[19 July 2011]
“The Walrus and the Carpenter Walked on a mile or so, And then they rested on a rock Conveniently low: And all the little Oysters stood And waited in a row.”
—Taken from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
“I am the Walrus… Goo goo g’joob”
—The Beatles, “I am the Walrus”
There are several ongoing arguments in literature, and in popculture in general, surrounding Lewis Carroll’s narrative poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”. It goes like this: what do the Walrus and Carpenter characters represent? What does the story symbolize? And who of the two, the walrus or the carpenter, acted the most immorally? Could the Carpenter be an obvious reference to Jesus, and the Walrus with his girth a reference to the Buddha? And is this poem a deep meditation on religion’s capacity to exploit its followers? Or, does the poem mean anything at all?
A little background: The poem appeared in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 classic children’s book Through the Looking Glass, recited by Tweedledee and Tweedledum to Alice. The Walrus and the Carpenter are walking along a beach one night (both sun and moon are visible) and happen upon a bed of oysters. The Walrus and the Carpenter invite four of them to join them on their walk with the intention of eating them. Many more follow, with the disapproval of the eldest oyster. By the end of the poem, the oysters are eaten. After hearing the story, Alice tries to decide which of the two main characters is more sympathetic but cannot make up her mind, thus igniting philosophical and sometimes comedic disputes for years to come.
The poem, of course, is most famously known as the inspiration for John Lennon’s nonsensical masterpiece “I Am the Walrus”, and has been referenced in dozens of other media forays, including Kevin Smith’s 1999 film, Dogma.
Now, Kaboom Studios makes the tale its own with Snarked #0. Harvey Award Winner Roger Langridge of Thor: The Mighty Avenger and Kaboom’s own The Muppet Show has both written and drawn a satire upon satire with Carroll’s controversial and beloved characters.
In an 8-page prelude coming out in August, Snarked #0 introduces its readers to the walrus, who goes by Wilburforce J. Walrus and his bumbling sidekick, Clyde McDunk, the carpenter. The premise of the story is simple: the two characters, who seem to be both lazy and poor, try to con their way into getting food, finding themselves posing as Princess Scarlett’s ballet instructors to get into the castle and fill their bellies. The reader is left with a bit of a cliffhanger, enticing us to come back for issue #1, which will be released in October.
The story is meant to be both for kids and adults, just like the original Alice books. Langridge’s humor is clever enough for children to comprehend while still managing to land a few zingers with the adults. Langridge deftly manages several nods to Carroll’s classic poem but also manages to create funny new characters and settings.
Besides the story, the original version of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” is included in its entirety in the bonus pages of the comic, along with Langridge’s own parody version. Also included are games and puzzles, a mock “letters from readers” and a fictional newspaper as well as a sort of “making of” feature.
Because of the activities pages in the back of the comic, not to mention the completely generous selling price of $1, this book reminds me of the comics I grew up on where once the story was over, there was still plenty of things to do to keep you entertained. You don’t see much of that anymore in kid-friendly comics.
The title of the comic references another of Carroll’s nonsense poems, “The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits)”, about a crew on a voyage searching for a nonexistent creature. This is a purely poetic move on Langridge’s part that not only heightens the impact of his own creativity, but opens the world of Lewis Carroll to new readers and to those who may wish to return. So, the argument continues, with perhaps one last, burning question: who gets snarked?