Sherlock Holmes is one of literature’s greatest characters, and holds the Guinness World Book of Records title of “most portrayed literary human character in film & TV”, having been depicted onscreen 254 plus times by over different 75 actors. This limited edition print caricatures a selection of eight of the most recognizable of these portrayals, spanning over 90 years of Holmes on the big and small screens.
I did a lot of thinking as to which of the many portrayals of Holmes I wanted to include in this artwork. I had a few criteria that I felt was important to impose on any choices:
Had to be representative of a particular decade (or two)
Had to be of a recognizable and famous actor outside their Holmes role, OR
Someone who was a ‘definitive’ Holmes if famous mainly for that role
Someone whose portrayal or the show/movie they did it in I didn’t personally hate
In light of those criteria, I came up with the following eight Holmeses:
John Barrymore (1920s)- Arguably the first “big budget” portrayal of Holmes in commercial film, Barrymore was a high profile silent film actor cast as the Great Detective in the 1922 silent film “Sherlock Holmes”. He had to be the first in my lineup.
Basil Rathbone (1930s-40s)- For many the definitive Holmes in film, Rathbone was also an accomplished actor in swashbuckler films where he often played the villain. Still, he’s probably best know for playing Sherlock in 14 Holmes films from 1939-1946… including some rather bizarre ones set in more modern times (meaning the 1940s), but a couple of Victorian era pieces. I consider him physically to be the closest to the Conan Doyle character and Sidney Paget‘s original illustrated depictions.
Peter Cushing (1950s-60s)- Cushing was a very high profile actor as well, and his portrayal of Holmes in the 1959 film “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is notable for being the first Holmes film in color. He was also cast as the Great Detective in a BBC series in 1968 (actually he took over the role from Douglas Wilmer). Plus he was Grand Moff Tarkin in “Star Wars”… it doesn’t get any bigger than that!
Christopher Plummer (1970s)- Plummer was another famous actor from many roles, and played Holmes in the 1979 film “Murder by Decree”. I chose him for the 1970′s decade because he’s got so many notable roles outside Holmes including “The Sound of Music” and “The Thornbirds”, plus the man has won a Oscar, two Emmys, two Tonys and a ton of other awards.
Michael Caine (1980s)- This will doubtless be the most controversial of my choices. Caine is famous for countless film roles and played a comedic Holmes in the 1988 film “Without a Clue” opposite Ben Kingsley as Watson. It’s controversial because it’s the one non-serious Holmes in this group, and many Sherlockians hate the spoofs. I like spoofs (obviously) and I wanted at least one goofy Holmes in the group… and this is my favorite of that genre.
Jeremy Brett (1990s)- Brett played other roles, but for many he is the definitive Sherlock Holmes in all of media adaption. It is hard to argue with that—he was brilliant in the Granada TV series which ran from 1984-1994, even though his health problems and some weird scripts in the later episodes didn’t end the show in the best way.
Robert Downey Jr (2000s).- I’m not a really big fan of his casting as the Great Detective in the big-budget films “Sherlock Holmes” (2009) and “A Game of Shadows” (2011), but I did enjoy the movies as fun action flicks. I didn’t mind the playing up of the physical aspects of Holmes so much as I thought casting a Holmes who is almost a head SHORTER than Watson was ridiculous. Plus Downey Jr. seems to play one character these days… his Homes was Tony Stark with an English accent. Still, this one had to be in there.
Benedict Cumberbatch (2010s)- The one non-Victorian era portrayal of Holmes in my group, Cumberbatch is so good in the role and the updated version is so clever and well done, there was no question I had to end the lineup with him from the “Sherlock” BBC series, 2009 to present.
I am sure many will be unhappy I didn’t include their favorite Sherlock in the print, but I had to limit them somehow and I thought eight to be a good number. Those that almost, but didn’t quite, make the cut were Nicol Williamson from “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution”, Douglas Wilmer from the 60′s TV series and John Neville from “A Study in Terror”. These shows were all pretty good but the actors aren’t really recognizable other than as Homes. I know other very recognizable actors have portrayed Holmes at one time or another, like Christopher Lee, Charlton Heston, Peter O’Toole, Peter Cook, Roger Moore, John Cleese (sort of), George C. Scott (sort of) and others, but I felt their portrayals to be minor and not very notable in and of themselves… mostly noted because of the actor’s themselves and not their portrayal of Sherlock. I also didn’t consider Nicholas Rowe from “Young Sherlock Holmes” just because I don’t think much of that movie and a didn’t want to do a kid in the group. Finally, I didn’t include Jonny Lee Miller from the recent updated Holmes TV show “Elementary” because that show SUCKS big time.
The little background elements are things from different stories in the Holmes canon. If you don’t know what they are, get busy reading the original stories!
So, I know what you are all thinking… how much will one of these prints set me back? Well, here you go:
11″ x 24″, elegant matte finish professional print
Only $25.00 (cheap) plus shipping
Now, if you REALLY have a lot of dough burning a hole in your pocket, you could splurge and get one of only eight Special Editions, with include not just one of the prints, but the original inked artwork of one of the Sherlock Holmes caricatures, like this one:
11″ x 17″ original inked artwork included with Special Edition Print!
I know I promised a run of “Game of Thrones” caricatures, but I’m going to interrupt that series just for this week to show two more rough sketches that are part of my new limited edition print, which debuts here tomorrow. Here’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Basil Rathbone:
Be sure and check back here tomorrow to see the entire limited edition print!
