Sherlock Holmes #1, page 1
The game is afoot, indeed.
As was announced by Dynamite Entertainment at the New York Comic Con, Sherlock Holmes is coming back to comics.
The return will be handled
by writers Leah Moore and John Reppion, with interior artist Aaron
Campbell and cover artist John Cassaday in the May-debuting storyline,
“The Trial of Sherlock Holmes.”
For the writers, writing the Sherlock Holmes series at
Dynamite Entertainment will be their second time adapting a classic
literary character, as Moore and Reppion are also adapting Bram
Stoker’s Dracula in The Complete Dracula with artist Colton Worley beginning in April.
So what does the writing duo have planned?
Newsarama: John and Leah, first off, what came first for the two of you at Dynamite, Dracula or Sherlock Holmes?
John Reppion: If my memory serves me correctly I think they both
originally came up around the same time (which would have been late
2007). Dracula just sort of took over because it was so research
intensive. The time we had between doing Dracula issues was mostly
taken up with writing The Darkness vs. Eva and Battle for Atlantis [which appeared in Savage Tales] as
well as other bits and bobs we had going on aside from our Dynamite
work. All of which meant that we had a long time to think about the
Holmes book and exactly what we were going to do with it.
NRAMA: It seems that, for something like Holmes, there's a gulf
between having it put on the table in front of you, or initially
considering it, and then deciding that it's the thing to do. What
influenced your decision to go ahead with this?
Leah Moore: More than anything it was the challenge, the
throwing down of a gauntlet to see if were able to do it. It's a big
task to come up with a Sherlock Homes story, let alone a series, and
even if you get all the characters right, and the mise-en-scene right,
you still have the huge great problem of having to construct a fiddly
twiddly plot, worthy of the great detective. We were starting Dracula
at the time, and that seemed to be the big difficult project to be
honest, we could see the exact hugeness of that task, so making
something up seemed like it might be totally achievable.
Sherlock Holmes #1, page 2
NRAMA: That said, The Trial of Sherlock Holmes is,
obviously by the title, an all-new story. What were some of the
thoughts that went through your head(s) as you thought about writing
new Holmes stories? Obviously, there've been plenty over the decades,
but still, with Holmes, there seems to be a pretty high expectation
from the fans. Was there any intimidation about that? After all, Holmes
fans tend to make Doctor Who fans say, "Man, those guys are obsessed..."
JR: On the one hand the Holmes series gives us our creative
freedom back where Dracula had us sticking to a pre-existing plot ands
set of characters. In that sense it's quite refreshing. On the other
hand, as you say, there's a very high standard to live up to;
expectations are going to be high. The thing about Conan Doyle's
stories is, there's a bit of distance between the supposed facts and
what you're reading anyway because most of the Holmes stories are
supposed to be written by Doctor Watson. The good doctor isn't
necessarily relating the facts exactly and Holmes himself isn't always
pleased with the way his companion writes about their cases. In The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
Sherlock actually says "You have degraded what should have been a
course of lectures into a series of tales". That is our "in" to the
world of Homes; the fact that there are other, more complex layers
beyond the short stories that we're all so used to.
NRAMA: Getting into the story a little, when and where, related
to Doyle's canon does this story take place, and what is Holmes on
LM: Our story takes place after The Adventure of the Empty House
so after the Reichenback falls, after Holmes' return. It's set in
London, so a lot of the same ground our characters tread in Dracula
really. I don't think I can say too much about what he is on trial for,
but safe to say it's something big! Circumstances lead him into a
sticky situation, and then he only has his wits to rely on. Luckily
Sherlock Holmes has more wits than most!
NRAMA: What can you tell us about the structure of the story?
Just looking at the title, a trial seems to be a chance to bring in a
relatively large cast of well-known characters while playing a little Rashomon with a case...
