Who is Sherlock Holmes?
We should be able to skip this part of the post due to the fact that, and I am guessing now, there is hardly anyone out there reading this who has never heard of Sherlock Holmes.
Nevertheless, for the sake of professionalism, I will present you a short overview: Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1886. The original Sherlock Holmes lives in the Baker Street 221b in London (a little trivia: a house number which in fact did not exist in London by the time Sherlock was created but now serves as shelter for the official Sherlock Holmes Museum). From here he works as a Private Detective for clients seeking his help in twisted cases. He is known for his analytical and rigorous observations helping him find the perpetrator. Additionally, he is (kind of) nerdy (which charms him) and, in some versions more than in others, a drug addict (which harms him). But also makes him human in some kind.
Sherlock through the ages
I think one thing we can all agree on is that Sherlock will outlive us all, even after being killed by Conan Doyle in 1893.
The simple fact that he is already around for 130 years is just beyond belief. To my knowledge, Sherlock Holmes is the longest living narrative story in the world, being kept alive in numerous forms and never making the impression of antiquatedness. Nowadays it seems that the Sherlock Holmes Franchise is living a new heyday, about 130 years after „A Study in Scarlet“ was first published.
If we watch the film with movie stars like Robert Downey Jr. or and Jude Law from 2009, the TV series simply called „Sherlock“ starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, or the adaption „Elementary“ which aired in 2012, Sherlock Holmes is everywhere and we can not (and do not want to) escape.
Sherlock Holmes – A Transmedia Fairy Tale
So now let’s cut to the chase. Sherlock Holmes is a wunderkind regarding transmedia storytelling. And that is, besides the colorful and dubious characters of course, one of the main reasons for the franchises success. The first movie traces back to the year 1900 and was only one minute long. Since then, various adaptions of the Holmes Universe have been made, leaving the Star Detective with a vast repertoire of different forms to present himself.
x Books/ Short Stories
Sherlock Holmes has got his origins in the oldest form of media, literally in black and white. While working as a doctor, Conan Doyle spent his free time scribbling. Soon he came up with the characters of Sherrinford Holmes and Ormond Sacker whom he luckily renamed to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, more suitable names, I would argue, for people we actually respect and look up to. The novel is called „A Study in Scarlet“ and was published in 1887.
All in all, Doyle went on writing four novels and 56 stories around the prestigious figure of Sherlock Holmes.
As mentioned before, the first film ever produced having Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson in the center was less than a minute long. It was called „Sherlock Holmes Baffled“ and shows Sherlock being confused by a bandit disappearing over and over again. The medium film displays the first transmedia plattform, besides his origins in the written word, for Sherlock Holmes.
If you want to, you can watch the suspenseful film below. Do not blink, otherwise it might be over.
Since then, Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed 254 times by 75 different actors and therefore holds the record for „the most portrayed literary human
character“. Only Dracula has a broader screen presence (272), but since you can get rid of him using garlic he does not really count as a „human character“. The Sherlock Holmes handbook calls him „the most prolific character in the history of screen cinema“.
Who listens to radio anymore, duh? Well, being not quite as popular today, radio was one of the most important sources for information and entertainment in the past century. And, by his nature as a medium only delivering words, predestinated for a guy like Sherlock, whose origin is the written word. Between 1930 and 1980 many of those radio plays were produced and decorated with the best voice actors available. Even Orson Welles delivered one piece called „The Immortal Sherlock Holmes“ in 1938. Oh, he does not know how right he was back then.
The beauty of the radio play is, of course, the use of our own imagination. Where the director of a film presents us an image of Holmes or Watson we can not change, the radio only provides us with the voice and the story line, the rest is up to us, making it possible to create our own universe suitable for our own personal world view. An experience a movie just is not able to deliver.
x Video Games
Lets make an historical jump to the year 1985. This is the year where Sherlock Holmes became „touchable“ through the art of video games. But oh, the never ending curse for someone liking both, Video Games and the movies/books they are based on, most of the time you are disappointed. But of course, adapting the written word and transforming it into a three-dimensional, interactive world, that is a hell of a job. And even though the video games are not able to keep up with the books or movies (regarding quality and financial aspects), they are an important piece of the Sherlock Holmes – Franchise. The existence of Sherlock Holmes as a character in a Video Game makes him available for us all, we are allowed the really be him, even if its only on the screen. If you want to build a „transmedia empire“ (I am just calling the media around Sherlock Holmes an empire, I can not think of a word more suitable), you have to enter the market of video games. Otherwise the common fan only watches his idol on the screen but is never able to really click with him because his actions are unreachable. Transforming the gamer to Sherlock Holmes, this barrier is broken.
Thanks to Jamin Schneider for contributing this post.