Scott's Classic Comics Corner: A Study in Sherlock Pt. 1

Over the next couple of weeks, I will be showcasing some of comic book appearances of a certain Baker St. based detective. This week, I’ll take a look at some of his exploits during the Golden Age.

It was Fan Expo time in Toronto again last weekend. While I did not get the chance to make it to the actual show, I was able to spend a fun Saturday night on the town with Ted & Anthony, the congenial hosts of the wonderful Horror Etc podcast. Anthony is a huuuuuuge Sherlock Holmes fan, to the point where he has produced and starred in various Holmes themed radio, TV and independent film projects. At one point in the evening, we stepped into the Silver Snail’s Midnight Madness sale, keeping an eye out for some Sherlock Holmes related comic books. It got me thinking about how many times Sherlock Holmes has appeared in comic books over the years. What follows is not a comprehensive list, but some of the highlights.

One of the first appearances of Sherlock Holmes in a comic format was in an eponymous newspaper strip drawn by Leo O'Mealia. The strip made its debut in 1930 and ran for a couple of years but, for the life of me, I cannot track down an image from this strip. During the 1950s, a more notable newspaper strip was launched. Most of the artwork was provided by Frank Giacoia, but luminaries such as Mike Sekowsky and Gil Kane also pitched in. Reprints of this strip were published by Malibu in the 1980s, and a collection was recently published as Mr. Holmes & Dr. Watson: Their Strangest Cases.

Gilberton’s Classics Illustrated featured Sherlock Holmes a few times. Classics Illustrated #21 was titled Three Famous Mysteries, one of which was an adaptation of Sign of the 4. Holmes got the solo treatment with Classics Illustrated #33’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and issue #110 adapted A Study in Scarlet. Perhaps the rarest of all Sherlock Holmes comic book appearances can be found in Exciting Mystery Stories, one of the Classic Illustrated Giants that are nearly impossible to find.

If you are not familiar with the Golden Age character, Kid Eternity, you should be. He possessed one of the more remarkable powers of any hero of the era. By uttering the word ‘Eternity’, he could call on any person from history to assist him in his adventures. Although he was supposed to call upon ‘real’ people, from time to time he was somehow able to summon fictional characters, including Sherlock Holmes. By my count, Holmes appeared was summoned on at least three occasions by Kid Eternity (Hit Comics #28, Kid Eternity #8 and Kid Eternity #10).

I don’t know a thing about Fox’s Spectacular Stories Magazine #4 from 1950, other than it purports to include a Sherlock Holmes stories. Victor Fox sticks to his roots by focusing more on a catfight than the Sleuth of Baker St. Judging solely on the quality of the handful of Fox Comics I’ve owned over the years; I will assume that this is not the best Holmes adaptation of all-time.

Of course, Sherlock Holmes has been a prime target for parody since the Sheer Luck Homes comic strip appeared in 1907. A couple of early issues of Mad featured a Holmes spoof entitled Shermlock Shomes with art by Will Elder. The story from Mad #7 was reprinted in Mad Super Special #18 from 1975.

In 1955, Charlton Comics began its short-lived Sherlock Holmes series. As far as I can tell, every story in the two issues is new. Charlton often played fast and loose with license characters (see Jungle Tales of Tarzan) and I would not be surprised if one of the reasons this series did not last much longer had to do with a cease and desist letter from the license holders. As I understand (thanks to Anthony) is that any new Holmes material earmarked for US distribution must get permission from the ACD estate.

Another interesting little piece of Holmes memorabilia can be found in DC’s Real Fact Comics #19. This tough to find, but not overly pricey for its age, book has an 8 page story documenting Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation of the great detective. It even shows Doyle using Holmesian techniques to free an innocent man. I’m never sure if Real Fact Comics was as ‘factual’ as it lead readers to believe, but it’s an interesting bit of Holmes history nonetheless.

Next week, I'll feature some Silver and Bronze Age appearance by Mr. Holmes in a wide variety of titles from Four Color to Superman. In the meantime, check out my blog: Seduction of the Indifferent.

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