Friday, August 31, 2012

Some serious Sherlock.

After a lifetime of reading comic books, I gave them up last spring. I’ve had my share of problems with the medium in past years, from rising prices to lack of availability to the complete disenfranchisement of Wally West. (And a greater tragedy, comics have never known.) I knew digital comics were up and coming, so I figured I’d just wait and see what happened with that . . . after all, I liked reading comics, not really piling them up, year after year, in enough longboxes that you could eventually build an igloo out of them.

What does this have to do with our friend Sherlock Holmes?

Well, today I made my first venture into digital comics, with Watson and Holmes written by Karl Bollers and drawn by Rick Leonardi, the first modernized New York Sherlock we’re getting this fall.  Published by Brandon Perlow, Watson and Holmes is more than just an ocean and a century away from recent Sherlock Holmes comics – it’s a whole world away.

No zombies. No tongue-in-cheek camp. No American attempts at Victorian stereotypes. Watson and Holmes is just a straightforward, serious attempt to bring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to to the New World.

It’s well-drawn, it moves along well, it’s a pretty good comic book. But, as we’ll soon be asking of a certain CBS television show, is it Sherlock Holmes?

Well, I’m not quite sure yet. Holmes and Watson have just met, and they’ve started an adventure together, but as the title would imply, Dr. Watson seems to be the prominent player so far. He’s solid, caring, and just a bit of a badass . . . something that might be a trend in modern Watsons. (We’ll have to see how Lucy Liu’s incarnation does – we know she has it in her.) As he heads straight into a case with Holmes, we don’t get too much personality on the detective. Holmes tends to move straight ahead when on a scent, and that’s all of him we see here. Hopefully there will be more of him to come.

The other element that’s missing so far in this rendition is the remarkable, the fantastic, the possibly supernatural element that tended to be the centerpiece of the best Sherlock Holmes stories. Straight crime dramas were never Holmes’s turf. An overlay of  gritty urbanity won’t stop a Sherlock from being Sherlock, but even dark and serious, he needs a bit of flash, something to set his cases apart from something C.S.I. Wherever would handle.

But that’s just an old Sherlockian’s POV. Watson and Holmes is good enough to come back next issue and see what develops. And well worth stepping into digital comics for.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Mitt Romney of Sherlocks

The world of Sherlock Holmes is normally one in which fans can escape the everyday debates of things like politics and religion, so I hate to bring the topic up. But with the news of late focusing on the Republican National Convention on one hand, and publicity for the upcoming show Elementary on the other, I can’t help but notice a similarity between presidential candidate Mitt Romney and CBS’s new Sherlock: a certain lack of true enthusiasm.

 On both sides, there’s this open-minded sort of resignation, as both Republicans and Sherlockians go, “Well, it’s what we’re getting . . .”

Yes, the publicity machines are fired up and tossing out positive spin for all they’re worth. But when you get quotes from people who aren’t directly involved . . . well, not so much.

In USA Today, the ever exuberant Kristina Manente manages two “brilliant”s and one “flawless” about BBC’s Sherlock, but when it comes to Elementary, it almost sounds like she’s talking about the younger sibling who was a few bricks shy of a load, starting with “To be fair . . .”

But the lukewarm even sneaks in from the executive producer of Elementary, in what might be one of my favorite promo quotes: “I’ve seen Sherlock in other novels, in comic books, in television shows, in movies, in TV movies. Some are better than others, but nobody has managed to ruin the franchise.”

Nope, nobody has. But we’ve sure seen some attempts that did nothing to help the legend of the Master Detective.  Elementary is now less than a month away. Let the excitement begin!

Because guess what? Unlike the presidential campaign, American television doesn’t have a second candidate.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cleaning around Sherlock.

I think of Sherlock Holmes every time I try to do major house-cleaning.

I can’t help it, he’s just in my way. Once you’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for a very long time, he tends to do that. And I don’t mean because he’s distracting you from getting your work done. No, Sherlock Holmes is, quite literally, in the way.

You see, when I was about thirty or twenty or even fifteen years younger than today, I thought that everything that had anything to do with Sherlock Holmes was cool. That’s the love of a fan for you, we don’t discriminate. Plastic Garfield in a deerstalker, holding a magnifying glass? Cool. A paperback book where Sherlock Holmes explains how insurance works? Cool. A Bantam edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles with a different piece of art on the cover? Cool.

And it begins to pile up. Once the collecting bug is on you, if you can’t find Sherlock, you’ll find things two degrees away from Sherlock. Christopher Morley started the Baker Street Irregulars, thus anything he wrote is cool, right? And if I like Sherlock Holmes, I have to like everything about Conan Doyle, that should go without saying. And on and on it goes, and over the decades a collection builds. And starts to get in the way.