JR: Well, as Leah has said, we don't really want to get into
specifics about the trial at this stage (it's a word with more than one
meaning anyway isn't it?) but, as a title alone, “The Trial of Sherlock
Holmes” works brilliantly. It sort of wrong foots you and makes you
wonder how that could happen and that's exactly what a good mystery
should do and what we're doing our very best to write. I think people
in general are a bit fed up of the sort of twists we get in Lost or Heroes
or wherever; where the writers just move the goal posts constantly
making each new supposed revelation all too easy to undo with another
twist. We want to try to deliver more of a classic, Hitchcock-ian
thriller. It's no easy task mind you.
Sherlock Holmes #1, page 6
NRAMA: Michael Chabon wrote an essay in The New York Review of Books
about post-Doyle Holmes stories, and how vibrant the character and
Doyle's influence can be seen as being given the attention and stories
that Holmes still inspires. That said, how do you approach the character and
even the style in which you approach him? Doyle's stories were clearly
Doyle - in writing new Holmes tales, do you try to move your style and
tone towards his, or just write as you would normally?
LM: We have to write in our own style because we are writing a
comic not prose, but the dialogue we try and give the classic Doyle
flavour. It's the structure that makes it or breaks it as a Doyle style
story, and we are really working hard to make it as authentic as
possible. We really want people to have that same feeling, and then
when the resolution comes, not to be annoyed because it’s just a
spurious tacked on surprise ending, but delight that it's a proper
answer to everything that has happened in the series. God after writing
that, I really hope we can pull it off!
NRAMA: When we spoke about The Complete Dracula, you said
that there was a fair amount of research that had to be done before you
felt comfortable moving forward. How much research, comparatively
speaking, did you have to do for Holmes?
JM: The research has been a lot less intensive because there's a
lot more to absorb; we can't just sit down and read a single book from
cover to cover. However, ever since we first discovered the joys of
internet radio and radio play archives, one of our dual obsessions has
been listening to audio adaptations of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I
used to have videos filled with the old black & white Basil
Rathbone Holmes films which I'd taped from late night TV and we
realized that we were both big fans of the UK television series which
ran from the 1980s into the 90s. Happily, unlike Dracula, Doyle's
stories have largely remained uncorrupted in their adaptations so we've
found that we're actually a lot more familiar with the cannon than we'd
first imagined. There's still plenty of reading up to be done of course
and Leslie Klinger's New Annotated Sherlock Holmes books have already proved to be worth their weight in gold.
NRAMA: As we're hearing through the drips and drabs coming out about Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes
film, he's adapting things a little, and giving the character some
modern touches, as well as a little more action. Do you feel the same
pressures, or are you doing the same for adapting Holmes to comics?
After all, the novels were quite...cerebral, which can be tough to both
portray in comics while keeping people reading, especially when the guy
living next door to Sherlock Holmes on the comic rack will have
explosions and punching...
LM: Well we have taken out of the first person narration for a
start, so John Watson doesn't have to see and experience everything for
himself. We can go and be with other characters, follow them for a bit
and then rejoin Holmes and Watson when it's the right time to. That's a
modern approach to it I suppose, losing the narration.
Sherlock Holmes #1, cover by John Cassaday
JR: Although the novels are “cerebral” there is a fair amount of
action in the Conan Doyle stories. Naturally, we’ll see that more
dynamic side of Holmes’ character and investigations in our comic too.
He is a master of Baritsu after all, and can certainly handle himself
in a tight spot.
LM: The film is being partly shot right here in Liverpool, using
some of the Georgian terraces you will see in many other Victorian
dramas. We give good Victorian here obviously. If Robert Downey Jr and
Jude Law need any help with their roles then they only have to knock on
our door and ask!
NRAMA: Looking ahead, did this story suggest more for you, or do you already have a follow-up planned?
JR: We haven't finished writing the series yet so maybe
something will suggest its self closer to the end. When we began the
project we said we wanted to play the whole thing straight and make it
as faithful as possible.
Maybe, if we did do a follow up, we could take it off in another
direction a bit more. That's the only problem though; you've already
got great stories out there like Neil Gaiman's A Study in Emerald
and intricate, wonderful stuff like Jose Phillip Farmer's Wold Newton
Family. On reflection, maybe we'd better leave all that literary
cross-over stuff to the father-in-law?
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