Hey, you! It was just January 6th, and you know what that means? No, not Three Kings Day! It's Sherlock Holmes' birthday! Seriously, this was established in the old books, look it up.
Few characters have the staying power of London's Great Detective, who recently exploded back onto the big screen in a blockbuster movie starring Robert Downey Jr. Even people who have never read a Holmes story in their life know about his skills as a sleuth, about his friend and chronicler Dr. John Watson, his arch-enemy Moriarty and even about some of his most famous stories such as "The Hound of the Baskervilles."
But thanks to his prominent role in pop culture, Holmes has moved far beyond those original tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and has teamed up with other characters comics, movies, and television in other universes and time periods. He's fought menaces both sci-fi and supernatural, and in some cases, he's even been aware of his status as a fictional character. Read on and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Sherlock Holmes and Batman
Detective Comics had featured many sleuths and gumshoes. Slam Bradley. Ralph Dibny, the Elongated Man. And, naturally, the Batman. So what better was to celebrate the 50th anniversary issue than by teaming up these three very different crime fighters as they tracked down a scheme that had begun a century earlier under the direction of Prof. Moriarty?
And after the case was solved, the heroes were surprised to meet Sherlock Holmes himself, somehow still alive and looking fairly spry for a man who at that point would be somewhere around 140 years old. Though Holmes credited his longevity to the atmosphere of Tibet and a specialized diet, Batman's expression implied he suspected a greater secret behind it all. Whatever the case, the two detectives joined forces again, this time fighting Moriarty directly, in a recent episode of "Batman: The Brave and the Bold."
VS The Joker
This story, presented in "Joker" #6, is not what you think. After an actor portraying Sherlock Holmes receives a blow to the head, he becomes convinced that he is, in fact, the famous detective and winds up adopting his methods. Soon, our hero finds himself pitted against the Batman's greatest enemy, the Joker himself. A weird story, but fun.
Sherlock Holmes VS Eclipso
In the universe of DC Comics, Holmes is not a fictional character but was an actual, living detective whose cases were chronicled by his friend Dr. Watson. This means Holmes operated in a world that, even before the rise of modern-day super heroes, held such strange creatures as the Spectre, the demon Etrigan, the New Gods, and the body-stealing vengeance spirit known as Eclipso.
Back when Eclipso had his own series, issues #8 and #9 revealed a time when the demonic body-thief had crossed paths with the Great Detective, fighting not only him but Irene Adler, one of the few people to ever get the better of Holmes and the only woman who ever drew the detective's attention. It is a tale of tragedy showing the more emotional side of Holmes and it's only real flaw is that it is too short.
Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek
In the Star Trek universe, Holmes is definitely a fictional character, but that doesn't mean his legacy hasn't touched those who explore the final frontier. In "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," we learned that the famous Spock was descended from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Holmes' greatest enemy Moriarty was literally brought to life during a holodeck session, and even used his evil genius to take over the Enterprise!
Sherlock Holmes VS Dracula
As a fan of both the Great Detective and the immortal Count of Transylvania, I was very nervous about picking up this book. To my amazement, "Sherlock Holmes Vs. Dracula" (by Loren D. Estleman) is a great, character-driven story that takes place parallel to the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker. Just as Stoker's novels showed us newspaper articles that alluded to the Count's presence, this book has Holmes directly investigating those same news stories, causing him to make enemies not only with Dracula but with Prof. Van Helsing as well.
Holmes has never believed in the supernatural, but when confronted with a truth he can't deny he puts his fears aside and is determined to protect England from the lord of vampires. This is also a very strong story for Watson, as he proves just why he has the very rare privilege of being able to call himself Sherlock's best friend.
There have been other stories that have pitted Holmes and Dracula in the same story, but Sherlock Holmes VS Dracula still holds up as the best of them. The BBC did a great radio adaptation. Why hasn't this been made into a film already?
VS Mr. Hyde
She did a wonderful book featuring Holmes and Dracula, so why not try again? In "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes," author Loren D. Estleman delivers a story in which Holmes is asked to investigate the murder of Sir Danvers Carew. This killing, of course, occurred in the pages of Robert Louis Stevens' original novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so who the culprit is will not surprise the reader.
