The game’s afoot! To start the new year off, Dynamite Entertainment will give readers new insight into the world’s greatest detective with “Sherlock Holmes: Year One.” Written by “Buck Rogers” and “Last Phantom” scribe Scott Beatty, “Year One” explores the fledgling detective and his erstwhile companion Dr. John Watson as they begin their relationship as the world’s most well-known detecting duo. While many Holmesian adventures have attempted a reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic character – be it Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” film, Stephen Moffat’s “Sherlock” series on BCC or even the medical drama “House” – Beatty plans to stick squarely with the source material that Doyle laid out for Holmes and Watson over 100 years ago.
“Sherlock Holmes is all over the entertainment map right now, but I’ve argued elsewhere that he never really left in terms of the cultural zeitgeist,” said Beatty. “How many stories, all told? Too many to count unless you’re a Holmes historian. I’m sticking to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon and working hard to make ‘Year One’ fit as seamlessly as possible into the Holmes continuum. ‘Year One’ is primarily about the dynamic between Holmes and Watson, who is fascinated by the young man who will one day become the world’s most famous detective. For Watson, the real mystery is Holmes himself.”
While Watson’s interest may focus on the fledgling detective, Beatty’s primary concern was coming up with a mystery to stymie and stump the world’s most observant detective. “Dynamite head honcho Nick Barrucci and editor Joseph Rybandt – both of whom I’ve been working with for some time now on ‘Buck Rogers’ and ‘The Last Phantom’ – approached me with the task of concocting a conundrum that would really challenge Holmes and Watson before their partnership became ‘official,'” he said. “How could I say no?”
“I’m pretty fleet when it comes to throwing ideas at the wall,” he continued. “The overarching mystery in ‘Year One’ is something that’s been percolating in the back of my mind for a while. When Nick and Joe mentioned Holmes, all the right synapses started firing.”
Beatty wasn’t able to reveal much about the mystery that challenges Holmes and Watson during their first year together, but one thing is certain: fans are going to get a good look at the man underneath the deerstalker cap. “Holmes’ inner and outer conflicts will be revealed in the miniseries,” said Beatty. “Readers will see that he tends to be a little shortsighted with regards to interpersonal relationships because of his single-minded drive to hone his deductive skills. Wittingly or not, he’s already alienated some powerful people in both high and low places.”
Beatty plans to use Dr. John Watson in his traditional role as the grounding force for Holmes who adds a necessary viewpoint of the common man for readers to observe the detective’s actions through. “It should come as no surprise that Watson is the narrator,” Beatty said. “In the beginning, he’s a bit exasperated by Holmes. And again, he’s determined to figure out just who Holmes is and why he’s so consumed by mysteries. Much to his chagrin, he needs Holmes to help investigate a series of murders that (to the London constabulary) seems to have no rhyme or reason except to spread fear.”
As a longtime fan of of the legendary detective, Beatty said that “Year One” wasn’t the first project he’s worked on that was influenced by Doyle’s iconic work. “Oh, I’m definitely a Holmes fan, look at my bibliography. ‘Ruse’ was certainly modeled on the basic Holmes/Watson dynamic, and no Batman writer can honestly say that he (or she) never read a Holmes mystery in preparation for chronicling the ‘other’ world’s greatest detective. I tend to go a little research crazy with any project and ‘Year One’ is no exception. My reading list for this is a bit eclectic, to say the least.”
Beatty also mentioned that adapting a character entrenched in traditional literature isn’t very much different from writing one more rooted in superhero lore. “Pick any Greek or Roman or ancient myth. Dive into ‘Epic of Gilgamesh,'” he said. “The basic superhero archetypes are rooted in the classics and ‘traditional’ literature. Wasn’t Moriarty the first evil genius supervillain? And wouldn’t Holmes’ uncanny deductive skills qualify him as a seminal superhero? If anything, I think the tone is more ‘realistic,’ even if the crimes tend toward the fantastic.”
Speaking of Moriarty, no Holmes mystery would be complete without his arch-nemesis. Known as the “Napoleon of Crime,” Professor James Moriarty only appeared in two of Doyle’s sixty Sherlock Holmes stories, but is widely regarded to be Holmes’ most worthy opponent, even succeeding in killing Holmes in “The Final Problem.” (Granted, Moriarty also fell to his death alongside the detective.) Although the not-so-good professor was only even mentioned in five other Holmes stories, he since made appearances numerous Holmes adaptations as Holmes’ most deadly foe. Unfortunately, Beatty was unwilling to confirm or deny Moriarty’s involvement in “Year One,” saying only, “I think the specter of Moriarty looms large over any Sherlock Holmes mystery,” leaving readers a mystery of their own to follow throughout Holmes’ first year.
“I believe that mysteries have to make sense, and I also foolishly think that the readers should have every opportunity to figure out the big reveal before Holmes strides defiantly into a room and points an accusatory finger,” said Beatty when asked what his greatest challenge was in crafting “Year One.” “The challenge is in formulating a mystery that’s satisfying in terms of execution and ultimate payoff.”
For Beatty, however, the ultimate payoff is getting the chance to craft and create a mystery for such iconic characters as Holmes and Watson. “Dynamite has given me the opportunity to write some very iconic and beloved heroes,” he said. “Buck. The Phantom. Now Holmes and Watson. The reward is in the company I keep in my creative life.”