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Comic-Con 2012: Lionsgate TV, 'Smallville' EP Taking on 'Alice in Wonderland' (Exclusive)

Following a six-studio bidding war, the Zenescope graphic novel "Wonderland" marks the company's first foray into television.

Escape from Wonderland Graphic Novel Issue One - P 2012
"Escape From Wonderland"

Lionsgate TV is going down Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole.

The studio behind scripted fare including Weeds and Mad Men has emerged the winner in a six-studio bidding war for TV rights to Zenescope's Wonderland graphic novels, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively.

The title, which ranks among the top 10 independent comics released in the past five years, is a modern retelling of Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice in Wonderland told from the point of view of Alice's daughter. It's based on the series of graphic novels -- Return to Wonderland, Escape From Wonderland and Beyond Wonderland -- created and written by Zenescope co-founders Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco and Raven Gregory.  

Brian Robbins (Smallville), through his first-look deal with Lionsgate TV, will serve as an executive producer on the project alongside Artist International's Dave Brown and Zadoc Angell, who packaged and negotiated the pact along with Zenescope attorney Mark Temple on behalf of Zenescope Entertainment. Tedesco and Brusha will serve as co-executive producers.

Comic-Con 2012 News

A search is under way to find a writer to adapt the material, with Robbins envisioning an established actress to play Alice in the live-action effort and a newcomer to play her daughter.

"As soon as I read the graphic novels, I knew there was something great there for TV," Lionsgate TV Group president Kevin Beggs tells THR. "Brian Robbins was my first call, and he saw the same potential I did. Brian's expertise, coupled with Ralph and Joe's exceptional reimagining of the Alice in Wonderland story, is a powerful combination."   

For Robbins, the project comes after he produced the WB/CW's Superman origin story Smallville. The adaptation of the DC Comics character ran for 10 seasons and ended its run last year.

"I was really drawn to the visuals; they're dark, intense and sexual in a really provocative way," Robbins tells THR of the graphic novels, which Beggs sent to him. "I love that it's a mother-daughter story; that's what really drew me to it. In the same way that [Smallville's] Clark [Tom Welling] had a similar relationship with his father, there's a parallel here. It's a really great retelling of the Wonderland story.

"There's an opportunity to take something that has really great pre-awareness and spin it like we did with Smallville," he adds, noting that he could see the project potentially finding a home on either broadcast or premium cable. 

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The live-action project marks Zenescope's first foray into television and comes as the publisher is readying three properties for the big screen: Monster Hunter’s Survival Guide at Genre Films, The Piper with Mandalay Vision and The Library with Rat Entertainment.

"Lionsgate and Brian Robbins displayed their passion for our Wonderland graphic novels, and their vision for the TV series was very much in line with ours; to us, it was a natural fit.," Zenescope's Tedesco and Brusha told THR in a joint statement.

Lionsgate TV also produces FX's Charlie Sheen vehicle Anger Management, ABC's upcoming country-themed drama Nashville and NBC's Dane Cook comedy Next Caller. The studio won the rights to Wonderland following a competitive bidding war with Warner Bros. Television, CBS TV, 20th TV, ABC Studios and Sony TV.

Wonderland becomes the latest fairy tale effort headed to the small screen. ABC has found success with Once Upon a Time, the story of what happens to Snow White after she marries Prince Charming. The network renewed the Ginnifer Goodwin-Jennifer Morrison starrer for a second season in May.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit