Continuing our interview series, here’s Robert Napton talking to David Liss about Moriarty Lives #1, on sale now, which investigates Sherlock Holmes great nemesis:
Q: Before we start talking about the specifics of your series, let me ask a question about Moriarty in general. Those who know the Holmes mythos from films or television might be surprised to learn that he appeared in only a single short story, The Final Problem, and yet he sprang from Conan Doyle’s mind fully formed and instantly became the stuff of legend. Why is he such a compelling villain considering his brief appearance in the canon?
LISS: To me the answer is pretty simple. Holmes is the greatest detective of all time, and Moriarty is the guy who scared the crap out of him. Even though he hardly makes an appearance in the story, and is certainly gets very little space in the Holmes canon (or maybe because of that!) he casts a long shadow because of what he represents to Holmes.
Q: Tell me how this story came to be — certainly I’m given nothing away by saying that Moriarty survived the battle of Reichenbach Falls, which many Holmes enthusiasts have always wondered about.
LISS: No, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to discuss an event depicted in the first panel of the comic! I began with the idea of telling a story in which Moriarty is forced to play the hero – or at least the less villainous villain. With that in mind, I wanted to set my story after The Final Problem so Moriarty could take center stage. Holmes is not around, presumably dead, so that gives Moriarty room to be the central figure. The world believes him to be dead, and his network in England has been destroyed, so this is a chance for a fresh start.
Q: Without giving too much away, you have some great moments of issue #1 that show us several sides of Moriarty. His powers of deduction are on display and it’s interesting to see them put to use in the opposite way Holmes would. Was that fun to explore?
LISS: Absolutely. I wanted to demonstrate why he is a match for Holmes, but I also wanted to show him as a complicated character. In this first issue, we see a Moriarty who is ruthless and egotistical, but also sympathetic and motivated by at least a degree of compassion. He is, in other worlds, complex, which I think all interesting characters should be.
Q: Another side you show is that in many ways Moriarty is more effective in certain situations than Holmes would be — for example, Moriarty is more comfortable with the ladies for example. Do you think Moriarty is more socially sophisticated than Holmes — certainly he’s more manipulative..?
LISS: I do think that’s a fair statement. Holmes is a detective, so something happens and he swoops in and manages events from the outside. Moriarty, on the other hand, is a crime lord, which means he inhabits a world rather than hovering over it. Doyle, I believe, has Holmes describe him as being like a spider in a web, and certainly that’s not flattering, but to me it also suggests that he is central, involved in the lives of the people in his network. They are in his power, but they have also consented to be in his power, which means he has to have a degree of charisma. At least that’s my take.
Q: You have a great antagonist for Moriarty — which is saying a lot. Anything you’d like to share with the readers about that character without going into major spoilers.
LISS: I would hate to give too much away. I think one of the real pleasures of a first issue is seeing how a new world or setting or situation unfolds. That said, my goal was to create a villain who would be a real match for Moriarty and who is clearly less likable than Moriarty. We see early on that Moriarty is someone who is capable and dangerous, and then we see him meet an enemy who instantly has him at a disadvantage. Then the game is afoot!
Q: This series is going to give Holmes fans a new perspective on Moriarty — anything you’d like to preview about what to expect from Moriarty Lives!
LISS: I have always loved stories that show villains – not just anti-heroes, but characters we have come to see as bad guys – in a new light, and that’s what Moriarty Lives! is all about. My goal was to create something that was a revenge thriller, a caper story, and a new take on a familiar character. There’s also lots of dark humor. The bottom line is I had a blast.
Robert Place Napton is currently writing the monthly series WARLORD OF MARS: DEJAH THORIS 9In stores this week) for Dynamite. His past work includes WARLORD OF MARS: FALL OF BARSOOM, WARRIORS OF MARS, THUN’DA, and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: ADAMA also for Dynamite. His other recent projects include SON OF MERLIN for TOP COW and he wrote the graphic novel adaptation for Terry Brook’s story DARK WRAITH OF SHANNARA for Del Rey/Random House.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.