The MUPPETS Explore Mystery as SHERLOCK HOLMES & Friends
The MUPPETS Explore Mystery as SHERLOCK
Newsarama: Patrick, tell us a little bit about yourself -- how'd you wind up in the Muppet universe?
Patrick Storck: I think I was born and raised there, spending weekdays at the theater, weekends in Fraggle Rock. My family would test me as a walking episode guide, "Season One, Episode Eight?" "The Terrible Tunnel!" That was probably my favorite, actually. Anyway, I've been a fan my entire life, but never thought I would be able to contribute to this wonderful world. Then one day, through a strange series of events, my friend Aaron Sparrow found himself in charge of the BOOM! Kids line and in need of some writers who could capture the Muppet voices quickly. Deadlines were fast approaching on MUPPET KING ARTHUR, and Paul Benjamin and I teamed up, shared ideas, took turns rotating outlines, pages, tweaks, and editorial notes, took on art changes, license restrictions, and when we came out the other side it turns out we did alright!
Storck: Once my foot was in the door I decided to take a shotgun approach on pitches, just to make sure I wasn't seen as "The Middle Ages" guy. I wrote up outlines for Muppet versions of classic literature in the public domain, like SLEEPY HOLLOW, SINBAD, and THE LITTLE MERMAID, then some stuff that wasn't just on the off chance, like the Disney version of LITTLE MERMAID, as well as TRON and a few others. I even drafted versions of DIE HARD and PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, knowing full well there is zero chance either could happen. It was my way of saying "I can do this!" to any particular idea they were interested. I've always been a Holmes fan, so when the folks over at Henson Studios were considering that as a possible title I had my pitch submitted within 24 hours and was already working on page-by-page breakdowns just in case.
Storck: I also grew up on Neil Simon's MURDER BY DEATH, PRIVATE EYES with Tim Conway and Don Knotts, and I'm looking forward to checking out DARK AND STORMY NIGHT from the people who did LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA. The big problem with combining the two is that genre parody is generally broad, and mystery needs to be subtle or there's no mystery. Generally the ending to a comedy mystery is either completely obvious or from out of nowhere, and as such a fan of the source material I wanted to make sure there was some mystery afoot for the readers.
I wound up taking the smoke and mirrors approach and drop some hints and details into some of the big broad gags, making them look like nonsense, and putting some red herrings (in some cases literally) into the "investigation" dialogue. Then I'd switch it around the other way. If you look at Holmes' lack of social grace, layered with the aptly named Gonzo, that gives you plenty of insanity to put in front of a nice key. A proper mystery should be worth reading twice - once to see if you can figure it out, and again to see where you should have. I'm not saying this is THE USUAL SUSPECTS, but especially for younger readers not used to the genre I hope it gives them an interest in reading smarter.
Nrama: Now the cover shows that Gonzo is taking on the role of Sherlock, with Fozzie playing his wokka-wokka-Watson. What other Muppet cameos might we expect?
Storck: Well you can't have a Muppet tale without Kermit, and Holmes worked more than a few times with Inspector LeStrade of Scotland yard, so that seemed like a natural fit for third lead. I mean, we've seen the flippers, so we know Kermit can play a flatfoot. Beyond that we've got a good rotating cast, as we cover a stand-alone mystery in each issue. I can't say what Piggy's role is, but once you see her don't assume you know the whole story. If you can think of any red-headed Muppets, keep an eye out for them in THE RED HEADED LEAGUE. A lot of our favorites like Sam the Eagle, Rizzo, and of course Pepe fit perfectly into certain roles, and I'm even trying to get Bean Bunny some face time, despite the wishes of probably everyone in the world but me.
Storck: He uses every skill he has, and tries using quite a few he doesn't. Gonzo can sometimes get tunnel-vision when he's firing on all cylinders, such as any safety precautions for a stunt. If you take that and move his focus to the case, he and Holmes can be quite similar. The real Holmes typically figured out things faster, and was more arrogant about it, but both of them have the benefits of obsession and unique ways of looking at things. Watson and LeStrade are there to spot the obvious and point it out to the reader, while Holmes spirals off into eccentric brilliance.
Nrama: As far as Holmes' mythology goes, will you be using any of the old Doyle stories? Or is this a new mystery entirely?
Storck: I definitely wanted to use the original stories, since so many people know of them but might not have actually read them, especially the shorter ones. We open with arguably one of the most famous, THE SPECKLED BAND, then A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA, the aforementioned RED HEADED LEAGUE, and end on THE MUSGROVE RITUAL. Some of the crimes of course had to be tweaked for content. While each case is separate, the characters still have a little bit of an arc so it can read as singles or as a trade. When I was young 24 pages was my limit, so I want to make this as friendly and accessible to folks like me of any age.
Storck: Literally that, back and forth. When the book was a go, I sent her the outline, and we took it apart, threw all sorts of ideas around, built off each other, and both worked for the best possible book from each of us. We both continue to suggest and change through to the end, and I bet if we could we'd keep tweaking until the trades were printed, maybe even toss ideas in for a second printing. That means while issue three is being put together we can spot a place in issue one to maybe add a line of foreshadowing, or adding a callback in issue four. Sometimes we don't agree, of course, but usually we find a way to get both ideas to work instead of dropping either. It's definitely made the whole thing stronger, since both of us are both fans and tough critics.
Nrama: Finally, for those who are still curious -- any teases or clues about Muppet Sherlock Holmes?
Storck: Well perhaps I have already said too much. I will say this -- At no point is the answer "It's a sled." Wait. Maybe it is. Also, there are several butlers, so by the law of averages at least one of them had to have done it. Oh! If you figure out a complex equation based on Holmes' address, then use it to count out every so many letters in the series, it will reveal a secret address where the REAL Moriarty is still living today! He contacted me through a DAVINCI CODE message board... I think.