Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: The Young King, The Remarkable Rocket, and The Birthday of the Infanta (NBM)

Multiple Eisner Award winner P. Craig Russell adapts a trio of Wilde’s not-necessarily-kid-friendly fairy tales.

 

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 2: The Young King; The Remarkable Rocket (NBM)
46 pgs., color; $8.99
(W: Oscar Wilde; A: P. Craig Russell)
 
Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 3: The Birthday of the Infanta (NBM)
32 pgs., color; $8.99
(W: Oscar Wilde; A: P. Craig Russell)
 
Some artists just seem to have been born to work together, and, despite being separated by almost 100 years, Oscar Wilde and P. Craig Russell form one of those enchanted pairs (Wilde was born in 1854, Russell in 1951, in case you’re counting). NBM is re-issuing Russell’s adaptations of Wilde’s fairy tales, and they’re a great introduction to both artists (or a reminder of how great both are), as well as a demonstration of the kind of alchemy that happens when the talents of two artists complement each other’s talents.
 
I presume you’ve heard of Oscar Wilde, if only through The Importance of Being Earnest, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and his unfortunate life story. However, Wilde’s fairy tales (written when his children were born, although some of these stories have a decidedly adult view of life) offer a different view of his talents, as a more unguarded and heartfelt talent not obscured behind a cloud of epigrams (not that I don’t appreciate a good epigram as much as the next person).
 
Russell, a multiple Eisner winner, is well-known in the comics world but not so well-known outside it—he began his career working on Amazing Adventures and has collaborated with Neil Gaiman and Don McGregor, among others, and has adapted a number of works in comic book form, including operas (The Magic Flute, Parsifal, Pélleas & Mélisande) and literary works (The Jungle Book, In Flanders Field).
 
The Birthday of the Infanta is the most successful of the three stories reviewed here. It’s a tale of the price of being different and the pain of self-recognition, as well as of the cruelty and carelessness of the rich and powerful towards the less fortunate. Russell turns the tale into an outpouring of light and color that forms an effective contrast to the cruelty of the story, as well as contrasting the natural delights enjoyed by the pure of heart with the frozen splendor of the palace—my only complaint is that he has a Will Eisner-like way of drawing people as caricatures, and this makes his work look dated.
 
The Young King is also a strong story, and one that actually could be read by children without warping their brains—it draws on many of the same themes (particularly the conflation of wealth and power with cruelty, and the natural world with goodness) as The Birthday of the Infanta while ending with a very Christ-like redemption. The Remarkable Rocket is a weaker story, about a boastful firecracker (seriously!) who receives what braggarts generally do in stories for children; its saving grace is the number of Wildean witticisms scattered throughout.
 
P. Craig Russell’s adaptations of the fairytales of Oscar Wilde are published by NBM. You can read more about Russell and his work on his webpage. | Sarah Boslaugh

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