Although neither a super-hero nor first a comics character (though he has appeared in many a comic book since his inception), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective forged the way for the type of storytelling to come in the comics medium. Think about it: an ongoing series of stories focused on one character who uses his mind to solve mysteries and confront adversaries and evil-doers. And much like Superman has his Lex Luthor, Sherlock Holmes had his own arch-nemesis: Professor Moriarty.And in the upcoming Image limited series Moriarty, comics newcomers Daniel Corey and Anthony Diecidue follow the life of Moriarty into the dawn of World War I. Although in Doyle’s original stories he was presumed dead in a confrontation with Holmes at Reichenbach Falls, much like Holmes he is revealed to be alive and well. But in this new comic series, Moriarty has outlived his eternal nemesis and finds himself wandering through life with no counterweight to buoy him. That all changes when England’s MI5 recruits Moriarty to find Holmes’ long-lost brother Mycroft in what becomes more than just a case of a missing persons when they uncover a psychic box and a villain even more threatening than Moriarty could ever be.
This Moriarty series was originally intended to be self-published by Corey and Diecidue, but after successfully mounting a Kickstarter campaign to raise money they caught the eye of Image Comics who agreed to publish the series. With the first issue set to debut tomorrow, May 11, we talked with the series’ co-creator and writer Daniel Corey.
Newsarama: This might be a mystery, but tell me the facts, Daniel; what’s Moriarty about?
Daniel Corey: The book is about Professor James Moriarty, arch nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes and Moriarty were originally created by the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and are – in my opinion – two of the greatest fictional characters in the English language.
Our Moriarty series is a revisionist take on the Doyle mythos. In the story The Final Problem, Doyle had Holmes and Moriarty meet in mortal combat at Reichenbach Falls. For a time, it seemed that both men had fallen to their deaths. But then Holmes resurfaced sometime later, telling Watson that only Moriarty had perished.
Our version of the story begins with Moriarty achieving victory at Reichenbach Falls. Then we skip ahead 20 years to 1914. World War I is on the horizon and there is panic in the streets, but the world is passing Moriarty by. He is a shell of his former self – once he lost his foil, he lost all meaning in life. But Moriarty is called into action as another master criminal comes to the fore, threatening to surpass his legend.
Moriarty is sci-fi noir. You have Holmes-like deductive puzzle-solving, Fringe -style science, and epic, James Bond-like action sequences and set pieces.
I think of the series this way: We’re attempting to look at Moriarty in a similar way that Frank Miller looked at Bruce Wayne in Dark Knight Returns. Moriarty is an old-world guy in a new world, trying to find his way.
I’m not saying I can touch Dark Knight Returns, by the way. That work will always stand apart from the pack.
Nrama: Everyone knows who Sherlock Holmes is, but the idea of reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s complete works is a monumental task. What do people need to know about Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty to get this series?
Corey: I think most people know that Sherlock Holmes was the greatest (fictional) detective that ever lived, and that Professor Moriarty was his arch nemesis. That alone is a good pitch. If you’ve seen any movie or TV show that depicts these guys, chances are you pretty much have all the information you need to enjoy our story.
I would recommend reading the stories. Just pick up a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and start from the beginning. You’d be surprised how easy it is to read and enjoy the originals.
And there are many great movies and TV shows to watch. I’d recommend any of the movies starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes, or the Hammer Studios version of Hound of the Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing as Holmes and Christopher Lee as Baskerville. Perhaps my favorite depiction was by the great Jeremy Brett, in the long-running British Granada TV series. The new Sherlock series that brings the action into modern-day London is fantastic. Benedict Cumberpatch and Martin Freeman are as good as it gets, and their Moriarty is downright frightening.
Nrama: What made Holmes’ chief adversary Moriarty someone you wanted to follow into his own story?
Corey: We really know nothing about Moriarty, so that made him very interesting to me. Doyle created Moriarty as a device, an excuse to kill off Holmes when he tired of writing the stories. Moriarty is only a player in two of the original stories, but never really appears “on stage.”
In The Final Problem, as Watson and Holmes are departing Victoria Station via the Continental Express, Watson reports to the reader of seeing “a tall man pushing his way furiously through the crowd, and waving his hand as if he desired to have the train stopped.” This is the only (possible) sighting of Moriarty that exists in the official canon, apart from Holmes’ own third-person accounts.
