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Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2441

AUTHOR: Moore, Alan

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ARTIST: Melinda Gebbie (illustrator); Todd Klein (letterer)

PUBLISHERS: Kitchen Sink Press; Top Shelf Comics

FIRST SERIAL PUBLICATION: 1991-1992

FIRST BOOK PUBLICATION: 1995

Publication History

The Lost Girls series first appeared in Taboo magazine, starting in 1991. After a six-issue run, writer Alan Moore and illustrator Melinda Gebbie continued to work on Lost Girls without immediate serialized publishing, choosing instead to release the completed product all at once. However, the six stories from Taboo were reprinted in two graphic novel volumes by Kitchen Sink Press in the mid-1990’s. Sixteen years after Moore and Gebbie first began Lost Girls, the complete text was published by Top Shelf Comics, debuting at the 2006 Comic-Con International: San Diego. This version was sold in a slipcase format that separated the story into three books. In 2009, Top Shelf released Lost Girls in a single hardcover format.

Plot

Clearly aimed at an adult audience, Lost Girls began as an attempt to create an alternative form of pornography from that which is typically found in the mainstream media, one that is nonexploitative, emotionally resonant, and deeply contemplative about the roles that sex and sexual fantasy play in the average life. Lost Girls tells the story of the physical and emotional relationships that develop among three well-known literary characters—Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Dorothy from L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), and Wendy from the Peter Pan stories—who meet through a chance encounter at an Austrian hotel during the buildup to World War I (1914-1918).

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, Alice is immediately drawn to the free-spirited Dorothy, quickly taking her under her wing. Driven by curiosity and a desire for self-understanding, Wendy soon joins them. The three women take turns telling their personal sexual histories. Each story, told in flashback, represents a sexualized reinterpretation of the works in which these characters originally appear. The stories kindle further passion among the three women and quickly become a driving force behind the physical and emotional intimacy that develops among them.

Dorothy’s story chronicles her sexual awakening, beginning with her discovery of masturbation, which leads to her first orgasm, during a tornado. Driven by a newfound sexual curiosity, Dorothy pursues relationships with three farmhands. Here, the mindless scarecrow, heartless tin man, and cowardly lion of The Wizard of Oz are reflected in Dorothy’s first three lovers: one who is not intelligent enough for her, one who is not kind enough for her, and one who is not brave enough for her. Dorothy’s sexual activities—which later include an orgy with all three men—come to the attention of her parents. This eventually leads Dorothy into an affair with her father.

Wendy’s sexual awakening story begins with a glimpse into a forest in a nearby park when she is just sixteen years old. She sees a young man having sex. The young man, Peter, follows her home and climbs into her bedroom at night. He teaches Wendy and her brothers how to stimulate themselves sexually. Enthralled, Wendy and her brothers search for Peter the next day in the park and find him. This leads to a series of sexual encounters between Wendy, Peter, Peter’s sister Annabel, and the “Lost Boys” of Peter’s gang. However, this also brings Wendy to the attention of a neighborhood pedophile, who happens to have a hooked hand (like Captain Hook). Annabel is soon found dead, presumably killed by the pedophile, and Wendy begins experiencing sexual fantasies that she finds increasingly depraved and disgusting. After narrowly escaping the pedophile, Wendy changes her ways and settles into domestic life as a wife and mother.

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Alice’s story begins with sexual abuse. A family friend abuses her at a young age, which results in a sense of alienation and the loss of her childhood. Alice is sent to a girls’ school and becomes embroiled in a series of lesbian sexual experiences. While at school, Alice falls in love with a teacher and eventually goes to work as her live-in assistant. The teacher exposes Alice to a world of sexual games. During this time, Alice becomes a drug addict and prostitute who helps facilitate the further exploitation of other minors, much to her regret. She is sent to a mental institution before accepting a sort of social banishment to South Africa for the purposes of preserving the good name of her family.

As seen here, the stories reveal progressively the dark nature of each character’s sexual past. Alice is deeply traumatized by her sexual abuse; Wendy’s sexual curiosity leads her into a dangerous situation and lifestyle; and Dorothy’s incestuous affair with her father destroys her family. However, through their continued affairs with one another and with other patrons and staff of the Hotel Himmelgarten, the adult Dorothy, Alice, and Wendy now achieve sexual expression and emotional healing through the sharing of their stories. During this time, it is revealed that the staff members of the hotel are actually prostitutes assembled by the manager, Monsieur Rougeur, to bring sexual fantasy to life.

