For me, however, despite their attempts into forays into maturity, they never seem to quite reach the heights that Regis Loisel managed with his interpretation of the classic story.
For years, Regis Loisel's Peter Pan was THE dark origin, showcasing an unflinching look at the dark underbelly where Peter came from. It was only available in French, its lush drawings and wonderfully gross caricature of human faces available only to those who could be bothered to learn the language. It's storytelling was far and beyond what would be considered the norm for a typical children's story. It was one of several titles that I hoped would be scanlated considering its subject material ensured that it wouldn't be seen by American eyes for years.
Then again, it may have been worth the wait, since we got the whole package at once, without having to wait for future installments. European comics can take their sweet time preparing their comics, planning their storyboards well in advance over the course of a year. Then the results are then trickled out as previews via comic magazines, alongside other short-term serial stories and one-page gags. While this may allow for higher quality control of their product, it also runs the risk of alienating their core audience if they're not fully invested in public opinion. With such potential mood whiplash, its sometimes wiser to wait until a large body of stories are released, so when collected en masse, the resulting narrative will make more sense as a whole, otherwise their whole vision would eventually peters out. (No pun intended) The closest modern-day comparison would be Yoshihiro Togashi's Hunter X Hunter, whose schedule is now up to the creator's sensibilities.
To those whose most impressionable memories of Peter Pan come from the Disney version or the play, this comic plays closer to Barrie's original text. Ironically enough, despite it's misogynist tones, in plays, the role of Peter Pan was always played by a woman. It wasn't until the Disney version that he was represented as a boy. A highly sanitized boy, but a male nonetheless.
What Regis Loisel does is just further emphasize the underlying darkness that was prevalent there. Bill Willingham originally intended to have Peter as the main antagonist in Fables, since the idea of a boy kidnapping children to fuel his Lost Boys army was frightening to him. Surprisingly enough, despite its venturing into dark territory, the majority of the pages are lush with colourful detail. It fits alongside other Fairy Tale works with portrayal of casual childish violence, such as Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët’s Beautiful Darkness.
Peter Pan is enjoyable, even if the Black caricature and indistinguishable Indians are potentially distracting. One thing that disappointed me was that the Peter Pan omnibus didn't include the illustrations on the back covers. Since some general understanding is necessary for their contents, here's a basic summary of what takes place. SPOILERS abound for a 20-year old work.
- The opening scene starts off in the backalleys where a group of orphans are gathered around to hear Peter regales his audience with Fairy Tales, as well as giving flattering account of his Mother, someone whose selflessness and prettiness are traits to be envied of.
- In reality, this is a fanciful fabrication, as Peter's Mother is an abusive parent who thinks nothing of having her child publicly humiliate himself in bars just to afford the alcohol to quell her violent temper.
- When faced with such a harsh reality, it's not hard to see why Fantasy worlds would be favorable in comparison.
- Peter's only friends in addition to the nameless orphans and the rats that follow him (whether he likes them or not) is his mentor, Kundal, an old man, the one respectable adult in this world of British depravity, but is getting old in his years.
- In addition to teaching Peter and telling stories of old, he was also an old friend of Peter's father, who sailed off on an adventure to explore the seas, never to return.
- While out alone on a fanciful night, Peter notices an unusual zig-zagging shooting star that escapes a sleepy owl, and takes residence under his hood.
- As you've no doubt guessed by now, this infamous figure is none other than Tinkerbell, but far removed from the beloved pixie we're familiar with, and iconic enough on her own - a fat Tinkerbell whose figure is practically bursting at the leafy seams.
- After some berating, Peter figures out how to float in midair in a rather un-aerodynamic shaky manner, and sets off for Neverland, but not before shouting out his newfound accomplishment to any sleepy heads who'd bother to listen.
(Sometimes retitled Neverland in other foreign editions, this album is where the story begins in earnest.)
- Upon arriving at the place where Peter is expected to save everyone, he gets into trouble almost immediately, by getting caught by pirates.
