Last year. One of the best comic book mini-series that I got to read was a little book called Adler. The book’s premise was that Irene Adler. The only woman to ever get the better of Sherlock Holmes. Had put together a team of extraordinary gentlewomen to protect the world from really, really bad things. Indeed, the enemy that Adler takes on is very extreme.
Adler released as a trade paperback on 30 March and includes some of the concept art from Paul McCaffrey as well as additional writing from Lavie Tidhar in the form of a fantastic forward. As part of Titans Blog Tour for the release of the book. We here at SciFiPulse got to have a little chat with Lavie and Paul about the book and where some of the inspiration for it came from. You can check out what they shared with us below:
SciFiPulse: Lavie. You’ve written for many genres and have a shedload of books out there. What drew you to the world of comics and what would be your favorite genre to write for?
Lavie Tidhar: I got sucked into comics! I contributed fiction to a small-press magazine called Murky Depths, and its publisher, Terry Martin, offered me the opportunity to write short strips if I wanted to. I jumped at the chance, but I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I was doing! It was a great experience because it forced me to learn as I went, and I got to work with a whole bunch of different artists.
I’m not sure I have a favourite genre. I like stretching different muscles, as it were. Right now I’m writing a giant historical crime book, for example. No fairies or aliens in sight! And I’m really enjoying it! That should be out in 2022. I got paid to write a screenplay a few years back, and that was an interesting experience, and I’m making a weird short animated series right now with a friend. We’ve got some great voice actors and it’s slowly taking shape. And I get to do the easy part, which is just making stuff up!
Right now I got into making my own (very simple) mobile games, the first of which, Cornucopia: Catch Everything! Is already on the Play Store. So I like to keep experimenting! I’d love to do an old-fashioned point-and-click adventure game with Paul one day. And we’re working on a new comic…
SFP: You have a new Graphic Novel out called Adler, which is a brilliant book and features some awesome artwork from your collaborator Paul McCaffrey. How did you guys meet and what elements of the book were the most challenging from both the writing and art point of view?
Paul McCaffrey: We’d both contributed independently to Murky Depths. Terry, the publisher, thought we might work well together and that’s how Lavie found himself saddled with me as an illustrator on our first collaboration, the (not-quite) children’s book Going To The Moon.
Period accuracy is always a bit of a challenge but the reference material is out there. There’s no excuse for getting it wrong! Throughout the whole series, though, there was probably something on almost every page that made me think, How am I going to tackle that?!, everything from death-ray-disintegrations to air-ship battles. And then there are the horses! These challenges keep things interesting, though.
Lavie Tidhar: Going to the Moon came out back in 2012, and I don’t think anyone ever read it, but do you know what? To me, it still might be the best thing I ever did. I love that little book. So Paul and I were casting about for something else to do together when the chance came to pitch a bigger project to Titan.
I’ll be honest, writing it was pure fun for me! But as Paul notes, it’s very easy for me to write “Victorian death ray machine!” or “Airship battle over London!” and it’s a far different thing for Paul to then go and have to draw it. He did complain to me a couple of times that I didn’t exactly make his life easy… ha!
SFP: Paul you did a lot of great splash pages and steampunk-inspired imagery for Adler. What would you say is the imagery that you are most proud of from the book?
Paul McCaffrey: The rain-soaked dock-side pages from #2 were one of those challenges I mentioned but I’m not unhappy with the way they turned out. The single page I like most is probably the scene in which Havisham is testing out her new gun in the garden, shooting melons.
SFP: It’s pretty obvious that the story to an extent is a little inspired by Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But with some of fiction’s most extraordinary women. But what was it about Irene Adler that stood out for you as the lead character for your story?
Lavie Tidhar: I like Moore a lot, but I can’t say this is inspired by the League other than by what I assume would be Moore’s own literary inspirations. It’s really more stuff like Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula books, which predate Moore by more than half a decade, or the earlier novels that formed what K.W. Jeter jokingly coined “steampunk” back in the 1980s (to describe the Victorian fantasies he was writing along with his friends Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock). And the other half of it is of course a love of the original Victorian novels themselves! When it came to pitching it, the Moore comparison was a useful shorthand, so it stuck.
I love the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I love all the minor characters Doyle created (like Roylott, the poisoner, who has a cameo in Adler, if you look closely). I felt Adler wasn’t treated very well in recentish media adaptations, and just out of sheer bloody-mindedness decided to do something about it.
