Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Night Fights: The Adventure of the Stone-Fisted Sleuth (Sherlock Holmes Weekend Begins!)

Mister Sherlock Holmes. You know him, I bet. Hawk nose, deerstalker cap, nasty cocaine habit. The world's greatest detective (until Batman, Elongated Man, and Columbo came along, at least). Your image of Holmes is probably shaped by the Basil Rathbone films, or the Jeremy Brett TV series, or perhaps by the wonderful original Sidney Paget illustrations:
Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget

Lookin' at these you might say to yourself "That Holmes is a slacker! Always kicking back, relaxing, smoking his meerschaum pipe or three and thinking about murders." Well, that's where you're wrong, Lestrade! Sure, Holmes is a deep thinker. But don't forget he put in a solid kickassing on Professor Moriarty on the cliffs of the Reichenbach Falls:
Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget

Holmes is no frail, wasted, intellectual. He's a keen student of fighting and boxing, and casually shows off his strength in "The Adventure of the Speckled Band":
Holmes chuckled heartily. "Your conversation is most entertaining," said he. "When you go out close the door, for there is a decided draught."

"I will go when I have said my say. Don't you dare to meddle with my affairs. I know that Miss Stoner has been here. I traced her! I am a dangerous man to fall foul of! See here." He stepped swiftly forward, seized the poker, and bent it into a curve with his huge brown hands.

"See that you keep yourself out of my grip," he snarled, and hurling the twisted poker into the fireplace he strode out of the room

"He seems a very amiable person," said Holmes, laughing. "I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him that my grip was not much more feeble than his own." As he spoke he picked up the steel poker and, with a sudden effort, straightened it out again.
How much of an all-out action guy is he? How tough is Sherlock Holmes? So tough he beats up cadavers:
"Holmes is a little too scientific for my tastes—it approaches to cold-bloodedness. I could imagine his giving a friend a little pinch of the latest vegetable alkaloid, not out of malevolence, you understand, but simply out of a spirit of inquiry in order to have an accurate idea of the effects. To do him justice, I think that he would take it himself with the same readiness. He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge."

"Very right too."

"Yes, but it may be pushed to excess. When it comes to beating the subjects in the dissecting-rooms with a stick, it is certainly taking rather a bizarre shape."

"Beating the subjects!"

"Yes, to verify how far bruises may be produced after death. I saw him at it with my own eyes."
Man, even Batman ain't that crazy.

But I can hear you now. Sure, Bully, you scoff. Mister Sheer-Luck Holmes is soooooo tough. But all you've shown us is words, little stuffed bull, paltry feeble words. We're comic book fans from the Show-Me State. Show us that Holmes could hold his own against the other two-fisted heroes of the four-color world. Hah!

Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?

Sherlock Holmes comic
Sherlock Holmes comic
Sherlock Holmes comic
Sherlock Holmes comic
Sherlock Holmes comic

For best results, read that last panel and then immediately click here.

All these panels are from DC's rather spiffing Sherlock Holmes #1 (cover-dated October 1975), written by Denny O'Neil with art by E. R. Cruz. Despite the "Next issue on sale during the last week in August" blurb at the bottom of the final panel, it's the only Holmes issue published by DC, so it's likely the issue didn't sell well enough to warrant a series. That's kind of a pity. It was obviously published to capitalize on the massive increase in Holmes fandom thanks to the publication of Nicholas Meyers's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution only the previous year, which inspired dozens if not hundreds of imitation novels and new Holmes pastiches. This little stuffed Holmes fan declares that the DC comic version ain't half bad: bold and dynamic art, an abridged but skillful retelling of two Conan Doyle stories ("The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of the Empty House"), and, aside from portraying Holmes in deerstalker throughout (Holmes would have only worn such wear when traveling to the country, Holmes scholars tell us), does a pretty solid job of fitting the general visual image of Holmes, Watson, and Victorian London. There's also a be-yoo-tiful Walt Simonson cover:
Sherlock Holmes comic cover

Maybe it's for the best. Not every Holmes story might have lent itself so well to the action-packed, visually-oriented medium of comic books. But for one issue at least, Holmes totally scores a knockout:
Sherlock Holmes comic
Sherlock Holmes comic
Sherlock Holmes comic

"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of Bahlactus in the night-time."
"Bahlactus did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.


Phillip said...

Re: deerstalker- They publish superhero books. They're not used to characters who don't always wear the same outfit.
Also, which Batman comic was it where he ran into an aged Holmes? Was it after this?

snell said...


Now, in only Sherlock Holmes would fight the Joker...oh, wait, he did!!

Gordon D said...

I think Batman met Holmes in Detective Comics # was Batman's 50th anniversary, if memory serves.

But a cool place for people to get pure, undistilled Holmes is - Stanford had run an online "reading" course. You get copies of the stories with Paget illustrations, notes to explain some of the references...all on PDF for your pleasure.

Now, if I can only make it through "The Valley of Fear"...

SallyP said...

Well that was lovely. I'm not quite sure that I see the point of beating up dead people, although I suppose that it could be for theraputic reasons. I thought dead men didn't bleed? They also don't wear plaid, but that's another story.