Next year, Radical Publishing brings new life to the story of Aladdin - but this isn't the music-filled movie of your childhood. "Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost" puts forth a new take on an old classic, turning it into a great, thundering sword and sorcery epic. CBR News spoke with writer Ian Edginton ("Stormwatch: Post Human Division") about the newest chapter of Aladdin's adventures and why the famous thief might want to be careful for what he wishes for this time around.
When Edginton was presented the chance to re-introduce Aladdin to a new generation, he jumped at the offer. "It was too good an opportunity to miss," the writer told CBR News. "It's a subject that's never really been explored or developed to the full extent that it could be. We've had pirate movies, Viking movies, even full-on, fully fledged fantasy movies in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, but the 'Arabian Nights,' and by extension Aladdin, one of the core sources of the fantasy genre, has been overlooked for years. Now, I know there's supposed to be a Sinbad movie in the works for next year, and of course there's 'Prince of Persia,' but on the whole, the subject has been left shamefully fallow."
While most everyone is familiar with the main story of Aladdin and the Djinn of the Lamp, Edginton is quick to mention that "Legacy of the Lost" isn't simply a retelling of the original tale. "This isn't really an adaptation as such. I've used the core story from the original Middle-Eastern folk tale as a springboard, and then expanded it out from there," Edginton said. "The story of Aladdin, the evil sorcerer, the search for the lamp and the discovery of the Djinn and so on, is covered in the first two issues. What follows afterwards is a much larger adventure. I've been something of a magpie, pulling in influences from other myths and fables as well as my favorite pulp fantasy novels and movies."
Edginton hopes to use many of his ideas for "Legacy of the Lost" as a means to reinvigorate and recreate a sense of childlike wonder in his readers. "Back in the dim and distant past, when I was a kid growing up here in the UK, the local TV station would show old science fiction and fantasy movies on a Saturday morning, along with re-runs of the Buster Crabbe's 'Flash Gordon' and Adam West's 'Batman,'" he said. "There was some great stuff - 'The Thief of Baghdad', 'Jason and the Argonauts', 'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad', 'The Golden Voyage of Sinbad', 'The Long Ships', 'Jack the Giant Killer' and one of my favorites 'Kings of the Sun' - ancient Mayans versus Native Americans!"
"We didn't have a VCR, and there wasn't cable or DVDs then, either, so to catch a film like these was a real thrill, and consequentially, they've made a long lasting impression. That's what I've tried to do with Aladdin. I've tried to imbue it with a sense of wonder and spectacle."
In addition to Aladdin, Edginton has included one of the greatest adventures of all time to assist the thief on his adventure: Sinbad the Sailor. "Just like Aladdin, I've tried to ground him in the real world context of the story, or at least as far as it's internal logic allows," says Edginton. "For example, with Aladdin, he's still a rogue, cheat and a thief, and while he does have a certain sly charm, it's just a means to an end. He's a cynical manipulator, a liar and con man. Life on the streets of a sprawling Middle Eastern city at that time was no picnic. You'd do whatever it took to survive, and that's what our boy is; a survivor, but not by much. The streets are full of predators, and he's under the mistaken impression that he's one of them; a player - but he soon finds out the hard way that he's not. Ironically, it's this that sets him onto the rocky path of self-discovery and a revelation about himself that he could never have imagined."
"Sinbad, on the other hand, has a different story. While he's not exactly an old man here, he's been around the block a few times, and it's left him kind of jaded and a little bitter. Everyone knows who he is and they keep on wanting him to recount his adventures, but what they don't appreciate are the friends and shipmates he lost along the way while he was chasing fortune and glory. He has blood on his hands and widows and orphans in his wake. He's burdened by guilt, but when his fate crosses paths with Aladdin's, he's given the opportunity to get off his arse, stop feeling sorry for himself and try and little healthy redemption!"
But adapting or retelling a classic, well-known story is not without its challenges - and for Edginton, some of those merely had to do with pacing, while others were a bit more story driven. "[I had] to try and not let the spectacle overwhelm the characters or the story," said the writer. "Because each issue has a longer than average page count, it meant there was a little more shoulder room to show off some of the action. There are some great set pieces in every issue, but they're not there simply because they look good. Well, okay, maybe a little, but mostly they move the plot forward or reveal something about the characters."
"Also, because the original stories and characters are so well-known - or rather people think they know them - I had to make a conscious effort to stop them from slipping back into cliches. There are no black hats and white hats here, it's more to do with shades of grey. Even heroes make bad judgments sometimes, and even villains have the potential to be heroic."
Right now, Edginton is most excited for this adventure in legend to hit the stands. "I'm generalizing I know, but in an industry that's dominated by spandex, the opportunities to create, no less publish, a swashbuckling adventure are few and far between," he says. "I have to give credit and kudos to Radical for going with Aladdin."