Lost in wonderland

Lost in wonderland
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First Published: Sat, Feb 03 2007. 12 30 AM IST
Updated: Fri, Feb 13 2009. 02 52 PM IST
An initial print run of 5,000, a combined weight of 7.2 pounds (a little over 3kg) and the indecent thrill of leafing through the pages of a book (actually, three books) that will probably be banned in India. Should anyone try to release it officially? It’s pornography, see? All combine to create a halo of novelty around Lost Girls.
Not that writer Alan Moore needs help to sell books: The man wrote what is, arguably, the greatest comic book (fine, graphic novel) ever, Watchmen and other worthies such as From Hell and V for Vendetta.
In the world of comics, Moore is the man to watch; Watchmen went on to win both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, the first comic book to do so ever, and as followers of science fiction and fantasy will know, that is no small feat.
In Lost Girls, Moore partners with his wife Melinda Gebbie (she’s the illustrator and her panels have a watercolour feel rarely seen in comics) to build a what-if story that has its roots in popular children’s literature: What if Alice (Wonderland), Wendy (Peter Pan), and Dorothy (Oz) meet when they are all grown up, in Austria, in the days running up to World War I? And what if their stories are very different from the ones Carroll, Baum and Barrie have led the world to believe?
As it turns out, they are. All talk of rabbit holes and red shoes and a flying boy-who-never-grows-up, it turns out, is a veiled reference to sexual awakening and discovery, a process that leaves our three female heroines lost: Alice to opium and a schizoid existence where reflections accentuate reality, Wendy to a boring marriage to an elderly naval engineer, and Dorothy to the stereotype of the American ingénue discovering life on the continent.
As the three women rediscover themselves, the world around them slowly goes to pieces. Francis Ferdinand is assassinated. The Germans march into Austria.
Only, Moore and Gebbie do not allow Lost Girls to lapse into a Maus-like allegory of the war. Instead, it remains a work of interpretive fiction and, like all good comic books, ensures a fine balance between form and content. In other words, don’t go looking for messages in Lost Girls; read it for kicks.
(Email your feedback to cult fiction@livemint.com)
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First Published: Sat, Feb 03 2007. 12 30 AM IST
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