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J LHLS Archives: April 2004
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Lela Dowling's Alice
by Lela Dowling
Publisher: About Comics
Lela Dowling ‘relies on dead poets and writers to provide the vehicle for her humorous illustration’. With ‘Alice’, it must be hard to find a reader who hasn’t already taken a ride in this particular vintage automobile, and Dowling struggles to express her originality, or her humour. Her realisation of Carroll’s whimsy is pedestrian and predictable, and her realisations of both major and incidental characters left me feeling too often that I was encountering old friends from the works of other illustrators.
Turning to the heroine, Dowling’s Alice is a polite but feisty modern ragdoll miss (with judiciously updated vocabulary), but I missed the charm and tension generated as the original Alice strove to maintain proper Victorian nursery decorum in the face of the unreasonable and the impossible.
Maybe I should give Dowling credit for cramming so much of the visual detail of Wonderland into her comic, but her technique doesn’t reveal the richness of the detail so much as force the reader to hunt for anticipated treasures. Perhaps, therefore, she is right to work with dead writers whose material is so overwhelmingly familiar through so many different media.
I’m probably overinclined to criticise because I don’t particularly like Carroll’s Wonderland, whoever illustrates it, or maybe the problem lies elsewhere. Today, I listened to an interview with playwrite John Byrne - Ah, not merely playwrite, but also producer, costume designer and poster artist - maybe Byrne should simply have whipped out his sketch pad and produced the comic strip of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Leaving aside his renaissance breadth of competencies, or megalomaniac desire for control, John Byrne has produced a Scottish rewrite of Uncle Vanya, retitled Uncle Varick. Why? Why is everyone relying on dead poets and writers?
Meanwhile, buy this comic book for a child of your acquaintance who really ought to read the original, but stubbornly refuses. Alternatively, you could read them the original, or buy them something that will pay royalties to a live writer.
Posted by Jane Seaton @ 04:28 PM PST [Link]
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