Monday, 25 November 2013

Gilbert & Sullivan & Comics

This weekend I hopped on the train to Leeds for the Thought Bubble Comic Con. It was pretty good. Since I'm the last person on the planet who still doesn't have a phone -- or a camera -- if you want to see some pics of rollerblading young women in gold hotpants you'll have to use that Google thingummybob.


All the big cheeses and head honchos of comics were in attendance (incidentally, I wonder whether Matt Fraction or Ramón Pérez knew they were headed for Leeds when they signed up? Only because I remember seeing Eminem burst on stage in front of 40,000 people at the 2003 Leeds Festival shouting "Yo, wassup, London!?").

There were tonnes of ace comics and art on offer, but the find I was most excited about was a couple of mini-comics by Laura Howell.

Laura Howell's The Bizarre Adventures of Gilbert & Sullivan

Yep, that's right, Laura has written comics about Gilbert and flipping Sullivan. And they're brilliant!

As regular visitors to the blog will know, I'm working on a comics project about Oscar Wilde's tour of America, which was set in motion by G&S (the tour, not the comic. Obv.). They wrote Patience, an operetta that satirised the youth culture fad of the day, aestheticism (when people tell you that teenagers didn't exist until the 1950s, James Dean, and Teddy Boys, you can smugly inform them they're out by at least 70 years).

G&S's manager, Richard D'Oyly Carte, wanted to send the operetta to tour the US, but he wasn't sure Americans would understand what an aesthete was. So he offered one of the most well known aesthetes -- Wilde -- a contract to tour America as a walking-talking advertisement for the play. Wilde, broke as a joke after self-publishing a book of poetry (that got him kicked out of his flat when his landlord's father got a hold of a copy), was only too eager to sign on the dotted line.

I'm always surprised that there aren't more comics featuring Oscar Wilde, and it was really exciting to pick up one that does!

Wilde sprays himself with a love potion and all the men in London come running.

But what was even more unexpected was seeing D'Oyly Carte in there too. Carte was a big shot in Victorian London. Not only did he sponsor G&S's operettas, he built the Savoy, London's first electrically illuminated theatre (the first show he put on at the Savoy was Patience in 1881). He plays a big part in my script. Until yesterday I would have bet my right arm that he had never appeared in a comic before. I would have lost that bet. So, good job I didn't make it, hey?

What?! Richard D'Oyly Carte? In a comic? Too chuffing cool.

You can buy The Bizarre Adventures of Gilbert & Sullivan at Laura's website, LauraHowell.co.uk. And you should. Right now.



Discover more about Oscar Wilde's American lecture tour, and my comic about it, at oscarwildecomics.com

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