Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Character-Based Headcanon

This is just a goof. A fan thing. Full of nerdity. Be warned.

I was talking to some friends about Sherlock Holmes not too long ago and the subject of continuity came up. (I mean continuity in the sense comics fans use the word, the awareness of a character’s fictional history and the need to keep it consistent.)

The thing we were talking about–and this is what sparked the idea for today’s column– is distinguishing between the history we are all agreed on, and the history that can be safely discarded. The process by which one arrives at what we call ‘headcanon.’ They had never heard this term before and it delighted them.

With Sherlock Holmes, it is an especially useful concept because Arthur Conan Doyle himself, the actual creator of the character, did not give a damn about consistency when it came to his detective’s personal timeline. I think the only time Doyle troubled to look up a date was when he was writing The Hound of the Baskervilles, making sure it took place BEFORE the struggle with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.

First the dog, THEN the Professor. Everything else, Doyle filed under ‘whatever.’

The reason? Because in spite of all the readers bugging him (“Hounding” him? *rimshot*) to bring back Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur wanted it made very damn clear that Hound of the Baskervilles was “a reminiscence, not a resurrection.” As far as Doyle was concerned, Holmes was D-E-A-D. He was thoroughly annoyed that so many readers wanted him to do more Sherlocks when he wanted people to read his other books like Micah Clarke and The White Company and so on. It’s very clear that as time went on and he was eventually pressured into reviving his most popular creation, Doyle’s attitude toward Sherlock Holmes and his fans went from gentle amusement, to annoyance, to something that almost feels like passive-aggressive trolling. In the later stories you get Dr. Watson saying things like…

“The relations between us in those latter days were peculiar. He was a man of habits, narrow and concentrated habits, and I had become one of them. As an institution I was like the violin, the shag tobacco, the old black pipe, the index books, and others perhaps less excusable. When it was a case of active work and a comrade was needed upon whose nerve he could place some reliance, my role was obvious. But apart from this I had uses. I was a whetstone for his mind. I stimulated him. He liked to think aloud in my presence. His remarks could hardly be said to be made to me–many of them would have been as appropriately addressed to his bedstead–but none the less, having formed the habit, it had become in some way helpful that I should register and interject. If I irritated him by a certain methodical slowness in my mentality, that irritation served only to make his own flame-like intuitions and impressions flash up the more vividly and swiftly. Such was my humble role in our alliance.”

For many of us the chief attraction of the series is the friendship between Holmes and Watson, so it’s hard not to see that particular passage as a Fuck you for making me write these! from Doyle to his Sherlockian readership. That excerpt is from The Creeping Man, by the way, a Sherlock Holmes story with a mystery plot so lame that it stands out even from Arthur Conan Doyle, who’d already given us snakes that drink milk and dogs covered in glowing paint as perfectly reasonable murder methods.

Now, I enjoy the game of continuity as much as anyone and more than most — exhibit A is here — but, as far as I am concerned, it makes life infinitely easier for me both as a fan and as an occasional Holmes pastiche writer myself to just lift The Creeping Man out of continuity altogether. Didn’t happen, doesn’t count. Same with The Mazarin Stone and a couple of others.

A lot of Holmes writers do this. If it’s inconvenient, hell, screw it. Just get rid of it. Nicholas Meyer, probably the most successful Holmes pastiche writer ever to follow Conan Doyle, casually tossed giant hunks of original Sherlockian continuity overboard in his books, including the evil Professor Moriarty. (That is a bridge too far even for me, though I love The Seven Per Cent Solution.)

I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds on the Holmes stuff, it’s just a handy example. My point is that most of us have evolved a loose sort of “this is the stuff that counts” concept of the history of our favorite fictional heroes. For Holmes and me, it goes something like this…

1875 and up. Early Holmes solo cases like The Gloria Scott and The Musgrave Ritual.
Holmes and Watson meet, become roommates. 1881-ish.
Everything in the first few books up to The Final Problem. Holmes battles Professor Moriarty and both are thought to have perished at Reichenbach Falls.
The Hiatus: 1891-1894, when Holmes is traveling, with Watson unaware Holmes is alive. Mrs. Watson–the only one, the former Mary Morstan–passes away from illness.
The Empty House, Holmes returns and once again he and Watson take up residence in Baker Street.
Many cases follow. Most (but not all) of Doyle’s as recounted in The Return and so forth, those of other writers, whichever ones fit.
(The ones I write go here, usually.)
Sherlock Holmes becomes internationally famous. At the height of his fame, around 1902, Holmes retires to Sussex, keeps bees.
World War I and His Last Bow.

