A ‘Complete’ Comic Book Alice

Leah Moore & John Reppion, with Erica Awano, offer a scintillating visual and literary interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s heroine’s adventures—including the ‘Lost Chapter’—in a classy comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment

Through Dynamite Entertainment, writers Leah Moore and John Reppion, working with penciller/inker Erica Awano (covers by John Cassady) have published Alice In Wonderland in a four-volume comic book series. The first volume of The Complete Alice In Wonderland appeared in mid-December 2009; the final went on sale this past March. For the first time ever, Lewis Carroll’s complete Alice tales are truly complete, as the authors included “the lost chapter,” “The Wasp In a Wig,” that was removed when artist John Tenniel strenuously objected to it when he was crafting illustrations for the original edition of the book. Moore and Rappion enrich their Alice experience with script pages, annotations and samplings of Carroll’s original text.

Hypergeek (, Edward Kaye and Friends’ essential resource for comic book industry news, featured Moore and Reppion’s first volume of Alice in a pre-publication interview by Mr. Kaye on its website in 2009. Below is an excerpt from that interview, with a link to the complete interview on the Hypergeek website provided at the end. It begins with Mr. Kaye’s introduction to the authors, which provides valuable background on Moore and Reppion’s work to date.

John Reppion and Leah Moore, ‘experts at the art of comic book adaptations of 19th Century literary works’

Over the last year or so, Leah Moore and John Reppion have forged themselves a reputation as being experts at the art of comic book adaptations of 19th Century literary works.

The first such work that the couple performed was The Trial of Sherlock Holmes, which, while not strictly an adaptation, was a story written in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and featuring many of his famous cast of characters. The series was adored by fans and critics alike, with many agreeing that this inventive new story was one of the best Holmes stories put to paper since Sir Conan Doyle put down the pen.

Then came The Complete Dracula, an incredibly ambitious attempt to make sense of Bram Stoker’s complicated gothic horror. I say complicated because structurally, Dracula it is an epistolary novel, that is, told as a series of letters, diary entries, ships’ logs, etc. A format that does not lend itself well to being adapted into a linear narrative. Not only did Moore & Reppion make light work of this challenge, they also restored the story’s missing first chapter, “Dracula’s guest,” thereby gaining the title “The Complete” Dracula.

For their next challenge they will be tackling Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s tales, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-GlassAnd What Alice Found There. Released by Dynamite Entertainment, The Complete Alicein Wonderland will be told as a series of four 40-page comic books, and much like its predecessor, The Complete Dracula, The Complete Alice in Wonderland will also have a missing chapter restored into the narrative.

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Much like The Complete Dracula, The Complete Alice in Wonderland has a “lost” chapter restored into the overall narrative. What can you tell us about this lost chapter, and how it fits in with the rest of the story?

John Reppion: Yes, “The Wasp in the Wig” is a chapter that was set to appear in Through the Looking-Glass until illustrator John Tenniel wrote to Carroll saying, “I am bound to say that the ‘wasp’ chapter does not interest me in the least, and I can’t see my way to a picture. If you want to shorten the book, I can’t help thinking—with all submission—that this is your opportunity.”

The chapter concerns “something like a very old man only that his face was more like a wasp” whom Alice meets just after her conversation with the White Knight. It’s hard to see why Tenniel couldn’t see his way to illustrating it because it doesn’t really seem any more bizarre than the rest of the story (he managed to draw a leg of mutton with a face without any bother). One theory put forward by Annotated Alice author Alan Gardner is that, as a man with only one eye himself, Tenniel might have took offense at the Wasp’s comments about Alice’s own eyes in the chapter and therefore decided that he’d rather see it cut for the book altogether.

In The Complete Alice in Wonderland, you will be adapting both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. What were the major challenges fitting the stories of both of the books, and the missing chapter into four 40 page comics?

Leah Moore: The main challenge is trying to work out in advance how many comic pages you need to tell each bit of the story. The various chapters of each book are all different lengths, and some of them have really lengthy poems in them, which need several pages to themselves. To begin with we were estimating it based on what we knew from adapting Dracula, but Carroll sneaks large amounts of action into a few words sometimes, so we had to change our methods to adapt to that. By the last issue, we were fairly adept at working out the breakdown, but of course by then it’s all finished! We have just seen Erica’s layouts for issue #2 and they are just lovely. It’s not until we see the pages that we know for sure if we made the right choices when we broke the story down, and the beats we used to tell the story, but I’m happy to say we are very pleased with it thus far!

Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, apart from having the same protagonist, only has very tenuous links to the earlier story, and in fact, Alice doesn’t even remember her adventures in Wonderland. Why did you decide to put these stories into one volume, rather than publishing them as separate books?

John Reppion: Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland is, for many people, the ultimate telling of Carroll’s tale but, oddly, it’s a sort of squished together version of both Wonderland and Looking-Glass. Much like Dracula, over the years people have taken the bits they liked and recreated the story, leaving a fair bit of the original on the cutting room floor. Whilst both books continue to be a staple of any decent children’s library they aren’t actually especially child friendly in that they seem to have been written to be read to children rather than by children. All this means that a lot of kids (and adults alike) are probably not as familiar with the stories as they imagine. We wanted to create a definitive and more accessible version of both books that will hopefully sit as comfortably on a nursery shelf as a library one.


How faithful is your adaptation to the original work? Did you have to sacrifice any parts of the story? And were there any bits you had to change to make this story flow better as a comic?

Leah Moore: Our adaptation is totally faithful to the structure of the original, and we have all the same scenes and characters, but we have sometimes had to make the scenes shorter, or occasionally, more straight forward. Carroll, like Stoker it seems, really enjoyed a meandering plot, and especially meandering conversations. We have edited down some of the exchanges, which felt overly long on the page of the book, because once you put all that onto a comic page, it seems twice as long, and you have twice as many panels to fill with interesting visuals. We always conserve the essence of the scene and the best bits of dialogue are left intact, so hopefully you won’t feel much of a difference at all.

What sort of research did you do in preparation for this project? Are projects like this more a lot more research heavy than say, a story like Raise the Dead?

John Reppion: I spent years researching Raise the Dead—I’ve been watching zombie films since I was 14!

The Complete Dracula has stood us in good stead where research is concerned and we’re never happier now than when we’ve got a big pile of reference to back us up. Our main resources for Alice were Martin Gardner’s unfailing Annotated Alice and the fantastic However, there aren’t really many facts or period details you have to get spot on. It was more about understanding the context of certain passages as well as things like the etiquette of the time. It’s not really a research heavy book at the end of the day though; it’s all about the fun really.

Were you fans of the Alice books before beginning work on this project, and has this given you a new appreciation for the original?

Leah Moore: We were both fans of the Alice books; in fact our source for the first book (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) was my old copy from when I was a kid. It was lovely to be able to go back over it and put all the things we liked the first time round into our version of it. It has given us a more rounded view of the original I think, but really it is such an odd world he creates, you don’t get much closer to it no matter how much research you do. It’s his personal fantasy world, and that remains at the end. I also found that as when we adapted Dracula, the work we have to do to adapt the story can actually mean we end up irritated with the author for putting in all the unnecessary folds and quirks! Once you have to re-read something five zillion times, you lose patience a bit!

Lewis Carroll’s Alice books are some of the best loved Children’s tales of all time, with no less that 15 movies and animated features based on the original text. What do you think gives this story such enduring attraction, which seems to have appealed to children for so many generations?

John Reppion: I think they’re great fairy tales but without the baggage of morals. There really is no “point” to either book other than maybe “enjoy being a child whilst you are one.” They’re bizarre and at times creepy stories but it’s all very natural and dreamlike. Maybe it’s the non-standard nature of the stories—drifting from one almost unrelated happening to another—that stops them dating too much.


Throughout Wonderland, Carroll makes many references to mathematical principles, and uses the theme of playing cards to represent various characters; in Looking-Glass he uses the theme of chess, with different characters being represented by different chess pieces. Is this something that you explored much in your research?

Leah Moore: We did look at the second book more in this way, because it is apparently a whole chess game, with each chapter being a move across the board by Alice, who is a white pawn. The annotations in Martin Gardner’s excellent book go through all the apparent moves that the characters make, and it only works up to a point. When you realize “at this point the king is in check but nobody mentions it” then you have to kind of relax about the structure of the book as a chess game and just kind of see the games and the math as themes. Carroll obviously enjoyed filling the books with these things for his own amusement, and presumably as improving pursuits for the young. He might have encouraged millions of children to start playing chess, or cards and broadened their little minds in the process.

Hypergeek is an invaluable resource of comic book industry news, reviews, interviews, columns, articles, previews and more. It is written and edited by Edwared Kaye & Friends. Visit Hypergeek at

Edward Kaye’s complete interview with Leah Moore and John Reppion is at

All four volumes of Moore & Reppion’s The Complete Alice In Wonderland comics are available at the Dynamite Entertainment website for $4.99, along with a hardcover edition containing Volumes 1 and 2 of the comic books.

Dynamite Entertainment is at

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