This period of discovery is cut short by the outbreak of World War I, and the women are forced to part ways. The novel ends with soldiers arriving at the abandoned hotel and burning it to the ground. Shortly thereafter, the same location is seen as the site of an undisclosed battle, a place of love having now become a place of war.

Volumes

Lost Girls: Book One (1995). Collects issues 1-3. Features the introductions of Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy, flashing back to their previous sexual experiences, which outline the central motifs of the novel.

Lost Girls: Book Two (1996). Collects issues 4-6. Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy begin their affair. By doing so, they are able to deal with the negative or dubious sexual experiences of their past and attain a level of sexual fulfillment before World War I cuts short their escapades.

Characters

Lady Alice Fairchild, a.k.a. Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the first protagonist, is an upper-class, gray-haired woman in her fifties with sharp features and blue eyes. She was sexually assaulted at a young age, an experience that led her to opium addiction and prostitution and, eventually, to be institutionalized. Recently released, she lives off her family’s vast fortune and travels at her leisure. The most sexually experienced of the three main characters, she initiates the physical and emotional relationship among the three women.

Miss Dorothy Gale, a.k.a. Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the second protagonist, is a nineteen-year-old woman with freckles, brown eyes, and curly red hair. The only notable American character in the series, she is free-spirited, adventurous, and very much in keeping with the archetypal “farm girl” in terms of her mannerisms, speech, and behavior. Her working-class upbringing and eagerness to experience the world immediately earn her the attention of Lady Alice Fairchild, who takes her on as both a lover and a sort of protégée.

Mrs. Wendy Potter, a.k.a. Wendy from Peter Pan, the final protagonist, is a middle-aged woman with black hair, green eyes, and a rounded face. Feeling stifled within her loveless, middle-class marriage, she is the most reserved of the three women, yet her sense of curiosity and her desire for self-understanding eventually draw her into a relationship with Dorothy and Alice.

Mr. Harold Potter is Wendy’s husband. A fifty-something man with gray hair and a beard, he harbors deep sexual desire for his wife, but because of his repressed nature, he is unable to express this desire and instead treats Wendy like a friend or sister. His sexual desire is then channeled toward pornography, masturbation, and, eventually, an affair with Rolf Bauer.

Captain Rolf Bauer is a handsome young Austrian soldier with a slender gait and slick black hair. Though he is a minor character in the text, he inspires the sexual desire of his two main partners in the novel, Dorothy and Harold. He also harbors an intense sexual fetish for women’s shoes. With World War I looming, his presence adds tension to the narrative.

Monsieur Rougeur is a relatively short, round man with carefully coiffed black and gray hair and a mustache. The manager of the Hotel Himmelgarten, he is an ambiguous character. He withholds the truth from other characters and has a natural tendency to embrace fantasy. He is a perhaps unreliable narrator, yet much of his narration concerns essential details that the reader needs in order to piece together Moore’s commentary on sexuality, fantasy, and pornography. Because he is fallible, Moore is able to maintain a more ambiguous stance on many of these subjects.

Artistic Style

Lost Girls is divided into three books, each with ten chapters, with each chapter comprising eight pages. The eight-page format is an homage to the “eight pager” (or Tijuana bible), a form of bootleg comics pornography that emerged during the 1920’s. Unlike the vast majority of his comics work, Moore did not draft scripts for Lost Girls but instead formed a closer collaboration with Gebbie that involved Moore creating thumbnail sketches of each panel, then consulting directly with Gebbie in the production of the visual imagery.

Lost Girls features some of the most ambitious visual artistry in comics history. Gebbie adopts a distinct visual style for each protagonist’s story. Dorothy’s stories feature a wide, three-panel-per-page layout, emphasizing the pastoral nature of her Kansas farm upbringing. The colors are warm and earthy, accompanied by smooth and round thin lines and lots of shading. Wendy’s stories are rendered in sharp contrast to Dorothy’s: These pages depict a four-panel sequence with a wide panel on top featuring full black-and-white contrast, followed by three long vertical panels with full color underneath; here, a thick black line is used for all characters and shading is minimal. This densely structured panel arrangement conveys the sense of structure and order that exists in Wendy’s world. Alice’s stories are all rendered using three panels per page, with each panel shaped like an ellipsis. This creates a large amount of negative space (the white areas in the margins), which, in turn, suggests distance and confinement. Thus, the paneling mirrors Alice’s own emotional turmoil and sense of self-removal following her sexual assault. Gebbie incorporates a wide array of color in these sections, with greater emphasis on secondary colors and dissonant color schemes.

