The original plan for The Greys, back in 1994, was for a single panel format that we could sell to a magazine. We did have a few ideas for multi-panel gags, but figured that most editors would like a consistent size from month-to-month so that they could just draw a box early on in the layout process, label it as “Greys go here”, and know that at least those few column inches were done and dusted.

This was originally one such single-panel gag. We’d factored space for a title into our design, so this strip originally consisted of nothing more than the last panel (sans Sherlock/Colin) with a title of “The Greys Play Cluedo” (we’re in the UK – “Cluedo” is the board game known as “Clue” to readers in the US). Along with a host of other single-panel gags it lay dormant as nothing more than a line in my 15-year-old list of potential Greys gags, and Vince’s early sketchbook rendering:

That’s where it would have remained, if it was down to me. I’d glossed over it with the same disdain I reserve for many of our other ageing one-liners. But Vince evidently saw something in it that I didn’t, so offered to work it up in Inkscape. Figuring that, at worst, we’d end up with a spare “emergency” strip (the ones we trot out when we’ve got nothing better available and are pushed to a deadline), I told him that he was welcome to work on it if he wanted to. I’m glad he did.

What came back wasn’t the single panel of old, but rather the basis of the five panels you see above. Sherlock had made his initial appearance in the first scene, and the outline of the body populated the middle section. With five panels to fill I quickly realised that the old one-liner wasn’t going to get us very far, but the Sherlock Holmes character provided the inspiration to bring in a classic whodunnit monologue. There was more to do, of course, but the basics were there – and the joke was suddenly a whole lot richer than the throwaway panel in the sketchbook. I wonder how many other potential gems I’ve overlooked from that ageing list…

Another source of inspiration for this strip is the 1985 film “Clue” [IMDB listing] – a generally underrated comedy classic which we both love, and which was itself based on the Clue/Cluedo board game. One of the more distinctive features of the film is that it was released in three versions, each with a different ending, so the identity of the murderer varied depending on where and when you went to see it. If only there were some way to achieve that sort of effect with an SVG file…

Cette bande dessinée est aussi disponible en français
This comic is also available in French

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↓ Transcript
[Scene shows a Grey dressed as Sherlock Holmes]

G1: Gentlemen, I have gathered you here today because a murder has been committed.

I believe you all knew the unfortunate victim and that one or more of you can shed some light on the events which led to his untimely death

No doubt you have all heard Inspector Lastrade's theory that he was killed by a spurned lover, here in this very room, with a sonic screwdriver. But several facts about this case lead me to a very different, more sinister, conclusion.

The suspect in police custody could not possibly have sneaked out of her own engagement party unnoticed, committed this crime and returned in time for dessert.

So who was the real murderer?

And although the body was found in this very room, the scuff marks by the door and the lack of blood in the vicinity of the corpse indicate that the murder took place elsewhere, before the killer dragged his victim in here.

So where did this heinous crime actually take place?

Finally, those burn marks on the body don't look like the result of any sonic screwdriver incident that I've ever seen. Are they indicative of a different murder weapon? One that remains undiscovered by the authorities? Just what was the cause of death of this poor unfortunate?

So there we have it, gentlemen: the three questions that will lead to the real killer. Who? Where? With what? And I believe that somebody here already knows the answers…

[Scene shows several Greys playing a Cluedo-like board game]

ALL: It was Mr Grey, in the transporter room, with the phaser!

G2: You know, Colin, you really do take this far too seriously