up the idea of a Yankee author reworking their classic into a fantasy-action yarn. The purists hated it even more.

"Members of the Lewis Carroll Society met me at Heathrow Airport, chanting 'Off with Frank Beddor's head,'" he said. "They had placards. I thought it was a joke. Then I realized they were really, really upset with me."

Comic books and beyond

With the novel's U.K. success, U.S. publishers that had passed on Beddor came calling. Penguin gave the novel its first U.S. printing in 2006 (under its Dial imprint). Beddor expanded the "Looking Glass Wars" universe with a hit comic book called "Hatter M," which focused on a warrior version of the Mad Hatter.

Like all his pop-culture heroes -- George Lucas ("Star Wars"), Frank Herbert ("Dune") and Philip Pullman ("His Dark Materials") -- Beddor has spread his story's mythology across many platforms (books, online, CDs). Obviously, movies are next.

Beddor has written a screenplay for "The Looking Glass Wars" and is working with producer Charles Roven ("The Dark Knight") on finding a director. One problem may be Disney's live-action version of "Alice in Wonderland" (directed by Tim Burton), which opens in March 2010. Beddor is unsure if Burton's film will help or hurt interest in "The Looking Glass Wars." For now, he's content to wait and see.

"It's really important to me to take my time," Beddor said. "The last thing I want to have happen is to do a subpar [movie] that kills off the franchise and the stories."

Beddor said he's been thinking a lot about his dad lately -- about his business ventures and how Beddor's own career choices stack up.

"The hardest thing -- absolutely -- was to walk away from any connection to the family business," he said.

But from his home in Los Angeles, Beddor reaffirmed his commitment to the world he's created. He said he has more stories to write, more characters to explore, more ways to delve into "The Looking Glass Wars."

"It's really just a part of me now. It's part of my DNA. There's not a moment when I'm not thinking about it. It really is my life's work -- or my life, I suppose."

A Curiouser 'Alice'

Alice In Wonderland looms as a story known the world over. Creative greats and producing titans have long taken Lewis Carroll’s work as the clay from which to mold their own retellings. However, in the sea of diverse renditions—few have taken Alice far from her roots… that is, until Frank Beddor wrote The Looking Glass Wars.

Transmuting a lost and mild little girl into a modern heroine drove Beddor’s quest to create his Looking Glass Wars novel trilogy and spin-off series of Hatter M. graphic novels. However, the radical shift from Carroll’s original text into a sprawling world of epic fantasy and realm bending battles threatened to bring the whole house of cards down on the ski champ turned author's head!

In his LA Time’s Hero Complex column, Geoff Boucher probes the depths of resistance author Frank Beddor faced when he dared “tell the truth” about Wonderland.

For more, read the full article: A Curiouser ‘Alice’

Looking Glass Wars fantasy author comes to O.C.

Writer Frank Beddor will be at the O.C. Children's Book Festival on Sunday.

By PETER LARSEN

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

In Frank Beddor's reimagining of "Alice in Wonderland," the Cat is loosely based on the original Chesire Cat, but here is more or less a hitman -- hit-cat? -- who hunts down the heroine of the tale.

The story of how Frank Beddor came to write the Looking Glass Wars trilogy begins like a movie – only appropriate, given that before the books Beddor had mostly worked in Hollywood.

He'd produced the hit comedy, "There's Something About Mary," and was in London for the British premiere, when one day he found himself wandering through an exhibit of ancient playing cards at the British Museum, or so the story goes.

"At the end of the exhibit was an incomplete deck of cards," Beddor says of that moment. "And it had this art that reminded me of the work of Lewis Carroll and 'Alice In Wonderland.'"

A tip led him to an antiquities dealer, a fellow named Buffington, who pulled out an old box that contained more of that dark and enticing deck, and told him, as he turned the cards, the story of the real Wonderland depicted on each one.

"The story this guy told me was the jumping off spot for my story," says Beddor, who used that inspiration as to create not just the Looking Glass Trilogy – the last of which is published this month – but an ongoing graphic novel series called Hatter M, too.

Beddor will talk about the books and all their offshoot projects – including two movies he's now developing – when he appears at the Orange County Children's Book Festival at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa at 11:15 a.m. Sunday.

