Canon Thursday: Is Sherlock Holmes a Superhero?

Sherlock_Darling

 

The other day, I found myself answering the question, “Who is your favorite superhero?” I started with predictable Marvel Comics characters Spider-Man and Iron Man, but I really couldn’t resist putting in Sherlock Holmes. In defense of my choice, I mentioned that he’s not only the world’s greatest detective; he’s also an expert boxer and martial artist, a good enough actor to have been one professionally, and a phenomenal musician and composer. In one story, he even bends an iron fire poker with his bare hands to show his massive strength.

While each of these skills could certainly be possessed by other people, I find it a stretch to consider Holmes an entirely ordinary hero since he possesses them all at one time. The actor Benedict Cumberbatch has been known to refer to Holmes as having an attainable superpower, and I tend to agree.

On the other side, Holmes isn’t Batman. He only uses available technology (for whatever time period he’s adapted into) and good, old-fashioned brains to do most of his work. There’s not a natural sci-fi element to the stories. He’s just really, really clever and exceptionally mindful, and Doyle famously based him on a real person, Dr. Joseph Bell (though rather loosely, I’d imagine).

I’ll agree that Holmes isn’t a traditional superhero of the cape-wearing, mid-century comic book variety, but I also find it difficult to argue that he’s a completely ordinary man. Each talent he possesses may be explainable, but their existence together in one person, combined with how Holmes uses them, makes him just to the side of superhuman in my estimation.

What do you think? Can Sherlock Holmes be called a superhero, or is he just an extremely compelling character?

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The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

 

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One thought on “Canon Thursday: Is Sherlock Holmes a Superhero?

  1. I would beg to differ that there was no element of what we now call science fiction (and which was in the day called speculative fiction) in the stories. Spec-fic includes SF, horror, and fantasy, and those DO exist in the canon in a fair amount.

    Colonel Moran’s air-gun was a super-weapon of the day; we also have references to submarine plans. Granted, the first submersible was built in 1620, and something approximating a “real’ submarine used in the American Civil War. Still, a submarine in that day was something equivalent in fiction to a spacecraft today, and could attain high levels of sophistry.

    Fantasy and horror elements also abound in, e.g. The Hound of the Baskervilles (horror and fantasy; the concept for the Hound is that of a cu sidhe from Celtic myth) and The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.

    For whatever it is worth, while Holmes did not himself develop most technology, he did develop methods — classifying ash, identifying soil, cataloguing fingerprints, and of course the Holmes haemoglobin test. And he always ensured the latest technology and equipment was installed in 221b, such as telephones, as soon as they became available.

    Superhero? Inasmuch as Bruce Wayne/Batman, or perhaps Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (or Marvel’s Hawkeye) are superheroes, of course Holmes is a superhero. I could see a delightfully charming (and probably very exciting) crossover story in which he and Bruce Wayne team up to solve a case; short of Wayne’s adoption of an alter-ego, I think their styles are very similar.

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