By John Daniels, Jr.
JOHN D.: Mr. Beddor, first and foremost I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions concerning the title published by Image Comics and produced by Automatic Pictures: The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M.
What was your inspiration in writing the novel The Looking Glass Wars?
FRANK BEDDOR: A number of years ago I was in London for the European premiere of There’s Something About Mary. I went to the British Museum and saw an exhibit of ancient cards. For instance, Napoleon hired artists to hand paint depictions of his many victories in battle. But what caught my attention, at the very end of the exhibit, was an incomplete deck of cards illuminated by an unusual glow, almost as though they were alive. I was intrigued by the exhibit and captivated by the images on the cards. This was a very, very different version of Wonderland.
For the remainder of my trip I was preoccupied with the images and told several friends, one of whom suggested I meet with an antiquities dealer he knew who specialized in collecting all sorts of ancient playing cards.
The next morning, on the way to the airport, I stopped at the dealer’s shop. When I told him about the unusual exhibit, he revealed that he in fact owned the cards missing from the deck. I was stunned. He brought out this old, worn leather box filled with cards and told me the story as he flipped one card over at a time, revealing the saga of The Looking Glass Wars. It was a darker Alyss from a darker world and I knew I was meant to tell the story. Once I discovered the truth behind the deck of playing cards it soon became clear that Lewis Carroll had changed everything. I began putting all the pieces together and weaving the revelations of just how different the real Wonderland and its inhabitants were compared to the children’s lit version the world had known and accepted for nearly 150 years. Carroll’s choices in how he changed Alyss’s story were so fascinating (he even changed her name!) — the monsters and heroes of her lost world became these cheery reinventions. It was such a betrayal on Carroll’s part and was in fact, the reason for the rift that eventually occurred between the writer and his muse. For instance — the characters we know as the White Rabbit, the Red Queen, the Cheshire Cat and, of course, the Mad Hatter all appear in The Looking Glass Wars as they were intended to by Alyss when she told Carroll her harrowing tale.
The White Rabbit was in fact Bibwit Harte, the six foot tall albino royal tutor for all Wonderland Queens (Carroll had anagrammed his name to create the White Rabbit), while the Red Queen was in truth Alyss’s aunt Redd, the revenge-maddened usurper to the throne ably assisted by her top assassin, The Cat, a man-sized feline who morphs from adorable kitten to giant mutant feline when called upon to kill. So you see, there is a lot of truth to be uncovered.
JD: Who were some of your literary heroes?
FB: Jules Verne, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac.
JD: How is it writing comic books as opposed to novels?
FB: A lot more fun. It’s collaborative…it’s visual. The books come out faster. I can blame other people for proofing errors. It’s fantastic.
JD: How difficult was it for you to get this idea into the medium of comic books?
FB: It was an amazingly natural progression — I find when writing flows easily, it is generally right. And good.
Ben Templesmith has gone beyond my original vision to physically channel imagery that is so right on — so evocative of the worlds I wanted to share — that I am stunned.
JD: You have assembled an incredible creative team. As the creative lead in this project, do you take the lead or does everyone have input?
FB: Everyone has input. Debate is encouraged. No crying or kicking allowed.
JD: How has Liz Cavalier’s writing style contributed to the translation of The Looking Glass Wars into the title Hatter M?
FB: I believe our collaboration on the comic series to be a result of divine intervention. While I had a great deal of information regarding Hatter Madigan’s search, Cavalier had even more. As an astral traveler and interstellar author, Cavalier’s lifelong passion of tracking the myth of a prepotent, otherworldly warrior who appeared in France in 1859 to crisscross the planet for 13 years dovetailed perfectly with my own discovery regarding the truth of Wonderland. Over time, Cavalier had collected the tattered, annotated maps and coded diaries of a truly mad traveler in search of something profound. But for her, the ultimate questions remained unanswered. Who was this man and what did he search for? With the publication and revelations of The Looking Glass Wars, the mystery was finally solved. Upon reading the book she immediately contacted me and strongly suggested we meet to share what we knew. When we finally put all of our pieces together we came up with a saga far beyond either of our wildest imaginations. And that’s really quite far...
JD: When Hatter M encounters the historical characters, as he drops into a certain geographical area, the encounters or meetings are superb and refreshing. How important is it to have an historian such as Greg Cook part of the creative team?
FB: Very important. We strive to keep the suspension of disbelief as strong as possible so readers can really stop and say to themselves, “My god! This could be true. Is this true?” As cartographic chronicler and series historian, Sir Cook is constantly checking for historical and cartographic accuracy. He considers his input a moral imperative and can be quite an intimidating taskmaster. With an outraged bellow of “Impossible!” he is quick to inform us when something is illogical, inaccurate or completely unacceptable.
JD: Who did you base the character Hatter M (Madigan) on?
FB: Hatter Madigan.
JD: Of the artwork in the series by Ben Templesmith, I stated in my review of Hatter M. #1, “Facial expressions abound in the characters and the flow of the story correlates well with the art.” How instrumental is his style to the realm of Wonderland and the vision you expressed in your writing?
FB: He has gone beyond my original vision to physically channel imagery that is so right on — so evocative of the worlds I wanted to share — that I am stunned.
JD: Your writing style is outstanding and incredibly intriguing to read. The story covers the full spectrum of horror, comedy and action-adventure. How do you blend so many emotions in your characters?
FB: By not letting them become “characters.” To us — they are real. Life is a mix of tragedy and comedy where the ridiculous stands holding hands with the sublime. People’s moods change constantly — the most serious moments are upstaged by carnal dogs — nothing is locked down and neither should the “characters” — keep them free. Let them react to the madness.
JD: Did you ever think Hatter M. would be so successful and create so much buzz and so many accolades within the industry and readers in the comic community?
FB: You always hope for the best — but the reaction has exceeded even that.
JD: Now the next-to-final question:
Will the readers find out if Hatter M’s mission will be fulfilled or will readers see him in other adventures? Could we see movies, cartoon series, or anime in the near future?
FB: As the readers follow Hatter’s journey they will discover as he does that there is more to his search than simply finding Alyss. Although locating the lost princess is paramount to driving the search, Hatter — like most of us — comes to realize that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. So what he experiences and learns about Life and Imagination will generate many levels of experience and adventure. Movies, cartoons and anime? Bring it on. The material is there.
JD: Finally, is there anything you would like to express to the fans and readers that are following the glow?
FB: Thank you for packing your bags and coming along with us on this journey. Glad you are here to share the wonder of it all.
JD: I want to thank you for your time in answering questions about Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars, and thanks to all the great people at Automatic Pictures — Nate Barlow was especially helpful. I am sure the readers and fans are happy as well that you are bringing us this fantastic title.