To say that Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls is only a sex book is, in my mind at least, to subscribe to a very narrow perspective.
That doesn’t mean that Lost Girls isn’t about sex—it is. From page one nothing happens except sex. But the difference I found between Lost Girls and straight-up pornography is that there is so much sex that Lost Girls becomes almost comedic, almost self-aware. Lost Girls is highly aware of its content, and spends quite a few chapters poking fun at pornographic magazines. Moore and Gebbie are perhaps the most explicit graphic novelists I’ve encountered. Even in the scheme of the graphic novel genre, which tends to show all the gore and sex it can possibly get away with, you can generally count on a shadow or two to cover any full-frontal nudity.
I struggle with sex for sex’s sake. Lost Girls operates first as art and then as story, to the point where some of the panels could easily stand alone as erotic artwork, entirely disconnected from the plot. Moore and Gebbie also play with the media of dialogue and visual art. For instance, there is a scene in which what goes on between the character’s shadows on the wall is an erotic echo of the actual scene between them.
The plot is structured around the meeting of the adult versions of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Wendy from Peter Pan, and Alice from Alice in Wonderland. I was intrigued by the morphing of supposedly innocent, harmless childhood stories into narratives that shook my memories from 12 years ago.
Dorothy’s story, for instance, tells of her rambunctious sexual encounters with three men working on the farm. The witch is her aunt Em, and the Wizard her “uncle” Henry. (I won’t spoil the rest of the plot for you.) Alice is forced into lesbian prostitution by the Red Queen, and Wendy, the most repressed of the group, tells of her encounter in an English garden with the young Peter Pan. She includes competition with Peter’s beautiful sister Annabel, and her fight with the pedophile Captain Hook.
The focus here is on oral storytelling: each woman in turn recounts her tale of sexual exploration and loss of innocence. These narratives are interrupted by all the other sex Wendy, Alice, and Dorothy are having: with each other, with men at the hotel where they’re staying, and with the bellhops. Lost Girls is by no means an example of bad writing, but it is tedious. I found the stories themselves intriguing and provocative but the form too repetitive, especially for such a long book.
Moore’s alternative reading of these widely known stories was satisfying because it addressed issues that came to my attention as an adult. For example, I have long questioned Peter Pan and Wendy’s relationship as mother and father to the lost boys as well as Dorothy’s being accompanied on her journey by three very willing men. Though not necessarily the best choice of book to be caught reading on the bus, Lost Girls will easily appeal to artists and graphic novel fans.