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‘The Wire’ Re-imagined as Illustrated Victorian Novel: Omar Comin’ on Dickensian Streets

Sean Michael Robinson and Joy Delyria, in their contribution to “The Wire” roundtable over at Noah Berlatsky’s Hooded Utilitarian, have performed a pop culture criticism triple gainer by thoroughly re-imagining David Simon’s The Wire as a Victorian-era serialized novel.

Often compared to Dickens by critics, The Wire is a critically-lauded, five season television series that focuses on the drug war in Baltimore and the systemic corruption and failure of urban institutions. Robinson and Delyria take the comparison ten steps further, deftly re-contextualizing the gritty crime drama in the equally-gritty actual Dickensian era.”There are few works of greater scope or structural genius than the series of fiction pieces by Horatio Bucklesby Ogden, collectively known as The Wire,” they write, then later continue:

The Wire began syndication in 1846, and was published in 60 installments over the course of six years. Each installment was 30 pages, featuring covers and illustrations by Baxter “Bubz” Black, and selling for one shilling each. After the final installment, The Wire became available in a five volume set, departing from the traditional three.

Their article comes complete with examples of Bubz’s illustrations, including the masterpiece reprinted below. Click through to Hooded Utilitarian for more illustrations, excerpts from the “original” Victorian text, and a spot-on analysis of how the brilliant novel The Wire clearly influenced Dickens’ more socially conscious works.

(Conflict of Interest Note: I am also a participant in Hooded Utilitarian’s roundtable on The Wire. I do not think, though, that this disqualifies me from judging the below image as Totally Freakin’ Awesome.)

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