That’s in my head. It’s not official. But it’s basically how I think of it. Stuff that fits in there from other writers– say, Laurie King and Carole Nelson Douglas and Lyndsay Faye… even Holmes in other media like Murder By Decree, the 1940s radio show, etc… yeah, my head accepts those as canon as well.

That’s because character counts just as much as historical accuracy for me in this exercise.

This is where a lot of fans, especially giant nerdy thoroughly-knowledgable ones like myself, can miss the point of continuity as a tool. The sticking point for me about The Creeping Man isn’t the fact that the solution to the mystery is batshit insane– so was the one for The Hound of the Baskervilles. No, it’s the trashing of the friendship between Holmes and Watson. That’s what my head rebels at, that’s the thing that throws me out of the story. Ergo, it did not take place in the ‘real’ Holmes timeline, the one that counts.

It’s about consistency, absolutely. But not of chronology– of character.

And this is how it works for me in all of the continuing-character stuff I read. The continuity that counts is the one of personality.

The timeline, I don’t care that much. Stick to a baseline, sure. A loose sort of chronology we all accept as given–that’s all I need. I think Grant Morrison really nailed it in All-Star Superman as far as how you do this is concerned. There’s no need to get all knotted up about Superbaby or Kandor or whatever other bit of Superman’s backstory might have been added over the decades. Hit the main points, don’t sweat the small stuff. Doomed planet, desperate scientists, last hope, kindly couple, Superman. That’s it. Floor it.

From there, Morrison screwed around with a LOT of other stuff in Superman lore but we didn’t care because his take on Superman and Lois and Luthor and everyone else FELT right.

By the same token, Man of Steel was a beautiful-looking movie, the effects were amazing, the cast gave it their all. In terms of craft it was nearly impeccable… but there were dozens of times I was knocked out of the story with a visceral reaction of This is all wrong. That’s not Superman.

For one thing, Jonathan Kent is not a paranoid selfish asshole with a death wish. Even if he was, there’s no way young Clark Kent, gifted with flight and super-speed, would just let him die in a tornado even if Jonathan told him to do exactly that.

And we all know this one….the moment where a great many of us said that’s it, I’m out. Superman doesn’t snap people’s necks.

He just doesn’t. I’ve heard it litigated every which way, so let’s all skip that part. The point is that my brain just will not process that character as Superman.


In another Superman story it was okay. Same situation, Superman is backed into a corner where to save innocent lives he has to end a villain’s life. No choice. But when Alan Moore did it, this is where he landed.

So I could accept it there. This story ‘counts’ for me. In my head, at some point in the future, this is how the story ends for Superman. My Superman, that is, who was mostly drawn by Curt Swan and written by Edmond Hamilton, Cary Bates, Elliott Maggin, and Martin Pasko.

Do I reconcile that with the other Supermen we’ve seen? “Post-Crisis” or whatever? Not really. They’re all different guys in my head. There’s the one that starts with John Byrne’s reboot and goes up through, oh, I dunno, Flashpoint. There’s a blank space where the new 52 Superman was doing his thing, yet another different guy in my mental Superman rolodex, and then there’s the Peter Tomasi Rebirth guy which (in my head) I see as essentially picking up the Byrne version again. (Do I accept the Dan Jurgens explanation of how that works? Moot point. I don’t care.) The current, Bendis, version, I haven’t decided where he fits in. In my head, there are two Supermen I care about– the original Silver/Bronze Age one, whose story concluded with Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and the Byrne/Tomasi one, or as my fan brain thinks of him, “the triangle guy.”

