The ABC network's new show, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland", which debuted last Thursday at 8:00 PM, and returns with its second episode tonight, opens with a pastoral scene in an English garden. The camera sweeps through a leafy grove, laden with a Victorian mist of nostalgia, passes delicately along an abandoned table set for tea, where old dolls sit, as if awaiting their cream and scones. Suddenly, a small but startlingly loud explosion erupts, and a young girl in a familiar blue dress and hair band claws her way out of the earth. The little girl smiles, emits a relieved "home", and runs off across a verdant field towards an ivy covered manor house. A stunned man responds to her loud banging on the heavy door, and stares at his presumably lost daughter in bewildered surprise. Thus begins the ongoing story of Charles Lutwidge Dodgsen's famous heroine, Alice, who was modeled on the daughter of the Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, Alice Liddell. Henry Liddell had two other daughters who were known to Lewis Carroll, Dodgsen's pen name, but it was his middle daughter that inspired the author.
The ABC show fast forwards from that scene to the present day, and we see our now teenage heroine sitting before a trio of stern psychiatric doctors, in an austere and forbidding insane asylum. She has been placed there after a second journey down the rabbit hole, where she lost her love, Cyrus, a genie, to the wrath of the Red Queen. It is quite obvious this isn't your grandmother's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". For that matter, Zenescope Entertainment's six-issue mini series, "Alice in Wonderland", would not qualify as appropriate bedtime reading for a ten year-old either. The Pennsylvania based comic book publishing company is well known for the adult level of its content.
Zenescope has a long history of turning the fairy-tales of childhood into darker and more erotic stories, to the delight of the many fans of its huge archive of titles. Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and Rapunzel all see the sexual subtext, only hinted at in their original tales, brought to light in these complex, and often horrifying, yet expertly rendered, comic books. In their six-issue mini series, "Return to Wonderland", "Beyond Wonderland", and "Escape From Wonderland", Alice is now all grown up, with a family and a mental disorder. Her own daughter, Calie, is now visiting Wonderland, and she encounters far more terrifying and twisted adventures than Carroll's original Alice ever did. With the six-issue series, "Alice in Wonderland", which debuted in 2011, the story switches back to Alice, and fills in pieces of her origin story only hinted at in the other three series. The writers at Zenescope use much smaller story arcs, within the mini series format, that leaves them free to explore new twists on the old themes.
The creator and writer of Zenescope's "Wonderland" series, Raven Gregory, along with one of the series' artists, Anthony Spay, and writer, Pat Shand, were in town last week for NYCC 2013. They made a special appearance on Saturday night at St. Mark's Comics, in the East Village, to talk with fans and sign copies of their books and packages of the figures based on the comics. Actress/model, Meridith Szalay, soon to be seen as Downtown Julie Brown on the Lifetime Movie Network's "Celebrity Ghost Stories", and model Angelica Vazquez, greeted visitors to the store dressed in "Alice" costumes provided by Zenescope. The two models, garbed in the saucy versions of Zenescope's incarnation of "Alice", drew more than just fans of comic books into the store that evening. The creative team inside was deluged with requests for autographs, thanks to the allure of the faux Alice models outside, who passed out free copies of issue #1 of the series, "Wonderland Through the Looking Glass".
Many of those who stopped by St. Mark's Comics on Saturday night arrived straight from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where NYCC has been held annually since 2006. Each year the show, which features exhibitors of everything from comic books, toys, games, TV shows, movies and even jewelry and apparel designers, draws larger crowds. Popular guests, like this year's David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, of "The X-Files", Lauren Cohan of AMC's "The Walking Dead", William Shatner and Sylvester Stallone, are a massive draw for fans of pop culture, as well as the opportunity to pull out all the stops in the creation of elaborate costume replications of favorite characters of comics, TV shows, films and books for the four days the convention is in town. The interface between fantasy and reality blurs more every year, as popular shows, movies, books and games inspire a level of devotion that can be seen in people of every age and both genders.