Recently, Karyn Pinter got the chance to catch up with writer Ian Edginton to pick his brain about his upcoming project with Radical Comics, Aladdin. Move over Disney, and prepare yourself because this is “a whole new world.”
Karyn Pinter: So, starting with the obvious, tell us a bit about Aladdin? What sets this Aladdin aside from what readers already know?
Ian Edginton: It’s still primarily the classic story of the boy-thief who makes good, the evil sorcerer, the djinn of the lamp and the ring, but I’ve also tried to ground it in a version of the real-world of the time. So for Aladdin that means, what is it like living rough on the streets back then? If you’re a sorcerer, it’s not all evil laughs and twirling your mustache — messing with magic comes at a price, the stuff’s toxic, it eats you up body and soul. Then there’s the djinn, well for starters there’s not a pair of harem pants in sight! They are terrifying, monstrous, unearthly creatures bound to serve their human master by just a thin sliver of magic. They’re like those bloody stupid people who keep lions, tiger or panthers as pets and walk around with them on a lead. One day, sure as God made little apples, their kitties will tear their throats out because it’s what they do, they’re savage, wild creatures. Same goes for the djinn, they may be compelled to grant you three wishes but they’ll do their damnedest to make sure those wishes well and truly screw you up!
IE: Well the China of the original story is really just a contrivance. It was to give the story an exotic setting but the characters have Middle Eastern names, most of the people in it are Muslims and there’s no mention of Confucians or Buddhists. China at the time was pretty much as farthest East as anyone knew of, so it gave the story an air of the fantastic. It was the farthest away anyone had heard of let alone seen, so it made it all the more credible that wondrous things could occur there.
I chose to stay with the Middle Eastern setting simply because it’s what everyone’s familiar with. Also, the past has become our equivalent of the Middle Eastern storytellers China. It’s where fantastical things can happen, whether they’re Greek myths, Arabian adventures or even pirate yarns.
KP: This Aladdin is a far cry from the trustworthy beggar people know from the Disney version. How do you think, or how do you want readers to respond to this darker, less wholesome version of Aladdin?
IE: I hope people will appreciate what I’m trying to do with the character and go with it. Aladdin isn’t dark for just being dark’s sake. I’ve tried to take the character and apply a real-world logic to him. Growing up on the streets of a sprawling Middle Eastern city at the time would be a treacherous affair. You’d do whatever it takes to survive, living off your wits, trading on your looks. It’s a merciless, predatory food chain.
It’s living in this environment and with the uncertainty inherent in it that drives Aladdin to make the choices he does. Being selfish and looking out for number-one is a necessity, a basic survival instinct. However, Aladdin is forced to deal with the consequences of his actions and it’s this that makes him grow and develop as a character. He is the hero of the series but he’s not always good at it. He becomes a hero almost as a side-effect of trying to put right the mess that he made in the first place.
IE: The artwork is amazing. It lifts the story up a whole other level and gives it a very cinematic feel. While I have given it a real-world sensibility, there’s also a sweeping epic feel to it all which is wonderfully picked up on in the art.
KP: There was a brief cameo by another famous One Thousand and One Nights title character; will we be seeing more of him in the issues to come or any other big name characters?
IE: Ah, yes. Captain Sinbad is in there from issue one right through to the end. There aren’t any other mythic big name characters in this series as I wanted to keep this primarily Aladdin’s story but if we get green-lit for another run, then we’ll significantly expand Aladdin’s world. There’ll be a lot more gods and monsters, take my word for it.
KP: Will there be continuing adventures for our antihero, Aladdin?
KP: I was treated to a preview copy of the book, and I have one question, which I hope isn’t giving too much away. Was that a land shark that ate the henchmen in the early pages?
IE: Something like that. It’s a feral spirit form that only manifests when it emerges from the ground but because it has no tangible body of its own, when it does so, it uses what’s around to create one, so sometimes it’s sand other times it’s rock and so on.
KP: Now it’s time to sell it. Tell our readers why they should run out and buy Aladdin when it hits the shelves in January.
IE: You mean apart from the fact it looks amazing? Well, it’s a great, sweeping, swashbuckling epic yarn and at double the length of a regular book it’s a substantial read. There’s none of your deconstructed storytelling here. The money’s all on the page. It’s an old school sword and sorcery with a twist!