Let’s 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 Dead.
From 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.
In 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 About Mary.
And 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?
Well, 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 booth runners 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.
Just 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…
Derek McCaw: You’ve finally reached the end of your epic trilogy, at least in novel form. How does it feel?
Frank Beddor: It’s a joy and a relief.
Derek 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?
Frank 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.
My inspiration 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 in battle.
But 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.
The 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 GLASS WARS.
It was 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.
I began 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.
It was 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 tale. The 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.
So you see, there was a lot of truth to be uncovered and you might say, I felt the CALLING!
Derek 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?
Frank 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.
I also 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.
Derek McCaw: The Hatter M side story has been really enjoyable. How far do you intend to take it in terms of graphic novels?
Frank 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. Anyone 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.
But 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. Before 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 finds Alyss.
Derek McCaw: Do you see a day you let others play in your version of Wonderland?
Frank 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.
Recently, 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.
Derek 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?
Frank 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.
Derek 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?
Frank 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!
Derek McCaw: How close are you to getting this to movie form?
Frank Beddor: From where I stand now, I anticipate the first film in the series will be on screens in 3 years.
Derek 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?
Frank 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.”
Obviously, 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.
With 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 of Wonderland.
Derek 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…
Frank 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. My inspiration 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’ thing.
I took 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.
Derek 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?’
Frank Beddor: Never underestimate the power of your Imagination and always use it for good.
I 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 —