Sherlock Holmes may be one of the few heroes of Victorian literature with a nemesis even more fascinating than he is. Indeed, Professor Moriarty is the archetypal example of the brilliant criminal mastermind. Yet, for all the decades he's haunted the popular imagination, how often have we gotten to see his side of things? I caught up with Daniel Corey recently to talk about his comic, MORIARTY; a monthly ongoing from Image that finally gives this devil his due.
COMIC VINE: As is proper procedure for a detective story's interrogation scene, I’ve got you hooked up to a lie detector and I’m shining a hot light right on your face. Now.... you’re playing devil’s advocate with this story. What attracted you to the “Napoleon of Crime” over the greatest detective of all time?
Daniel Corey: Well, Sherlock is like the popular kid, and everyone talks about him all the time. Everyone dresses like him, wants to be him.
I was never a popular kid in school, so I don’t much identify with that. I wanted to pay attention to the lurker, that bad kid in the back of the room who will always be smarter and more interesting than the popular kids. That kid, though, that lurker, he’s going to be a scary one.
CV: This series picks up several years after Holmes and Moriarty’s final, mountainous showdown. What has the bad professor been up to in the intervening time? What’s he up to now?
DC: Moriarty got all he ever wanted at the defeat of Sherlock Holmes – so he thought. After the death of Sherlock, he became a lost man, a shell of himself. Turns out, Sherlock gave him meaning in life.
More than anything, Moriarty fears death. Why is this? I think that as a man of intellect, Moriarty treasures certainty, wears it like a warm blanket. But he is not content with the security of a normal life as we know it, and only truly feels alive when death is nipping at his heels. By Moriarty’s estimation, death presented itself most readily at the hands and intellect of Sherlock Holmes. Once that was gone, life became predictable and boring.
As the story begins, Moriarty has settled into the life of a low-level street operator, listening to chatter in the pubs and docks, picking up small jobs investigating small matters for London’s criminal element. He has become an urchin – a well-dressed, well-spoken urchin.
CV: It’s been more than a century since the first Holmes story “A Study in Scarlet” was first published. What do you think it is about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters that they continue to capture audiences’ imaginations?
DC: Everybody wants to be Sherlock Holmes. Everyone sees him in a movie and thinks that, given the right time and circumstances, they could do that, too. We read the stories, watch the shows and try to pick up the tricks of his trade. He’s the top of the heap, the smartest guy in the room. If only we could be just like him.
But really, think about it: Holmes is celibate. He lives with this other guy, and they sit around smoking pipes, reading the paper and saying things like “Indeed” and “Gracious, my” and “Tallyho” and “Forthwith” and “Thusly.” He lays about, bellyaching that nothing ever happens, hitting the crack pipe because life is just oh, so dull, and would somebody please, please knock on my door and give me something to do, because I’m just going to die if they don’t need me to look at a hat covered in wax drippings or five – my goodness – FIVE ORANGE PIPS. Intense stuff.
Is this the guy you really want to be?
Moriarty, in his prime, never sat about waiting for the action to come his way. He created the action. He had a plan. He was going to run the show. And if you didn’t like it – well, you didn’t have to like it. He didn’t much care for you, because he’s too busy getting some guys to tunnel into your bank vault. He’s thinking about 30 different ways to kill 12 people he doesn’t like and make it look like an accident. And he could totally date your girlfriend if he wanted to, but he doesn’t want to because he’s too busy hanging out with princesses and queens, double agents and hot ninja assassins, and while you’re girlfriend is probably a nice gal who knits a mean doily or something, if she can’t kill a guy with a hat pin and lace handkerchief, she’s not going to cut it. Not for our man.
In short, Moriarty gets things DONE. And he looks good while he’s doing it, and he’s smarter and cooler than Sherlock (or you) ever will be. And he doesn’t need your approval, because approval’s for saps and he’s no sap, mister.
Of course, he is a sociopath. At least that’s how society sees it. I’m not saying that we should steal and plot murder, or encourage others to do so. It’s just fun to imagine doing those things.
In reality, if I knew both of those guys, Holmes and Moriarty, I’d probably think: What a couple of jerks. But the evil one, at least he’s cool.
CV: I couldn’t help but notice that one of Moriarty’s associate is named Fagin. Is he intended to be the pickpocket overlord from OLIVER TWIST? If so, is this comic happening in the same “universe” as other literature of the era?
DC: I’m happy you asked about Fagin, because no one else has yet. I love that character. I enjoy writing him.
I don’t think of my Fagin as being the same as Dickens’ Fagin. In the universe of my take on Moriarty, Charles Dickens was a person who lived, and he wrote a book called OLIVER TWIST. And the guy that we see as Fagin in this comic idolizes Chuck Dickens’ Fagin and wants to be him. Our street-rat Fagin is actually a romantic at heart.
Anthony Diecidue, the amazing artist on this book, asked me about this, and I pointed to the kids you see about wearing SCARFACE t-shirts and saying “mang” and all that. They are taken with a sense of romance concerning Al Pacino’s portrayal of Tony Montana, and they want to emulate that. That’s how I picture my Fagin. He wants to be the Tony Montana of his time.
CV: Moriarty’s looking for Mycroft Holmes, who’s famously described as Sherlock’s older, and much more clever, brother. Since you're calling the shots, which Holmes do you judge to be the smarter of the two?
DC: Well, I don’t think Mycroft is more clever, per se. He is equal in booksmarts to Sherlock, but he lacks Sherlock’s sense of adventure.
Mycroft is a glorified lawyer, really. Members of Parliament and whatnot come to him and ask for advice. That’s his job. In American terms, Mycroft would be a walking, talking copy of the Constitution, and could give you mind-bending (and boring) interpretations of law and government policy.
But Mycroft has no street smarts. In “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans,” Mycroft is baffled over a crime involving a murder and missing plans for a submarine, and must consult his brother on the matter, and begs Sherlock to solve the mystery. So Mycroft has a lot of knowledge, but can't apply it in practical matters. So I think of Sherlock as being the more clever of the two.
CV: Finally, what can readers expect next from MORIARTY? Is it an ongoing or limited series? Where can more information about it be found?
DC: So happy you asked. You can check out our website, www.professorjamesmoriarty.com, find me on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/dangerkatt.
MORIARTY is going to be an ongoing series. The first storyline, THE DARK CHAMBER, will run four over-sized issues. After that, we shall continue for as long as the good folks at Image Comics say it’s OK.
The comic, however, is just a ruse. The Professor is trying to cook up a little positive PR to aid in a scheme that he is working on. I shouldn’t be telling you this, because if he found out, he would ki...