- Rather than being horrified, he's delighted to be among such pleasant company, and showboats off his flying skill to prove he can be useful to them... not knowing that Fairy Dust doesn't last for very long, and almost winds up getting eaten by the Crocodile.
- This brief alliance isn't made any easier by Neverland's residents wanting to get rid of the pirates altogether, and they were pining their hopes on Peter doing that for them.
- The leader of these Neverland natives, a satyr named Pan, attempts a botched rescue, and a familiar acquaintance through a certain winged fairy, an understanding is reached to divert the pirates towards the Indians where Captain Hook might find his valued treasure.
- A guide is set up to go on an out-of-the way path, avoiding a cursed land named Opikanoba, where both the natives and the Indians meet to gang up on the Pirates.
- Upon running away, Peter and Pan take a wrong direction into the misty path, where Peter sees a nightmarish version of his mother.
- Faced with this exaggerated threat, Peter actively lashes out at his worst fear, releasing years of pent-up rage on an hallucinationy mirage.
- Having made it back to safe land, an attempt is made to try to form a covenant between Peter and Tiger Lily, which Peter heavily protests (he's still a little boy!) which infringes heavily on the Indian's sense of honour.
- Upon a successful retreat and introduction to the Neverland residents, Peter begins to better understand their dilemma (theirs is a world of dreams, and relies on the imagination of children), and resolves to help them solve their Pirate problem.
- To prove that he's worthy, and to get back on Tinkerbell's good graces, Peter makes the conscious decision NOT to douse himself in any Fairy Dust until their problem's resolved.
- Since the Pirates refuse to leave until they get their satisfactory treasure (the actual treasure being unsatisfactory enough for them), then if some alternate treasure was offered instead, they would be more willing to steal that batch, and go off along their merry little way.
- Having determined a course of action, Peter has the troublemaking Sirens dredge up cartons of sunken treasure chests onto a raft, which'll be brought to a suitable "guarded" location where a mock battle will take place and the Pirates will feel accomplished in their robbery.
- However, this plan goes south when the Pirates notice some action happening at night, a jolly boat is launched to investigate sooner than expected, and the entirety of the "treasure" is sunk into deeper waters.
- During the ensuing struggle, Pan gets shot.
- Not wanting to let his friend die, Peter travels back to London (as the crow flies) to get some medical advice from the ailing Kendal.
- Before returning to Neverland, Peter makes one last detour back home to show his mother the few remaining gold coins he managed to pocket.
- Too bad he happened to come across an embarrassing moment, catching her prostituting herself out to a top-hatted doctor named Jack.
- During the behind-doors argument, a scuffle occurs that leaves Peter and the doctor walking out traumatized.
- At this point it should be mentioned that one possible interpretation was that Peter Pan was Jack the Ripper, which would make his sudden inclusion more sense, considering that he's such a minor cameo character.
|Note that both characters are carrying away medical satchels.|
- Still struggling with what happened at home, Peter attempts to save Pan's life, going through the medical procedure as explained by Kendal. However, the operation fails, and Peter feels awful about it. Only too late did he realize that he forgot to wash his hands beforehand.
- This results in some ugly self-injury over the offending hand, which doesn't go unnoticed by the Indians wondering about this curious boy's behavior.
- While in the throes of depression, Tinkerbell helps by pointing out that it was the Pirates who were responsible for Pan's death, not Peter.
- I should also mention that Tinkerbell manages to convey this without uttering a single word. All her mannerisms come from characters figuring out her meaning via facial expressions and body language.
- With this newfound realization, Peter, the Indians and the Neverland natives gang up on the Pirates who happen to be terrorizing the Sirens for conspiring against them. What follows is a huge fight, resulting in the Crocodile having two new tasty snacks inside its belly.
- In the aftermath, Captain Hook is less a hand, and Peter pays respect to his foster friend by taking his name.
