“Curiouser and curiouser.” It’s been 151 years since Lewis Carroll penned this well-known quote. In that time, the popularity of his trips into imagination and maddening nonsense seems only to have grown. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass continue to be inspiration for new flights of fantasy.
Of course, you can’t discuss such inspiring books without thinking about their various visual adaptations. There have been countless screen adaptations of Carroll’s works; serials, mini-series, TV shows, and movies. The most famous are probably the Disney adaptations- 1951's animated Alice in Wonderland and its live-action counterpart from 2010, directed by Tim Burton. Alice fans are anxiously awaiting the sequel to the latter, Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, due out in theaters May 27, 2016. But there are many other mediums reinventing these beloved stories.
If you look, you can find Alice-inspired stories in forms you might not expect. One of my favorite places for reinterpretation of commonplace tales is in the world of manga. There are a number of manga that tie into the Alice stories, but my two personal favorites are QuinRose’s ALICE IN THE COUNTRY OF HEARTS and Mochizuki’s PANDORA HEARTS. Each of these manga has in turn inspired their own movie/TV anime interpretations. If you love subtitled anime, track them down.
ALICE IN THE COUNTRY OF HEARTS starts off as more of a reinterpretation of Carroll’s original work. Alice finds herself in a strange new world, but it’s infinitely more dangerous than Carroll’s original fantasy. All the main residents in Wonderland are armed to the teeth, using their weapons freely without fear of death. Complicating matters in this perilous new Wonderland, many characters fall in love with Alice (definitely a shojo/girl’s manga). Alice must survive in this unfamiliar and frightening environment, while trying to find her way back home. It’s the delightful and dangerous imaginative additions to the original story that make this a fun read. This series also features a character topping my “hope to cosplay (crossplay)” list.
PANDORA HEARTS gets more inventive with the original story. The protagonist, Oz Vessalius, lives in a world of magic and “demons” in servitude to humanity, referred to as Chains. Chains make contracts, sometimes illegal, with the humans to be wielded as weapons. All of the Chains are derived from inhabitants of Wonderland and each one has a special power that somehow ties to something important in the original Wonderland character. Oz himself begins the story by being thrown into an Abyss where the Chains come from. He is rescued by Alice (a Chain), but she has a darker side--an incarnation called the Bloody Black Rabbit. Oz must figure out the mystery of Alice’s past while navigating both the real world controlled by the Pandora organization and the Abyss itself. This is an action-packed ongoing manga that creatively uses some of Carroll’s original characters like Mad Hatter, Dormouse, Unicorn, Bandersnatch, The Queen of Hearts, and others.
Of course if manga isn’t your thing, a regular novel reinterpretation of Alice could be for you. Cameron Jace has written a wonderful series called INSANITY, with Lewis Carroll and his most famous characters as inspiration.
In this ongoing series, Alice and other Wonderlanders have found their way into the modern world. Many of the more insane characters have become “Wonderland Monsters," looking to terrorize the human race. Alice and a handful of other Wonderlanders are in a constant battle to stop these Monsters and the “Wonderland War” they are looking to engage in. If you are a fan of good fantasy, mystery, and ghost stories mashed together into one, this is a series you should read. Once you devour the five books released, you can wait with me for the release of book 6, Checkmate, on March 21, 2016.
Finally, my all-time favorite reinterpretation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is actually my favorite video game: American McGee’s Alice.
The original video game was released in 2000 and sold 1.5 million copies. The story is really a continuation of Carroll’s original; a family tragedy sends a catatonic Alice back to Wonderland, but a much darker, macabre Wonderland of her own making. Alice needs to navigate both her own psychosis and the dangers of Wonderland to return to the real world. Then in the sequel, Alice: The Madness Returns (2011), Alice returns again to discover Wonderland in crisis. Helping Wonderland leads her to find suppressed memories of her family’s tragedy and to face her “real life” villain. The original volume is now considered a collector’s piece, but the sequel is well worth playing. McGee is currently developing a third volume that I can’t wait to get my hands on.
So here’s to Alice and her adventures, long may they inspire. Enjoy yourself as you fall down a new rabbit hole to explore new adventures with old familiar characters. All you have to do is pick your medium to get started. Whatever your choice, as the Cheshire Cat says, “We’re all mad here.”