Posted by: ferge22j | December 8, 2014

Pictures of Dorian Gray: Webcomics and Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was a writer, but he must have had a bit of the soul of another kind of artist. His prose is richly visual, layering simile and metaphor with painterly effect. In the past century, every kind of artist from film directors to ballet choreographers have discovered how well the visual quality of Wilde’s prose translates into other forms. In my own opinion, the very best medium for reinterpreting Wilde is comics, which incorporate visual art and prose better than any other form I can think of.

Quite a number of comic artists have offered their own Dorian Grays, including French artist Stanislas Gros, who did a Beardsley-inspired side project called “Le Petit Dandy” about a Dorian who invents a “mouth organ” that distills music into liquor, among other decadent novelties.

A few more well-known artists have done Wilde comics, including (P. Craig Russel, the first openly gay mainstream comic book artist), but my very favorite Wilde comics are those of the Perfect Stars webcomic series. The author of Perfect Stars (who goes by the penname Romantic) parodies more than retells Wilde’s life and stories, but maintains a few elements of his style: stylization and an interest in the aesthetic. Her undulating lines and sharp colors evoke Wilde’s sometimes-dizzying sensory metaphors at least as well as those of Aubrey Beardsley.

One of her very first post, way back in the resurgence of alt webcomics in 2006, was “Oscar Wilde Comics (!!)”, a vignette on the life and love of Wilde and his asshole boyfriend lover “Bosie”.

Over the years her style evolved, but her Wilde preoccupation remained constant.

She’s also drawn a few scenes from an alternate version of Dorian Gray.

Every literature-based webcomic artist worth her salt has offered her own reinterpretations of the Oscar-Bosie story, including Kate Beaton of Hark a Vagrant fame (possibly inspired by Romantic’s version):

But Romantic’s been my spirit animal since middle school and I’ll always have a particular fondness for her Dorian. I mean, look at this crazy kid:

(Of course I glued this on my eighth-grade English binder.)

Perfect Stars’ Oscar Wilde Comics

Perfect Stars’ Dorian Gray Comics

Hark, a Vagrant

Le Petit Dandy


  1. I am so glad that you added Hark, a Vagrant! It’s one of my favorite comics. 🙂

  2. This is so awesome! And a really well-written blog post! These images are really gorgeous. An excellent share.

    All of these re-imaginings and re-purposings of nineteenth-century work are so on point. It is re-articulating these classics through the lens of today’s humor, art, and social media and making critiques and comments on both time periods, as well as on the work itself. It allows for images and narratives to be visibly dynamic, changing as the way that audiences process literature and visuality also changes. A tumblr that I follow, called “Manfeels Park” does something similar (though not to this degree since I think it only started recently and there is also a lot of creator commenting and intervention, which I am not the biggest fan of). Here is the link to a really good comic piece she does:
    In this comic, the artist reimagines the “I am not a feminist because..” in Jane Austen-esque style.
    Something that is worth noting about “Manfeels Park” is the images come from the Colin Firth adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, so really it is a retelling of that film, rather directly from real life or the text like the Oscar Wilde comics.
    These retellings represent the works for a new audience, creating the images for a specific type of audience consumption. It reminds me of the Lewis Carroll stories we read and of Solame and what an important part the illustrations play in the telling and interpreting of the story.

    Thank you for sharing this links and for your piece!

  3. “a vignette on the life and love of Wilde and his asshole boyfriend lover ‘Bosie’”

    “Ok here you go my manic tulip”

    “But alas I am a big gay”

    This blog post is amazing. Bella’s comments are on point. I myself am inspired to share more tidbits about Oscar and his asshole boyfriend.

    Alfred indeed expected Oscar to pay for his gambling, prostitutes, and other pleasures of the flesh/wallet, in spite of the fact that he himself came from a ridiculously wealthy family.

    A few years after Oscar’s death, Afred married a woman (who seems nice enough, although she did marry HIM of all people), converted to Catholicism, renounced his dead ex-lover and publily condemned Wilde for his homosexuality, even going so far as calling ex “the greatest force for evil that has appeared in Europe during the last three hundred and fifty years.”
    (He apparently forgot that it takes two to tango/tangle.)

    In the ‘20s, Douglas created a magazine that Wikipedia currently describes as “viciously antisemitic.”

    After Douglas spent some time himself in prison (for libelling Winston Churchill in his antisemtitic magazine – as one does) in 1924, his raging hate for Wilde subsided somewhat, and he later wrote, “Sometimes a sin is also a crime (for example, a murder or theft) but this is not the case with homosexuality, any more than with adultery.”
    (Thank you, Bosie, for softening up a bit, but still believing that your ex-boyfriend would burn in hell for his so-called sodomy.)

    It’s safe to say Oscar Wilde had terrible taste. But he did write well.

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