Sunday, 22 August 2010

A to Z: L is for Lost Girls (Or: Not Safe For Your Soul. Or Work)

Sometimes a man must admit that even he has limits as to what he'll do. For me it's that I simply cannot and will not post uncensored images from Lost Girls in this article. So I've employed a crippling amount of editing to ruin the original art of the comic and preserve my dignity a few more minutes. Apologies to those who desperately need some titties, you bloody wankers you.

It's a hard thing to see a classic tale of prose adapted into something wholly different. We usually see this with Hollywood film adaptations, such as that absolutely bloody awful Alice In Wonderland by Tim Burton painfulness. Or any Phillip K. Dick books save A Scanner Darkly (not that those were bad films, just not faithful). In comics we've seen this done to SOME success though, with titles like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from Marvel being a truly brilliant title that captures the charm of the original material and didn't stray very far from L. Frank Baum's writing.

So it came as some surprise to me when I learnt that Alan Moore took three beloved children's characters, put them in a comic and made them all have lots of sex.

... I mean that's just not good adaptation, surely?

But it is.

And I'll tell you why as we delve further into Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie!

Ah what a nice and innocent cover, yes? And with a a nice thematic nature to it!... Let's look at what's going on inside that mirror, shall we?


To give you the basic gist of what Lost Girls is about (at least on the surface), it follows three characters from popular literature (Alice Fairchild, Wendy from Peter Pan and Dorothy Gale) as they meet for the first time in an Austrian hotel ("Hotel Himmelgarten") and connect due to the fantastic natures of their pasts. And have sex. A lot. In pretty much any situation, from watching a theatre performance to a frantic orgy all throughout the hotel. Seriously, nothing stops the trio from giving in to their desires. Which in its own way is a beautiful expression of freedom, and in another an excuse to fill the book with Alan Moore's filthy, beardy perversions.

Of course more happens than just that. There's also a subplot involving Wendy's husband and Dorothy's new fella having a jolly good time together as well (which is significant enough to get an entire chapter dedicated to it), not to mention the mystery of hotel owner Monsieur Rougeur and his much beloved "White Book" of naughty, lurid sex stories. But really they're just some icing on the cake of what is really a story focused on our three main femmes.
Something I do love in this graphic novel is the tendency to use panel layouts to maximum effect. A particular instance of it is this, where the panel borders control the way you read the page, and separate the conversation going on between Dorothy and Alice with Wendy's arrival at the bottom. It's effective without intruding on the art.

But I digress from what I was trying to say earlier, in that this is a brilliant adaptation of the original material. Because it is. And it's so much more than that. But before I go further into all that other stuff I suppose I really should address the adaptation thing so I'm going to and this paragraph is a really awkward segue, isn't it?

The key to a good adaptation isn't necessarily to be faithful to the nth degree. We've seen this to be true of how awry most of Watchmen went (though it did substantially change the ending) in its attempt to be a perfect adaptation of the original work. No, in my opinion the way to make an adaptation work is to take the original material, but make it fit what you're attempting to achieve with your version. This works well in Lost Girls by twisting the classic stories of Through The Looking Glass, Wonderful Wizard Of Oz and Peter Pan into the sexual discovery of their characters, with what originally happened being reflected in the new versions of the tales (which quite brilliantly are told via use of artistically different tales shared amongst the trio).

An example of this I'll highlight for you all is the approach taken to Dorothy's encounter with "The Tin Man". In her retelling he is one of three farmhands she has sexual relations with, the last of the three to be specific. Where the parallel is drawn is in how he is referred to, as a heartless man who just pounded away like a machine, like clockwork, with no romance in him. However, towards the end of the story she dumped him and he got upset, showing he had a heart all along. It follows the original material in some ways whilst twisting it into the correct shape, and makes it work without ruining the tale... For me. I'm sure it angered any number of people who didn't want to see Dorothy wanking off a horse (oh yeah that happened. and it's weird). Or later in the story where she sleeps with her father.... What was my point again? Wow, it's not often that I kinda prove myself wrong with the minutiae before I've even succeeded in making my point. Still, I like to think I'm mostly right... In my mind.
A nice aspect to the flashback things is that each story will kinda be summarised in a single art piece that makes the connection to the literature even clearer. They're amazing pieces, though this one has been ruined through my standard need to preserve my dignity right after using the words "wanking off a horse".

Finally I want to talk about the way each chapter tends to differentiate itself from the others. Whilst one or two chapters may well just be standard sequential art, others will be framed by representations of such things as the seven deadly sins or the material from Rougeur's White Book, and the flashbacks all have their own panel style and artistic theme. For example whilst the tales of Alice Fairchild's past are framed in consistently sized ovals page on page, containing surreal and overwhelming images, Wendy's past is framed in a stained glass style with a 4 panel layout and flat colours throughout. These touches maintain an immediate atmosphere for each person's past, affecting expectations and page-space in ways that prompt the imagination to mentally add a tone to how they react to these controlled layouts. Also they all look VERY pretty and stylised, and isn't that what REALLY matters in the world of high-brow artsy comic erotica?

... You tell me. I don't really know much about this stuff.
I haven't had a chance to praise the realistic facial expressions, so just... I don't know, admire this poorly censored example of one of the brilliantly true-to-life faces to be found in the work. Also who the hell wears a penis costume?!

If there's one thing that solidifies my recommendation of this title, it's the fact that despite what it is it makes a GREAT coffee table book. I mean you put this down in front of mixed company and you're guaranteed to get a chance for a fancy conversation. Or you'll be considered a perverse freak. Either way, CONVERSATION! Which if you're a geek is something you're sorely lacking, as we all well know. So that's a

You can find Lost Girls in... Comic shops? Maybe? OR you can just order it off of (UK). You know you should. Just 'cause you can.

And that's L. What's M?... It's Metal Men by Duncan Rouleau. Less perverse, but still well worth talking about. I hope.