Scott D. Parker
Last week, I watched the first five episode of Masters of the Universe: Revelation. Kevin Smith served as the showrunner. He’s a (seemingly) beloved member of the geek community who made movies lots of geek boys and girls enjoyed, but the reaction (among some) to the new MOTU (as the cool kids refer to Masters of the Universe) series was, um, over the top?
I had never seen any of Smith’s films until 2019 when I watched them all. Having been introduced to his style of filmmaking and immensely enjoying the banter between Smith and co-host Marc Bernardin on the Fatman Beyond podcast, I was going to give MOTU: Revelation a look. I had never seen anything MOTU in its forty-year life, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
But that got me thinking about the mystery community and if there were any properties, characters, or franchises that generated that kind of vitriol. Honestly, I could think of few if any. Well, until a month ago.
Two of the biggest reactions that come to mind involves Sherlock Holmes. Back in 2009 when the Robert Downey, Jr. film came out, folks had a few things to say about Downey’s interpretation of the famed detective. As I wrote in my review of the movie, Downey merely went back to the original source material—A Study in Scarlet—to get his inspiration. Don’t blame him. Blame Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for not following up on concepts he originally wrote in 1887.
Cut to ELEMENTARY, the CBS TV show that dared to gender swap Watson. If Jeremy Brett’s version of Holmes is my favorite traditional version of the character, then Johnny Lee Miller’s interpretation is my favorite non-traditional version. And Lucy Liu as Watson more than held her own. In this show, both characters were allowed to grow and evolve, something the original Doyle version didn’t do.
Perhaps the closest in terms of reactions to MOTU is fans of The Shadow.
I’m not sure if you knew this or not but James Patterson has written a new Shadow novel and die-hard fans of the character are losing their minds. Granted, I’ve not read it yet, but fans are chastising Patterson’s choices at just about every turn. I’ll reserve final judgement until I’ve actually read the novel, but I always hang my hat on a standard thought: if The New Thing (which might not be 100% accurate to the original) gets new readers/viewers interested in the Original Thing and go back and read/watch the original, is that a bad thing?
Other Mystery Properties
I know of but haven’t read any of the Ace Atkins-penned continuations of the Spencer novels originally written by Robert B. Parker. Still, I can’t remember any blogger or YouTuber going out into the world and bitching about it.
I know Max Allen Collins continued Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer stories, but Collins was specifically selected by the late Spillane to continue the work. I can’t remember anyone complaining. It’s more Mike Hammer!
I think, but can’t confirm, that there’s a Hercule Poirot continuation.
Did anyone complain when John Gardner started writing new James Bond novels?
There might be more, but I think you get the point. By and large, and to the best of my knowledge, mystery fans don’t have a cow when a new person carries on the legacy of an established property.
No Ruining of Our Respective Childhoods
Well, possibly it’s because many of these beloved characters we discovered are first read as adults, Holmes being the likely exception. There’s no danger of someone like Garnder “ruining our childhoods” by making Bond do something different than original author Ian Fleming. Heck, the movies already did that.
I’m pretty sure mystery fans loved their characters just as much as geek boys and gals love MOTU or Star Wars, so why isn’t there an outcry when an old property is given new life?
I don’t have the answer, but what are your thoughts?