In scenes set in the present, the paneling grid varies wildly according to the needs of the story but also is frequently affected by proximity to a flashback. A scene preceding a Wendy flashback, for example, will frequently take on some, if not all, characteristics of the visual style used for Wendy’s stories.

Themes

In the same way that Moore’s Watchmen is a superhero comic about superheroes, Lost Girls is a pornographic comic about pornography. Through processes of self-awareness and self-reflexivity, Moore and Gebbie actively interrogate the role that pornography plays in people’s lives. The text features a book within a book. Rougeur places a pornographic book in every hotel room and, as such, the reader watches the effect that this pornography has on the various guests. Furthermore, the three protagonists take turns telling their respective stories of sexual discovery. While one tells the tale, the other two use the story to arouse their passions in order to create and sustain their sexual affairs with one another. Thus, they create their own pornography in order to enhance their sexual encounters. Additionally, the characters are often seen simply discussing the various effects that pornography (in a wide variety of forms) has on them. Finally, by sexualizing iconic characters from children’s literature, Moore and Gebbie hint at the subversive sexuality at play within stories that are traditionally perceived as pure and wholesome. The implication is that a closer analysis of Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can reveal the erotic undertones that these stories contain.

As an obvious secondary theme, Lost Girls explores the power of sex and sexuality. Moore and Gebbie portray sex at its best as a transcendent force, a great source of joy and emotional healing. At its worst, sex is portrayed as powerfully destructive: a source of trauma, emotional scarring, unfulfilled desire, and shame. The difference between the two potential results seems to be a combination of consent and maturity, which are closely related. When sex is fully understood and embraced by the characters, it dramatically enhances the quality of their lives. When it is not, the results can be downright tragic. Either way, sex is seen to have a tremendous capacity to define the lives of the characters. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the sexual escapades at the Hotel Himmelgarten with the forthcoming world war hint at the idea that war is simply the result of poorly channeled sexual energies. This juxtaposition is made most clear on the last page of the novel, which depicts a disemboweled soldier with a grotesque and gaping wound that resembles a vagina.

Impact

Lost Girls picks up where the “comix” movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s left off. Like the works of Robert Crumb in particular, Lost Girls defies social and cultural taboos for the sake of creating an open dialogue about sex and sexual fantasy. The length and breadth of Lost Girls, however, far surpasses that of Crumb’s stories. In this sense, Lost Girls offers a more mature perspective on the same sexual issues that underground comics artists were exploring during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Furthermore, by incorporating fictional and historical figures, Lost Girls continues the exploration of intertextuality that has defined much of Moore’s work throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, as seen most prominently in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999- ). The impact of Lost Girls on the next generation of comics artists has yet to be seen, but the novel has the potential to serve as an important benchmark for discussions of sex and sexuality within the comics form.

Further Reading

  • Brown, Chester. The Playboy (1992).
  • Crumb, Robert, et al. Zap Comix (1968-2005).
  • Hernandez, Gilbert, Jaime Hernandez, and Mario Hernandez. Love and Rockets (1982-1996).

Bibliography

  • Alaniz, Jose. “Speaking the ‘Truth’ of Sex: Moore and Gebbie’s Lost Girls.” International Journal of Comic Art 8, no. 2 (Fall, 2006): 307-318.
  • Hatfield, Charles. “ImageSexT: A Roundtable on Lost Girls, A Review and a Response.” ImageTexT: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies 3, no. 3 (2007).
  • Wolk, Douglas. “Alan Moore’s ‘Literary’ Porn.” Publishers Weekly 253, no. 18 (May 1, 2006): 22-23.
  • Lost GirlsCritical Survey of Graphic Novels: Independents & Underground Classics Bart H. Beaty Stephen Weiner 2012 Salem Press

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