If the focus on the first four albums was mainly on Peter, then the 5th devotes some considerable screentime to scenery-chewer Captain Hook. The 5th cover in particular does a wonderful showcase of the pained pitiful expressions of Peter Pan's foe.
|Compare & contrast with the 1st cover.|
- Captain Hook is used to seeing blood, as long as it's not his own (butchering his men for insubordination is a pastime to him), so he's understandably upset over having his dominant hand chopped off.
- A prosthetic fitting of his name is fashioned over the solitary remaining treasure chest after the botched attempt on his beloved "treasure", fashioned by melted gold and silver from the chest's contents.
- Once the scorge of the seas, Captain Hook's now reduced to a joke figure, being chased off from new arrivals from London, and wandering in Croc-infested swamps. (No plural, just one croc per swamp)
- Meanwhile, Peter has found a suitable hiding place for his new arrivals of Lost Boys, and heads back to London (without needing any Fairy Dust, having formed a symbiotic relationship with Tinkerbell) to see Kundal one last time before he dies on his deathbed.
- In the closing moments, Captain Hook even considers leaving this blasted island, until he comes across some of Peter's personal belongings, found in the Croc cave, leaving him reminiscing about his old life back on land.
- The way he struggles through his thought process, uncovering details of facts that we already knew is a thing to behold. The clincher is when Captain Hook arrives at an inescapable conclusion that's the inverse of the Darth Vader reveal (Peter Pan is his son) throws a whole new layer of meaning between the Pirate Captain and the Flying Boy.
- While finding and shipping new children into Neverland is fairly routine at this point, managing a bunch of unruly children with no rules or boundaries is not so easy.
- To keep everyone under control, one solitary girl is given the role of the "Mother".
- To further empathize the importance of the Mother role, a photograph of Peter's Mother is given great importance, and handed around to various kids once a day according to a random lottery.
- Tinkerbell becomes jealous and possessive of Peter Pan's affections, and manipulates events so that Pip and his sister have to brave the Croc's lair to make up for losing the valued Mother picture. As expected, things go horribly wrong, and Pip's sister winds up getting eaten right in front of him, leaving Pip in a comatose state.
- Tinkerbell's reaction to this is a jubilant jangling victory dance, while Peter looks on in dismay.
- To make matters worse, the world of Neverland plays havoc on its residents memories, making it extremely difficult to hold on to slippery past events.
- Taking advantage of this, Tinkerbell undergoes a Memento strategy, waiting just long enough for everybody to forget exactly WHY they're so angry at her, before coming back.
- While Fairies in Irish legend are generally more malicious than mischievous, seeing Tinkerbell's behavior make her helpful actions in the beginning chapters difficult to reconcile. Even knowing that she tried to have Wendy killed doesn't help either.
- While discussing options of how to handle the now-traumatized boy, hoping to fly him back to London, but without Fairy Dust, it's be a momentous task.
- After that, they go along the lines about what the best way would be of killing him.
- Meanwhile, Captain Hook has a minor but significant part where he reasons that Peter can't be his son, because his hair is black, and Peter's is ginger (neglecting that Peter's mother was a redhead) and decides to sail back to Neverland.
- Back in London, news of the Ripper slayings are having a profound effect on Dr. Jack, who recalls traversing around the same areas as the killings, but has no recollection of what happened there, and denies all involvement.
- Peter manages to tow Pip via rope all the way back to London, wanting to forget all aspects of his past life, and even begins to forget that he had a mother in the first place, giving Pip the "lost" photo hiding in his satchel that caused so much trouble, saying the woman looks vaguely familiar.
- The last page is of Doctor Jack having taken residence in a psychiatric hospital, right next to Pip who looks longingly at his picture of Peter's Mother.
And thus, Peter Pan ends on an unusually down note. If the beginning was about escaping harsh realities, this denouement seems to be all about self-denial. Everybody wants to avoid looking too closely at the truth, because it could be too painful to live otherwise. While adults generally remember childhood as an idyllic time, that's because they're far removed from how it actually was for them when they were young.