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Elementary, my dear Blog into Mystery – Classics Illustrated #33, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”

December 18, 2010

The dog on the cover looks like a possessed Scooby-Doo, no?

I’ve taken a quick gander at a couple of Classics Illustrateds before, but I didn’t find them to be all that good. They were stiff and listless and did little justice to the souce material. This one, though, was quite enjoyable, surely thanks to the presence of the world’s greatest detective (apologies, Batman), Sherlock Holmes. He’s quite possibly the most adapted character in all of fiction, so much so that people are more familiar with the myriad adaptations than the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories. It should come as no surprise that he would in turn translate well into the comic book medium, and the story presented here, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” has a tinge of the supernatural that’s well-suited to this arena.

The art, from Henry “H.C.” Kiefer, is what appeals to me most with this one. I often find Golden Age work (this issue was originally published in 1947) to be rigid and unexpressive, but Kiefer’s stylings are quite good. I think a lot of that has to do with the deep, moody inking, and I’m not 100% certain that Kiefer was responsible for that, but since he’s the only credit for this comic that I can track down I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. If anyone wants to prove me wrong, please fire away in the comments section.

This full-page blast shows Holmes and Dr. Watson arriving at the Baskerville manor — the scene has a broad cinematic scale to it:

There’s plenty of room for spine-tingling moments throughout the pages of the comic:

Oh, that Sherlock — what a merry prankster.

I very much liked the layout of the action in this page, as Holmes and his companions battle the eponymous hell-hound. Check out the championship-belt-shaped panel in the middle:

Bad dog!

This might just be another case of me being crazy, but I see a little bit of 80’s Keith Giffen in the art here. Something about the broad blacks and angular faces is evocative of his more abstract style (or perhaps it’s vice versa). In the past I’ve posted some scans of his art — you can find those here and here if you want to compare.

I could be imagining things. But, as Holmes himself would say, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

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