If you name the top villains in all of literature, Professor James Moriarty would easily rank in there… Except Sherlock Holmes enemy only actually made two, brief appearances in the original Holmes stories. Filling in that gap – or rather, following up where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left off – is writer Daniel Corey, who’s news Image series MORIARTY: THE DARK CHAMBER sees its third issue out this week.
To find out more-iarty, we chatted with author Corey about where Moriarty has been, where he’s going, and what Sydney Pollack said about laying pipe. That last one just sort of came up naturally:
MTV Geek: For people who have no idea what MORIARTY: THE DARK CHAMBER is… What is it? Huh?
Daniel Corey: Well, it’s about Professor James Moriarty, who is the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, and for the people who aren’t quite as familiar, he only appeared in a few of Conan Doyle’s stories. He more or less invented Moriarty as a device to kill off Sherlock. So there was this fateful duel at Reichenbach Falls, but then of course, several years later, Holmes emerged alive – because he needed to write more stories.
But popular culture has elevated Moriarty to the level of ever-present supervillain… Everybody thinks of him as Sherlock Holmes Lex Luthor. Everybody loves that character, but we never saw too much of him in those original stories. So I wanted to take him and make him the lead in my book, make him an anti-hero of sorts. The premise is, it’s twenty years after the death of Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty has survived, Sherlock is gone. World War I is breaking out, it’s chaos in the streets, but Moriarty is drifting through as a shell of his former self. But then MI-5 comes to him, and blackmails him into this mission to find Mycroft – Sherlock’s brother. He can’t resist this opportunity, but he ends up getting sucked through this web of intrigue involving espionage, secret societies, ninja assassins, a quest for a psychic box that everybody is after.
There’s also this other villain who’s trying to be greater than Moriarty ever was, so he’s trying to take back the night as it were, and become the world’s greatest supervillain again, by defeating this other guy.
Geek: Now, where’s Sherlock in all of this?
DC: He’s on Moriarty’s mind constantly… He’s the invisible third person in this. We saw him die in Reichenbach Falls, so it’s a world without Sherlock.
Geek: What’s appealing to you about the anti-hero?
DC: I’ll tell you, coming from the theater, I wrote a lot of plays back in the day. I always come from a place where, starting with someone’s flaws… Their flaws are their character. So you’ve got a super villain here who’s cast in this role of fighting other bad guys, so anti-hero is where I usually go in the beginning.
Geek: Let’s talk about the first issue a bit… It’s almost a hero’s journey, refusal of the call type thing, where he waits to say, “Okay, I’m Moriarty again,” until the end of the issue… Why was it important to set things up this way?
DC: I wanted him to start off in “the bad place,” in terms of being lost, being a shell of himself, not knowing what to do with his life. Starting at the bottom is a good place to start, because eventually you’ve got to climb towards the light. Now the light Moriarty starts to climb towards is a little darker than ours, but I’m sending him off on the journey at a very low point… It gives us something to identify with him, because he’s not the kind of guy people identify with right off. I had to put him in that situation, so people could say, “Oh yeah, I’ve been out of work. I’ve been trying to take control of my life. I have a sense of destiny that I want to fulfill, too.” And I hope we’re all having a more positive sense of the world than Moriarty does, but at least that gives us a place to start. And he has to come back from that… Sydney Pollack once said, you want to lay enough pipe in your story, so that once something happens, it feels inevitable. So starting him off at the low point, it feels inevitable that he’s going to be coming back from that.
Geek: Where are we going next?
DC: The second issue came out June 8th… The first storyline is going to be four issues, and we’re going to be an ongoing series after that. We’re getting the trade in the end of the year, probably in September, and just going to keep going after that. There’s a lot of different types of things Moriarty can do, a lot of different places he can go. I can’t tell you too much, but we’ve got stories to tell for a while.
Geek: So how are you going to take it crazier than psychic boxes… Moriarty on the Moon, maybe?
DC: No, it’s not going to go that crazy.
Geek: Well, you just lost one reader, sir.
DC: [Laughs] Sorry to lose your business.