Today’s Art (13th October 2016)

It is elementary! My long-running “Damania” webcomic series has reappeared for another mini series 🙂 You can catch up on the previous mini series here, here, here, here and here.

Yay! Finally, Sherlock Holmes has appeared in this mini series! He was (sort of) supposed to appear a few comics ago, but I had a different idea at the time.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Reappears - The Science Of Detection" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Reappears – The Science Of Detection” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (19th July 2016)

Woo hoo! “Damania” is back for a six-episode mini series called “Damania Restricted”. As for the tiny length of this mini series, it is as you suspected, I’m doing it to be pretentious! If you want to see the previous mini series, then they can be found here , here and here. Stay tuned for the next comic tomorrow 🙂

Well, I’m quite surprised that it’s taken this long for Harvey to turn into Sherlock Holmes again and, since this comic will be posted around festival season, I just couldn’t resist…

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Damania Restricted - Hound Of The Festivals" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Restricted – Hound Of The Festivals” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (8th July 2016)

Well, I was slightly tired when it came to making today’s art. Anyway, I was sitting around and doodling, when I suddenly wondered “What would happen if Sherlock Holmes was a character in ‘Blade Runner’?” and this parody cartoon is the result. I’m astonished that it’s taken me this long to make a cartoon based on two of my favourite things.

Because, let’s face it, if Sherlock Holmes found himself in the futuristic world of the year 2019, it wouldn’t be too long before someone inisisted on giving him a Voight-Kampff test.

Since this is a fan art/parody cartoon directly based on “Blade Runner”, it will NOT be released under a Creative Commons licence of any kind (since, unlike Sherlock Holmes, “Blade Runner” isn’t in the public domain).

"Fan Art - Sherlock Holmes Blade Runner Parody" By C. A. Brown

“Fan Art – Sherlock Holmes Blade Runner Parody” By C. A. Brown

Today’s Art (3rd July 2016)

Well, due to being both slightly uninspired and in a slightly crappy mood at the time of painting, today’s painting (of Sherlock Holmes) is a lot more minimalist than I had planned. It also required a surprising amount of digital editing after I scanned it too.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"221B" By C. A. Brown

“221B” By C. A. Brown

Five Reasons Why Sherlock Holmes Was Ahead Of His Time

2016 Artwork Sherlock Holmes was ahead of his time

Well, I still seem to be going through a bit of a Sherlock Holmes phase at the moment, so I thought that I’d talk about some of the ways that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories (written between the early 1880s and the mid-late 1920s) were surprisingly ahead of their time. Some of these are fairly obvious things, but some of them might not be.

1) The Sherlock Holmes “canon” was a TV series and/or a movie franchise, that began before television existed:

Like the episodes of a TV show, many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes short stories were originally published monthly or weekly. And, like the episodes of a TV show, after about seven or eight short stories, they were collected into a single book (eg: “The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes”, “The Return Of Sherlock Holmes” etc..) in the way that a season of a modern TV show is collected into a DVD boxset.

Yes, serialised novels were quite popular in the 19th century and they were probably a precursor to modern TV shows and old radio dramas. And, yes, Sherlock Holmes certainly wasn’t the first character to appear in a serialised format. However, “Sherlock Holmes” is one of the few well-known examples that was (mostly) designed to be read in an episodic and non-sequential way. Unlike many serialised novels of the time, “Sherlock Holmes” was the equivalent of a modern movie or TV franchise.

However, like how a film is sometimes adapted into a TV series, there are also four Sherlock Holmes novels too. In fact, the first two novels (“A Study In Scarlet” and “The Sign Of Four”) were actually written before the short stories were. In other words, he’s a character who started out in longer stories, but later ended up appearing in episodic stories instead.

In fact, it could even be argued that Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House” are an old equivalent of a modern “to be continued…” two-part TV episode. Yes, this wasn’t Conan Doyle’s original intention (since he’d originally meant for “The Final Problem” to be the last Sherlock Holmes story) – but the similarities are striking.

