Omaha Perez has been making comics since before he graduated from art school. An old school punk, Perez went his own way in comics, working with Steve Niles, Robert Hunter, Richard Hell and others along the way. 2004 saw the release of Bodhisattva, Perez's debut graphic novel and he quickly followed it up by publishing the first issue of Periphery, an anthology he contributed to and edited, and the first issue of Holmes, a new serialized, completely insane graphic novel.
Perez has been silent since then (or as silent as anyone who works full time and has two children and teaches can be), but debuted the final three issues of Holmes at this year's Alternative Press Expo as signed and numbered limited editions.
We caught up with Perez to discuss the conclusion of the hilarious Holmes and what's next for the writer.
How can you possibly explain what this comic is about?
My con pitch is that it's recasting the lead characters Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" as Holmes and Watson. So it's Victorian drug humor. It's Holmes and Watson out of their heads the entire time, trying to make their way through the case.
That's a true fact. Haydn's friends, soon after he died, dug up his skull because they were phrenologists and believed that the bumps on the human skull could give them clues as to why he was a genius. They actually thought Haydn would want them to do this. So for decades Haydn's skull was passed around.
Where did the inspiration for "Homes" come from, initially?
I first had this idea in art school, so it must have been about 14 or 15 years ago. I was reading Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for the first time. I had recently reread the Arthur Conan Doyle stories and the thought occurred to me:
In the classic Doyle stories, Holmes is a heavy drug user - but only from boredom when he's not working a case. When he's working he always cleans right up. That always seemed really far-fetched to me. So when I was reading "Fear & Loathing" I thought, "If Holmes was really an addict he wouldn't just be able to put his habit aside when a job came up." Then it occurred to me, what if he's always loaded and Watson's stories are cleaned up for the public? I thought that was really funny.
So that was the seed of the idea. Somewhere along the way I read the stranger-than-fiction account of the theft of composer Joseph Haydn's skull by phrenologists. I filed that away and when I felt ready to write "Holmes" it just seemed like an ideal case to drape the comic around.
Were you combing through Doyle and consciously inserting certain elements into the narrative or did you pretty much have the idea laid out and it just about adding bits here and there?
I did reread the complete Sherlock Holmes shortly before I started scripting just to have it fresh in my mind. But when I got down to scripting "Holmes," I just let it come out and right away I was enjoying myself. The script was really done in my head before I even started typing. That's kind of the beauty of my take on Holmes - Holmes and Watson diverge so much from the Doyle characterizations that I wasn't hampered by that at all.
My first writing attempt was my "Bodhisattva graphic novel." Being primarily an artist, I think I was a bit nervous about writing a tight script. So I instead tried to be a one man Kirby/Lee. I had it plotted out and I drew all the pages first and then scripted on top of it. I wasn't at all happy with the results and I resolved to do full script from that point on.
How much research did you do into Haydn and the look of London?
I took my liberties with the history of Haydn's skull. While the basic facts are true --Haydn's skull really was stolen from the grave by phrenologists and wasn't returned to his body for over 100 years-- sending the skull to be exhibited in London was purely a story device. As far as I know Haydn's skull never went to England.
As for London, my wife and I spent some time there a few years ago so I had a vague idea of where neighborhoods were in relation to each other. But most of my reference came from a big pile of London photo books I have. I have a couple of great books with pictures from that era which were particularly useful.
Despite the fact that "Holmes" is an insane, over-the-top story, the Sherlock Holmes elements worked in perfectly, especially Moriarty as this conspiratorial boogeyman.
I like the idea that Moriarty may or may not exist. I think in the series I make it clear which way it falls but the reader may come to a different conclusion.
Mycroft is barely mentioned. When I do the paperback I intend to do some art fixes and some streamlining of the script so I'll probably make that reference to Mycroft a little clearer for those readers who aren't necessarily Sherlock Holmes fans. I hadn't really thought about it when I did it because I'm so steeped in all the Sherlock Holmes stories that it just didn't occur to me that someone reading the story wouldn't know who Mycroft was.
"Holmes" is a four issue miniseries, the first issue being a flipbook with the anthology "Periphery" that you edited.
"Holmes" #1 came out almost two years ago. I think I debuted at APE two years ago. I've had two, three and four done since last summer and I'm just now putting them out as signed and limited editions. So [issues] two, three and four are limited to three hundred copies an issue. Ideally I'll find a larger publisher to package the paperback collection.
The first issue of "Holmes" came out a little while after you had self-published the graphic novel "Bodhisattva" and were editing and contributing to the "Periphery" anthlogy. It was just this intense outpouring of creativity. What led you to delay putting out anything until now and completing "Holmes" in one fell swoop?
Well, drawing these things is painfully slow. I do CG work fulltime and I'm married and we have two small children. So finding the time to draw comic pages, much less pages I'm truly happy with, can be incredibly difficult. I regret the long gap between issue one and these final three issues. I actually had them done last August but I was just too busy to deal with it. I'm doing these as signed and numbered limited editions - available only directly through me - so that at least some of the people who bought issue one can get the conclusion of the storyline in that same comic format. I am seeking a publisher for a re-mastered trade collection. Ideally, I'll connect with a publisher who will want to do the sequel as well. The next story is even funnier and definitely darker! And with any luck there won't be a two-year gap between volumes!
Have you always been a Sherlock Holmes fan?
Some people may not believe it, but yes! I think I first read Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories when I was about 11 or 12. I've always been a big reader and even at an early age I was interested in classic literary characters. I'm pretty sure I reread the Doyle stories in high school, I know I reread them in college and I've since reread them a couple more times.
Do you have a favorite non-Doyle Holmes story, besides your own? Or a favorite Holmes film?
I don't believe I have read any non-Doyle Holmes actually! My favorite Doyle stories are probably "The Sign of Four" and "A Study In Scarlet." As for film, I really haven't seen that many. Before I started drawing the book I did check out Billy Wilder's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes" and Michael Caine as Holmes in "Without A Clue" - but that was mainly to be sure I wasn't treading too close to something that had already been done. I needn't have worried! I do have a handful of the Jeremy Brett BBC Holmes series. I'll have to go with those.
What are you working on next?
It depends on what I can sell. Hopefully whoever publishes the "Holmes" trade will want to do a sequel. I have a sequel plotted out. And I think it's funnier and I think "Holmes" is good but I think the sequel is even better. So I'm really hoping to be able to do that. I want it to have a home first.
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