Paul Tobin, writer of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #12, talks with writers Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery about Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini #4, both on sale February 25th. Interior art by Carlos Furuzono
PAUL TOBIN: Both Sherlock Holmes and Harry Houdini have a lot more to them than at first glance. Sherlock has his love (however reluctant) for the arts, and also his entirely enthusiastic love of a good fight. Harry, meanwhile, was far more than just an escape artist. He had a huge interest in the occult, in mysticism. How important was it for you to portray these two men as more than one-dimensional, and how did you go about it?
ANTHONY DEL COL: People hold Holmes and Houdini up in such high regard these days and for us it was important to really focus on not only what they do well but more importantly what they don’t do well. What their weaknesses are. What will keep them back from being the great men that could do no wrong? That’s the essence of making characters more than just one-dimensional.
CONOR McCREERY: The bottom line is any character that is one-dimensional is not going to be an interesting character. It would be a horrible shame if we took these two amazing personalities and put them in a little box. My biggest regret is that we couldn’t do more with them. We had some fun ideas to play with Holmes’ struggles with women and Bess Houdini’s outgoing nature. Maybe in another series?
PAUL: Speaking of “these two men,”… Sherlock was just a fictitious character, while Harry was a very real man. Did thoughts of this ever come into play while you were writing? Did you see them differently?
CONOR: We didn’t see them differently because of the whole “Holmes is fictitious and Harry isn’t” thing, I think you need to treat all your characters as real. But we definitely did approach them differently. We saw Houdini as more brash and impulsive and Holmes as more superior and aloof. Weirdly, though, it was easier to find research on what Holmes is like than it was Houdini.
ANTHONY: It’s funny – so many people around the world are aware of Sherlock Holmes that is almost feels like he was an actual person.
PAUL: Did you do any hands-on “escape artist” research? Can you escape from handcuffs now? It would be great if you could enter comic conventions by escaping a straight jacket while dangling over the show floor. Please tell me you can do that?
ANTHONY: I wish! We looked into it but the comic-cons have strict dangling policies… They only allow Marvel and Spider-Man writers to have access to any sort of above-floor dangling…
CONOR: Although there is ONE amazing comic creator, who as it happens created a very cool Houdini book, that is legendary for escaping from a strait-jacket on the convention floor. We’ll leave his identity as a Holmesian mystery for the readers to solve.
PAUL: A couple of somewhat related questions, here. First… it’s 1887 and you’re having a drink with Arthur Conan Doyle. He’s telling you about his new writing, the soon-to-be-published “Study in Scarlet” starring a chap named Sherlock Holmes. He asks you for advice on how to steer the character’s future. What do you tell him?
CONOR: I, uh, tell him to show me his manuscript. Because I, uh, I want to help edit it. Yeah… edit it… And then I tell him to meet me outside in a dark alley, at midnight, and just, you know, “keep your back turned, Artie…”
ANTHONY: I would tell him to get in contact with that Yankee Thomas Edison. First off, he could broker a film rights deal with ol’ Edison. Secondly, Edison could show him how to protect his work. Thirdly, Edison would have been an interesting character in one of Holmes’ future stories…
CONOR: Curse you, Del Col! Point two just cost me millions! Millions!
PAUL: And, now… it’s 1913, and Harry Houdini is in jail after a bare knuckle brawl at a local pub. Harry tells you that either YOU have to fill in for the night’s performance of the extremely risky Chinese Water Torture Cell escape, or that you have to help him pick the cell door lock and switch places with him, staying in jail for at least two weeks. Which do you choose?
ANTHONY: It depends – do I have to share the prison cell with anyone else…? Does my cell have good cell phone reception…? Can I get a big picture of Rita Hayworth in my prison cell…?
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