A Looking Glass Darkly:
An Interview with Frank Beddor
not use the term Renaissance Man lightly, but it
fits for Beddor.
not use the term Renaissance Man lightly, but it fits for
Frank Beddor. As a youth, his athleticism led him to be
a two-time world champion freestyle skiier, which circuitously
led him to being John Cusack's stunt double in Better Off
there, he went into acting, and looking at his chiseled
jaw, it's clear he should have come about a decade or so
later to take advantage of the superhero movie craze. Not
that he has time to mourn the loss.
the nineties, Beddor found an unproduced screenplay, thought
it was funny and optioned it to produce. That turned into
a movie you might be familiar with -- There's Something
then, in this decade he created his own little empire. Leaping
off of an idea about Lewis Carroll, Beddor created The Looking
Glass Wars. Starting as a trilogy of novels, the series
has now expanded into graphic novels, an online game, a
children's book, CDs and who knows what more?
Beddor knows, and he took the time to answer my questions
about his work and his future. Because let me say something
else about the man -- he's one of the hardest working boothrunners
I've met at various conventions, kind, gracious and open
to all his fans. And whether you know it or not, those fans
are legion. To a certain young and powerful book-reading
age group, The Looking Glass Wars is talked about in the
same admiring tones as Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Fablehaven.
a few weeks ago, Beddor saw the release of the end of his
trilogy -- an exciting wrap-up (for now) called Archenemy.
So we started at the temporary ending...
McCaw: You've finally reached the end
of your epic trilogy, at least in novel form. How does it
just-released Volume 3 in the epic saga...
Beddor: It’s a joy and a relief.
McCaw: Did it turn out the way you envisioned
it when you started? What inspired you to twist Lewis Carroll's
vision into your own?
Beddor: I knew I would do a trilogy and I knew
the ending. But a lot of what came in between surprised
me as I wrote. The characters do take on a life of their
own and they threw me quite a few twists and challenges.
All for the best.
for writing the Looking Glass Wars happened a number of
years ago when 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
first volume in the graphic novel spin-off, Hatter
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 size feline who morphs from adorable kitten
to giant mutant feline when called upon to kill.
see, there was a lot of truth to be uncovered and you might
say, I felt the CALLING!
McCaw: You seem to be a pioneer of making
the experience of Looking Glass Wars interactive. What elements
of the multi-media onslaught are you still working on?
Beddor: Everything is really ongoing. I may have
finished the prose trilogy but there are still so many elements
to oversee and manage into the websites, interviews, school
appearances etc. So what I am saying is nothing is every
really completed. Additionally, I have the Hatter M graphic
novel series. I am currently writing Volume 3.
have an online game as well as my LGW website to maintain
and build. Also for online media I have a series of Hatter
M webisodes I plan to release and then collect into a print
volume. Art books are in the works as well as the film adaptation
of the Looking Glass Wars. There’s a lot to do.
McCaw: The Hatter M side story
has been really enjoyable. How far do you intend to take
it in terms of graphic novels?
Beddor: Well, there are 5 volumes planned. Volume
2: Mad With Wonder was just released in October featuring
our new artist, Sami Makkonen’s work. I am really
thrilled with Sami and he is at work now on Volume 3: The
Nature of Wonder. The series will follow Hatter as he follows
the Glow of Imagination he believes will eventually lead
him to the lost princess.
who has read the Looking Glass Wars or even the introduction
to the first comic book knows that Hatter is eventually
successful in finding Alyss and bringing her home.
NO mystery there.
at the heart of Hatter’s search there is a mystery.
As Volume 2 of the graphic novel series unfolds readers
should start to realize that the mystery of this planned
5 Volume parallel series is the path that Hatter follows
both consciously and unconsciously.
he can master the final challenge of finding the Princess
he must first, like all of us, realize there is something
he must learn from his ordeal. Operating from the metaphysical
rule stating: Everything Happens for a Reason we have begun
to track and will eventually reveal this mystery when Hatter
McCaw: Do you see a day you let others
play in your version of Wonderland?
just released Volume 2 -- and it rocks.