Like the episodes of many TV shows from the 1980s/90s, each Sherlock Holmes short story contains a single self-contained narrative and a central cast of characters who the audience can become familiar with fairly quickly. Like episodes of TV shows that are meant to be syndicated, you don’t have to experience them “in order”. But, at the same time, there’s also enough additional background information to reward people who read all of the stories.

2) He was a film noir character, before the film noir genre had been invented: Not only is Sherlock Holmes a private detective, but the stories (especially the earlier ones) occasionally contain the kind of moral ambiguity that wouldn’t really be seen until much later in the detective genre.

Sherlock Holmes takes hard drugs (eg: at the beginning of “The Sign Of Four”, much to Watson’s disdain), he isn’t afraid to break the law when he feels it is necessary to do so (eg: In “The Adventure Of Sir Charles Augustus Milverton”) and he’ll sometimes even let people get away with some fairly serious crimes if he feels that there was a good reason behind it (eg: like in “The Adventure Of The Abbey Grange”). Like a “film noir” detective, he’s a generally good guy, but he isn’t exactly a paragon of virtue either.

Not only that, he also has an attribute that wouldn’t be seen until hardboiled crime fiction and film noir emerged a few decades after he was first created. He’s equally at home in both the “upper class” and “lower class” parts of society, and yet he’s at home in neither of them. He’s both a part of society and yet outside it at the same time.

3) He made nerd culture cool, before it became cool: These days, being a nerd or a geek is actually a cool thing. Of course, for quite a few decades before that, it wasn’t.

Well, Sherlock Holmes was perhaps the first “cool” nerd. He was unapolagetically eccentric, he was obsessed with reading about all sorts of random subjects, he played the violin and he regularly performed scientific experiments. He was about the nerdiest character ever created and, yet, he was also a heroic character too.

He’s also still far more well-known than less nerdy heroic characters from the early-mid 20th century (like “Bulldog Drummond“) are.

4) Modern-style detective TV shows wouldn’t exist without him: These days, the most popular genre of detective show is the police procedural (eg: American shows like “NCIS”, “CSI” etc..) where crimes are solved in the lab. These are TV shows where the success or failure of a case depends almost entirely on forensic evidence.

Whilst all of this might look very modern, they probably wouldn’t have existed if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hadn’t created Sherlock Holmes in the early 1880s. If you read several of Conan Doyle’s stories, you’ll see that Sherlock Holmes almost always solves cases by looking at the forensic evidence and deducing facts from it. Yes, he might not have computers or mass spectrometers, but many Sherlock Holmes stories are basically the 19th century equivalent of “CSI”.

5) He had a modern-style fanbase, before fan culture was really a thing:
Leaving aside the many decades of fan fiction that has been written since Conan Doyle last set down his pen, Sherlock Holmes inspired such a large fan culture at the time that Conan Doyle was actually forced to actually bring him back from the dead in order to satisfy fan demand for more stories.

A well-known fact about Sherlock Holmes is that when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill him off in “The Final Problem”, fans of the stories actually started wearing black armbands in mourning.

Yes, obsessive fans are hardly a new thing (for a more sombre example of the same sort of thing, just read about Goethe’s “The Sorrows Of Young Werther”), but this kind of thing was a lot rarer in centuries past than it was today.

Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Four Very Basic Tips For Writing Sherlock Holmes Parody Stories

2016 Artwork Sherlock Holmes parody article sketch

Although I regret to say that, at the time of writing, I have not written a “serious” story that features the great detective, I’ve done the next best thing. I’ve written parody stories inspired by Sherlock Holmes. If you’re not interested in reading my nostalgic ramblings about them, then feel free to skip the next three or four paragraphs.

When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I had a lot of fun writing a series of unpublished short comedy stories (featuring a Holmes-like character called Dalton Coates and a Watson-like character called Larry Richs) set within the college I was studying in at the time.

These were stories with titles like “The Adventure Of The Missing Mouse Ball”, “The Invigilator Substitution Scandal” and “The Case Of The Disused Classroom”. When I later went to university, I ended up writing another Richs & Coates story called “The Hound Of The Student Halls”.

I also briefly revived the series for three short comedy stories in 2013- 14 (set several years later, when Dalton Coates has become a Tory MP) – called “The Case of The Phantom Funds” , “The Case of The Uncertain Constable” and, my personal favourite, “The Case Of The Absent Snuff-Box“.