While Doyle did intend Moriarty to be Holmes’ evil intellectual equal, it is really popular culture that has elevated Moriarty to the level of ever-present arch foe. There have been some really wonderful depictions of Moriarty in extra-canonical renderings of Holmes, most notably the great Sir Laurence Olivier (The Seven-Percent Solution), Paul Freeman (Without a Clue – he was also Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark!) and Daniel Davis (“Star Trek: The Next Generation).
These great actors’ depictions of Moriarty are but one piece of evidence that shows the public’s fascination with the idea of Moriarty, and our need to have him exist. Seeing Moriarty on TV as a kid made me want him to be real. Perhaps the idea of the existence of an ultimate villain makes us feel like we have the potential to be heroes.
By the way, if there wasn’t a Moriarty, there probably never would have been a Lex Luthor, Joker, Green Goblin, or any of the great supervillains. Moriarty was the first great supervillain, as I see it.
Nrama: We all knew what Sherlock Holmes was after in Doyle’s stories, but what is Moriarty after here?
Corey: I choose to think of Moriarty as a guy who is, in some ways, just like all of us. He needs order. He needs to have control of his universe. He doesn’t think of himself as a bad person. He’s just doing what he needs to do in order survive. It is the judgment of society that has labeled him a criminal and made him an outsider.
Moriarty has a fascination with death. He is terrified of death, yet he doesn’t ever feel truly alive unless death is nipping at his heels. It’s a sort of codependency. That’s why he finds himself lost without Holmes around, because Holmes was the only person capable of defeating him.
I imagine that Moriarty’s greatest want is significance. The existence of Holmes once gave him a sense of significance, knowing that there was only one person out there that could ever possibly best him. If he could defeat Holmes, Moriarty thought he’d really live it up, have it all. But with the loss of Holmes came the loss of Moriarty’s sense of purpose and self-worth.
Nrama: I’m very intrigued by the hunt here after Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft. He was a small character in Doyle’s story, but ripe with potential. How’d you come to dwell on him to be at the center of this case?
Corey: At the beginning of our story, Moriarty is mourning the loss of one Holmes. When he is approached by MI5 and blackmailed into finding another Holmes, it’s a case he can’t refuse. At that point, the game is afoot.
Besides that, Mycroft is a great character. He has all of Sherlock’s gifts and brilliance, but lacks Sherlock’s sense of adventure. I always want more Mycroft, and some of my favorite of the original stories involved him.
Nrama: Holmes stands up as the greatest detective in fiction – what’s Moriarty’s skill in finding what he’s after here?
Corey: Fans of Sherlock’s methods are bound to be fans of Moriarty. Moriarty has the same deductive abilities that Sherlock has. So we’re already familiar with his methods. And while Holmes isn’t present in this story, we see traces of him in Moriarty.
Both guys are shades of each other: one on the side of good, the other on the side of evil (as society sees it). Some people have theorized that Moriarty never existed, that Holmes created Moriarty out of a need for a challenge. In our story, Holmes surely lived, but Moriarty’s fixation with Holmes makes you wonder just what is real, what is a product of fantasy.
Nrama: Moriarty began life for you as a Kickstarter project you hoped to self-publish. Can you tell us how the project came together and went from that to Image?
Corey: It’s been a long journey, I tell you. I first thought of this series back in 2008, and spent a few years developing it and writing the first story arc. Anthony and I put in a lot of work over about a two-year period. We pieced together a 22-page sample book that included a cover, 10 sequential pages, concept sketches, and story breakdown.
Anthony really hung in there in the lean times and put together some brilliant work, so hats off to him. If there’s one guy that can visually express these characters, it’s Anthony. He can read a script, get to the heart of it and really show you what’s going on underneath the lines.
We pounded the pavement, went to every convention, spoke with anyone who would listen in an effort to get the book published. The entire time we were shopping the book, I continued developing the series, thinking all the while that if no one picked it up, I’d just put it out myself under my DangerKatt banner.In the end, I met up with Image, they liked it, and decided to publish it. We were fortunate. But Anthony and I had put in the requisite labor to whip the property into shape, so when the time came, we were ready.
I saw a Q&A with James Caan at a film festival once, and some young actors asked him for advice on making it in the business. He said that you never know when your chance will come, so when it comes, you need to be ready for it. Basically, he was talking about being prepared, putting in the hard work to hone your craft and build a body of work. That applies to comics professionals, too.
I’m not saying that Anthony and I have hit the big time, and it’s all smooth sailing from here. I’m just saying that we did the work, and our efforts through Kickstarter and shopping MORIARTY to Image have gotten us in the door. I’m pretty happy about that, and thankful to Image for giving us a shot.