The Most Popular Fictional Character of all Time

The Most Popular Fictional Character of all Time ….

…is probably not who you think it is. He is not a superhero. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman: they do not rate even a distant second. James Bond is not in the running; nor is Jason Bourne nor any other spy. Santa Clause is not fictional; seriously, he is not. Tarzan makes the playoffs but gets trounced by the all-time champion.

Here is the first and only clue. The following Oscar winners have, at one time or another, worked on projects based on this character: Ian Mckellen, Christopher Plummer, Michael Caine, John Gielgud, Charlton Heston, Billy Wilder, Ben Kingsley, Robert Duvall. I am excluding performers who might have been nominated over the years without a win (Peter O’Toole would be one such) and I am excluding the many Tonys and Emmys won by countless performers, writers, and directors – all of whom have been drawn to the most successful fictional character of all time:

Sherlock Holmes.

A search of the York County Libraries’ catalog shows almost 700 items attached to the Great Detective. These items cover all genres: novels, ebooks, graphic novels, movies, TV series, and several items of nonfiction. If we housed old-timey radio dramas or produced stage plays (sorry, we do neither) a few more hundred items could be added to the list.

Remarkably, the Holmes industry is based on only 4 novels and 56 short stories. In fact, Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator, was not especially fond of Holmes. He stands accused of often being rather slapdash about details. Nonetheless, almost any writer who works in the mystery/crime genre, has to address Holmes. Here is a very small sample of some of the writers who have done so. Good luck searching for them!

1.) Stephen King. Yes, that Stephen King; he wrote a short story called “The Doctor’s Case.”

2.) A. A Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, wrote a Holmes story.

3.) Anthony Horowitz, perhaps more famous as a creator of several British TV series and as a YA writer (the Alex Rider series) has two Homes novels.

4.) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Yes, that would be the same Abdul-Jabbar whose memory lives forever in the NBA Hall of Fame. He has a couple Holmes novels with an emphasis on the Great Detective’s brother, Mycroft.

Or, if you read Japanese, try finding the short story by Futaro Yamada. Or, if you like science-fiction, try a collection of short stories curated by Isaac Asimov. Horror fan? You can find novels in which Holmes fights Dracula, Jekyl and Hyde, and Jack the Ripper.

I said earlier that York County Libraries hold almost 700 items. The Library of Congress lists well over 2000 and Amazon says they sell over 5000 Holmes books. As Holmes would say, “the game is afoot.” Happy detecting and happy reading.