Friday, 27 December 2013

Oscar Wilde Fleeced at Banco

Oscar Wilde's American lecture tour of 1882 ended not with a whimper but with a bang. Lonely, and with his popularity on the wane, Wilde fell prey to Hungry Joe, one of the most notorious of New York City's many hucksters and swindlers.

Hungry Joe. Would you trust this face? Oscar Wilde did. BIG mistake...

It was not a merry Christmas for Wilde, who realised he was at the mercy of the 'bunko men' (sometimes called banco or bunco steerers) far too late, after he had lost over a thousand dollars in a rigged game of chance. Although he later recovered the money (bizarrely, Joe and his cohorts left the uncashed cheques at a police station), Wilde was badly shaken by the ordeal. He was petrified that the story would be leaked to the press. His fear was realised within days.

Wilde wrote home to England, frantic for cash to pay for his return ticket. In the meantime he tried, in vain, to avoid the many reporters so desperate for a story that they bothered him at dinner and followed him into his bank to interrogate the tellers.

Earlier in the year, I narrated a series of contemporary newspaper articles that tell the story of the scam for the Short Nonfiction Collection Vol. 029 at, the public domain audiobook website. You can listen to the 10 minute audio clip by clicking here.

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

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Sample pages

When you're gearing up to query agents about a new graphic novel project, there are at least three things you need to get ready. Top of the list, of course, is the script. Next up is a perfect query letter: the email that will convince every agent who reads it that bringing your comic to market is the reason they were born on planet Earth. But running a close third is sample art.

Lillie Langtry, Oscar Wilde, and John Ruskin chat at the Royal Academy of Art. A scene from my Oscar Wilde comics script, brought to life by artist Danica Brine.

Agents realise that it takes a lot longer to draw a comic than it does to write one, so it's rare to find an agent who demands to see the finished product. Sure, they'd like to, but they'd also like nightingales to sing them to sleep on a bed of rose petals, and that ain't happening any time soon. But seeing the first few pages of the comic really helps.

We all respond faster to pictures than to text, and agents are always pressed for time. Also, sample pages show whether you can write sequential art that works as sequential art, and not just as a script. Sure, an agent can figure out if you're a good writer from your query letter and script, but why not engage them in the story as directly as possible? Show them how exciting your final product could be!

All of which is great advice unless, like me, you can't draw for toffee. In which case, you're going to have to beg or pay someone with talent to do the hard work for you. I opted for the latter, and today took delivery of some amazing pages of sample art by artist extraordinaire, Danica Brine. Here's one of 'em.

If you have something you need illustrating, and you're looking for someone whose rates aren't crazy sky high, whose work is amazing, and who is just an all round swell person, you should look Danica up. She is ace.

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