Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 13, 2012

Comics I Read In Series Form In The 1980s: Somerset Holmes


I'm not sure why I feel compelled to list Somerset Holmes. I know that I read it, I know that I followed the series when it jumped publishers (from Pacific to Eclipse), and I was dimly aware of the trade paperback version when that hit the market. But beyond that... I couldn't tell you that it made an impact. I read a lot of titles I remember with greater clarity. That actually may be the point. Somerset Holmes was a cliffhanger-driven, slightly overheated, action-oriented mystery by Bruce Jones, April Campbell and Brent Anderson. My basic memory of Somerset Holmes now is that, like Thriller, this was the kind of comic that presaged any number of similar efforts over the next 25+ years. Like the Fleming/Von Eeden series, Somerset Holmes looks slightly bigger (all that company!) and smaller (it's not as unique genre-wise now as it was then!) as a result. Somerset Holmes was basically a high-concept movie idea given comic book life. So many comics function like that now that it's hard to recall a time when random comic-book nonsense (the mentally ill superhero's employer is... a magic-wielding druid) remained an ingrained part of series core concepts on a regular basis. Somerset Holmes you could take pretty much right into a script, I think -- the wikipedia entry suggests that it was a script, and that the script may have been employed in service of someone else's film.

The other thing that Somerset Holmes brings to mind is how with the early independent and also the alternative comics there was so little out there that your average comic book store might carry that you could kind of read all of them -- or at least it felt like you read all of them. Many of the comics in that growing category came out at a much statelier pace than their mainstream cousins. If you wanted a pile of this stuff, you probably got everything in the category whether you knew all that much about it or not -- you probably also supplemented what you were buying with superhero comics. At any rate, I'd say that almost one in five books that I might have picked up at the comics shop back in those days was a new or unfamiliar effort. It's hard for me to imagine that's the case now in those categories of serial comic books that continue to thrive in the direct market. Back then there was a sense you were engaging with the bulk of this specific expression of comics, and maybe the whole thing. So I imagine I started picking up this series because it looked like the other comics I was buying and I was a guy who bought comics like this. Simple. I also put it down when it ended. Even more simple. Limited series were becoming a bigger and bigger part of my comics consumption diet.
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