The story that unfolds in "The Looking Glass Wars," "Seeing Redd" and "Arch Enemy," the final book in the series which arrives Oct. 15, is that the Alice In Wonderland stories we all grew up reading are fiction, but the characters and events beneath the fiction were real.

Taking the characters created by Lewis Carroll, Beddor invents an entirely new world and story: Alyss – as her name is spelled in the "real" story, and her bodyguard Hatter Madigan flee Wonderland after a coup. They become separated, though, and dual quests unfold: Alyss' to stay alive from forces hunting for her, Hatter's to find Alyss and protect her again.

"At the time, I'd just come out of a hit movie, and I thought maybe this would make a great movie," Beddor says of how the books began. "But as I became really attached to it, I just kept thinking a movie would not do it justice." 

He spent several years thinking of the alternative world of Wonderland: how it was structured, how it was governed, and especially, what it and its residents would look like.

To help him visualize it, he took another page from his Hollywood background and hired visual effects artist Doug Chiang, an Oscar winner for "Death Becomes Her," to more or less storyboard the tale as he wrote it.

"There were these card soldiers that transformed into these sort of metallic soldiers," Beddor says. "And I was thinking, 'What would these soldiers look like?'"

Chiang sent him sketches, which Beddor loved.

"I said, 'Wow, this is great,'" he said. "'What would the Valley of Mushrooms look like?' It just started in this organic way and it was a really fun way to collaborate. "I loved showing up Monday in my office and having a piece of art," Beddor says. "It would just kick start me."

Getting the books published, though, was a different story. He tried pitching it like a movie – finding the highest-ranking executives he could at publishing houses – and while those pitches often got good responses, finding an editor to take it on proved fruitless.

"There were a lot of no, no, no's," he says. "With, 'No one will read this book because it's a retelling of a classic,' or, 'You'll only get the 'Alice in Wonderland' fans.'

Finally, a British editor heard his pitch and liked how he told the story.

'"She said, 'If the writing is as good as the story telling, I'm going to buy this book," Beddor says.

In 2004, the first volume appeared in the United Kingdom, where its success finally got him an American publisher – a branch of Penguin, which had earlier repeatedly rejected the manuscript.

In 2005, the parallel story lines of the Hatter M series – the bodyguard's quest to find Alyss – appeared as a graphic novel also titled "The Looking Glass Wars." The second volume of that series, "Mad With Wonder," also arrives on Oct. 15.

Beddor says he is developing scripts for movies based on both series. Producer Chuck Roven, whose movies include "The Dark Knight" and "Get Smart," and agent Ari Emmanuel are both attached to the projects, which are now going out to prospective directors.

The world-creating side of the books also is popping up in other projects now, too, he says. "I hadn't been working on other (movie) projects because of the Looking Glass War and the remaining stories of Alyss," Beddor says. "But then I was approached to do the same thing for Monopoly. Hasbro was looking for a story to turn their board game into a movie."

He came up with a story set in a Monopoly-themed world – a lovable loser lives mostly to play epic games of Monopoly, wakes up one day clutching a Chance card and walks out to discover that he's living in Monopoly City, where Monopoly money is the currency of the land and he is needed to defeat the schemes of the evil Parker Brothers.

"I pitched that to Ridley Scott and he stops me and says, 'What do I have to do to be on this movie?'" Beddor says. "I almost started laughing: 'You want to do this movie?' And then he launches into all these stories about how he and his brothers grew up playing Monopoly all the time."

Scott, in fact, did sign on to direct the project, and Pamela Pettler, the screenwriter who wrote "Corpse Bride" and "Monster House," is working on a formal script for the Monopoly movie now. "It's kind of a puzzle," Beddor says of creating new worlds. "What are the rules? What's the logic? But you have to get to the characters. 

"You've got to create a world in space," he says of the Looking Glass Wars, the Monopoly story and another movie project he's trying to sell at present. "But it's all about the characters."