Just to make it a little weirder, I don’t think ALL the Superman stories falling under those two vague classifications count, either. The ones I discard tend to be, again, for reasons of character more than for timeline problems. (In my head, the Birthright version from Waid and Yu is still basically the one I think of as the current origin of Superman, even though DC has overwritten it a couple of times now. That’s the one where Clark, Lois, Luthor, and everyone else seem to be the most ‘on-model,’ so to speak.)

Now, this is just how my fandom lizard brain does it. It’s not really a conscious process. It’s almost a reflex reaction.

Here’s an even more ridiculous example. James Bond. In my head, it works like this. These are the ones that ‘count.’

The John Pearson biography happened.

The original Fleming novels happened.

Colonel Sun happened.

Charlie Higson’s Young Bond happened.

Mike Grell’s and Don McGregor’s Bond comics happened.

Everything else is fiction, stuff people did based on the history of the real guy. The movies, the Gardner and Benson novels, the Warren Ellis comics, whatever. (So, yeah, in my head, James Bond lives in a world where Roger Moore made him look like a smirky jackass in a series of fictional movies loosely based on his exploits. Pearson established that in his biography and I believe it, that works for me.) Again, it’s not really a question of chronology– though I could give you one that works for those– but because those stories match the James Bond my brain has established as ‘the real one.’

This all came about when one of my fellow Sherlockians asked me, after I finished explaining about what ‘headcanon’ meant, “But how do you know what to keep?”

I couldn’t really answer. I just stuttered, “I just know, that’s all.”

And then I came home and thought about it, and realized my yardstick is never about the dates or the chronology matching up to previously-published work. It’s about whether or not I believe that’s my guy. Whatever continuation or pastiche or reboot you might be doing, whether it’s Nero Wolfe or the starship Enterprise or the Justice League, if I don’t recognize the people, I’m probably not going to recognize it as legitimate, either. Your mileage may vary.

…um, yeah, none of these count. Sorry.

Back next week with something cool.

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    1. Yeah, I accepted that one. Bought it when it came out on the strength of Chabon’s name… you might remember that covering his panel was one of the first jobs Jonah gave me back when we were doing press for CBR in San Diego, so I was interested. It’s here in the stacks somewhere, though I haven’t looked at it in years. There’s a few Holmes-in-his-sunset-years stories out there. Julian Symons did a nice one for his book GREAT DETECTIVES.

  1. Edo Bosnar

    I don’t think I’m deep enough into either Bond or Holmes to really have a headcanon (although based on my reading of the first few original (Fleming) novels, I’d accept Connery as the ‘real’ Bond – even though I think OHMSS is the best of the movies).

    I used to be more much committed to a canon for superheroes, but not so much any more. So my headcanon for Superman isn’t even as firm as yours – I’m willing to accept both pre-Crisis and immediate post-Crisis stuff as canonical (and I think of Morrison’s All Star Superman as a good Elseworlds story). It’s similar for Batman, although I still consider Wein’s Untold Legend the canonical Bat-history.
    For most Marvel heroes, anything that happened before, say, the late 1980s is more or less canon, anything after is canon depending on who wrote it (e.g., if someone like Roger Stern wrote it, it’s canon).

  2. Tim Rifenburg

    I stopped worrying about what counts and what doesn’t with characters when they started rebooting universes and revamping characters (what seemed like) every year or so. Give me a well told and enjoyable story and character consistency and It will count as my view of what counts. For example: Brave and the Bold, Marvel Team up type of books count to me (as much as Batman, Detective, Amazing Spider-man etc.) if the story was engaging and consistent. I think we choose to keep what counts and discard what doesn’t work for us. Writers in comics consistently re-write over other stories or incorporate elements they like from older stories. So they have their own version of what counts and what doesn’t. Some are more obsessive about explaining the inconsistencies in stories and trying to make everything fit. Sometimes that is both fun and exhausting to read (sometimes at the same time. I was thinking of All Star Squadron and Roy Thomas.) The longer characters are published and utilized in different media and titles, the more you have to -for your own enjoyment – choose what counts and matters.

