Cover of Lost Girls single-volume hardcover edition.
Top Shelf Productions|
(previously Steve Bissette and Tundra)
Lady Fairchild (Alice)|
Wendy Darling-Potter ("Wendy Darling")
|Lost Girls||ISBN 1-891830-74-0|
Lost Girls is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Melinda Gebbie, depicting the sexually explicit adventures of three important female fictional characters of the late 19th and early 20th century: Alice from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Dorothy Gale from L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, and Wendy Darling from J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan. They meet as adults in 1913 and describe and share some of their erotic adventures with each other.
Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (now grey-haired, and called "Lady Fairchild"), Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz (now in her 20s) and Wendy from Peter Pan (now in her 30s, and married to a man in his 50s named Harold Potter) are visiting the expensive mountain resort "Hotel Himmelgarten" in Austria on the eve of World War I (1913–1914). The women meet by chance and begin to exchange erotic stories from their pasts. The stories are based on the childhood fantasy worlds of the three women:
- Wendy Darling. Wendy's sexual escapades begin when she meets a homeless teenage boy named Peter and his sister Annabel in Kensington Gardens. Peter follows the three siblings home and teaches them sexual games, and the siblings begin regular meetings with Peter and his group of homeless boys in the park for sex. These encounters are watched by The Captain, a co-worker of Wendy's father, who later hires Peter as a male prostitute and brutally rapes Annabel. He attacks Wendy, who escapes by confronting him with his fear of ageing. She only sees Peter once more, hustling in a train station. She marries the much older Harold Potter with whom she is sexually incompatible. The pair have a platonic marriage, and Wendy is able to repress her memories of sex.
- Dorothy Gale. While trapped in her house during a cyclone, she begins masturbating and experiences her first orgasm at the age of sixteen. She has sexual encounters with three farm hands whom she refers to as The Straw Man, The Cowardly Lion and The Tin Man. Throughout most of her stories, she refers to her "aunt" and "uncle", whom she later admits were her step-mother and father, who discover her affairs. Her father takes her to New York City, under the pretense of seeking psychological help, but has sex with her repeatedly while they are in the city. Dorothy feels guilty for the pain they have caused her stepmother, and leaves to travel the world.
- Alice Fairchild. At fourteen, Alice is coerced into sex with her father's friend, which she endures by staring into a mirror and imagining she is having sex with herself. At an all-girls boarding school, Alice convinces many of her schoolmates to sleep with her, and develops a strong attraction to her P.E. teacher, who offers Alice a job as a personal assistant (and sexual plaything) when she leaves employment at the school. Alice's employer marries a Mr. Redman, but begins hosting extravagant, drug-fuelled lesbian sex parties. Alice becomes addicted to opium, and watches a young girl named Lily, among many others, abused just as she was. When Lily is instructed by Mrs. Redman to secretly perform cunnilingus on Alice under the table during a dinner party, Alice exposes her employer's secrets to the guests. Mrs. Redman has Alice declared insane, and she is put into a mental hospital where she is systematically raped by the staff. Upon release Alice resumes her very active sex life and drug use. Disowned by her family, she moves to Africa to run a family-owned diamond mine.
In addition to the three women's erotic flashbacks, the graphic novel depicts sexual encounters between the women and other guests and staff of the hotel. The erotic adventures are set against the backdrop of unsettling cultural and historic events of the period, such as the debut of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The graphic novel ends with Alice's mirror being destroyed by German soldiers who burn down the Hotel.
Literary significance and reception
Moore is one of the most critically acclaimed writers in the field of comic books, and the release of this work received widespread coverage in the industry media. Despite the price of US$75, the book's first two print runs of 10,000 each sold out at the distributor level on the day of their release, with the US sales at the end of 2007 reaching 35,000 copies.
Controversy about child sexuality
In the US and Canada, many retailers have stated that they will not stock the book out of fear of possible obscenity prosecution, though some said they might make the book available to their customers via special order and simply not stock it.
In Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) initially seized a copy of the book citing obscenity, and Top Shelf ceased its import from the UK. However, after an appeal was made to the agency by the publisher, the Senior Program Advisor of the Prohibited Importations Unit of CBSA approved entry of the book stating in a letter, "these depictions are integral to the development of an intricate, imaginative and artfully rendered storyline," and, "the portrayal of sex is necessary to a wider artistic and literary purpose."
Moore states that the storm of criticism which he and Gebbie expected did not materialise, which he attributes in part to his design of Lost Girls as a "benign" form of pornography (he cites "people like Angela Carter who, in her book The Sadeian Women... admitted... the possibility [of] a form of pornography that was benign, that was imaginative, was beautiful, and which didn’t have the problems that she saw in a lot of other pornography" as inspirations for the work). He has also said that his own description of Lost Girls as "pornography" has "wrong-footed a lot of... people." Moore speculates that "if we’d have come out and said, 'well, this is a work of art,' they would have probably all said, 'no it's not, it's pornography.' So because we're saying, 'this is pornography,' they're saying, 'no it's not, it's art,' and people don't realise quite what they've said."