"Seeing Redd" is the second in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy. Redd is the evil aunt
of Alyss, who seizes the throne and seeks to eliminate her niece from any rivalry.
The Everlasting Forest from the Looking Glass Wars series.
The Millinery from Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars series.
Frank Beddor worked in the movie business for years, and found big success as producer of the comedy "There's Something About Mary." But in recent years, he's focused on his reimaging of the Alice in Wonderland tales in a series he calls the Looking Glass Wars.
"Arch Enemy" is the final book in the Looking Glass Wars trilogy by Frank Beddor.
"Mad With Wonder" is the second graphic novel in Frank Beddor's Hatter M series
Alyss' destiny in the Looking Glass Wars series is to eventually become Queen
Alyss of Wonderland.
The House of Hearts is the royal family of Wonderland.

Variety exclusive on Frank’s four upcoming projects

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The Mad Hatter prevails! Author Frank Beddor sizes up an icon

Bestselling author Frank Beddor knows the landscape of Wonderland as

the creator of the "Looking Glass Wars" series of novels and the "Hatter

M" graphic novels. Today, as Disney basks in the glow of a $210-million

opening weekend of Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," Beddor

considers the pop-culture persistence of the Mad Hatter.

Riddle: When is a Hatter NOT Mad?

Shatterpated! Barmy! Raving! Amok! Berserk!

I love the smell of madness in the morning. The popularity of "Alice in Wonderland" has endured for nearly 150 years and been read by generations, so it understandably captures a large part of our shared imaginative history. And it’s not just books, film and television that riff on Alice and Wonderland, but music, clothing lines, nightclubs, games, toys etc. etc. etc.

Across the pop culture spectrum, from artists and musicians to ad agencies

and Internet moguls, tastemakers are tapping into our shared imaginative

history of the Alice iconography to capture their audience. Although Alice

certainly gets top billing, there would be a strong argument for an even

deeper psychic attachment to … the Mad Hatter.

It seems Alice gets the girls, the dreamers and the fairy-tale fanatics, but the Mad Hatter attracts a more raffish contingency of nose-thumbing social heretics who see the character as an icon of anti-authoritarianism and sartorial splendor.

Despite his moonstruck popularity, history is somewhat bent on the origin

of the Hatter and his infamous mental state. The Hatter was a fictional character introduced at a tea party in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." And although he was almost immediately referred to as the "Mad Hatter," he was never called by this name in Carroll's book.

The Hatter is introduced in Chapter VII, "A Mad Tea-Party," in which he asks Alice the famous riddle: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" When Alice gives up, the Hatter admits he does not have an answer himself. How mad!

Minstrel outlaw Tom Petty donned the Wonderland madman’s costume for his 1985 music video "Don’t Come Around Here No More" and Tom Waits sings ”mad as a hatter/thin as a dime.” Bars and pubs and watering holes around the globe proclaim themselves to be an outpost of madness by adopting the name of (arguably) history’s most mad character. Racehorses and restaurants … a certain inmate of Arkham Asylum … all mad as hatters.

It seems from all this that the general populace is actually quite dazzled by all things MAD.


Is it the social freedom that the Mad appear to enjoy? Freedom from petty constraints, the herd state and dress codes can be a lure to many individuals. But not to the timid. The timid seem to me to be anything but mad, which is why I so vehemently disagree with the consensus by some that the Mad Hatter’s mental state was induced by inhaling the mercury fumes that were part of the trade of 19th century hat makers.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning include excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive. WHAT? Nothing MAD about all that. So then… when is a Hatter NOT Mad?

When he is FURIOUS.

With full disclosure I must admit to a strong alliance with a Hatter whose "madness" manifests as an obsessive, single-minded, all-consuming mania to traverse our world in search of Wonderland’s lost princess. Many of those he meets along the way certainly consider him to be mad. What is this man in the Hat babbling about? A lost princess named Alyss? His loyalty to White Imagination? A puddle where no puddle should be! Lock him up!

But in between the timid, the toe-the-liners and the practical observers of life, he meets those who dare to believe him, who sense the truth of his mission and the beauty of his cause. And to all of those … I must tip my hat. One last riddle: Why must individuality be labeled a disease? Answer: Because it is dangerous.

Madly yours,

Frank Beddor

Author Frank Beddor joins FOX 13 Salt Lake City to preview his upcoming novel

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