Stref: JM Barrie left the rights and profits from Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). When the rights lapsed, they were granted special rights to retain royalties.
I was surprised to learn that I was able to do the book; that GOSH didn’t have exclusive rights. But I’ve been very careful to keep them involved. Because they don’t have the rights, they can’t endorse it either, but I wanted to do the closest adaptation possible. I’ve sent it chapter by chapter to make sure they’re happy with the script, and they are totally happy with it now. It’s important to me to include them, because it’s important to honour JM Barrie and the original story.
S: Very. As faithful as possible. I love the Disney film, but the books are actually quite dark, with very dark themes that aren’t fully exploited in the Disney film. For example, in the film, Hook falls off the ship, and in the book, Peter kicks him off and gets Wendy to alter Hook’s clothes and dress him up in them. So Peter Pan essentially kills the father, and becomes him.
All the women in the book are in love with Peter Pan in a way that he’s just not ready to deal with. There are some very adult themes disguised in this wonderful, magical little kid’s tale. I think the artwork has to reflect those themes, and has to show a suitable arc.
Tinkerbell dies in the book and Peter Pan forgets all about her. He forgets about Wendy too. He remembers to come back to visit her to for a couple of years for her to do his spring cleaning, but then he forgets. When he comes back, Wendy has grown up, and she has a daughter of her own. So he takes Wendy’s daughter, and then her daughter after that. It’s something that will repeat itself forever.
The last line in the book is “All this will go on as long as children are gay and heartless”
S: Absolutely. It was a different time. The kids in this book are horrible. There’s a scene with Tinkerbell, where she drinks poison to save Peter Pan. Peter calls on all the children to clap to keep her alive. And some of them boo!
S: Because they’re horrible! The view of children you get from the book is quite horrible. The very first time he brings them to the island, they’re flying in, and there’s a pirate sleeping under the tree and Peter suggests that they go down and kill him. The kids are shocked – that’s a bit full-on, killing a sleeping pirate. Peter Pan says, ‘I always wake people up before I kill them, anyway.’ He kills people.
It’s important to have that edge to him. I’ve done some artwork that shows him as being quite charming, and some people have said it’s not dark enough!
S: I don’t know!
I’ve had the idea forever. I thought, obviously there’ll be one, at least by Disney. But there isn’t. I think some people think Disney own it, but even Disney had to ask GOSH first, and credit them in the opening titles. Some people think GOSH own the rights and you can’t do anything with it. But I contacted them and they said ‘Of course you can do it’.
S: A year. It’s got to be really good. I used to do eight pages a week for the Dandy, but I think this will take no more than two pages a week. It’s got to be perfect. I’ll use black and white original drawings, and then colour it by computer.
S: I didn’t know anything about crowdfunding until the first Reekie Roundup, which is a monthly meet in Edinburgh. I was telling someone about it and they said it sounded perfect for crowdfunding.
Originally I took Peter Pan to a publisher. They loved it, and really wanted to do it, and raise me an advance. But two years later, it still hadn’t progressed. Then the publisher were taken over and weren’t able to do it.
If you raise the money yourself, you’re not at a publisher’s whim, and it’s instant. When the campaign is finished, you’re getting the money and you’re starting the project. Even if it fails, you’ve created awareness of the project.
I thought it would capture people’s imagination because Peter Pan is so well-known, all over the world.
Stref’ aims to raise £20,000 in his crowdfunding campaign. This will give him the time he needs to complete the project, and pay for printing costs. Once the book is completed, 100% of the profits will go to GOSH. Your donation to this campaign could easily translate into many times as much ultimately going to treat sick children from all over the UK.
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