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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Honour Among Punks: Sherlock Holmes like you've never seen her before.

Did you know that I quite like Sherlock Holmes? DID YOU ALSO KNOW that there's a comicbook where Holmes and Watson are both women and it's set in an alternate-history 1980s where Victorian society continued on throughout the 20th century because World War II never happened? And Holmes (Sharon) is a punk who solves punk crimes that are ignored by the police? And she has an angry punk girlfriend named Sam, who lives with her and nerdy American med-student Watson at 112 Baker Street? THIS IS SO IMPORTANT, YOU GUYS. So important.
I had a couple of long train journeys today, and found myself reading the entire run of Baker Street by Gary Reed and Guy Davis (two full story arcs, "Honour Among Punks" and "Children of the Night") from cover to cover. And now I'm passing on the love, because a) the premise is so evidently super-awesome that everyone should at least give it a try, and b) more selfishly, I want people to write fanfic about it for Yuletide. If you haven't heard of Yuletide before, it's an annual fanfic festival for people who want there to be fic for something reeaaaally obscure like a yogurt advert or a song by The Supremes or, say, a now-defunct queer lady punk Sherlock Holmes comic. Many Yuletide participants are have little or no previous experience with fandom or fanfic, because Yuletide is for EVERYONE and you can request anything. Seriously, there are multiple Kierkegaard fanfics out there, all thanks to Yuletide. But I digress from our main focus: Sharon Holmes: Punk Crimefighter.
Sharon and Watson.
So, first up, there are a couple of flaws in this comic, although quite frankly the concept is so delicious that a few clumsy turns in the execution did not bother me enormously. The book's most basic problem is that the writing is a little rookie-ish towards the beginning, but it picks up a lot after the introductory sections and by the time I got to the second of the two main stories (billed as "a tragedy in five acts", which BTW -- they're not wrong) I was totally invested. The other problem, which will only be a issue for people who require historical exactitude in their punk-detective comicbooks, is the fact that the entire1970s/80s-era punk subculture could not exist in a universe where WWII never happened, because punk was a reaction to the mores of the post-war generation. Also, there's a scene where a character wears an outfit with swastikas all over it, which doesn't really make sense as a piece of shock-style in a world where the swastika was never appropriated by Hitler. However, I found that the alternate-history aspect of the setting isn't a particularly prominent feature, so if you're the kind of person who is willing to accept things like Steampunk futurism or, you know, costumed superheroes, then post-Victorian punks should be a cinch.
Flaws aside, it's a satisfying Holmes pastiche. It's almost more from Watson's point of view than Holmes canon, because Watson-as-narrator is enthusiastic but still mostly a naiive outsider to Sharon and her girlfriend's standoffish circle of punk acquaintances. Sharon is more of a mystery than canon Holmes, possibly because her closest emotional connection is to Sam rather than to Watson, who fills the role of well-meaning sidekick as Sam becomes more and more embittered about Sharon's obsession with her work. The mysteries resemble classic Holmes without being direct adaptations (they investigate a forgery ring that's somehow connected with the London punk scene; Sharon tracks a latter-day Jack The Ripper who preys only on men), and the characters frequent an underground nightclub called Baskerville's. Sharon is different from Sherlock Holmes in more than the obvious ways, but I still love her. She's still obsessed with her work, replacing cocaine addiction with a compulsion to solve mysteries that the police can't be bothered to look at, but she's a lot more caring and... maternal, I guess? And her relationship with Sam is excellent, which is part of the reason why I'm kinda-sorta not joking at all when I say I want you guys to read this book so you can write fanfic for it. ;)
Sharon and Sam. (source)


  1. Who's just bought this on ebay? This guy!
    I got into a conversation on the uni message board last night about expanding audiences for obscure works through fandom recs, and then today you come up with something which hits about 95% of my instant must-buy reflexes ^_^
    Yay for punk lady!Holmes, so excited for this!


  3. Hooray! I was actually going to get in touch and see if you'd read this; I'm so glad to see that you have. It's one of my favorites.

  4. Ugh, I want this so much. I think we need to form one of those fandom circles of ALL HOLMESES EVER; I feel as if there's too much animosity between different Holmes fandoms for no good reason.

  5. Wow, I don't think I've thought of this since I saw it in a girlfriend's collection back in 1990. Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Yes!!! I love to see "Baker Street" get more recognition! It's really an engrossing story and Sharon Ford with all her flaws has become my favourite version of Sherlock Holmes. One nitpick, though - you make it seem like the Watsonlike character is really called Watson, but her name is Susan Prendergast.

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