Nearly two years ago, Raven Gregory and Zenescope Entertainment grabbed us by our ocular nerves and bodily jerked us into their beautifully twisted re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s world of Wonderland. With Return to Wonderland, we were introduced once again to Alice Liddle, who had grown up (and grown quite mad) since last we met her. But more intriguing still, we met her children–daughter Carroll (or Calie for short) and her troubled son Johnny. And it was through them, and their eyes, that we were to once again tour the world of Wonderland, a world grown far darker than we remembered.
At the helm of this adventure was Raven Gregory, who was to reprise his role as writer for the 2008 followup, Beyond Wonderland, which comes to an action-packed conclusion this month. We recently had the opportunity to talk with Raven about Wonderland, the artistic process, and what lies ahead. So without further ado:
NOTE: THIS INTERVIEW FEATURES MODERATE LANGUAGE AND SUBJECT MATTER
TFAW.com: Hi Raven, thanks for taking some time to talk with us today.
Raven Gregory: No problem. It’s cool to be here.
TFAW.com: You have a diversified range of experience in comics, from The Gift, to Se7en, and your body of work with Zenescope Entertainment. Can you give us a sense of what you’re doing now?
RG: Well, I do staff writing, talent relations, and editorial for Zenescope. I also handle all the Wonderland projects coming in and out of Zenescope, as well as write the main series. Other than that, I write, write, and then write a little bit more when I’m not spending time with the family.
TFAW.com: With Return to Wonderland available as a trade for some time and the Beyond Wonderland TPB just over the horizon, the struggles of the Liddle family, Carroll (or Calie) in particular, have been diverse and twisted. For those readers who’ve not yet fallen through the looking glass, can you give a rough synopsis of where we find ourselves at the beginning of Beyond Wonderland?
RG: Calie is attempting to start a new life, running away from her past as best as she can. Little does she know that something from the other side of the looking glass has found its way back to our world and is silently stalking her.
TFAW.com: And there’s a whole new world of challenges for Calie in Beyond Wonderland?
RG: Yeah, one of the biggest of which is how she relates to other people. How she maintains relationships when there’s this huge “thing” that hangs over her head every day of her life. A “thing” that’s really hard for her to talk about or share with other people, as they might, and probably would, think she was crazy. She’s at a point where even she is not entirely sure that what happened in RTW (Return to Wonderland) really happened. But events are fast moving to the place where even she cannot ignore the craziness that is again creeping back into her life, whether she wants it to or not.
TFAW.com: I, and many others, have been drawn in and delighted by all the “Easter Eggs” hidden throughout the series to date (such as the Forest of Signs). Do these stem from conscious attempts at abstraction, foreshadowing of events yet to come, or some combination of both?
RG: There’s a lot of all of the above. Some stuff I don’t even realize I do until after someone else points it out. The fact that CALIE is an anagram for ALICE was pointed out by our Editor-in-Chief, Ralph Tedesco. We were talking and he was saying how cool it was that her name could be rearranged to spell ALICE, and I was all like . . . “It does? . . . uh . . . I mean yeah, yeah, I meant to do that.” Then there’s other stuff like Watchmen shout outs (which I love) and Contra codes (up down up down left right left right) that I just throw in for shits and giggles, and it really does run straight across the board and all over the place.
TFAW.com: Personal interest ((THERE BE SPOILERS HERE)). There’s a scene in Return to Wonderland where Johnny has dumped the body of his adulterous father’s lover into a hole in the basement. Besides her, you can see the corpse of Alice’s evil rabbit AND a fanged skull. I’ve got to know, what’s going on with that?
RG: Some of the story I like to leave up to the reader’s interpretation to decide what they think is going on. I don’t want to always spell it out and would rather let the reader come up with their own ideas. But that one in particular was pretty simple, in the sense that there’s a live rabbit at the beginning of the RTW series, and shortly there after the rabbit is gone or zombified. So in reality, you might think that Johnny (being that serial killers usually start out with animals) killed the rabbit or you might think that the rabbit has been dead all along. It’s really up to the reader to decide . . . but everyone knows that there’s more to that rabbit than meets the eye.
TFAW.com: Moving on, one element of the Wonderland series is the delicate balance between the erotic and the terrifying. As puppet master of this show, how do you view the relationship between these two elements and how they work together?
RG: It’s a balancing act. Calie is me as a teenager. I don’t look at it as erotic. I look at it as when I was young, I was very comfortable with myself and my sexuality. I liked, and still do like, having sex. Why this isn’t portrayed in comics I get, but to me this is a part of the character’s makeup and I like to make my characters feel like real people. In Beyond Wonderland, there’s a scene where Calie is naked in the shower and her and her boyfriend have obviously just had sex, and I get all types of shit about showing her ass and what not. But everyone who “gets” it knows that in relationships there are times that people use sex as a bandage and a quick fix tool to get past problems. Brandon was about to leave her so she did what some people would do in a case like that. Not to mention she’s so emotionally drained and damaged at that point that she’d do just about anything to keep him from leaving, and all of a sudden it means something totally different than an erotic visage it’s portrayed to be. And sometimes I just like butts.
TFAW.com: Have you ever had a scene you wanted to include, but that you thought was just too much? Or one that someone else balked at during the creative process?
RG: Well, this one is a spoiler, so if you haven’t read the HC of RTW you shouldn’t read the rest of this. In the first issue of RTW there’s a dream sequence with Johnny and his family at the table that is quite bloody, with body parts chopped and all. Originally, there was supposed to be a male member on the table as well. Zenescope said it was too much. My argument was that Johnny was molested as a child, which led him to becoming the serial killer he eventually becomes, so it makes sense. They said no. Other than that, that is the only thing they censored me on. Everything else is in there, and after looking back on it, I agree with their choice. Sometimes we as writers can go too far because we can’t rein in our imaginations, and everything in Wonderland just looks so darn pretty we want to throw it all in.
TFAW.com: So can you tell us anything else about the future of the Liddle family and Wonderland?
RG: Beyond Wonderland #6. In stores in two weeks. Calie versus Johnny. And only one is getting out alive, and it’s not who you think. ‘Nuff said.
TFAW.com: What else can we look forward to from you in the future?
RG: We’re ramping up another Tales from Wonderland series featuring the Cheshire Cat, the Red Queen, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and the Mad Hatter. Also look for another big announcement coming not long after the last issue of Beyond Wonderland hits the stands.
TFAW.com: Sounds awesome, I’ll be keeping my ears open. We’re looking forward to the conclusion of Beyond Wonderland, wish you every success in the future, and appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today. Thanks Raven.
RG: No, thank you.
We really appreciate Raven taking the time to chat with us, and encourage you to step through the looking glass with the Wonderland series. Any fan of horror, action, and good old-fashioned storytelling is sure to be pleased. And once you’ve whet your whistle, you’ll find there are all manner of worlds of comic awesome to be found at Zenescope . . . and apparently something secret in the works that we’ll be sure to tell you about as soon as it’s announced!