Gail Simone, writer of Red Sonja #13, talks with Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col about Sherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini #2, both on sale Nov. 12
GAIL SIMONE: First, I enjoyed the hell out of this book, let's get this out of the way. I am a huge fan of both Harry Houdini and Sherlock, and am bitterly skeptical about how they are often portrayed, but this story was absolutely on point. Fantastic stuff. Let me ask about a portion of the story that I really enjoyed, first. Now, famously, Arthur Conan Doyle believed absolutely in a lot of spiritualist stuff, much of it clearly nonsense, while both Holmes and Harry were skeptics and noted debunkers. How did you decide to approach the fantasy elements in this story?
CONOR McCREERY & ANTHONY DEL COL: Well, that's a pretty amazing thing to hear coming from one of the best storytellers in comic-dom. To answer your question, we were really inspired by the fact that Doyle and Houdini were friends in real life but had their falling out over the fact that Doyle refused to believe that Houdini didn't use real magic. There is actually an elaborate "trick" that Houdini concocted to use on Doyle. Doyle was flabbergasted but refused to believe Houdini when he explained how he did the trick without any "magic."
For our story we really wanted the fantastical elements to walk a middle ground. It's why one part of the "supernatural" was debunked so quickly, but why there are still many questions that, so far, can't be explained rationally.
GS: On a related note, Houdini's skepticism and Conan Doyle's credulity on this issue still allowed for a relationship between them. How much research did you do on this book, and what was the most surprising fact you found while researching?
M&DC: We did a fair amount of digging into both Houdini's past and also Doyle and Sherlock. I have to say, the fact that Doyle was such a spiritualist was interesting to me. But I also didn't know that Holmes has had cases where the people hiring him died before he could solve the mystery. I always think of him as infallible. So that was intriguing to me.
GS: I really admired the craft of the chase scene in issue #2; it's very cleverly constructed and drawn. Can you talk a little bit about the process of how you work with your artist, particularly on such a research intensive book? And how did you come to be working with Carlos Furozuno?
M&DC: The chase sequence was tough to do. I find as a writer it can be really hard to demonstrate what you want visually using a bunch of words. In these cases I wish I could draw better myself so as to give the artist a better sense of what I'm looking for, but Carlos knocked this one out of the park. I'd been really inspired by spy-craft when I was writing my part of this issue and I wanted to get some of those classic tricks into the sequence.
Carlos was an amazing happy accident in that Dynamite told us they had a great artist on board – we saw Carlos' work and were blown away and instantly knew he'd be drawing the heck out of H&H. And he has!
GS: I am always fascinated by writing teams. Can you tell me how the two of you decided to do this particular project?
M&DC: We had pitched Dynamite years ago on Kill Shakespeare and while we couldn't make that project work, we had left really impressed by how Nick and Juan ran Dynamite and what their vision was. A few months ago Nick came to us and asked if we might be willing to pitch on this idea they had that they thought we might be good for. When we found out it was Holmes & Houdini we went a little nuts. We came up with a ton of ideas but Anthony had brought the seed of what this series turned out to be. We instantly saw that there was something great here and threw the other ideas out to make this one work.
GS: If any, what misconceptions about Holmes or Houdini would you most like to see cleared up?
M&DC: Oh, good question. The idea that Holmes couldn't relate to other people is one. He could be incredibly charming, it was really just whether or not he had the patience. There has been a move to recast him as something of a high-functioning autistic — which is a neat concept, but doesn't feel that grounded in his roots.
As for Houdini, because he's real and not a legend I feel we know him a bit better. We focused on some of the less known parts of him, his film career, the strong relationship with his wife, but those aren't really misconceptions…
Hmmm… well, the one bit of research we did suggested that the punch in the stomach wasn't what killed him. It was actually a burst appendix – the punch just made the pain worse. How's that?
GS: And finally, I'm really enjoying this series. For people less familiar with this relationship, how would you pitch the book to potential readers?
M&DC: Holmes Vs Houdini is the Odd Couple, if both members of the Odd Couple were super-intelligent, arrogant perfectionists. Oh, and they solved unsolvable mysteries… oh, and one of them is on drugs…
GS: Any chance of a sequel?
M&DC: From your lips to Nick Barruci's ears. (We'd love to do more.)
For more on Sherlock Homes vs Harry Houdini #2, click here.