Interview With Roger Langridge and Andy Hirsch About The Baker Street Peculiars
Now out is issue #1 of The Baker Street Peculiars, a miniseries set in the world of Sherlock Holmes but focusing on three street urchins. It’s written by Roger Langridge and illustrated by Andy Hirsch. The publisher arranged for me to ask them a few questions, answered here. And my thanks to everyone for the opportunity!
How did this concept come about? What inspired the story?
ROGER LANGRIDGE: During a conversation about what I might do for them next, BOOM! expressed an interest in a book about a kid detective gang. The first thing that pops into my head when I hear the words “kid” and “detective” in the same sentence is Sherlock Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars, so I went away and thought about that, and what sort of twists one might add to the concept to make it seem immediate and relevant to today’s readers… and also what might make it exciting and interesting for me to write. A big inspiration for “The Case of the Cockney Golem” (the Baker Street Peculiars’ first case) was an old episode of The Goon Show, the 1950s BBC radio series, in which statues come to life as a result of a strange fog (it’s never really explained in the show!). The golem connection was all mine, though… or at least it was, until Andy’s golem design took it to another level.
How did you come to work together, and what’s the process you used in creating this comic?
LANGRIDGE: Andy and I are mutual fans of one another’s work and have been corresponding off and on for a while. It was BOOM!’s suggestion to put us together on this project, but it suited both of us down to the ground, and it was a new (and fun) experience for me to have that back-and-forth at the conceptual stage. I like to think that we came up with something that neither of us would have necessarily come up with independently of one another.
As far as the process goes, once the initial concept was worked out, I wrote an outline (with some crucial story contributions from Andy), then I worked it up into a full script– but tried to give Andy some breathing room, doing my best not to be too prescriptive with my panel descriptions, and took on some of his suggestions as we went along, particularly if he felt there was a better way to tell the story. And, given the period setting, I did my best to make sure Andy had as much reference as I could lay my hands on! Basically, my strategy was to give Andy everything he might need and then get out of his way.
ANDY HIRSCH: You should see the size of the book Roger mailed me! I’m grateful for it, too — good research material is indispensable when you’re drawing a setting half a world and most of a century away from you.
After a lot of back-and-forth at the conceptual stage, we both really focused on our individual parts. Roger certainly doesn’t need any help writing a good script, and he was trusting enough of me to leave me to my own devices. I think it helps that we have similar sensibilities, so we never ran into any disagreements. And I have to mention the great contributions of colorist Fred Stresing, who made these pages sing like nobody’s business.
What were your influences in the character designs?
HIRSCH: Since our story is set decades after the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Victorian Period, there wasn’t much point in looking to other adaptations for inspiration or to see what’s already been done. So the first order of business was doing my research on the time period. I was starting from zero, but there’s a wealth of material out there, including some spectacular film footage of pedestrians. The three kids represent a wide swath of the British class system, and I wanted to make their individual looks reflect their backgrounds. With a group, it’s also important to make sure everyone has a very different shape and posture, so I’d say I focused on that as much as any other aspect of their designs.
Were you previously fans of Sherlock Holmes? If yes, when did you first read the stories, and which is your favorite (and why)?
LANGRIDGE: I first read a couple of the Holmes books in the mid-1990s, around the time I was illustrating a new edition of the great Alan Coren’s Arthur and the Great Detective, about a boy called Arthur meeting Holmes and Watson (and, of course, solving a crime on his own!). The book is set immediately after A Study in Scarlet, so I made a point of reading that one first, and jumped around a bit after that: Hound of the Baskervilles, some of the short stories. I eventually got a collection of the entire canon as MP3 audio books — it came free with a computer magazine when MP3 audio books were still a bit of a novelty — and worked through the rest that way while I was drawing comics, so I eventually got to know all the Conan Doyle stories one way or another.
I think The Hound of the Baskervilles is hard to beat — it’s got such a great atmosphere, it ticks a lot of boxes as far as being a definitive Holmes story goes. It’s oddly filmic; odd because it was written before the invention of motion pictures. And it’s a good long one so it’s easy to lose yourself in it.
HIRSCH: I didn’t grow up with Sherlock, but I was familiar with some of the Clive Merrison radio dramas. Even those I’d only first heard in the past several years, to be perfectly honest. When Roger suggested doing a Sherlock Holmes story I made a point of reading every last page of the original material, so, yeah, I’m a fan now for sure.
As far as the novels, I’ve got to agree with Roger. I think my favorite of the short stories might be “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”, though I’m not sure I could tell you why. Maybe I just love that the villain is preoccupied with breaking little statues — oddly applicable to our own tale!
Who’s your favorite character in the story?
LANGRIDGE: Chippy Kipper, the Cockney Golem. The bad guys are always the most interesting anyway, and Andy’s design is fantastic on top of it.
HIRSCH: It doesn’t seem fair to pick one of the kids over the others, so I’m going to go with Mrs. Martha Hudson, landlady to the great detective. Of course, you’ll have to stick around for issue #2 to meet her…