My friend Lynne Henderson is a Wonderverse super-fan and Alice Aficionado supreme. I have had the pleasure of enjoying Tarty Tarts masterfully created by Lynne at the Comic-Cons we have both immersed ourselves into—and recently as I craved a taste of those sweet treats, I thought I should give Lynne a platform to explain her take on the magic of Alice In Wonderland.
Without further delay, please enjoy her fantastic collection of All Things Alice, and her moving explanation of the power that this story and its characters hold.
The Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland stories have been my favourites since childhood, and my appreciation has only grown through the years, as I began to understand the adult intelligence behind the children’s fantasy. I think I first encountered Alice at around eight years old in the classic 1949 Lou Bunin film, considered by many to be the best version and called “the lost Alice,” as it was overshadowed by the 1951 Disney version.
Bunin’s was the first filmed version I ever saw and is my favourite, with wonderful songs, many of them using Carroll’s text, very faithful to the Wonderland story and not mixing in characters from Looking-Glass, as many other versions are wont to do; I can be a purist about some things and feel the two stories should be appreciated for their own uniqueness (uniqueness that extends to the film versions with Johnny Depp). Unfortunately, every time it was shown on television, it was edited differently.
Years later, after collecting VHS tapes with the various edits, I painstakingly edited them together in order to make a complete film. But I’ve heard that Thunderbean Animation is apparently working on a complete restored version. Oh frabjous day indeed!
I first read the stories courtesy of my mother Lucille’s brother, my Uncle Claude. He gave me a ten-volume set of classic children’s stories (which I still have), including Wonderland and Looking-Glass, with the Tenniel illustrations, of course. Every eight-year old girl can relate to Alice’s curiosity and adventuresome nature, and I was no exception, imagining myself interacting with these talking animals and discovering the magical land beneath her feet. But even more than wandering in Wonderland, I loved the thought of stepping through a mirror in my home into another magical world populated by living chess pieces, anthropomorphic animals and other fanciful beings.
Wonderland is fun, but the Looking-Glass world seemed more “adult” somehow and more challenging and more accessible to a city born and bred girl like me through her bedroom mirror. As I grew and learned more about Lewis Carroll Societies and what influenced his writing, I came to appreciate Alice on a whole other level. His wordplay, poetry, leaps of logic and other qualities firmly cemented Alice’s place in my heart. As well as the copy from my childhood (picture included), I also have the Martin Gardner Annotated Alice, the definitive illustrated edition published in 1992 and the Dover Publications facsimile of Carroll’s 1864 manuscript, written in his hand and with his illustrations. During one of my thrift shop scroungings I even picked up two LP boxed sets of the great actor Cyril Ritchard reading the novels; they came with reproductions of the first editions, but the Wonderland one is missing, I only have the Looking Glass reproduction.
As the years went by, I made it my mission to get copies of every filmed version of the original Alice in Wonderland. Among them the 1916 silent version; the 1933 film with W. C. Fields, Cary Grant, Alison Skipworth and other Golden Hollywood actors; and, of course, the 1949 Bunin version. Like so many other works of art, Alice has been reinterpreted in some unusual ways, none more so than the 1989 film by Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer, which appeals to my love of the bizarre (watch it and you’ll see what I mean). I even managed to collect the 1979 adult version, which also has the distinction of being the first X-rated musical. It’s actually quite sweet and innocent in its own way.
It may have been while browsing the Internet in general or on eBay searching for other Alice memorabilia, but my ears perked up big time when I first heard about Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars trilogy. Bookworm that I am to this day, I’m rarely without a book in my hands, and was intrigued to read the “real story” of Alice and Wonderland.
I was NOT disappointed by any stretch of the imagination—whether in our world or Alyss’.
And although I can be a pedantic purist at times about things I hold dearly, I immediately knew I would love this fabulous reimagining of Alice and her world that Frank Beddor created just as much as I do Carroll’s original. No longer reading about a sheltered child wandering through bizarre dream worlds, I discovered a girl torn from the only life and world she knew, struggling to find her way back home, only to find her home torn apart, and determined to fight tooth and nail to defend and restore the peace and beauty of her homeland.
Frank’s reworking of the characters and their places in Wonderland is brilliant, he’s channeled the inspired imagination sent out from Wonderland’s Heart Crystal and crafted a world full of emotion and intrigue that reflects the best and worst of human nature. Some character’s natures are amplified, for better or worse: the White Rabbit into Bibwit Harte is a wonderful advisor, and the Queen of Hearts makes a terrifying Redd Heart; some are completely turned on their heads: the bumbling Tweedle brothers become the crafty General (Generals?) Doppleganger; and some are changed in an amazing and brilliant way: the absent-minded Hatter becomes the almost Spock-like focused, fiercely loyal warrior Hatter Madigan.
I particularly love Frank Beddor’s Carroll-like logic play and wordplay (the “doggerels” of war in particular make me smile) and love how Frank even included author Lewis Carroll/Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who was so fond of and protective of the real Alice Liddell and echoed him in Alyss’ childhood friend and protector Dodge Anders (I see what you did there, Frank---brilliant).
If discovering Frank Beddor’s trilogy wasn’t serendipitous enough, meeting him was even more so. I’ve been going to New York Comic Con for almost ten years, reveling in the company of my fellow nerds, and consider it the start of Hallowe’en and license to wear whatever costuming strikes my fancy. I think it was on Facebook that I saw a post from Frank for a booth assistant one year. I sent him a message and he contacted me, but he needed the same person to help for all four days, which I couldn’t do, unfortunately, but I made sure to visit him and say hi every year. On eBay I got a copy of Frank’s Princess Alyss of Wonderland and its wonderful LGW backstory in Alyss’ own words.
The graphics are amazing, the book is brilliantly put together, it’s a delight to the eyes as well as the intellect, and Frank very kindly autographed it for me at NYCC one year. Among other treasures in it, I discovered Alyss’ recipe for Tarty Tarts, and make a batch for Frank every year at NYCC, using cookie cutters shaped like card suits (of course). Frank is a genuinely lovely person, and his love and passion for Alyss’ story impressed me from our first meeting. I hope his trilogy can be made into a movie series someday, what an amazing epic that would be!
But what is it about Lewis Carroll’s stories that has fascinated us for over one and a half centuries? They’re certainly a wonderful escape from reality, the nonsense gives many a laugh and the surprising bits of logic and common sense food for thought. But for me I think it was mostly the thought that there could be an entire fantastical, magical world literally underneath my feet or on the other side of my mirror, and that I only have to be at the right place at the right moment to get there. And The Looking Glass Wars trilogy expands on that world brilliantly. The breadth and depth and power of Frank’s imagination brings home to me the universality of certain truths and emotions we all share: good vs. evil; right vs. wrong; selflessness vs. self interest; and the most important of all, love.
Whether patriotic, familial or romantic love, to hold something or someone outside of ourselves as so precious that we would do anything to ensure their happiness (a happiness that brings us joy as well) is ultimately all we can do for each other that lasts. No matter how long I live, Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars trilogy will always be on my bookshelf right along with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, two complimentary sides of the same coin.
In Queendom Speramus! Long Live Alyss!