In the UK, graphic artists and publishers feared that the book could be illegal to possess under the Coroners and Justice Act, which criminalises any sexual image depicting a "child", defined as anyone appearing under the age of 18. The book was nonetheless approved and continues to be published in the UK.
Disputed copyright status
On 23 June 2006, officials for Great Ormond Street Hospital—which was given the copyright to Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie in 1929—asserted that Moore would need their permission to publish the book in the UK and Europe. Moore indicated that he would not be seeking their licence, claiming that he had not expected his work to be "banned" and that the hospital only holds the rights to performances of the original play, not to the individual characters. On 11 October 2006, Top Shelf signed an agreement with GOSH that did not concede copyright infringement, but delayed publication of Lost Girls in the UK until after the copyright lapsed at the end of 2007.
Allusions and references
The title of the work is a play on the name for Peter Pan's followers, the Lost Boys.
The individual sections dealing with the three titular "girls" all have distinct visual layouts and themes used for their chapters. Alice's sections feature ovals reminiscent of her looking-glass; Wendy's are shrouded in tall, dark rectangles reminiscent of the shadowy Victorian architecture of her time, and Dorothy has wide panels in imitation of the flat landscape of Kansas and prominently featured silver shoes.
Moore attempts to tailor the dialogue to each character's previous experiences and stories. Dorothy Gale, raised on a farm, speaks in a casual Midwestern American dialect. Wendy's speeches are heavy with timidity and clumsiness as a result of the repressive nature of her middle-class upbringing. Alice, having briefly been made queen (in Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There), is more authoritarian in her upper-class English speech patterns and formal manner. Lewis Carroll's nonsense-words also make allusory appearances in Alice's dialogue, including phrases such as "to jab" and "bandersnatch" as well as more overt references to her adventures in phrases like "the reflection is the real thing" and "I made pretence".
- First volume: Older Children ("We are but older children, dear, who fret to find our bedtime near," Carroll.)
- Second volume: Neverlands ("Of course, the Neverlands vary a good deal," Barrie.)
- Third volume: The Great And Terrible ("I am Oz, the great and terrible. Who are you and why do you seek me?," Baum.)
Equally, the titles of each chapter naturally point towards the three "original" authors' books: "The Mirror", "Silver Shoes", "Missing Shadows", "A Vice From a Caterpillar", "Which Dreamed It?", "The Cowardly Lion", "You Won't Forget to Wave?", "Queens Together", "Snicker Snack", etc.
Each volume has ten chapters, and each chapter contains eight pages. This format initially derived from its original serialised publication in Stephen R. Bissette's anthology Taboo, but it also reflects Carroll's multi-layered usage of mathematical allusions and links as there are 8 squares in the length of a chess board (a prominent feature of Through The Looking-Glass, and the key to becoming a queen in both game and book) as well as his poem The Hunting of the Snark being An Agony In Eight Fits.
The regular chapters are interspersed with pornographic pastiches of works by artists and authors of the period, presented as chapters in Monsieur Rougeur's White Book, a collection of illustrated pornographic stories. Each chapter is in the style of different authors and artists of the period: these include presentations in the styles of Colette and Aubrey Beardsley, Guillaume Apollinaire and Alfons Mucha, Oscar Wilde and Egon Schiele, and Pierre Louÿs and Franz von Bayros.
(Although the central characters and various supporting characters are based directly on pre-existing fictional characters, Harold Potter is not a reference to Harry Potter, having been named years before J. K. Rowling's first book was published.)
Certainly it seemed to us [Moore and Gebbie] that sex, as a genre, was woefully under-represented in literature. Every other field of human experience—even rarefied ones like detective, spaceman or cowboy—have got whole genres dedicated to them. Whereas the only genre in which sex can be discussed is a disreputable, seamy, under-the-counter genre with absolutely no standards: [the pornography industry]—which is a kind of Bollywood for hip, sleazy ugliness.
A fictional crossover placing the protagonists of unconnected stories in a shared universe is a standard trope of superhero comics, a genre that Moore has written in extensively. While working on Lost Girls, Moore also used this concept as the basis for his series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Shelter from the storm
The plot device of a group of people being sequestered together in a hotel or similar place telling stories or committing otherwise decadent acts while the outside world is falling apart or in chaos is an old one in Western storytelling, dating back to Boccaccio's The Decameron. Moore draws heavily on themes and tropes from such books as the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, and Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. 120 Days of Sodom involves a pattern of the characters' sexual activities becoming less and less inhibited. The Magic Mountain sees a young German man staying in a mountain hotel/sanatorium for seven years just prior to World War I. The novel, like Lost Girls, sees that war as a major turning point in world history.
