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Apr 18 2012

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THE MOST FAMOUS CHARACTER IN FICTION?

I got to thinking – what’s a good subject for my first ever blog? Clearly, it has to be interesting, readable, a little different, and mildly controversial – at least enough to stir up some debate. It mustn’t be too serious either. As it’s my first attempt at blogging I don’t particularly want it to be about me, or my new web site, or my books, or what I’m writing just now, or what I plan to write next year, or whenever. I did what I always do in these situations; I took my Border Collie Sparky for a walk and had a think. This is what I came up with. I hope you like it.

Who do you reckon is the most famous fictional character ever created? Now there’s a topic for a winter’s night. Something you can argue about with your family over the dinner table, or your friends on-line, at the golf club, or wherever the fancy takes you. To start with, I wrote the word “literature,” then decided it was much too pretentious. Fiction is better because it includes movies, television, radio and just about any type of publication.

There are no ground-rules, you get to make a completely free choice and your opinion, your favourite character, is as valid as everyone else’s. I’m sure this has been tried before, although not by me. I resisted the temptation to check it out on Google because basically, I didn’t want to know the answer. We can even do a tally at the end, if enough of you have a shot at it.

OK then, where do we start? I’m going to throw a few likely characters into the hat to start the ball rolling. I suppose it would be deemed fit and proper to start at the heavy end of the scale, and in literary terms, I guess they don’t come much heavier that dear old William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon. Who was his top man? Five will get you ten it was Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark. The romantics among you may prefer Romeo and Juliet, the star-crossed lovers, or Portia, or Rosalind, Macbeth, or even Falstaff, if you have a humorous bent. There are a lot to choose from here, so take your pick.

Who’s next? I’d vote for Charles Dickens – but where do you stop? We’re really spoilt for choice. Oliver Twist, Mr Pickwick, The Artful Dodger, Scrooge, David Copperfield, Fagan, Tiny Tim, Mr McCawber, Bill Sykes, Little Dorrit and on and on.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe is reckoned by many to be the first real adventure yarn, although many believe it tells the tale of real shipwreck victim Andrew Selkirk. What about action heroes like Robin Hood and his Merry Men, or the eccentric Don Quixote, who could tilt at many a windmill. There must be room for King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, or Mole, Rat and Toad from Wind in the Willows. Still with the so-called quality end of the market, there is Mr D’Arcy, Heathcliff and Cathy, Peter Pan, Wendy and Captain Hook.

Mark Twain has always been one of my favourite writers. He produced a wealth of memorable characters including Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Also from across the Big Pond we mustn’t forget Uncle Tom and his Cabin, the Great Gatsby, Rip Van Winkle, Scarlet O’Hara, Captain Ahab, and Dorothy and the other characters from The Wizard of Oz.

Agatha Christie’s mysteries are still being printed and filmed long after her death and Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot have become firm favourites of new generations on both the large and small screen. I won’t attempt to name all the private eyes and crooks out there but Colombo has always been a particular favourite. Tarzan, Dracula, Alan Quartermain, Flashman, Dirk Pitt and Frankenstein are still going strong and have been portrayed by a variety of actors down the years.

Nowadays there’s a lengthy list of superheroes from which to choose. Take your pick of Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Indiana Jones, the Hulk, or Captain Marvel.

And what about those who boldly go to create the greatest split infinitive in television history? I’m thinking of Captain James Kirk, and Mr Spock, Bones and Sulu and Scott of Star Trek fame. Add others like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Flash Gordon, Dan Dare, Dr Who, the Dalaks and the Klingons and you have a formidable armada.

Animal stars like Lassie, RinTinTin, King Kong, Clarence the cross-eyed lion, Cheetah and cartoon characters Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Bambi, Tom and Jerry, Mr Magoo, Bugs Bunny, The Road Runner, Popeye, Peanuts and Homer Simpson all have massive followings.

I suppose in the end it comes down to how old you are, when you went to the movies on a regular basis and how much you read or watch TV. Do you prefer the good guys – or baddies like Dr No, Blofeld, Fu Manchu, The Joker, Jaws, Darth Vader, Dr Doom, Freddy or Hannibal Lecter?

Right. We’re getting down to the sharp end now. I’m going to throw three names at you and I’m prepared to bet a fair number of you will go for one of them. Ready? Here they come, in no particular order as they say on TV – Harry Potter, James Bond, old 007 himself and Santa Claus Do you rate any of them? I know who any kid under ten years of age would choose. You adults might plumb for the Bond man with the licence to kill.

There it is folks – thanks for reading this far. So long for now.

What? You’d like me to nominate my own favourite? Really, I wanted this to be your choice. All right then – I suppose it would be churlish not to. Quite simply he is that doyen of all private detectives – Mr Sherlock Holmes.

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8 comments

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  1. Steven Hart

    Sherlock Holmes is a good choice, but I’d put Jesus Christ and Tarzan above him.

    1. Brad Fleming

      Hi Steven. Tarzan is a fair choice – but when was the last story or film about him? You are, of course, entitled to your view of Jesus Christ, but millions wouldn’t accept he was fiction.

  2. Jess Williams

    Great post 🙂 Leaves me with lots to ponder!

  3. Brad Fleming

    Thanks Jess, I was a tad nervous about my first post and wanted to create a bit of interest. I hope to do a follow up on this topic in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, who is your own favourite?

  4. turner_tasha

    Great post. Pick just one favorite fictional character? I’m probably with you on Sherlock Holmes

    1. Brad Fleming

      Perhaps not so much with the younger generation, although they are still making movies and TV shows about him, but I can’t think of anyone else who comes close. As I say, I hope to do a follow up blog in a week or so which may surprise a lot of people.

  5. Steven Hart

    According to IMDB, there have been roughly 89 films derived from Tarzan, the most recent in 2008. There was a Tarzan musical on Broadway in 2006, derived from the Disney cartoon version. There were Tarzan radio serials, and several Tarzan TV shows, as well as innumerable parodies (e.g., George of the Jungle) and knockoffs. I’m particularly fond of the ongoing SNL skit “Frankenstein, Tonto, and Tarzan,” which had the three characters trying to accomplish things by grunting.

  6. Brad Fleming

    As I say Steven, Tarzan is in there with a good shout but Holmes is simply different class. A study in 1995 listed over 25,000 movies, plays, TV shows and publications featuring the detective – and there have been quite a few since then. There are more than 250 Sherlockian societies worldwide. The Holmes Museum in London’s Baker Street, attracts an average of 250,000 every year. Over 70 actors – some of them headline stars – have portrayed the great man (watch out for more details in a couple of weeks) and scores of writers are still producing SH books every year. Check them out on Amazon. As David Stuart Davies says in his excellent 2007 book “Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed on screen more than any other character in history.” My case rests.

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