    Greg – Slightly off topic and somewhat personal – But have you ever thought of writing a book about collecting – book scouting – and your travels. Maybe do a kick starter- and publish it as an ebook or self publish? I always enjoy those columns and with your depth of knowledge, enjoyment of collecting, love of books and such etc.. I think it would be an engaging and informative read. You can use your previous columns as a jumping off point. I would definitely be on board for supporting such an endeavor. Just a thought. Also I want to see you do an article for Twomorrows RetroFan magazine on The 3 investigators books. One of my favorite juvenile mystery series that deserves some wider love and exploration.

    1. Greg – Slightly off topic and somewhat personal – But have you ever thought of writing a book about collecting – book scouting – and your travels. Maybe do a kick starter- and publish it as an ebook or self publish? I always enjoy those columns and with your depth of knowledge, enjoyment of collecting, love of books and such etc.. I think it would be an engaging and informative read. You can use your previous columns as a jumping off point. I would definitely be on board for supporting such an endeavor. Just a thought.

      I had that very same thought and put together a query package/sampler for Sasquatch Books almost a decade ago; they specialize in travel books about the Northwest and I thought it would be a natural fit. Nothing doing. The no was as emphatic as though I’d presented them with a smelly week-old fish. So I thought it must be me that was the freak who was interested in that stuff and there really wasn’t a market. The full book manuscript exists as a manuscript; it’s only the old CBR columns, though, I haven’t updated it. And the introduction I wrote eventually was published here, on Jim’s blog. We use every part of the buffalo here.

      I hadn’t thought of e-publishing, though, but in the last few years a lot of my fellow scribes have gone that route, with Kindle and Patreon and whatnot. Might go have another swing at the MS and update it a little. Watch this space.

      Also I want to see you do an article for Twomorrows RetroFan magazine on The 3 investigators books. One of my favorite juvenile mystery series that deserves some wider love and exploration.

      Hey, TwoMorrows knows where I am. I get review copies and press stuff so I assume that at some point they must have read things I wrote. But they haven’t asked. Truthfully I have always lusted to do something for BACK ISSUE about Steve Gerber. I got to know Mary Skrenes a little bit over the last year, just the occasional online hello really, and I’m longing to interview her about Gerber and OMEGA. But I am too embarrassed to ask her, it seems like an imposition on what is turning out to be a nice friendship. I’m probably just being a weirdo about it.

  3. I love reading stuff like this. You do a great job, Greg, articulating the inner life of the fan, even though I don’t have the same process as you (and certainly not for either Holmes or Bond).

    I think the consistency of character is a great benchmark for whether to consider something canon or not, and in some ways I wish I could limit mysel to that. But I find I put up next to it “consistency of concept”, or something like that. So is the whole universe of the story, it’s setting, it’s basic tenets…does all that seem to “fit”?

    Or more bluntly, and certainly highly subjectively, is this new idea that’s suddenly been thrown into things…just sort of stupid?

    Or is it a debatable idea that’s just been told so badly that it’s lost its chance at being accepted?

    I remember feeling that way about Emerald Twilight, for example (not only did Hal Jordan seem like a different character all of a sudden, but so did the Guardians, and so on) and the Timeless Child story in recent Doctor Who, and when Lighting Lad was really Proty all along, and the entirety of “V: The Series.”

    The problem here is that all of those were “official” developments. I’d love to have just ignored them but the ongoing stories keep insisting I accept them and deal with their aftermaths.

    And the next thing you know I’ve morphed into an angry old fan. Sigh.

    1. Hated Emerald Twilight too. It didn’t work for Hal. I think it suffered in handling the Guardians partly because the writers seemed to be looking down their noses at the concept. Where Broome worked to make them impressive (and succeeded) ET had a feeling of “Yeah, you know who they are, are you as bored with them as I am?”
      But yes, crappy stuff that’s accepted as canon is a pain in the butt.

    2. Well, the conflict I ran into was that giving in to my Need To Know What Was Going On was rapidly turning me into an Angry Old Fan. I don’t want to be that guy. Hell, when I was a CBR admin I used to have to ban guys like that.

