Muppet Sherlock Holmes #1
Written by Patrick Storck
Illustrated by Amy Mebberson
James Gannon - Before I start this review, I have to come clean. I have never actually sat down to read ANY of the Sherlock Holmes books, nor the opportunity to see any of the movies, star they Basil Rathbone or Robert Downey Jr. I did however see multiple episodes of the brilliant Japanese/European co-production Sherlock Hound. And I don’t count Disney's The Great Mouse Detective. But I do know a lot about the characters, the premise, and the detecting skills that made the character great. Rest assured that if a Sherlock novel was in front of me right now, I’d read it voraciously.
That out of the way, the Muppets (as with the other Muppet Classic arcs) have briefly done Sherlock before. Rowlf was in a Sherlock-esque sketch in The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies versions of Bunsen and Beaker played them, while Kermit and Fozzie were seen in the Muppet Babies comic version. And that’s not even counting the recurring satire of the character from Sesame Street. This time, Gonzo is in the role of the famous detective, and an ever-flustered Fozzie pulls duty as Dr. John Watson. This would be the second time Kermit would not play the title role, the other being Muppet Snow White (and I don’t think we’d feel right seeing Kermit in drag to get that role). Instead, he is cast as Inspector LeStrade, who doesn’t seem to tolerate Sherlock’s eccentricity. Casting Gonzo in the lead is a much more fitting role, as we’re dealing with Holmes’s real personality of being unconventional and shockingly untidy for such an organized mind.
Unlike the other Muppet Classics, this series is more episodic, each issue dealing with an actual Sherlock Holmes case. Issue #1 is all about The Case of the Speckled Band. Not wasting a second, we’re introduced to Dr. Watson and Sherlock within the first couple of pages. LeStrade arrives at 221B Baker Street with Miss Helen (Janice) who’s sister, Julia (Wanda) has been stricken by a very mysterious illness. As soon as they enter, we see Sherlock’s “Look-i-fication” in action, establishing his ability to find conclusions based on very minor details. Breaking tradition of other Muppet Classics titles, we get a flashback in the style of Veterinarian’s hospital to see Julia’s diagnosis, with her mysteriously repeating “speckled band.”
The suspects suddenly start to line up. Julia, the jealous sister, the fiancé (Wayne), the step father of the two girls and sock salesman Dr. Roylott (Rizzo), and the butler (Nigel the Bandleader). Not to mention Bunsen and Beaker, two suspicious scientists for Moriarty Masonry (as in jars), who are found making very suspicious preserves and jams. We even get a “secret passageway” gag in there too. All the stereotypes of mystery novels are present and mocked openly. All that can be said for the ending is that it takes such an incredibly bizarre turn that only a Muppet comic book could pull it off. (Like I’m going to blow the ending of a mystery. That’s bush-league.) All the while the story foreshadows the omnipresence of a strange window washer.
Amy is once again the artist for this series, making it her third arc (after Muppet Peter Pan and Family Reunion). The art manages to keep both the storybook look of Muppet Peter Pan while keeping the cartoony flowing movements of Family Reunion. Her Rowlf has never looked better. As for the story itself, it keeps a very upbeat comedic pulse throughout. The characters are really spot on, and Gonzo’s Holmes is a perfect combination of wacky, overly competent and almost defective. Defective, being a very important trait in a parody version of a character. And I especially like the touch that Gonzo NEVER says “Elementary, my dear Watson,” as the character never actually said that in book form. He does manage to say the more accurate “elemental.”
Now, I’m sure there are little references to other Holmes stories that seem lost on me at the moment, but a lot of great background gags are present that require no prior knowledge. You don’t even need to be a strict Sherlock Holmes fan to enjoy this one. My only deal is that we’re not seeing alternate covers this time, presumably because an alternate alternate cover had to be made for the last issue of Muppet Snow White due to a change in the story. Plus, I guess it’s more cost effective that way. Oh… and I don’t really get what Angus McGonagle was doing there other than a cameo. Seemed out of left field to me. Unless that was a reference. Hmmm… Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta find some access to the actual stories for next time.
Images courtesy of our friends at Comic Book Resources.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier