Earlier this year, Soaring Penguin Press published the first complete English translation of Régis Loisel’s classic French series of bande dessinée, Peter Pan, a dark prequel to the JM Barrie fairy tale that pushes the boundaries of Neverland’s sinister origins.
Loisel’s magnum opus, six volumes long and published from 1990 to 2004, is clad now in green crocodile skin print with tiny Tinker Bell flying across the cover leaving a trail of pixie dust in her wake.
A very adult tale, this Peter Pan has won critical acclaim and fame in native France where Loisel’s Clochette – Tinker Bell – is as familiar a sight as the Disney starlet. Yet with its arrival on our shores many UK reviewers were left shocked by the sexual and vulgar content – most notably perhaps by Tinker Bell’s voluptuous appearance, and Peter’s insults towards her in the first chapter – “bitch!” “slut!”.
But this prequel to JM Barrie’s classic, to the play and to the Disney animated feature, is perfectly in keeping with all of its predecessors – the final line from Barrie is after all the sinister, “and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.” By taking the subtext out of the shadows and into the spotlight, Loisel’s Peter Pan is infinitely more enjoyable.