Sherlock Holmes and My Personal Shame

Perhaps it’s not a mystery evocative of eerie moors or Victorian London alleyways, but the question still perplexes me: how did I let writer Martin Powell escape from my radar screen? He’s certainly on the radar screen of other Sherlock Holmes fans.

His adaptation of “The Hound of The Baskervilles” has just been released as a full-color hardcover graphic novel from Sequential Pulp/Dark Horse Comics. (The book is available in comic book specialty shops, as well as through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million and other purveyors of fine literature.)

Backstory: approximately 25 years ago when I was writing the “Dan T’s Inferno” column for Comics Buyer’s Guide magazine, friend Alan Sissom cajoled me into trekking back to our alma mater to hear a presentation by an up-and-coming comics writer from Kentucky named Martin Powell.

Powell was hawking “Scarlet In Gaslight,” a brilliant graphic novel (drawn by Seppo Makinen) bringing Sherlock Holmes into conflict with Dracula. For a time my fiancé and I eagerly kept up with Powell’s progress; but then marriage, corporate downsizing, a shift to writing for a mainstream newspaper audience and fatherhood took me away.

Then, at the end of 2009, I wrote a Tyrades! column about the first Robert Downey, Jr. Holmes movie. Snarky comments included speculation about The World’s Greatest Detective getting into trouble for profiling in the 21st century. (“I happen to be a Furtive Character With Distinctive Clay On The Heel of the Left Boot. We are a recognized minority group, and my lawyer will be talking to you in the morning.”)

That got me started thinking about Powell, so in September of 2010 I went searching for him via Facebook, to see if he had thrown in the towel on the brutal writing business. To my pleasure, not only was “Scarlet In Gaslight” in its seventh printing, but Powell (now living in Saint Paul, Minnesota) had more than 300 other writing credits, including comics, children’s books, animation scripts and educational science books.

He has worked with established characters such as Superman, Batman, Tarzan, Paul Bunyan, Sinbad, pulp magazine vigilante The Spider, and his favorite comics character, Popeye (“Mars Attacks Popeye”). He has even adapted Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” to comics. Then there have been the projects with original characters, including the co-creation (with artist Diana Leto) of The Halloween Legion (“World’s Weirdest Heroes”).

And now I find myself admiring “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” Powell’s ninth project involving Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth. When asked for a pithy comment, Powell emailed me, “The Hound of the Baskervilles is actually the most iconic Sherlock Holmes mystery ever, and artist Jamie Chase and I are determined from the start to make our version as definitive as possible for this medium. I believe we have succeeded.”

Indeed, the volume exudes the typical Powell characteristics: painstaking preparation, respect for characters and breezy dialogue. The artwork (with its muted palette) draws you right into the foreboding world of the Baskervilles.

This gem belongs on the bookshelf of Sherlock Holmes experts, as well as anyone wishing to BEGIN a lifelong fascination with the detective. (Powell has been hooked since sixth grade.)

Get on the Powell bandwagon. The Moriarty the merrier. (*Groan* By your retching, I deduce that I shouldn’t have said that.)

Danny Tyree
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