The first six chapters of Lost Girls were initially published in the Taboo anthology magazine, beginning in 1991 with Taboo #5. Kitchen Sink Press's Tundra imprint later reprinted the Taboo chapters as two separate volumes, containing all of the previously-published chapters. A ten-issue series was scheduled at one point, but Moore and Gebbie instead decided to take the time to finish it, then offer it to various companies as a finished product. Eventually Top Shelf was selected as the publisher, and at one point the finished product was meant to be released in late 2003 or early 2004. Top Shelf later planned to debut it in the United States at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con, but due to graphic design taking longer than anticipated, it was released at the July 2006 convention instead. In the UK the book was published on 1 January 2008, and launched by Moore and Gebbie at a book launch in London on 2 January.
- Lost Girls (by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, Top Shelf, 26 August 2006 ISBN 1-891830-74-0)
- Lost Girls Single-Volume Edition by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, Top Shelf, August 2009 ISBN 978-1-60309-044-5)
Over the course of the book's sixteen-year production, Moore and Gebbie entered into a romantic relationship, and in 2005 they announced their engagement to be married. "I'd recommend to anybody working on their relationship that they should try embarking on a 16-year elaborate pornography together," joked Moore. "I think they'll find it works wonders."
Moore originally planned to write in his usual style, producing a lengthy script from which Gebbie would work, but after some initial attempts they decided "to collaborate much more closely. So, she would construct the pages of artwork from my incoherent thumbnail sketches and then I would put the dialogue in afterwards."
Lost Girls was published on online magazine on The First Post in 2008.
The DVD of the documentary feature film The Mindscape of Alan Moore contains an exclusive bonus interview with Gebbie, elaborately detailing the origin of the book and the collaboration with Moore.
- ICv2 News – 'Lost Girls' at 35k
- Rich Johnston. "Lying in the Gutter Volume 2 Column 54". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 31 May 2006.
- "A Decade of Friends and Comics with Top Shelf". Retrieved 2015-10-01.
- "Sexy fantasy heroines not welcome here.". Retrieved 2015-10-01.
- "LOST GIRLS CLEARED BY CANADA CUSTOMS / Top Shelf Productions". www.topshelfcomix.com. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
- "ICv2: 'Lost Girls' Cross Border". icv2.com. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
- "Freedom-loving Canadians clear way for Oz-on-Neverland sex". Retrieved 2015-10-01.
- "'Lost Girls' Cleared by British Customs Despite Law Banning Sexual Imagery [Exclusive]". Comics Alliance. Retrieved 2015-10-01.
- The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log: "We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Northampton: Part 1" Interview with Alan Moore by Pádraig Ó Méalóid, 13 June 2008
- Steven Goldman "Graphic Novel: Hard-Core Victorian," American Heritage, Nov./Dec. 2006.
- Taylor, Jerome (23 March 2009). "Graphic artists condemn plans to ban erotic comics". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
- Stuart Young's review of Moore & Gebbie in conversation with Stewart Lee, London, 12 October 2006. Accessed 13 June 2008
- See "ImageSexT: A Roundtable on Lost Girls: Down the Rabbit Hole" by Kenneth Kidd, 2007. Accessed 13 June 2008
- "Lost Girls" reviewed by Douglas Wolk for Salon, 30 August 2006. Accessed 13 June 2008
- "E is for Erotica" review by Richard von Busack for metroactive, 23–29 August 2006. Accessed 13 June 2008
- "ImageSexT: A Roundtable on Lost Girls: A Review and response" by Charles Hatfield, 2007. Accessed 13 June 2008
- "Finding the 'Lost Girls' with Alan Moore", Adi Tantimedh, Comic Book Resources
- Schindler, Dorman T. (7 August 2006). "Alan Moore leaves behind his Extraordinary Gentlemen to dally with Lost Girls". Science Fiction Weekly. Archived from the original on 11 August 2006. Retrieved 8 August 2006.
- 'Taboo #5 at the Comic Book DB
- 'Taboo #6 at the Comic Book DB
- 'Taboo #7 at the Comic Book DB
- 'Lost Girls (1995) at the Comic Book DB
- Top Shelf Productions: Publishing Schedule
- Alan Moore | The A.V. Club
- Alan Moore « Interview « ReadySteadyBook – a literary site
- Article on The First Post: People: Lost Girls author gets happy ending
- Neil Gaiman, 19 June 2006
- Aintitcool.com, 10 August 2006
- Alan Moore's Girls Gone Wilde, Village Voice, 15 August 2006
- Variety.com, 6 September 2006
- The Virtues of Vice: The Alan Moore Interview, Part One and Part Two, Cinescape, April 2006
- Find the Lost Girls with Alan Moore
- The Onion, 2 August 2006
- Lost Girl Found – Part 1 and Part 2, interview with Melinda Gebbie, 8 August 2006
- Panel Discussions: A talk with Lost Girls artist Melinda Gebbie, Village Voice, 15 August 2006
- Susie Bright Journal, 26 August 2008
- Gauging Lost Girls Reaction with Chris Staros, Comic Book Resources, September 2006
- Playboy Interview
- Alan Moore on Lost Girls, Newsarama
- Alan Moore interview with Lasthours.org.uk