What happens when you cross Hunter S. Thompson with Arthur Conan Doyle? Probably something like Holmes, Omaha Perez’s self-published mini-series. Perez’s version of Holmes may have more in common with Keith Richards than Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, but Perez promises it’s all in good fun — he’s actually a Sherlock Holmes fan himself.
Perez published Holmes himself under his O-P-P banner, but this March AiT/Planet Lar will release a remastered collection.
JK: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. For those who may not be familiar with your work, can you give us a little background on how you got into doing comics?
Omaha: Of course, John, I’m happy to do it.
I actually started doing indie comics back in the mid-90s. In art school I did a few short comic stories, several of them adaptations of dreams or nightmares I had. One of these, a little three-page painted story, I submitted to an indie anthology title and right after I graduated I found out it was getting published. That was in ’93. That was my first paying job as an artist and turned out to be the beginning of a trend. The vast majority of my comics work, whether self-published or not, has been self-initiated.
JK: What else have you worked on besides Holmes?
Omaha: I contributed to a couple of obscure horror anthologies and then published my first full-length comic, Prey For Us Sinners from FantaCo in 1995 with writer Franz Henkl. I edited and contributed to an anthology called Shock The Monkey and one called Raw Periphery from Slave Labor — I’m still really proud of that one. I had a pretty good flirtation with the bigger publishers — a pin-up here, a couple pages there — before I got sidetracked into the video game industry full time. I came back with my self-published Bodhisattva graphic novel in 2003. I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment. After that I did two issues of the Periphery anthology and then on to Holmes.
JK: Don’t take this the wrong way, but Holmes is kind of a … well, different book, literally Sherlock Holmes on acid, or the 19th century equivalent, anyway. So why Sherlock Holmes, and why this particular take on the character?
Omaha: Ha ha! No, not at all. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the positive reactions to this book. It’s obviously not to everyone’s taste, but though I have received a few derisive notes from outraged Sherlockians, most people –- even Sherlockians -– have taken it in the spirit that was intended … good fun. I’m actually a big fan of Doyle’s! I also happen to be a big Hunter S. Thompson fan.
I first read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when I was in art school right after I had finished re-reading the Sherlock Holmes canon. It was just a funny idea to me. I thought, even Sherlock Holmes couldn’t just shut off a narcotics addiction. So following that train of thought, what if the opposite were true? What if he’s constantly out of his head and Watson’s not much better off, the Dr. Gonzo to Holmes’s Raoul Duke? That’s where a lot of the comedy in Holmes comes from. This counterpoint between the outrageous things Holmes and Watson are really doing and Watson’s cleaned up narration of events.
JK: Actually that anology puts the book in a different light … so Watson is kind of the enabler to Holmes’ behavior?
Omaha: Oh, definitely. I see it as Watson is feeding Holmes’s delusions, and then buying into them himself. Also, it’s in Watson’s best interest for Holmes to be the great detective he writes about.
JK: All told, how long did it take you to do Holmes?
Omaha: That’s pretty deceptive because I had to draw it in fits and starts. Technically, it was two years between when I started issue 1 and finished issue 4. I was squeezing the work in between paying jobs, so unfortunately sometimes months would go by before I would find time to work on it again. That’s one of the big reasons I found it necessary to re-touch pages for the collection. If I could have afforded to sit down and draw it all at once, I figure it would have taken me about four months of fulltime work. Drawing comics is extremely hard work!
JK: How did Larry Young convince you to let him publish the Holmes collection?
Omaha: His enthusiasm! There were several publishers that displayed an interest in doing it, but Larry made a point of letting me know he really wanted to do the book. And when you’re dealing with a creator like myself, someone not too keen on schmoozing, that enthusiasm goes a long way. So I feel really good that Larry and Mimi will get the book some attention and hopefully sell a truckload!
JK: Will the collection have any extras that the mini-series didn’t have, or is it a straight-up collection of the mini?
Omaha: There is no additional material, but this is kind of the remastered edition. The script is virtually identical to the original series, but I have re-touched dozens of pages of art. The scratchboard art from the original series covers are featured as chapter heads. And then of course there’s the new cover. So this really is the definitive edition.
JK: What are you working on next?
Omaha: Comics-wise, I’m writing and drawing a nine-page color story for Comic Book Tattoo, the massive Tori Amos anthology book coming from Image this summer. Past that I’m putting together a bunch of proposals, a couple as writer/artist, and several as writer (I am seeking other artists). I’m really loath to do another full graphic novel off on my own, and I’m definitely through with self-publishing. These projects need homes before I make that kind of time commitment again.
The Holmes collection ships in March from AiT/Planet Lar (Diamond Code: JAN083322).