by Alan Moore, Melinda Gebbie (art)
2006. Top Shelf Productions
When I finished the first volume of Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s pornographic graphic novel Lost Girls, I actually welled up for few minutes. It’s very beautiful, and Alan Moore— he of V for Vendetta, From Hell, Watchmen, Swamp Thing— applies his usual mind-bending symbolism to moving effect. Seriously, I cried with delight.
The three volume set starts with the premise that Alice (of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Dorothy (of The Wizard of Oz) and Wendy (of Peter Pan and Wendy) are grown up and staying in the same Austrian hotel in 1913. They meet, have erotic encounters, and retell their famous fantasy stories as sexual coming-of-age experiences, all illustrated by Melinda Gebbie’s Edwardian-style crayon and pastel drawings, interspersed with bits of period erotica that the hotel guests are reading.
All three of those children’s stories are occasionally sexualized, there is no shortage of sordid speculation about the authors’ relationships to the female characters, and Wendy at least has a relationship disorder named after her. The possibilities involved in reinterpreting all three stories from the girls’ points of view with the sexual aspects made explicit, are fascinating. Alan Moore’s over-achievement in this area is what overwhelmed me, I think.
Moore manages to completely subvert the stories without getting heavy-handed or degrading the wonder of the originals (and I say that as someone whose favourite book is Alice in Wonderland). In doing so, he takes the characters through serious sexual healing where they start to reconcile their disorienting fantasy escapes with real life, and, I think, goes a long way towards healing pornography’s troubles by association. I know that sounds gradiose. I told you I cried.
Beyond the conceptual, touchy-feely excellence, the book is a work of art. Melinda Gebbie manages to draw realistic bodies (no superhero boobs, and Alice is an old lady) in expressionist, hallucinatory situations. The illustrations are a little weightless sometimes, but it works with the surreal mood. As comics, the three volumes are technically, formally lovely. If you are a nerd for panels and structures, you’ll be well taken care of.
As far as erotic stimulation, the writing offers all kinds of unusual sexual moods and descriptions of activities, while the pictures are graphic and varied. I’ve heard many people say they can’t read this one-handed because the sex has so much context and so many consequences. I think the key is to read it once for the literary experience, and then go back for pleasure and indulgence at your leisure. Cherry-picking the scenes and taking them out of context can help, as with any porn.
Lost Girls works both as a very artful and intelligent graphic novel, and as pornography that is completely non-exploitative without losing pornographic effect. Unless you are obsessed with the same things I am, Lost Girls might not make you weep. It would still be a great book for someone who is intimidated or offended by mainstream porn, and it is adventurous enough to appeal to anyone who likes sexy pictures. And at the risk of making my evangelical love for this embarrassingly obvious, I think it would actually appeal to anybody who likes artful comic books. (Have I covered everyone yet?)
See Lost Girls on Amazon.com for sample pages and preview images, and a more concrete review by Neil Gaiman.
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