Beddor: Others have been invited over to play since
I began. As I often mention, art has been a big part of
the process of writing the Looking Glass Wars trilogy. From
the very beginning I have engaged artists to visualize what
I am writing. This has resulted in the project generating
a lot of great art that is used in everything from book
covers to a scrapbook containing the lost art of Princes
Alyss. I have invited musicians over to play and produced
a soundtrack to accompany the books the same as one would
accompany a film.
Chuck Roven, the producer of The Dark Knight, joined me
in working to bring the Looking Glass Wars to the big screen.
And, of course there are the fans who have been dressing
up as their favorite characters, creating their own claymation
trailers, doing mash-ups, fan fiction and on and on. We
play all day long here in Alyss’ Wonderland.
McCaw: Looking back on your varied career,
you've been a man known for carving out his own opportunities.
Is there anything you wish you could have done differently,
or perhaps in all your dabblings, maybe shouldn't have spent
so much time doing?
Beddor: Honestly, no. I believe everything happens
for a reason and this philosophy is important to my prose
and graphic novels. What happens to Alyss is indeed harrowing
but she must go on this journey if she is to become a fully
realized Queen. The same is true for Hatter Madigan; he
lost the princess he had been entrusted to keep safe until
she was old enough to return to Wonderland to rule! He could
regret this or he could get on with it and in the course
of the challenge fight for Imagination here in our world
while uncovering the mystery of his own existence. There
is no time to regret what happens, you have to find a way
of moving through it, using it and succeeding.
McCaw: With Tim Burton's take on Alice,
do you see that as help or a hindrance to the Looking Glass
Wars hitting the big screen?
Beddor: Tim Burton’s movie is coming out
in the next few months but the LGW movie won’t be
in theaters for three years so I don’t see it as a
hindrance. If anything I should buy Tim a rollercoaster
for keeping Lewis Carroll’s myth of Wonderland front
and center in the pop consciousness. The film can remind
everyone just what Alyss had to put up with!
Burton's impending take on the mythos...
McCaw: How close are you to getting this
to movie form?
Beddor: From where I stand now, I anticipate the
first film in the series will be on screens in 3 years.
McCaw: I do keep coming across the so-called
young adult audience having really taken this to heart (I
teach high school, and mention your books and several students
brighten up). Did you intend this to be a young adult series,
and to what do you attribute its growing popularity?
Beddor: I did intend LGW to be a YA (Young Adult)
series. In doing so, I was following the trajectory of Lewis
Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. I saw the LGW series
being written for children but able to capture the imaginations
of adults as well. Additionally – since I was finally
writing the story that Alyss Heart had told Lewis Carroll
and begged him to write I knew it should be for YA readers
since it was “Alyss’ book.”
having Alice in Wonderland as the springboard into my series
helped immeasurably in attracting curious readers. But that
was really only applicable to the first book in the series.
A lot of projects try to tag to something established but
don’t enhance or enlarge the mythos – so there
is a finite capacity and the projects eventually reach stasis.
LGW I continually add to the mythos so there is an ever-expanding
universe to explore. Fans of Alice in Wonderland who first
came to me looking for another take on ‘Alice’
have stayed and championed the Looking Glass Wars and Hatter
M for the enrichment it brought to their childhood notions
McCaw: Now known for the Looking Glass
Wars, what other projects do you have in the hopper? I've
heard rumor that you had done a pitch on the Monopoly movie...
Beddor: At the time Hasbro approached me the Monopoly
film project was underway but they were in a little bit
of trouble I guess and they were looking for a way to actually
turn it into a movie. So I wrote a story that got Hasbro
excited and then I attached Director Ridley Scott.
does look a bit like the White Rabbit...
for Monopoly the film came from Carroll and the "Looking
Glass Wars" experience. Hasbro had this big world and
this game -- it’s the most famous board game in the
world -- and it just really came out of the whole 'Alice'
the approach of thinking of the main character falling down
a rabbit hole and into a real place called Monopoly City
... It was the re-engineering of 'Alice in Wonderland' that
got me thinking and then with this it came around full circle
and I was able to utilize that. That’s a big world.
They were searching for that.
McCaw: You've got a tremendous youth audience.
What advice do you have for those who have become inspired
by the power of your imagination?'
Beddor: Never underestimate the power of your Imagination
and always use it for good.
suspect Frank listens to the podcast! Anyway, we're grateful
for the time he's taken, and in addition, here's some art
from the great Hatter M, volume 2: Mad With Wonder --