Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Case File Reveals A Mycroft Holmes Mystery
Aug 03, 2016
By Allyn Gibson
Basketball legend, novelist, and superstar polymath Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brings his take on Sherlock Holmes' older brother to comics at last! An all-new adventure set in the world of the bestselling Mycroft novel, The Apocalypse Handbook sees the diffident, brilliant Mycroft pulled into a globe-spanning adventure at the behest of Queen Victoria and a secret organization at the heart of the British government.
An all-new adventure for fans of Sherlock Holmes mysteries or the Mycroft Holmes novel, this exciting comic series sees Abdul-Jabbar team with best-selling novelist Raymond Obstfeld (Joker and the Thief) to pen a fresh, all-new story that adds new revelations and insights into the life of Mycroft.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was kind enough to answer a few questions about the latest Mycroft mystery and his fandom for all things Sherlock Holmes. See what he had to say below!
Pick up Mycroft Holmes: The Apocalypse Handbook #1 (JUN161803) now at your local comic shop!
PREVIEWSworld: When did you first read the Sherlock Holmes stories? When did you become a Sherlockian?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I read some in high school, but I became really hooked while playing in the NBA. I would read the stories and novels while traveling to different cities. The long plane rides and tedium of living in hotels was vanquished by my submersion into the nasty crimes 19th Century England. It was my guilty pleasure.
PREVIEWSworld: What appeals to you about the Sherlock Holmes stories? What do you take from them? How have they affected your life?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: At first, it was just entertainment. I love to read history books, so this was a way to experience the time period while enjoying a distracting mystery. But I soon found a much deeper kinship with Sherlock that resonated with me on a personal level. Like Sherlock, I am a bit reserved when it comes to relationships with the public. And like him, I appreciate logical thinking. To me, logic is the key to saving humanity from its self-destructiveness.
Soon after my emersion into the Holmes stories, I found myself honing my own deductive reasoning in all aspects of my life. Even in basketball I would use the staff members from various sports venues as my own Irregulars to gather information about opponents’ injuries that might help me better play against them.
PREVIEWSworld: Which Sherlock Holmes story is your favorite? Why?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Every time I name one title, I later regret that I didn’t mention another. As much as I like the stories, I prefer the novels because it means spending more time with Watson and Holmes. I especially like The Hound of the Baskervilles because it appears to be horror story without rational explanation, until Holmes applies his expertise. For me, the story is a metaphor for much of the irrationality that people use to explain what they don’t want to examine closely.
PREVIEWSworld: Last year Titan published your novel, Mycroft Holmes. How did you come to write a novel about Sherlock Holmes' older and smarter brother?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I like the challenge of reimagining familiar characters in new settings. The BBC version of Sherlock does an excellent job reimagining the characters but still staying true to the part that we love so much. I thought it would be fun to do an original take on a character who barely appears in the stories, yet has such an impact on Sherlock’s psyche.
PREVIEWSworld: What appeals to you about Mycroft Holmes as a character?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Sherlock admits that Mycroft is smarter than he is. I love the challenge of writing about someone even smarter than Sherlock. Trying to come up with ways to show how clever he is took many hours of contemplation, frustration, but ultimately satisfaction.
When we meet Mycroft in Doyle's "The Greek Interpreter," Mycroft Holmes is an indolent, obese middle-aged man burrowed deep into the British Government. Your Mycroft Holmes is a younger man, early in his career in the Her Majesty's government. How does else does he differ?
I’ve actually created two distinct Mycrofts. The one in the novel is brilliant but still a product of his times: earnest, proper, and naïve. The Mycroft in my comic book is brilliant, but also cynical, subversive, and an adventurer. He has more Deadpool in him than he does Sherlock.
PREVIEWSworld: What do you see as the differences between Mycroft and his younger brother, Sherlock?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Sherlock appears in the first issue of the Mycroft comic in order to clearly establish the stark differences. Sherlock is a young student at Cambridge while Mycroft is a 27 year old still attending Cambridge in order to avoid any real work. He gambles, sleeps with his professor’s wife, and basically parties as an antidote to his boredom. Like Sherlock, his immense intellect makes the daily routine of life insufferable. An international threat causes the British government to enlist his help, which he agrees to just to alleviate his ennui. However, the arc of his character across the five issues is one of going from bored cynic to committed agent of Great Britain. While Sherlock’s narcissism keeps him in private service, Mycroft chooses to use his abilities to serve humanity, which he finds fulfilling.
PREVIEWSworld: Titan Comics is publishing your comic book series, Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook. How did this series come about?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I’ve been reading comic books since I was a little boy, so I’ve always wanted to do one of my own. I’ve been a fan of DC’s Elseworlds and Marvel’s Noir stories in which they imagine their comic heroes in alternate universes and times. After finishing the novel, I started wondering what Mycroft would be like as an Indiana Jones type adventurer who starts out as a selfish rogue but eventually comes to learn the value of humanity. So, I created a Mycroft that was different from the one in Guy Ritchie’s movies, different from the one in the BBC series, and even different from my own creation in my novel. I envisioned him to be a witty and brave man with just a touch of con artist in him, like Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy.
PREVIEWSworld: For comic book readers who may not have read Mycroft Holmes, can they jump right into Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook? What should they know?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: You don’t have to know anything. He’s a completely original version of Mycroft right from the first issue.
PREVIEWSworld: Do you have further plans for Mycroft in either novels or comics?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Plans are afoot.
PREVIEWSworld: Why do you think Sherlock Holmes and his world have endured for over 125 years?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Sherlock and Mycroft represent humans at the height of their intellectual potential. The stories allow us to imagine ourselves as the people we want to be rather than who we are. It’s a super-power actually within reach, if only we had the discipline to train ourselves. Even though we don’t, most people coming out of a Sherlock Holmes movie or finishing a story starts looking at everything as a clue. That in itself makes us more engaged with the world around us.