By Todd Allen
I found something unexpected in my in-box yesterday. A digital comic called “Watson and Holmes.” That title might not always catch my attention, but I recognized the name of Rick Leonardi (Spider-Man 2099, Uncanny X-Men, Nightwing) and writer Karl Bollers seemed like a name I’d heard before (Emma Frost, X-51, Sonic the Hedgehog), so I downloaded it. And it was good.
In the print world, its almost always open season for Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock is public domain and there’s a pretty good market for new Holmes stories. Dynamite had a Sherlock comic a couple years. Right now the profile on Holmes is a little higher with the more action oriented Guy Ritchie film franchise, the modern day BBC “Sherlock” and the upcoming CBS “Elementary” (modern day, in New York and with Lucy Liu as Watson). Reinvention is the name of the game.
Watson and Holmes is set in Harlem (which technically would follow the CBS New York setting, though likely a different neighborhood). Both Holmes and Watson are black. Holmes is a little more polite than the other current takes, with the first issue emphasizing his mysterious ways as he first meets Watson. In this version, Watson isn’t a doctor. He’s medical intern. He’s also a former para-jumper in Afghanistan, suggesting military service. In the BBC Sherlock, Dr. Watson (while actually being doctor) is also just back from Afghanistan.
Issue one concerns an assault and a missing person. Largely, it serves as an on-the-move introduction to Holmes and Watson. Secondarily, it puts them in their Harlem setting. The characterizations are consistent enough with the source material, given the modernizing tweaks. The modern trend of having Watson be a little tougher continues. The pacing is faster than the originals. There’s more movement to the clue-gathering than the Doyle deliberations, but that’s the pacing you’d expect with the comics format.
The second story arc (and this is just the first part of a story) will be where we see if this incarnation has legs, but as a first chapter this does a good job.
The publisher for Watson and Holmes is New Paradigm Studios. This is their first comic and it quickly shot up to the #1 spot on ComicsPlus. Brandon Perlow, who runs New Paradigm, says he’s digital only for the moment — partially because he thinks comics should be affordable entertainment. (Watson and Holmes is $0.99.)
His thoughts on being exclusively on ComicsPlus are also interesting.
Right now we are exclusive with Comicsplus as they are independent creator friendly. I would go with Comixology if they were open, but they aren’t taking submissions now. They pretty much have become the “Diamond” of digital. Other digital options are in the air right now, but it’s Comicsplus for the near future.
This is not the first time I’ve heard talk about the difficulties getting into Comixology, but it is the first time I’ve those concerns directly expressed to me. Digital exclusives… call it a developing story.
Watson and Holmes is recommended for Holmes fans and readers of crime comics.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.