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Tuesday December 22, 2009 11:34 am

Nicholas Meyer, Sherlock Holmes and Scarlet In Gaslight




Posted by Tom Mason Categories: Editorials, Movies

ScarletInGaslightNow that a new Sherlock Holmes movie is about to debut with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law as the celebrated detective and his erstwhile medical companion, I managed to remind myself through a haze of egg nog fog that I have a Holmes connection in my past.

Almost everyone has at least one showbiz encounter with a celebrity or famous person. The internet is chockful of them, but Mark Evanier has the best ones. He lives the kind of life that resembles 1940s Hollywood where you could spend all day working with, say Dick Powell or Bette Davis, then just walk into a restaurant and bump into Clark Gable or Myrna Loy and join them for a burger and fries. I too have a showbiz encounter but mine involves Sherlock Holmes, and we never had lunch together.

Years ago, I was working for Malibu Comics which was getting ready to publish a collection of Martin Powell and Seppo Makinen’s moodily-gothic Scarlet In Gaslight mini-series featuring Sherlock Holmes up against Dracula. Somebody, I believe it was Martin, suggested that based on the subject matter, wouldn’t it be great if Nicholas Meyer could be persuaded to write the introduction. At that time, Meyer had written a couple of very well-regarded Sherlock Holmes novels, The Seven Percent Solution and The West End Horror, as well as the screenplays for The Seven Percent Solution and Time After Time (H.G. Wells Vs. Jack The Ripper) and been responsible for two of the best Star Trek movies (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). So a big name indeed, in the land of the funnybook fanatic. And while his name on the cover might not have driven many sales, it would still be cool to get it.

Chris Ulm had been the editor of the mini-series but it was my job to shepherd the collection through production and that meant finding Meyer. This was the pre-Google era, and at a time when Malibu Comics had very few showbiz resources at its disposal, so this would be a cold call. But I didn’t have to be Holmes to figure out that Meyer had an office on the Paramount lot (since they were the Star Trek people, after all). A few phone calls later and I was making my pitch to Meyer’s assistant. Interesting idea, he said, could I send the comics over? I did, and we talked again a couple weeks later. Meyer liked the comics and was interested. The hitch would be the deadline, because he was prepping a film and was getting ready to leave for location. He couldn’t do any side projects like this for a few months. Alas, my schedule was tighter than that and the introduction didn’t happen.

That’s right. That’s my early brush with celebrity. I called a famous guy up, never actually talked to him but talked to his assistant who was very nice, and scheduling difficulties prevented me from getting what I wanted. Top that!

Martin Powell and Seppo Makinen are the copyright holders of their creation Scarlet in Gaslight (and several other Holmes books they created over the years). Because of that, Martin and Seppo have been able to keep the book in print for nearly 20 years. Moonstone Books is the current publisher and a new edition of Scarlet In Gaslight shipped this month.

Martin maintains a very interesting blog that’s definitely worth checking out on a regular basis. He’s writing comic books and graphic novels like crazy and has a children’s book out now called Thumbelina.

[Artwork: Cover to the first Scarlet In Gaslight collection, by Seppo Makinen, coloring by (I think) Bruce Timm. © Martin Powell and Seppo Makinen]

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