The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

League of Extraordinary GentlemenAnother comic-book limited-series I would highly recommend is Alan Moore‘s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, written by the man himself, illustrated by Kevin O’Neill  and published by America’s Best Comics.

Note: This bears only marginal similarities to the film of the same name.

The setting in particular is a fabulous creation; a fictional version of 1898 Britain in which characters and events from Victorian-era adventure literature actually exist. The series is characterised by ‘in-jokes’ and cameos from many of the great works of Victorian fiction, whilst also making contemporary references and jibes.

In the first six-part series, troubling developments lead to British Intelligence assembling a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a menagerie of the Empire’s greatest heroes, adventurers and foes.

This League is led by Miss Wilhelmina Murray (from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula) and comprises:

Allan Quartermain (elephant hunter and African explorer from H. Rider Haggard’s 1885 novel King Solomon’s Mines and it’s various sequels and prequels), Captain Nemo (the Indian submariner from Jules Verne’s 1870 novels 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island and Journey Through the Impossible), Dr Henry Jekyll/Mr Edward Hyde (from Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 short story The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and Hawley Griffin AKA The Invisible Man (from H G Wells’ 1897 novel The Invisible Man).

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This unlikely quintet become embroiled in the dastardly schemes of Fu Manchu (who is not mentioned by name for reasons of trademark) and Sherlock Holmes’s arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. A ripping good yarn unfolds.

In the second six-part series, the same league members combat the Martian invaders from HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds.

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There is also a prequel story “Allan and the Sundered Veil” in which Allan Quartermain enters a dream-world and encounters John Carter (from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom novels), Randolph Carter (from HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and The Time Traveller (from HG Wells’ The Time Machine). Together they face both Morlocks and Lovecraftian creatures from beyond space and time who are invading the universe through a hole in creation.

Could this get any better!

Amidst huge quantities of intriguing background material other earlier Leagues are revealed:

According to the New Traveller’s Almanac (an appendix to volume 2) the first incarnation of the League was known as “Prospero’s Men” and consisted of:

Prospero (the sorcerer protagonist from Shakespeare’s 1611 play The Tempest), Caliban (Prospero’s malformed, treacherous servant, also from The Tempest), Ariel (a sprite and air spirit bound to serve Prospero, also from The Tempest), Christian (a pilgrim Everyman protagonist of John Bunyan’s 1678 novel The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is To Come) and Captain Robert Owe-Much (British explorer and discoverer of the Floating Island called Scoti Moria or Summer Island from Richard Head’s 1673 book The Floating Island)

And a painting in volume 1 depicts a previous League, apparently consisting of:

The Reverend Dr. Christopher Syn AKA pirate Captain Clegg AKA The Scarecrow (from Russell Thorndike’s 1915-1944 Doctor Syn novels), Sir Percy Blakeney and Lady Marguerite Blakeney (from Baroness Orczy’s 1905 Scarlet Pimpernel novels), an elderly Lemuel Gulliver (from Jonathan Swift’s 1726 novel Gullivar’s Travels), Nathaneal Bumppo AKA Hawkeye (hero James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales the most well known of which is Last of the Mohicans) and Fanny Hill (the eponymous heroine from John Cleland’s 1749 pornographic novel Fanny Hill)

There are so many wonderful tidbits included in these volumes that receive barely a mention but are eminently worthy of further exploration:

“The Blazing World” a feminist utopia inhabiting an archipelago connecting the north pole to Britain and Iceland (from Margaret Cavendish’s Observations upon Experimental Philosophy), The Witch House and Exham Priory from HP Lovecraft’s The Dreams in the Witch House and The Rats in the Walls respectively), the location of Bram Stoker’s Lair of the White Worm, the world of the Vril (from Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race), the setting of William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, relics from Aquilonia (of Robert E Howard’s Hyborian World of Conan) and also form the Melnibonean empire (of Michael Moorcock’s Elric novels), the Snow Queen’s castle (from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen) and the Mountains of Madness and the City of the Old Ones (from HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness) to name but a few.

The list seems almost endless. Every page is a goldmine of great ideas!

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