I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan and have been since I was a child. I was pretty excited, therefore, when I heard that some my favourite creators – John Reppion, Leah Moore, Adam Cadwell and Chris Doherty – were getting together to produce a new comic strip featuring the character.
It’s called “The Problem of the Empty Slipper” and appears in short-story collection In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, which is otherwise made up of prose fiction rather than comics. I decided to have a short chat with writer/artist Chris Doherty about his work on “The Problem of the Empty Slipper” and the following interview is the result.
Matt Badham: You’ve known John Reppion and Leah Moore for some time, haven’t you?
Chris: I met John and Leah at a Collectormania here in Manchester just as they’d finished their series Albion. I like to think we managed to hit it off due to our joint love of horror and Italian zombie films. They’ve always been encouraging of my comics every time that we’ve spoken since and I’ve really wanted to work on something with them. They invited me on board as penciller for this short Holmes strip and I was all for it.
Matt: How did you approach the strip?
Chris: I’m a massive fan of the SelfMadeHero Sherlock Holmes books by Ian Edgington and Ian Culbard, but I wanted to make a conscious effort not to just ape Culbard’s Holmes. I have fond memories of Michael Caine in [the film] Without a Clue, which I think might have been the prevailing Holmes in my head for a good few years.
Recently, I’ve been researching detective stories for the book I’m currently working on, which means I’ve now read a lot about Conan Doyle and Poe. I feel like I’ve got an understanding of what Holmes was about, if not a working knowledge of each of the stories.
I looked through Sidney Paget’s illustrations as a starting point and did try to come up with something new and fresh, but found myself drawing stylised Jeremy Bretts over and over, which I thought seemed to work so I stuck with them. I also wanted to make sure there was as little Benedict Cumberbatch in there as possible.
[Sidney Paget illustrated Holmes’ adventures when they appeared in The Strand magazine. Jeremy Brett played Holmes on television in the 1980s and 1990s, and Benedict Cumberbatch… oh, come on, surely you know that one! – Ed]
Matt: John and Leah’s script is very clever and the resulting strip is very dynamic. I thought you were a good choice of artist because your work is very clear, and your characterisation and visual storytelling is strong. What are your thoughts on that? Can you see where I’m coming from?
Chris: I was surprised at how fast-paced and full of action the script was, as I was expecting a slower, intricate little mystery. John and Leah managed to get the mystery portion of the story just right. I also think they understood more than I did that my style was probably better suited to having Holmes and Watson dash through London, with Holmes solving mini-mysteries on his way to the central one. Those are my favourite panels, with Holmes cutting a black streak through the park and kicking in doors. Adam got the inks perfect on those panels too, sharp and clean.
Matt: What was Adam Cadwell’s contribution to the strip?
Chris: He inked and lettered it, as well doing full art and letters for one complete page when the deadline got a bit tight!
Matt: I want to ask a couple of questions that are specifically about you if that is okay. I assume you’re available for paid work. How can editors and publishers get in touch with you? Do you do illustration as well as comics?
Chris: Yes, I do illustration as well as comics and I am available for paid work. I’m in between websites at the minute, but contact details and more information can be found at http://chrisdohertycomics.tumblr.com
Matt: Where would you like to be in five or even ten years, comics-wise?
Chris: I’d like to have created a few characters with longevity and have followed them throughout a series of books. I’m still really happy with Video Nasties [an absolutely brilliant comic that Doherty wrote, drew and published himself], but do feel the end of that was probably a full stop for all those characters.
Matt: How much can you tell us about the detective book you’re working on?
Chris: At the moment I’ve got it focused on a private detective based in a small town in the North. I’m hoping to make it a kind of Northern Noir.
• In the Company of Sherlock Holmes is on sale now and available from all good book shops
• Check out Chris Doherty on Tumblr: http://chrisdohertycomics.tumblr.com
• Adam Cadwell is at www.adamcadwell.com
• John Repion and Leah Moore reside at www.moorereppion.com