      I’ve done whole columns about the rationale you use in-story to justify this or that piece of business. But the end result is the same; readers buy into it or they don’t. It’s writers who are shackled by the idea of continuity and I think there is a great deal to be said for the just-blow-it-off approach, like Garth Ennis did with Angel Punisher.

      I spent some time years ago talking to Ron Marz about “Emerald Twilight” and I had to own up to the fact that even though at the time it really upset me, nevertheless it had done its job; I was buying Green Lantern again and I was interested in Kyle Rayner. For his part, Mr. Marz admitted that he would have liked more time to work on it, he felt he could have made a much better job of it given more issues to spread the story out. There was a huge editorial push to really shake up the book and get something big for #50, and it was all very rushed when it turned out Gerard Jones couldn’t deliver. (Here is the proposal Jones did for the required big shakeup for #50. I rather like it, but I was not a fan of what Jones was doing and I probably wouldn’t have cared for the execution; it was the Jones version of GL that had put me off the book.)

      What I’ve found is that since giving up my pull list, and the Wednesday ritual that goes with it, I experience comics as BOOKS now. A lot of the angry-fan stuff comes from consuming comics as a serial narrative, this endless weekly/monthly/whatever thing you’ve committed to. Remove that commitment, just pick up books you think look interesting, and a lot of that feeling of obligation goes away. You can pick and choose, and that’s kind of where this week’s column came from, that realization. I’m FINALLY FREE! At least, it feels a little like that. Today my angry fan only comes out when a story doesn’t ever END, which is a justifiable reaction when you are dropping twenty-something bucks, or sometimes even forty, on a book collecting a year’s worth of stories. Books should be books.

      Speaking of picking and choosing, we have the first two V miniseries here on DVD and the first two novels, Ann Crispin’s and Howard Weinstein’s. Those are sufficient to meet our V needs. I don’t miss having the regular weekly show or the other books at all. Occasionally I toy with the idea of tracking down the revival with Morena Baccarin but I think it would just annoy me. We only saw a couple of episodes of it when it aired and I think it was built too much like LOST, with the endless serialization that never got anywhere.

      1. Like frasersherman wrote elsewhere on this page, I personally preferred Gerard Jones’ Green Lantern (even though it was struggling in its last year). So I got particularly grouchy at Emerald Twilight.

        But I’ve heard some of those comments from Ron Marz before, and certainly I appreciate the difficulties involved. Certainly, if it hadn’t been so high profile as Hal Jordan / Green Lantern and the move DC was doing with ET, it would just been another of a hundred sub-par stories that nobody would care about, and would have been easily dismissed.

        But personally I didn’t really enjoy Marz’ ongoing Green Lantern work and was mostly off the book not long after Zero Hour had seemed to seal the deal as far as “Hal Jordan is a crazy villain now.” On the other hand, I grew to love Kyle as a character in the pages of Grant Morrison’s JLA, and I sort of wish he had remained Earth and the JLA’s Green Lantern even after Hal had returned.

        I agree with you, Greg (but hadn’t thought of this) that since no longer buying comics on a weekly basis there hasn’t really been anything in that medium that has bothered me in the same way as it did in the old days. In the same ways, old TV shows like V are obviously not an issue either (I haven’t read Weinstein’s novel but aside from that my headcanon of V is pretty much the same as yours–ideally, I go with the original miniseries and then most of A.C. Crispin’s improvements to the second).

        Current serialized stuff, like Doctor Who, or Star Wars sequels, or new Star Trek or even DC movies, can be a little bit more work to cope with–but even then it’s usually not hard to remember that fiction is fiction and real life is real life. In those cases, it’s usually less of a sense that something was “ruined” and more of a feeling that something was “terribly bad” but didn’t need to be, that gets my goat (and makes me a bit worried every time I hear some previously precious property is going to get revived).

        1. “not long after Zero Hour had seemed to seal the deal as far as “Hal Jordan is a crazy villain now.”

          I must admit though that Hal telling Ollie “I’m doing what you always told me to do — taking a stand! Challenging the status quo!” in ZH made me laugh out loud.

          Ron Marz, however, felt Jurgens (and others) completely misunderstood Hal by making him Green Magneto (i.e., trying to do what he thought was right, just ruthless about it) when Marz saw him as an outright villain.

  4. I was amused that Moriarty’s daughter in Beekeeper’s Apprentice (finally read it last month) has a revenge plan that amounts to “The Seven-Percent Solution” — Holmes has to write a fake confession that he’s a drughead loser who made up everything about her father.
    I’m inclined to agree with one mystery writer who argued Doyle’s frustration wasn’t as great as it sounded: it wasn’t so much he was forced into writing Holmes as he knew he had a solid cash cow and trotted it out whenever his bank account needed filling. Doyle does say in the introduction to Casebook that looking back, he’s quite happy with his Holmesian work as it turned out he was able to get what he considered good stuff written as well.
    For me, James Bond and Movie James Bond are two separate continuities so I’m fine with Roger Moore (and the movie of Spy Who Loved Me is always going to be in my Bond canon).
    One of the things I love about All-Star Superman is Morrison’s handling of Jimmy as a reporter who writes stories like “24 hours as a werewolf” or “24 hours as a giant turtle man.” Nobody really knows what to do with Jimmy post-Crisis, but putting a spin on his old goofiness was a great idea.
    I finished Gene Yuang’s “Superman Smashes the Klan” last week and similarly felt Yuang nailed it (his explanation for Superman going from jumping to flying works perfectly).

  5. Oh, on the subject of Sherlock Holmes, can I ask if you have an opinion on the recent debate about whether “Enola Holmes” violated copyright by using “softer” qualities of Holmes from the later stories that not yet in the public domain? I’m not so interested in your thoughts on the legal arguments, but more on whether Sherlock Holmes really is such an awful guy in the earlier stories, and a softer guy who is more respectful to women in the later ones?

    I’ve never noticed such a thing, but there are lots of gaps in my readings and it’s been years. And I thought if anyone I “knew” would have an informed view of this, it would be you.

    1. I can’t speak for Greg but for me it’s a load of codswallop.
      Particularly the claim that only in the later stories does Holmes begin to respect women. He was always respectful, never condescending to his female clients and always looking out for their interests.

    2. Yes, I have an opinion; it’s about money. Enola Holmes was a big success and the estate wants a taste. But the claim is absurd on its face because it depends on people not having actually READ the books. It is established in A Study in Scarlet, the very first of the books, that the outrageous things Holmes says to Watson are not really carried out in practice; you can make the argument that the act of including Watson in the case, when the doctor is by his own admission a vet with the shakes, is in itself an act of compassion. Moreover, there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of love stories for Holmes and Irene Adler spinning out of “A Scandal in Bohemia,” the story wherein Watson explains that even Sherlock Holmes, as much as he hates the idea, is not immune to a woman’s charms and wit. Then there’s “A Case of Identity,” where Holmes is ready to horsewhip a man for the shabby way he treated Mary Sutherland.

      The argument they’re making is probably heavily depending on The Sign of Four, where Holmes tells Watson to go ahead and get married if he wants to, for Holmes there is always the work and the cocaine-bottle. Which is kind of an asshole thing to say to your best friend on the news of his engagement. There are lots of times Holmes acts like a jerk. But it’s a persona he puts on. Holmes’ most commonly demonstrated emotion is a passion for justice; specifically, getting justice for those who are unjustly treated. No doubt Scotland Yard dismisses him as a smug SJW. The second most common is his deep affection and friendship for Dr. Watson. We’ve gone on about that for some length here and I don’t have anything to add to that except that it’s baked into the premise from the start.

      I will say that this is all news to me. I thought even Casebook was in the public domain by now and this was settled law. Anyway, it’s an idiotic argument. Once you allow that it’s okay to do stories about Holmes and Watson–and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson and Wiggins and the Irregulars and Mycroft and Moriarty– trying to say that it’s only certain versions of them is ridiculous. Every adaptation takes liberties, from William Gillette’s on up.

      1. I suspect it’s not only money but a Smaug like fixation of It’s Ours! The Edgar Rice Burroughs estate has a similar dog in the manger attitude: even though John Carter’s well out of copyright, they tried to shut down Dynamite’s comics version.

        Oh, the rationale, based on European copyright law, was that the comic was too sexy and ruins ERB’s rep as wholesome entertainment. The ghosts of Dejah Thoris and La of Opar rise up and laugh.

      2. I also thought the legalities were ridiculous. But I just wondered if there was any merit to this idea of Holmes becoming “nicer” as the stories went on. I always saw literary (and Jeremy Brett) Holmes like you describe–passionate about bringing justice where it was needed and committed to the people in his life. But I’m just going by impressions rather than really thorough knowledge.

        I also thought the Enola Holmes version was one of the least interesting and least compelling I’ve seen, and thought it ironic that all the hullabaloo was about that. Certainly, money seems to be the issue here.

  6. Ian McKellan’s Mr. Holmes definitely fit into “not Holmes” for me. A lot of it is “generic Victorian gentleman confronts a changed world” and Holmes saying he despises imagination is just wrong. But like Bond, I never think of movies as canon the way books are.

    1. Missed this before but just wanted to chime in that it didn’t feel very Sherlockian to me either; but it was MILES closer than the novel it was adapting, which holds the distinction of being the only Holmes book ever to enter my home in the last fifty years that I couldn’t bring myself to finish. That book was such dreary drudgery that it made Sartre’s Nausea look upbeat and peppy. I’ve seen suicide notes with more optimism. So I gave up. When I want a story about Sherlock Holmes in his sunset years I’ll go with the aforementioned Chabon or Symons.

  7. Jeff Nettleton

    I also consider the movie and literary Bonds to be separate. For the movies, Connery is the real Bond and Moore is Simon Templar, masquerading as James Bond, after he has been killed. Other than that, I like OHMSS tremendously, but consider it kind of an Earth-2 Bond, while Living Daylights is an Earth-3 Bond. License to Kill sucks too much to consider and Brosnan only got one decent film out of it, which I kind of consider to be the Post-Crisis Bond. I don’t even consider Craig to be Bond, as the films are just repetitive 9/11 metaphors, lacking in wit and fun. To me, that isn’t James Bond; it’s James Bourne. I’d rather watch Kingsman or Man From UNCLE than those films. At least they embrace the fun.

  8. Jeff Nettleton

    Nothing to do with the topic; but, Edo had posted over on the Classic Comics Forum and I’d thought I’d share it here, since there are so many literary and spy topics here, as well as fans.

    David Cornwell, aka John Le Carre, has passed away. The man was a true literary giant and you can talk for days about his influence on the espionage genre, not to mention the brilliance of the character George Smiley, who started out as a sort of espionage detective.

    1. I spent the past few years finally reading Le Carre’s work. He’s both an amazing writer and an amazing spy novelist. And at 86 his last novel, Legacy of Spies, was excellent; doubly surprising since “old writer does sequel to early hit” usually makes me want to scream (it’s a sequel/retcon to both Spy Who Came In From the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy)

  9. Thinking about the core point of your post, I honestly don’t un-canon stories the way you do. I just think “well that story sucks” and hope they forget about it.
    As for “Speckled Band” and “Hound” it doesn’t matter that the solution has flaws, they work — the stories are enjoyable, which is the point (Creeping Man? Not so much). Much as Lovecraft’s writing style, which is horrible by any objective standard, somehow works (well most of the time) for him.

  10. I liked Jones’ run on Green Lantern, much more than Marz’ stuff; I was quite surprised when Kyle turned up elsewhere and I discovered he’s a decent character when Marz wasn’t writing him.
    I particularly enjoyed Jones handling of Carol/Hal, pretty much acknowledging their relationship has acquired a train wreck quality over the years and trying to work with that.

  11. Bright-Raven

    I think at this point, head canon is a moot issue. It seems like everybody just tosses out whatever the hell they want and does whatever they want, especially in comics.

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