In October of 2008 I attended a special lecture by scholar Leslie S. Klinger, celebrated editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, hosted by the local Sherlockian society of Minneapolis.
Halloween, my most celebrated holiday, was fast approaching and the esteemed editor was on a national promotional tour for his latest book, The New Annotated Dracula, which was also to be the subject of his lecture. I was writing The Evil of Dracula at that same time, and I expected an entertaining evening congenially compatible to the upcoming night of frights, nothing more. Something much more profound was going to happen for me.
Leslie's informal, fascinating discussion of Dracula, Bram Stoker, and, inevitably, Sherlock Holmes was delivered with great wit and charm. Then, suddenly, I felt an odd crawling under my skin when he began to talk about a number of existing literary works that mixed the Great Detective and the Vampire King together. Of course, I had written such an adventure in Scarlet in Gaslight, first published in the late 1980s. Imagine my surprise when Les further flattered, and flabbergasted, me by enthusiastically singling out my book before the listening audience.
I was stunned. Completely floored. Was this some kind of a joke? Did he somehow know I was there? There was a buzzing in my ears, that must have been my pounding blood rushing through my temples. Lisa later told me that I looked upon the verge of tears. I simply didn't know how to react. I'd never had a public affirmation quite like that before, not to mention from such a respected researcher. That meant more to me than even the Eisner Award nomination that the book had received back when it was first published.
After the lecture, Les was directed to a table where the crowd could meet him and get their copies of his books autographed. I purposely waited to be last. I just had to thank Les for his kind words, and I wanted him to myself for a few minutes. When I introduced myself his eyes immediately widened, obviously as unexpected to meet me as I was to hear his praise of my work. We chatted about Dracula and Sherlock Holmes for a little while, and it became obvious that Les was very familiar with my other related books, including "The Season of Forgiveness", a somewhat obscure Sherlock Holmes tale that I'd written for an AIDS Research Christmas anthology in 1990. Happily we've since become good friends and, amusingly, Les admitted upon first meeting me that he was very surprised I wasn't British.
When Moonstone approached me for a new double volume, combining Scarlet in Gaslight in its sixth printing, and A Case of Blind Fear in its fifth, I immediately asked Les to provide an introduction. I requested a new foreword from my original publisher, Dave Olbrich, formerly of Malibu Comics, as well. Both gentlemen kindly consented. At the eleventh hour, due to a complication at the printer, sadly neither of the new intros made it into the book. I deeply regret that, but it was truly no one's fault. However, Leslie Klinger has graciously given me permission to post his special introduction here on my Blog. If Dave is also willing, I'd very much like to add his fabulous foreword, as well.
Before turning this over to Les, I'd like to especially thank Joe Gentile, Publisher of Moonstone, who has been a champion of these books, keeping them in print for almost a decade. Also, I want to express my deep appreciation to artist Gary Carbon, who's brilliant cover painting transfuses rich new life to my twenty year old vision of Sherlock Holmes and Count Dracula meeting upon a mutual battlefield.
Thank you, gentlemen, all!
PS: Thanks to Ray Riethmeir for providing me with the photograph of Leslie Klinger and I meeting for the first time.
SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE FUNNY PAPERS
Sherlock Holmes (or a fair copy) has been the subject of comic strips, comic books, and graphic novelists for most of his life.
Cartoons of Picklock Holes and his friend Potson, accompanying tales told by one “Cunnin Toil,” began in Punch magazine in August 1893 and ran occasionally for more than 20 years. A short-lived series about “Padlock Bones” appeared in Hearst daily newspapers in 1904 and Sherlock Gunk, an Eskimo detective, appeared in Rudolf Dirks’s Sunday tales of the Katzenjammer Kids in 1907. The series “Sherlocko the Monk” (later “Hawkshaw the Detective”) ran in the Hearst newspapers from 1910 to 1952, with several long absences. In 1930-31, a series of strips based on the original stories and drawn by Leo O’Mealia appeared in the Bell Syndicate (collected by Eternity Comics in three issues in 1990).
The first comic book to feature a serious Holmes was Captain Marvel, Jr. in 1942, in which Freddy Freeman enlisted the help of Holmes in fighting Captain Nazi (probably inspired by the Universal films). The first real Holmes story, however, was not surprisingly the 1944 Classics Illustrated, which depicted The Sign of Four, followed in 1947 by a retelling of The Hound of the Baskervilles and in 1953 by A Study in Scarlet and “The Speckled Band.”
In 1955, Baffling New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was the first reimagining of the Canon. Perhaps inspired by the television series The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, starring Ronald Howard, the writers began to divulge tales that Watson had withheld from publication. The effort was short-lived, however, and despite the general interest of the public in things Holmesian in the 1970's and 1980's, it wasn’t until 1988 that a serious original Holmes story appeared in graphic form. That work was Scarlet in Gaslight, reprinted here, and was quickly followed by A Case of Blind Fear from the same team. Although other writers have followed in the footsteps of Powell and Makinen, none have achieved the heights of these works.
Holmes has always epitomized the ideals of Victorian culture. He embodies the triumph of the individual, the celebration of the amateur scientist-reasoner, and most importantly, the conviction that the Englishman’s burden was the responsibility to right the wrongs of the world. It was inevitable that Holmes’s path would cross two of the great icons of the late Victorian period, the Transylvanian prince Count Dracula and the misguided Griffin, better known as the “Invisible Man.”
In 1897, when the tales of each were made public by their biographers, Bram Stoker and H. G. Wells, respectively, Holmes was at the peak of his career, fresh from his return to active practice in 1894. As you will see, however, Scarlet in Gaslight tells of a confrontation that, for reasons that will be obvious, must have occurred in 1891. A Case of Blind Fear is not set in a specific year, but in light of the amorous relationships that develop, I believe that the events took place in 1888.
I’ve called Scarlet in Gaslight the best of the many imaginings of the meeting of Holmes and Dracula. A Case of Blind Fear returns to the spotlight a gripping story that has been sadly abused by comic film adaptations. Here are Holmes, Watson, Dracula, Moriarty, Griffin, Mary Morstan, and Irene Adler as you’ve never imagined them before.
Enjoy—the game is afoot again!
Leslie S. Klinger
(Click on pics for a larger image.)