The Cultural Gutter

taking the dumb out of fandom

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

The Casefile of Sherlock Holmes and Carl Kolchak, Reporter

Carol Borden
Posted February 4, 2010

Holmes Kolchak 80.jpgThough I prefer reading —and writing about —comics in collections, I do buy comics in single issues.  Sometimes I need to know what happens next or can’t wait for the collection anymore. Sometimes it’s idle curiosity or the lure of the pretty. But every once in a while, it’s the potential for all-out crazy.

I picked up Sherlock Holmes and Kolchak: The Night Stalker: Cry of Thunder #1 for the potential all-out crazy.

In this case, the crazy is brought by a Sherlock Holmes and Carl Kolchak team up. And it’s this team up between characters from entirely different milieu—Late Victorian London and 1970s Los Angeles—that makes Sherlock Holmes and Kolchak: The Night Stalker: Cry of Thunder (Moonstone, 2009) as much an example of something that can only be done in comics as The Watchmen or Asterios PolypSHaK:TNS–do you mind if I call it SHaK:TNS?—is an example of the counterintuitive, potentially property-driven, possibly ill-conceived and completely unashamed crazy comic team-up. A crossover that wouldn’t happen, let alone work, anywhere else, even in a SyFy Channel original production. It’s only a question of whether it should be done.

If you’re not familiar with Kolchak, he was the main character in two ABC tv movies, The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973), both adapted by Richard Matheson, which spun off into a 1974 tv series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker.  Played by Darren McGavin, Kolchak is a newspaper reporter prone to florid prose who investigates paranormally-tinged stories no one else will touch. But he’s no Jack McGee. He works for a relatively respectable paper and so runs into trouble with his editor, who just wants Kolchak to get his more mundane assignments in on time. In SHaK:TNS, writer Joe Gentile and artist Andy Bennett have Kolchak from his overheated internal monologues and overweening self-regard to his seersucker suit and dirty white canvas sneakers.

I’m assuming most readers are familiar with Holmes and Watson. On the comic’s cover Sherlock Holmes resembles Jeremy Brett in the BBC’s 1980s/1990s Sherlock Holmes series, though not as much between the covers. Inside, John Watson’s character, with his service revolver and his smoother manners with the fairer sex, is straight out of the BBC series. So Holmes and Watson have tv feel of their own.

Holmes Kolchak 250.jpgHolmes and Kolchak seem like a match made in the public domain, or at least in the very cheap rights domain. Moonstone’s properties include a lot of old pulp and radio characters like The Phantom; Doc Savage; Mandrake the Magician; Johnny Dollar; and Mr. Keen, Tracer of Lost Persons as well as newer characters like Buckaroo Banzai and Kolchak. I understand Kolchak is going after Dark Shadow ‘ Barnabas Collins in one massive 1970s throwdown in Moonstone’s
Kolchak: The Night Stalker Annual. But old properties and media tie-ins are nothing new in comics. Dark Horse built their indie empire on tie-ins—without Alien, Predator, Aliens vs. Predator and Star Wars, there would be no Hellboy or printings of Kamui Gaiden and Lone Wolf and Cub. IDW Publishing is doing something similar right now, building their house of artful horror on Transformers, Star Trek and GI Joe.

So should Holmes and Kolchak work together to battle an peril unearthed in the Old West that intersects both their lifetimes? Yes, they should. Not just because SHaK:TN is crazy, but because it works. The book could’ve been just tossed off, though I suppose that Kolchak isn’t the kind of character that moves product all by himself. (Personally, I was excited because I had just rented the Kolchak: The Nightstalker DVD set). But Joe Gentile, Andy Bennet, Carlos Magno and colorist Ken Wolak put a lot of care into making something preposterous work,
which is one of the best arguments for the continued existence of comics ever.