At some point, you start to realize that you have accumulated a lot of things you really don’t find that cool any more. Still blogging on Sherlock, Holmes tales still a core mythology of my inner life, but who the hell ever needed a plastic Garfield in a deerstalker? Seriously. Unless you’re planning on putting on pop culture exhibits, which I’m not, there’s not really a point to half the Sherlock stuff I now find filling my house.

And here’s the real problem: you can’t just put Sherlock stuff in a garage sale or donate the books to a book sale. You’re haunted by the thought that somebody out there, somewhere, might be as keen on it as you once were, so you can’t just disperse it to the winds. Holmes events where one might throw up a dealer’s table don’t come along every day, especially here in the heartland. And, trust me, this stuff does not sell on eBay.

So take this as a warning, current and future collectors of the Sherlock. Be a little bit choosey in what you pick to bring home. Acquire what has true meaning to you, is part of your master plan, and is not just a moment’s fancy, a sudden surge of Holmes pride. So that one day, when you’re cleaning your house, you are dusting and caring for objects of pride and value . . . and not damned Garfield the cat.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Three little words.

“I love you” got replaced by “rat wedding bow” as the three most important words in the English language for a lot of people today. At least for a time.

You don’t need me to tell you how the creators of BBC’s Sherlock teased fans with three words today, much as they did before the show’s last season. All words that have meaning in the world of Sherlock Holmes classic. But what will they mean in this new age of Holmes? Something old and something new, to be sure.  (And we know how much Steven Moffat likes that old wedding rhyme from a certain Dr. Who episode.)

“All that I have to say has already crossed your mind,” Professor Moriarty once said to Holmes, and in trying to write something about Moffet and Gatiss’s three little words after looking at what’s spread across the internet in less than a day, I can relate.
Perhaps the most intriguing theory, however, was put out by Kristen McHugh tweeting to the Baker Street Babes: “What if Moran/Morstan are the same, & there’s a Rat at the Wedding in more ways than one?”

Well, as Moffat and Gatiss like to place with all kinds of pieces from Sherlock’s cultural past, there was this popular play called The Crucifer of Blood, and *** SPOILER ALERT! *** BEE-YOO! BEE-YOO! BEE-YOO! *** BIG SPOILER! Mary Morstan turns out to be the most conniving villain of all. So, looking at the three words, if Sebastian Moran goes down in the first episode, Patience Moran, who didn’t used to be related to him but now is, plots her revenge by taking the name Mary Morstan and marrying Watson. Of course, she’s also a spy on the side, so her unmasking fills out the final act.

But it’s never that simple with these guys. The Hound of the Baskervilles gets a mash-up with “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot,” and Mycroft is thrown in for good measure. You just never know what they’ll roll out.

But when was the last TV episode or movie you can remember that could do a one word preview and get people excited?

That is something very special. It’s a very good time to be a Sherlock fan.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Swap! Swap! Swap!

I do enjoy that Lucy Liu.

Make no mistake, yesterday’s blog “Nightmare Watson” was directed at the concepts behind CBS’s Elementary and its ensuing poor promos. But today, as I worried that someone might mistake that title for an attack on the amazing Lucy Liu, a thought occurred. A grand thought. The kind of thought that settles into your head and won’t leave. And that thought was this:

The creators of Elementary got it backwards.

Lucy Liu should have been cast as Sherlock Holmes.

Her ability to go from intellectual coolness to passionate intensity is unrivalled, and that is exactly the combo a perfect Holmes needs. She can do exotic and somewhat alien, and Sherlock Holmes is exactly that – a human beyond the everyday. She’s quick. She has command. Her name has the same syllable pattern.

Lucy Liu is totally Sherlock Holmes material.

Johnny Lee Miller, on the other hand, never seemed quite bright enough as Holmes in the promos. His accent isn’t quite the right sort of British, somehow. But as a Watson? I actually think he could work.

While a female Watson to a male Holmes just adds stereotyping to Watson’s somewhat subservient role, the reverse works amazingly well. If a female Watson is a little in love with Sherlock Holmes, it’s somewhat sad. A male Watson with feelings for a distant female Holmes? That makes perfect . . . oh, wait, that’s what Fox’s Bones has been doing for years. So, maybe it wouldn’t be groundbreaking, but let’s face it: doing a modern day Sherlock series now isn’t groundbreaking in any case.

But Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes? Damn, I would have liked to have seen that.

H.G. Wells, if you’re out there with your time machine, come see me. We’ve got a television show to go back in time and tinker with.