What's interesting here is how Holmes comes to his conclusions about the connections between Jekyll and Hyde and what he does once he's solved the mystery. This story explains that Stevens wrote his story based on what he knew but now you, the lucky readers, are allowed to see what REALLY happened to bring Hyde's reign of terror to a close. A fine book.
and the Ghostbusters
Yeah, you heard me. Sherlock Holmes and Watson appeared as spirits in "The Real Ghostbusters" episode "Elementary, My Dear Winston." But it isn't what you might expect. The cartoon didn't claim that either of these characters had ever been real people and the Ghostbusters were confused how they could be ghosts if they'd never been alive. Turns out that enough kids had believed in Holmes over the near-century since his creation that it actually brought him to life.
But that wasn't all, kiddies. Moriarty also showed up as a telekinetic ghost, accompanied by the demonic Hound of the Baskervilles. The villainous Moriarty succeeded in opening up the Ghostbusters' containment unit, unleashing every single ghost they had ever captured so that he could absorb the released energies and become a real person. Since the heroes' weapons couldn't affect something that technically wasn't a ghost, it was up to Holmes to face his old enemy again. Without hesitation, Holmes sent both himself and his arch-enemy into the containment unit. As Moriarty pleaded "You'll kill us!", Holmes simply replied "We were never alive!" A strangely sad and layered story for what was considered to be a kid's show.
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who
One is the greatest detective in England. One is a centuries old Time Lord. Neither like playing by the rules. Both are used to being the smartest man in the room. So you can bet that when the 7th Doctor landed in 19th century London and found himself face to face with what he believed to be a fictional character, egos did clash. The Doctor was frustrated by this man who seemed unwilling to get out of his way and Holmes was confounded by this man whom his detective instincts told him could not be of this Earth. Dr. Watson and Bernice Summerfield compared notes about their respective heroic friends and then things took a turn for the weird when the group found themselves face to face with H.P. Lovecraft's monsters.
It sounds cheesy and fan-wanky, but this book somehow finds a balance between Holmes, the Doctor and Cthulu's race, delivering an interesting story that also ties into an old First Doctor TV adventure. This story took place in the Doctor Who "New Adventures" novel "All-Consuming Fire" by Andy Lane.
Moriarty VS The Master
When the "Doctor Who" production team created the Master, an evil Time Lord who had known the Doctor since childhood, they intended him to be a Moriarty-like character. It was quite fitting then when the Master faced the criminal mastermind in a comic strip in "Doctor Who Magazine." Entering the Land of Fiction, a place the Doctor had visited before where imaginary characters are real, the evil Time Lord faced and killed a secret society of villains that included Shere Khan, Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, and others. Finally, he confronted Prof. James Moriarty and did not hide the fact that he was unimpressed, criticizing him as a one dimensional character who had been created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle simply because he'd grown tired of Sherlock Holmes stories and wanted to kill him off. If Moriarty had a plan to defeat the Master, it never reached fruition because a moment later the "Napolean of Crime" was incinerated by tripod Martian warriors the Master had recruited from "The War of the Worlds." Ouch.
I'd also like to recommend the book "Sherlock Holmes in Orbit," which is a collection of short stories featuring the Great Detective in different sci-fi and fantasy settings, and "Time for Sherlock Holmes," which is an adventure/comedy featuring our hero living centuries into the future due to an immortality serum, wistfully reminiscing over times past, fighting the schemes of a time traveling Moriarty, and lamenting that due to public domain he no longer receives royalties on his own books. It also had several interesting, melancholic moments, such as when Holmes fears that although his body is still vital his mind is becoming more stubborn and stagnant, resisting change and new ideas, as he grows older.
And if you've heard of "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century," ignore it. Don't watch it. It was a lame cartoon where Sherlock Holmes is revived in the 22nd century and teams up with a robot programmed to act like Watson as he fights Moriarty. Every episode was a classic Holmes story bizarrely revised to fit in the 22nd century, such as replacing the Hound of the Baskervilles with a werewolf on the moon. LAME!
Recently, Moonstone published an anthology teaming-up Sherlock Holmes with Kolchak, the Nightstalker. Moonstone has announced that Holmes will be seen with other characters under their umbrella, including the Phantom and the vampire Barnabas Collins of "Dark Shadows," so be on the look out!
Alan Kistler is a comic book historian who has read every original Sherlock Holmes story far too many times. Along with being a freelance writer and an actor, he is the host of Midtown Comics TV and his own weekly radio show "Fortress of Awesome" on GetThePointRadio. His web-site is KistlerUniverse.