In issue 1, newspaper reporter, Carl Kolchak, illlustrated by Andy Bennet, reprises his unhappy dynamic with his managing editor and receives an old journal with a note to him from Sherlock Holmes. I like how the note is drawn, by the way. Kolchak begins to read and the rest of the issue, illustrated by Carlos Magno, follows Holmes as he investigates a murder and ends with Holmes engaged in fisticuffs with members of a criminal syndicate and the fate of the United Kingdom in peril.

The art is careful and the characterizations are thoughtful and vital. The two worlds fit together smoothly. The plot device enabling Holmes and Kolchak’s team-up is plausible–no matter how improbable–and unfolds without Holmes and Kolchak entering a giant, brass-fitted mech suit to stop an ungodly, xenomorphic menace that is unbearable to look upon and leaves no solid evidence behind. That might disappoint some readers—but then, this is only the first issue.

I haven’t decided if I will pick up issues 2 and 3. There’s just something perfect about this issue in itself.

~~~

Carol Borden is ready for her team-up.

Comments

3 Responses to “The Casefile of Sherlock Holmes and Carl Kolchak, Reporter”

  1. Mr.Dave
    February 7th, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    This makes me excited about other potential team-ups using old TV show characters and even older fictional heroes:
    The Equalizer and Lord Greystoke: Tarzan take on smugglers in “Night of Blood.” Or Poirot and Kojak in case of the “The Missing Menorah.” Or how about The Rockford Files: Unlocked, featuring Simon Templar: The Saint in “Valley of Fire.”
    So many possibilities…

  2. Chris Szego
    February 11th, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

    Who should partner up with Magnum P.I.?

  3. Carol Borden
    February 14th, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

    maybe it could turn out that robin masters is, in fact, the count of monte cristo!

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Nerds of Color announces that their own David Walker will be writing Dynamite’s Shaft comic. Denys Cowan shares the cover for Shaft #1 drawn by Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz. Sanford Greene shares some his cover work here and here. Black Comix posts Ulises Farinas’ cover.  Comics Wow has more and previews covers. (Via Black Comix and World of Hurt)

    ~

    Actor Richard Kiel has died. Kiel worked in both film and television, including performances in The Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man”; Eegah (1962); The Barbary Coast with William Shatner; Happy Gilmore (1996); Pale Rider (1985); as Vlad in Tangled (201); and as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).   The New York TimesThe Los Angeles Times and Variety have obituaries. Here he is interviewed with Britt Ekland. And David Letterman interviews Kiel here.

    ~

    Open Culture has a round-up of eight free and complete films by Dziga Vertov, including Man With A Movie Camera (1929) and the first Soviet animated feature, Soviet Toys (1924). (Thanks, Earl!)

    ~

    Matt Zoller Seitz has written a lovely meditation on Robin Williams at RogerEbert.com: “Williams wore the invisible garments of depression. He carried that burden. A lot of the time we didn’t see it, because he was a bright and enthusiastic comic performer and a great actor. But the weight was always there.

    Somehow he lived 63 years.

    What a warrior he was.”

    ~

    At Kaiju Shakedown, Hiroshi Fukazawa interviews director Ringo Lam. “Not as flashy as John Woo, never as hyperkinetic as Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam is one of Hong Kong’s most underappreciated directors. He made his name with sophisticated, downbeat crime dramas that came to define a certain style of urban Hong Kong cinema in the Eighties and early Nineties. After getting his start in television at CTV and TVB, he directed five features before finding his stride with 1987’s City on Fire, the movie that provided the blueprint for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.”

    ~

    “[Grace] Jones — who was famous not just for her music, but also for her acting and modeling — took Lundgren to New York, where they partied at the legendary Studio 54 and Andy Warhol took pictures of Lundgren. Jones introduced Lundgren to the world of show business. Meanwhile, Lundgren was still set to begin his Fulbright scholarship at MIT. ‘I started sort of thinking, “Wow, this is kind of cool,”‘ Lundgren remembers: ‘”I don’t know if I want to go back to engineering after this.”‘ More at NPR.

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: