Reinventing Sherlock Holmes: The Transmedia Co-Construction by and for Fan Communities

Original illustrations by Sidney Paget for Doyle's "Final Problem"
Original illustrations by Sidney Paget for Doyle’s “Final Problem” (1893)

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes continue to fascinate audiences, regardless of the fact that the author of the original text, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has been dead for 84 years. Doyle penned a total of 4 novels and 56 short stories containing the beloved Holmes over a period of 40 years, the 8-year long “Great Hiatus” between The Final Problem (1893) and The Hounds of Baskerville (1901) notwithstanding. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the protagonist Sherlock Holmes is “’the most-portrayed movie character’, with more than 70 actors having played the part in at least 200 films” (Fox 1). In the last ten years, there have been numerous movies, books, and television series’ devoted to reinventing Sherlock Holmes, each one aimed at helping audiences find value in the historical character while simultaneously attempting to entice newer, younger consumers to participate in fan communities based on said character. For purposes of this “Transformative Fandom” series, I will take this concept a step further. According to the Archive of Our Own website for transformative fan works, there are currently a total of (I’ve updated this number 4 times in 1 week) 59,761 texts, pictures, videos and podfics uploaded and tagged with the term “Sherlock Holmes”. The characters of Holmes and Watson, as created by Doyle, are in the public domain, which means anyone can use them without permission, the caveat being that works only include the specific qualities of these characters as defined by the author in his texts published before 1923. For writers, artists and filmmakers, this means commercial adaptations can be made (mostly) without fear of copyright infringement, as long as the features of the characters are explicitly early canon or, conversely, unique. The Consulting Detective has enamored readers for over a hundred years, but with only 60 original stories written by Doyle, fans take it upon themselves to explore, in detail, the universe surrounding Sherlock, while others enjoy filling in the blanks of our beloved character’s existence with imagined cases, love interests and encounters that Doyle never anticipated. While neither community is necessarily exclusive or superior, both have specific goals and characteristics that assist in the co-creation of Sherlock Holmes via multiple media sources.

WonderCon, Anaheim Convention Center, April 18-20, 2014

The Collective bloggers have been working our asses off recently, at our day jobs, fangirling here at acollectivemind.com, and preparing a brilliant femme!Avengers group cosplay for our most recent endeavor, WonderCon 2014.

https://twitter.com/nerdwrldprblms/status/457913533242433536

 

If you follow @Nerdwrldprblms on Twitter, then you might have seen some of the pictures from our Saturday at SoCal’s spring kick-off comic convention or followed our tweets as we sat through presentations by Warner Brothers, Fox Films, Marvel Now, Showrunners, Legends, The OneRing.net and saw sneak previews of films such as Godzilla, How To Train Your Dragon, Into The Storm, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and more. There was so much to see and plenty to discuss, so The Collectress and I have decided to split our “best of” moments into two separate posts, one written by each of us. I’m lucky enough to start us off with my top 3 moments of WonderCon 2014.

3) Showrunners

 

This top 3 moment came as a surprise to me. I had never heard of this film, but after sitting through the panel, I’m fascinated by the idea of a documentary which explores the jobs of those who create and run popular television shows today. The project was originally funded on Kickstarter, and so it seems to be a labor of love to those involved. The pleasant surprise came when Chris Carter–X-Files showrunner, and Andrew Kreisenberg–Arrow showrunner, happened to sit on this panel, both of whom have created unique and engaging television shows that I love. I have been a fan of X-Files since I was a teen watching it on Fox, Friday nights at 9pm with my mom, and thus, Chris Carter’s work. The writer admitted he hasn’t written much past the pilot for The After (watch S01xE01 here) a new web series which premiered in February on Amazon TV, but has hopes for what the show might become. Click the link above to check out the show for free on Amazon.com.

Also in attendance was Andrew Kreisenberg, the showrunner of one of my new favorite television shows, Arrow on the CW. I’m just going to get down to business and say yes, I did tweet about Olicity yesterday and yes, Kreisenberg seemed to be hinting at the legitimacy of that particular ship when he said that fans should just be patient for relationships between characters to develop and not tweet wank to him about the show. Basically. The writer and producer also discussed the imminent Flash series and all the fun they are having creating these comic book series that fans, producers and even the network president, seem to love.

Kreisenberg also talked about the John Barrowman and his the role of Malcolm Merlin, stating that all the “hero” baggage the actor brought from the role of Captain Jack Harkness (from Doctor Who, you dolt), gave the villain role depth and went against the normal fan perceptions of the actor. I couldn’t agree more.