Alice In Comicland by Craig Yoe (book review).

Now here’s a surprising book. The variants of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’ as depicted in comics. Often satirised but a lot of the time it’s playing with the story elements and connecting them to the lead character of an existing series. Craig Yoe’s book contains complete stories NOT sample pages and even better, much of it is taken from the original art than from the comicbooks they were printed in so you can see the lines as they were drawn which does make it unique and not dulled by earlier printing processes. Yeo also points out that the inclusion of John Tenniel’s illustrations in Carroll’s two books led the way into comicbooks. Even a quick check on the Internet reveals that isn’t really true but I do value Tenniel’s significance.


It goes without saying that much of this ‘Alice’ is used for satire of the journey kind, often including a certain tea party and that nice Queen of Hearts and, as with Charles Schultz’ ‘Peanuts’, the Cheshire Cat. Even Superman gets in on the act in 1954 with art by Alex Toth, who also used Alice in a horror story. There’s even a nice story attributed to Charles M. Quinlan (Yoe points out at the beginning the difficulty of finding credits) showing how the Reverend Charles Dodgson created the story, including sending Queen Victoria, by her request, his other books, all about mathematics which was what he was really known for. I’d have loved to have seen her face for real. No wonder he wrote a sequel.

The biggest contributor by far has to be Walt Kelly, who must have had a love affair with the book, doing work of Alice and company alone and then with his famous creation, ‘Pogo’. Secondly, all of this material is from the 1950s. It would have been interesting had Yoe had done a date comparison as usually with an idea propagation across different comicbooks, it would have made it easier to think someone saw this and thought that they could do their own take and put things into historical perspective. Interestingly, none of them took the 1951 Disney film as their inspiration, no doubt to avoid being sued even for satire. Of them all, the Archie Comics version would probably stand out as they were piss-taking a lot of known fables as part of a series at the time.

Several of these stories just used the characters to go their own way. Without doing that, you wouldn’t have had two horror tales, one of which had a real nasty Alice. The 1950s was pre-Comic Code and although they would have seemed tame by comparison to today, this does give a rare opportunity to see what our forebears thought shocking. Oddly, Harvey Kurtzman’s Alice story for ‘Mad Magazine’ keeps in line, if not texture, with original artist John Tenniel drawings at the beginning and has to be my personal favourite, if only for including a certain grey rabbit at the end.

One thing I learnt for the first time here and if you’ve ever only seen ‘The Yellow Kid’ in ‘The Penguin Book Of Comics’, he does actually have a name, Mickey Dugan.

For the rest, the book is diverse so there will probably be something for everyone here. Craig Yeo does a great service with these theme books because without them, it would be unlikely that you would ever be able to see such period comicbook material.

GF Willmetts

May 2014

(pub: IDW. 170 page illustrated hardback. Price: $29.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61377-913-2)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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