SFP: Was there any point in the development process for this story that some of Paul’s artwork changed or improved on story elements for the book. And Paul what aspect of the story did you find the most enjoyable from your viewpoint as an illustrator?
Lavie Tidhar: The story is of course perfect in every way and… ha! I’ll be honest with, I’ve been so busy I’ve not even opened the comics as they arrived, I’m sort of waiting for the graphic novel to admire it properly. There’s amazing visual stuff there, like when I asked Paul to draw the Egyptian Hall. I did a lot of research into this stuff back when I was writing my Bookman books, so the Egyptian Hall is real and so are the poor performers who appear in it – and Paul made them come to glorious life. And they don’t even have lines! They’re just there in the background.
Paul McCaffrey: When I first read the script, it struck me as a rollicking adventure, filled with fantastic imagery and a cinematic scope: murky London streets, ancient Amazonian kingdoms, hidden lairs, steampunk technology, brutal deaths and cataclysmic explosions. Bringing all that to life has been a lot of fun. And challenging! The most enjoyable part of the process for me, though, is always designing the characters.
SFP: Paul having flipped through my copies of Adler again. I noticed that you used a slightly different colour palette for each of the ladies. For example you used a lot of Reds and Reddish Browns for Irene Adler and Whites for Estella. Was this always your plan?
Paul McCaffrey: Yes, that was the intention. I felt it was crucial that each character was visually distinct from the others and individual colour palettes seemed like an obvious way of attempting that. Estella’s whites outfits are a nod to Miss Havisham’s wedding dress from Great Expectations. The ‘fiery redhead’ is a bit of a cliché but seemed appropriate for Irene Adler and would help her stand out. It seemed only natural, then, to extend that to her costume. Jane is ex-military so I chose khaki browns and greens for her.
SFP: Paul is there a character or set of characters from literature or comics that inspired you to become an artist. If so what were they?
Paul McCaffrey: American comics were a very profound and early influence on me, as were Hanna Barbera cartoons such as The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (I distinctly remember attempting to draw each monster-of-the-week on a weird little checklist!) but I’m not sure any specific characters proved inspirational. Back then, I bought whatever I could whenever I could, although I was a big fan of Conan the Barbarian and Howard the Duck, I seem to remember. When 2000AD appeared, I was an instant fan, particularly of Judge Dredd. Inspiration also came from numerous films and TV shows, over the years – anything from Dracula, Rollerball and Death Race 2000 to Jaws, Star Wars and Alien. I had absolutely no desire to draw comics, though! That came much, much later.
SFP: Lavie. Same question but from a writing point of view. What characters or authors from literature would you say spoke to you and spurred you into writing?
Lavie Tidhar: If I’m lucky there’s maybe a writer every couple of years who I discover and they blow my mind and make me re-evaluate how to write. So I hope I’m still learning and still discovering. As a kid I mean, it’s clear I inhaled all these old books, Holmes and Tarzan (thinking about it, there’s quite a lot of Tarzan in Adler, isn’t there?), the Three Musketeers, Jules Verne, you know, the classics. I love the Moomins with a passion, and Michael Ende’s books (he’s known for The Neverending Story but his other books, like Momo, are amazing), and today I am actually heavily influenced by picture books. My next novel, The Escapement, draws on a lot of picture books, as well as silent film and surrealism. It’s a Dr Seuss Western by way of Dali.
SFP: Finally. Is there any chance of another Adler story and would her world be one that you’d both like to revisit. I mean there is a gaggle of interesting historical events you could set another story in?
Paul McCaffrey: These characters have been living in my head for years and I’ve really come to like them, the villains as well as the heroines. Lavie and I are working on a new project but I’d hate to think we’d never revisit them!
Lavie Tidhar: I’m not sure how much I can say but maybe on TV… But you didn’t hear that from me!
I did do some research recently and I have some notes on where Adler goes next in the comic and yeah, we’re thinking how best to do it. It would be fun!
Well. You heard it here first at SciFiPulse. Thanks to Imogen at Titan and Lavie and Paul for taking the time to speak with us and if you haven’t already. Go to Titans website and order Adler now. You’ll not regret it. It’s a brilliant story with some fantastic art.