And, before any of my regular readers ask, Dalton Coates was one of the many inspirations for Harvey from my occasional “Damania” webcomic series:

"Damania Resurgence - Debunked (Censored Version)" By C. A. Brown

“Damania Resurgence – Debunked (Censored Version)” By C. A. Brown

Anyway, Sherlock Holmes is is one of the easiest characters for comedy writers to parody. Still, if you want to write a Sherlock Holmes parody story and don’t know where to start, then here are a few very basic tips.

1) Read the original stories. All of them: One of the easiest ways to learn how to write funny stories about Sherlock Holmes is just to read the original stories themselves.

Depending on where you live, all or most of them are in the public domain and can be legally read for free on sites like Project Gutenberg. If you prefer reading traditional books, then it isn’t like modern reprints of Sherlock Holmes are that expensive (eg: if you’re in the UK, then the Wordsworth Classics and Penguin Classics editions of the stories are worth checking out if you don’t want to spend too much).

The reason why it’s important to read as many of the original stories as you can is because it’ll give you a sense of the narrative voice that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used. After being exposed to tens of thousands of words of Conan Doyle’s wonderfully dramatic Victorian narration, you’ll get a good feel for it and be able to copy it fairly easily.

Reading the original stories will also show you a few of the techniques that I’ll be mentioning in this article, such as…..

2) Amusing case names: One of the cool things that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did in his Sherlock Holmes stories was to have both Holmes and Watson talk about cases that never appear in any of the “official” stories (the classic example is the case of the “Giant Rat Of Sumatra”).

Doyle used this technique in a “serious” way in order to make Sherlock Holmes appear to be a more experienced character, to add more realism to his stories and to intrigue the audience. However, it is also perfect for comedy too.

If you want to add a bit of extra humour to your story, then just come up with a few hilarious – but intriguing- story titles and have Watson mention them briefly in passing. Eg: ‘I glanced again at Sherlock Holmes’ gaunt visage, his brow furrowed in stern contemplation. Not since the mysterious affair of the missing scones had I seen him in such a grave state.

3) Change the setting: Sherlock Holmes is a timeless character and this is why he has appeared in films and TV shows that have been set in time periods from World War Two to the present day. It is, theoretically at least, possible to set a “serious” Sherlock Holmes story anywhere and/or in any period of time.

However, there are some places where a Sherlock Holmes-style story would be hilariously silly (eg: a sixth form college, a supermarket etc…). If you set your story in one of these places, then the potential for comedy is endless.

A smarter way of doing this, which I used in my own parody stories, is to set the story in the modern day but to use the “Victorian” version of Holmes and Watson (or similar characters). It might just be my sense of humour, but there’s something absolutely hilarious about seeing Victorian characters in modern settings.

4) Deductions:
One of the things that Sherlock Holmes is most well-renowned for is his deductions. This is where he can work out everything about something or someone through nothing more than careful observation. After deducing something, Sherlock Holmes always explains how he has done it. It doesn’t take a genuis to see the potential for comedy here.

For example, you could have Holmes say something like “But, my dear fellow, it is plainly obvious! The faded ink stains on your left hand indicate your recent enthusiastic perusal of certain illicitly-printed French lithographs. Likewise, the purple feather lodged in your hat brim could have only come from the feather boa of Madame Fioriana of the Burlesque parlour in Soho. I’d recognise that brand of mauve dye anywhere. Not to mention that the stench of cheap gin and opium smoke cannot be easily concealed by even the strongest cologne. It appears that you have had quite the night, Watson.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Today’s Art (12th June 2016)

Well, I was in a Sherlock Holmes mood today and – although I’d originally planned to make a “serious” painting of Holmes and Watson, as soon as I made my original sketch, I just had to turn it into a parody cartoon instead.

Unfortunately, I messed up the colours in the original painting slightly – so I used a few digital effects after I scanned the painting in order to make it look like an old photo.

As usual, this parody cartoon is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Holmes And Watson Parody" By C. A. Brown

“Holmes And Watson Parody” By C. A. Brown