The Scarlet Derby
When I discuss my work at conventions and online, I often get the impression from people that The Scarlet Derby is based on Baroness Orczy’s classical heroic character “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Then I’m forced to to admit that I haven’t ever read that book, until very recently, now that so many people have pointed that out. I was simply writing out adjective/noun word combos that sounded especially “turn-of-the-century” and “The Scarlet Derby” just sounded right.
If I were to name a single literary inspiration for The Derby, it would be Sherlock Holmes, a series of books I’ve loved since the fourth grade. What makes The Derby distinct from Holmes, though, is that while the master detective has spent years honing his deductive craft, The Derby is still really young, really impetuous, and unable to hide the more gawky, uncivilized quirks that come from being a man of genius. His methods and mannerisms can sometimes be baffling, even to his crime-fighting wife. He’s somewhat black-and-white when it comes to the whole “right and wrong” thing, and if he’s ever deprived of the privilege to do justice, he acts like a complete child.
His civilian name, “Thaddeus Hedwater,” simply comes from my want to have the word “head” somewhere in his name. I was tickled by the notion that a man with the name “head” would throw on a derby, and that would be the extent of his heroic persona. I wanted him to always have messy, undone, hair. The “chicken comb” drawings from earlier editions didn’t quite express this. in his redesign, Thaddeus now has a crop of hair that’d make Harold Lloyd proud.
Like many alternate history protagonists, I wanted Thaddeus to be a scientist. However, I wanted to avoid creating a Reed Richards-type “omni-scientist.” Thaddeus specializes in chemistry, although he is also a pretty good self-taught mechanic. As The Scarlet Derby, he uses chemistry by mixing his own chemicals and wearing a bandoleer of test tubes containing everything from laughing gas to itching powder.