You know, you might think Batman’s cool and all, what with him being 75 years old and still alive and kickin’, but Batman’s got nothing on the real World’s Greatest Detective. I’m talking about Sherlock Holmes, whom you might know better as that man in the BBC series that your girlfriend won’t stop fantasizing about.
The Elementary Origins of Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887- his debut was in the novella called ‘A Study In Scarlet,’ which was shortly followed up by ‘A Sign of Four.’ A Study In Scarlet shows us Sherlock Holmes in his earliest days, solving his first major case with Scotland Yard, and his meeting with his perennial sidekick (and the template for all future sidekicks in general), Dr. John Watson.
Absolutely no one cared. Neither A Study In Scarlett nor A Sign of Four was particularly successful, and the character wouldn’t hit fame until Doyle, who just couldn’t get a hint, wrote a third Sherlock Holmes story, called A Scandal in Bohemia, and sent it in to the Strand magazine.
The story was an immediate success, and Sherlock Holmes became a public sensation. Each new story generated anticipation and fervor, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was rolling in the money. So naturally, he did the smartest, most logical thing anybody in his position would do, and decided to permanently kill off the character, so that people would ‘focus on his other works.’ To Conan Doyle’s credit, the other stuff he wrote was pretty good, but if you can name me anything else he created, I’ll give you a penny.
Anyway, there was a massive public uproar and outrage, and nearly twenty years later, he bowed to public pressure and brought the character back. Sherlock Holmes’ return would see some of his most popular adventures of all time, including the Hound of Baskervilles, the Valley of Fear, and the Adventure of the Empty House. Holmes would go on to star in 56 official short stories and 4 novels in total when all was said and done, by the time was permanently retired (for real this time, guys).
Holmes in Real Life
There are over a hundred adaptations and versions of Sherlock Holmes by this point in time, but through all of them, one thing remains consistent- the man was a massive, monumental dick. Later analyses of the characters would go on to diagnose him with multiple forms of autism, including Asperger’s (although of course, it’s impossible to verify, because Sherlock Holmes is over a hundred years old now and also because he isn’t real), and, most memorably, of being a high functioning sociopath.
Given how many dicks there are in real life- come on, I’m sure you know like a dozen yourself- it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that Holmes was actually inspired by various people, some of them fictional, but a surprising amount real.
The fictional characters, of course, included Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin (who is actually mentioned by name in A Study in Scarlett); more interestingly, the real life inspirations for Holmes are believed to have been Sir Henry Littlejohn, who was probably beaten up in school every day for having a name like that, who was one of the early bridges between medicine and crime solving (remember, Holmes was one of the pioneers of modern forensic science, and he amazingly did this in spite of the crippling handicap of never having existed); the other inspiration who is commonly cited is Joseph Bell, who, like Holmes, could apparently draw conclusions from just the tiniest of details.
Sadly, historical records neglect to mention whether any of these people were actually dicks.
The Adventure of the Modern Sherlock
Sherlock Holmes has had amazing success over the last 100 years- this is probably down to the core character being so strong and so universal that he can be reinvented and reinterpreted in whatever social context you want to talk about. Sherlock Holmes, and works derived from Sherlock Holmes, have probably appeared in more media adaptations than any other property in history- from innumerable plays, to radio shows, movies, to TV shows, comics, video games, Sherlock Holmes continues to appear in all forms of media even today.
Today, modern audiences probably know Sherlock Holmes thanks to four adaptations that have all achieved a measure of popularity- the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie series, which in most ways is completely counterthetical to the original character, but we let it slide because it’s goddamn Robert Downey Jr.; the TV series Elementary, which casts Sherlock as a man in recovery from drugs, and Watson as… a chick. No, really.
Much more niche is the video game Sherlock Holmes series, which has been called the truest adaptation of Sherlock Holmes in years.
But, of course, the big one is BBC’s Sherlock, which recasts the classic characters and stories in a modern setting, and does it breathtakingly well. The stories, music, direction, and performances are all great, but the towering presence in the series is, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, which might be why it became so popular in the first place, and who is, in fact, the man in that BBC series your girlfriend won’t stop talking about.
Personally, I can’t say I blame her.