Larry Gosser's Sherlock Holmes
by Mark Irwin
Case N° 130607
ILLUSTRATING THE GREAT PIPE-SMOKING DETECTIVE: LARRY GOSSER'S SHERLOCK HOLMES
by Chas. Mundungus
Gosser's Rathbone-Inspired Holmes
I don’t know how many of us first took up the pipe under the influence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective, but I suspect that for a certain circle of adolescent literati, Holmes was a major influence. In the rather introverted circle I ran with in my late teens, literary and film influences were hugely determinative of our paradigms. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, the giant Doubleday omnibus with Christopher Morley’s introduction, was de rigueur; the Annotated Sherlock Holmes of William S. Baring-Gould a badge of distinction; and to be allowed by your parents to smoke your pipe in the house most awesome of all. As I was blessed with all three of these advantages, I can’t explain why fame and glory have so eluded me in the decades since.
As some of you know, in a former incarnation I was the office boy at E. C. Comics, where I emptied the ashtrays of such comic-book giants as Frank Frazetta, Wally Wood, and Joe Orlando, not to mention running out to get pipe cleaners and tins of Edgeworth Slices for Bill Gaines. In the incarnation previous to that, I was cell-washer for Chuck Jones and Fred Avery at Termite Terrace, home of Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies. All of this says something (sad, probably) about my present status on the karmic wheel as a freelance doodler, loafer extraordinaire and primary pipe-acquisition-disorder client of Dr. Irwin, but it also explains in my strong attraction to the artwork of Indianapolis-based cartoonist Larry Gosser.
I first noticed Gosser’s work a few years ago, not long after he’d begun work on a series of Basil Rathbone-inspired illustrations for the Peterson Sherlock Holmes pipes, and lately as Dr. Irwin has been incessantly whining about some Peterson book he’s working on, I took it upon myself to contact the artist through his great website, Drawing Room G.
M: So how did your love of pipes come about?
L: I think I was influenced by the aroma from my dad’s pipe. I often have pipes nearby when working up an idea for a drawing… I like to handle the pipes I own, study the shape and draw some inspiration.
M: What spurred your interest in the Peterson Sherlock Holmes series?
L: On a whim I just ‘roughed’ around with the character of Holmes and the Baskerville pipe in the Peterson line. I had become aware of the pipes while googling Sherlock pictures to work from. My plan was to just sell the original drawing. As I had it in a .pdf form I just thought what the heck and sent it to Kapp & Peterson. I came in contact with a marketing person and they commissioned me to do the rest of the original seven pipes—it was GREAT fun doing these illustrations in a creative way.
M: I was really excited when I saw your illustration from Basil Rathbone’s last Sherlock Holmes film Dressed to Kill (1946), which featured a large ceramic Peterson’s Tobacco jar. I thought, “No way!” and that very evening streamed a public domain print of the movie, where, lo and behold, there was the famous detective in a tobacco shop, just as you portray, with the Peterson’s jar filling half the frame.
L: Yes , very cool. Thanks! The scene in that tobacco shop with the Peterson jar was one I had to do. I’ve always been a Basil Rathbone fan. He epitomized Holmes in those films of the 40’s. He’s also very good in earlier films as the villain … if you’ve never seen Captain Blood (1935) or The Mark of Zorro (1940), Rathbone really shines.
M: Dressed to Kill was even more of a revelation to me when I watched the Bluray restoration recently, which confirmed that all through the film Rathbone is smoking one of my favorite all-time Peterson shapes, the 4A, which first appeared in the 1905 catalog and is still being produced with different stems as the Standard System #309 and the saddle-bit Deluxe System 4S. Thanks to you, I’m now in the process (a very leisurely one) of screening all fourteen of the Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films to see if there are any more K&P pipe surprises.
A Contemporary #309 with factory-retro A stem, masquerading as
Rathbone's 4A in Dressed to Kill
L: Very interesting- you’ve given me another reason to check those films out again.