Q: Forgive me if this is posted somewhere in the blog, but I’d love to know more about this Marlin Workplace Poster that you do each month. How long have you been at this project? What kinds of things do they look for each month? Do they have specific requests or do you have full creative allowance? What do they use it for? Is there a different employee featured in each month’s installment or is it all fictional characters? I really enjoy seeing the humor in these posters and I’ve always wanted to know more about them!
A: Those ‘workplace posters” I do are a fantastic example of one of the rarest of freelance birds: the long term client.
There are three different types of freelance clients: new clients, repeat clients, and former clients. Finding new clients is your second most important job because inevitably they all end up being former clients, and have to be replaced. Your most important task is doing a great job on the actual work and meeting the client’s needs, because the more often you can make a new client become a repeat client, the more successful you will be. It is tremendously difficult to find new clients, so your time and energy is better served trying to retain the clients you have. The Marlin Company is one of those repeat clients that an illustrator is lucky to have.
The Marlin Company produces communication materials for industries and employers all around the U.S. They make workplace display units that a company would put up in their employee areas and provide a subscription based service that sends monthly content for those displays. The content consists of posters, placards and electronic animations that promote teamwork, safety, stress management and other important employer messages to the subscriber’s work force. The content is tailored to the specific display unit and some target certain industries like health care or manufacturing, but most are universal messages that any business wants their employees to understand. There are no specific people depicted in any of these, just generic cartoon employees, although they do specify mixed sex, age, and race or “race neutral” people in the scenes. The poster art I do is part of their “humor” line and usually depicts some zany scene or situation that enforces the message that goes along with it. They give me the scenario they want to see and I come up with the visual to “sell the gag”. Back in “The Day” the final printed poster would be 17? x 21? with my image being 17? x 17? and text at the bottom, and these would fit into a slot in this plastic display unit hung on the break room wall. These days it’s almost all electronic, with a flatscreen display and dynamic images the subscriber than change easily anytime. I do one illustration a month for them.
I keep trying to figure out how long I’ve been doing these, and can’t come up with a definitive answer. I know the first one I did for them was a physical painting, not digital. It was of two baseball coaches in a dugout, both giving crazy baseball “signs” that were clearly not compatible and the players looking very confused. The message was about clear communication. I know it was after I started with MAD because the art director I work with was a fan of the magazine and that’s how he found me. That means it’s been less that 13 years (I’ll have been with MAD for 14 years this fall), but not much less. I’ve going to estimate 12 years, guessing the first one was done in 2002. That’s about 144 posters I’ve done for them. The Marlin Company is a valuable client for me, and their projects are always fun to boot… mainly because I get to eschew the caricature thing and just do some goofy cartoon faces. Here are a bunch from over the years:
Thanks toZach Morris for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
In comic book shops, on the iPad and in subscribers mailboxes now, on news stands everywhere Tuesday:
MAD # 527 (June 2014)
Cover (Mark Fredrickson)
The Fundalini Pages (Rick Tulka, Evan Waite, John Martz, Tom Bunk, P.C. Vey, Matt Lassen, Kenny Keil, Garth Gerhart, Mike Morse, Mike Loew, Rich Powell, Dick DeBartolo, Bob Staake, Glen Le Lievre, Desmond Devlin, Justin Peterson, Sarah Chalek, Mike Lynch,
The Slobbit: The Adaptation’s a Slog (A MAD Movie Satire) (Desmond Devlin, Tom Richmond)
Sport’s Atrocity- (Jeff Kruse, Scott Bicher)
When Delivery Drones Go Bad (John Caldwell)
The Darker Side of The Lighter Side (Dave Berg… sort of)
Planet TAD!!!!! (Tim Carvell)
MAD’s Common Sense Tips for First Aid (Teresa Burns Parkhurst)
Spy vs. Spy (Peter Kuper)
College Courses for the Lousy New Economy (Neil Berliner, Chris Houghton)
A MAD Look at Legalized Marijuana (Sergio Aragonés, Colorist: Jim Campbell)
New Rules for Bill Maher (Butch D’Ambrosio, Paul Coker)
The MAD Vault- (From MAD #182, April 1976: Jack Rickard, Lou Silverstone)
The Strip Club (Dakota McFadzean, Jason Yungbluth, Kenny Keil, Christopher Baldwin, Phil McAndrew, Kit Lively & David DeGrand, Keith Knight)
Forgotten Moments from 30 Years of Wrestlemainia (Desmond Devlin, Anton Emdin)
The Best of The Idiotical (various)
Another Ridiculous MAD Fold-In (Al Jaffee)
Drawn Out Dramas (Sergio Aragonés, appear throughout the issue)
Lot’s of fun art in this issue, including the first full interior feature for Chris Houghton and an awesome multipager by Anton Emdin. I did the art on the parody of the second “Hobbit” movie, a seven page extravaganza written by Desmond Devlin. Look for a sneak peek of my art from that next week in “Monday MADness!”
Well . . . What are you waiting for, clod?!? Go out and buy a fershlugginer copy already!
One of the gems in the Inside MAD book is the mind-blowing, pull-out poster illustration by Sergio Aragonés depicting virtually everyone ever associated with the magazine in its sixty-plus year history. Not only is it chock full of “The Usual Gang of Idiots”, it contains dozens and dozens of references to famous MAD moments, items and other goodies. In true MAD fashion, this is an image you can spend an hour staring at and still miss some of the gags and little touches.
Fear not! The good folks over at Doug Gilford’s MAD Cover Site (ok, Doug… but with a little help from his friends) has put together an interactive version of Sergio’s masterpiece, complete with flags for pop ups identifying each person, place and thing of significance in the image. Go there, zoom in, and get edjumahcated about all things MAD, and marvel at the talents of the Great Sergio!