I guess it was meant to be, my love of Sherlock Holmes, the thoughtful, reasoning man, unraveling the latest mystery while sitting and enjoying the pipe. One of my favorite Holmes’ quotes occurs in “The Man With the Twisted Lip”: “‘I reached this [result],’ said my friend, ‘by sitting upon five pillows and consuming an ounce of shag.’” There’s something to be said about pushing the PAUSE button, slowing time down a bit and getting lost in the moment.
M: Do you smoke or own any of the pipes you’ve drawn?
L: I own the Sherlock Holmes Baskerville pipe in the silver band line. I plan to get the Lestrade, my favorite shape in the series.
M: There are now 18 pipes in the SH series, 7 from the Classic Collection, 7 from the Return of SH, and 4 in the Adventures Collection. Do you have plans to illustrate them all?
L: I would like to. Sherlock Holmes described a “Three Pipe Problem” in “The Red Headed League” to Watson. This sounds like an “Eighteen Pipe Problem” for me, but yes, if I can carve out the time it would be fun.
Right now I’m working on a set of the Holmes Crime scene drawings (always a pipe incorporated) true to the Doyle canon, and I’ve found that I really need to get these right. Holmes fans out their have called me on the carpet so to speak on getting details correct! But it’s been great getting to know some of these fellow Sherlockians and developing friendships.
M: Switching gears a little, I’m an inveterate war-movie fanatic, and there’s a scene in The Pacific (2010), the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg sequel toBand of Brothers (2001), where a returning vet who’s taken up pipe-smoking on his tour of duty is chided by a friend as he fills his pipe—“What’s up with the MacArthur bit? The Mammy Yokum? The Popeye the Sailor?”—and the soldier replies to the effect that it gives him something to do, settles his nerves, “packin’ it, smokin’ it, cleanin’ it.” I mention this because of the last cartoon reference to Popeye, who is probably recognized around the globe, although very few have actually read any of the original E. C. Segar newspaper strips, which have now all been issued in a marvelous 6 volume edition by Fantagraphics. You’ve also done an incredible series of prints based on Segar’s originals. How did you meet up with this pipe-smoking sailor?
L: The old 1-eyed pipe blower and I have a long history. I became friends with the owners of the Popeye Museum in Chester , Illinois, Elzie [E. C.] Segar’s home town. I collect old Popeye toys and love doodling , cartooning him whenever I’m between things. I sent an idea of ‘Pappy’s Pool Hall’ with Popeye , Bluto and Wimpy being the main players (Pappy being Popeye’s dad). The folks at the museum loved it and wanted to sell through their store. I went through the process with King Features and their art Director, fine-tuned my piece and it led to doing 3 other Signed and Numbered Art prints.
M: In addition to Popeye and Sherlock Holmes, you’ve taken up at least two more series dear to the hearts of many readers—the Wild West and James Bond.
L: I know more about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Wild Bill Hickok than I really ever wanted to… it just started and grew. Some collectors want to own the original drawings and others purchase my prints. On the 007 side, I’ve really just been interested in doing the weapons/ firearms used in the movies- not the gadgets, and I’ve found a few collectors interested in these pieces. I personally don’t know a lot about firearms. In my very brief experiences of shooting at a target I think I could do better throwing the gun at the target than actually shooting it.
M: Let me know when you get around to drawing my personal Wild West pipe-smoking anti-hero, Lee Van Cleef in those great Sergio Leone westerns, so I can save up.
Check out Larry’s website at www.drawingroomg.com, where you can view images from his recent gallery, see what’s currently available, even commission original pieces, as well as contact him directly. Tell him the old office boy at E.C. Comics sent you.
MUNDUNGUS PIPE STATISTICS:
62 pipes in current rotation
16 unsmoked pipes
Average time spent daily looking at pipes: 28 minutes
Average time spent daily thinking about pipes: classified
Average time spent daily smoking pipes: 1 hr 58 minutes