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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

 

        The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a two comic book limited series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill, published under the America's Best Comics imprint of DC Comics. As of 2005 it comprises twelve issues (published as two six-issue limited series, each collected as in graphic novel form, but forming a single ongoing story), as well as a film adaptation of the first six-issue limited series. There is also a prequel short story, "Allan and the Sundered Veil", included in the book form of the first limited series. The story takes place in 1898 in a fictional world where all of the characters and events from Victorian era adventure literature actually existed. The world the characters inhabit is one far more technologically advanced than our own was in the same time.

 

About the series

        The title and concept of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen may be inspired by The League of Gentlemen (the novel and subsequent film, not the unrelated comedic television series) as well as the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. It may also have a seed in the comic book superhero teams Justice League of America and the Justice Society.

        The Victorian setting allowed Moore and O'Neill to insert "in-jokes" and cameos from many of the great works of Victorian fiction, while also making contemporary references and jibes. (In the first issue, there is a half-finished bridge to link Britain and France, referencing problems constructing the real-world Channel Tunnel.) The juxtaposition of characters from different sources in the same story is similar to science fiction writer Philip José Farmer's works centering around the Wold Newton family.

        Besides the character of Campion Bond every character in the series, from the dominatrix/schoolmistress Rosa Coote to single-panel throwaway characters like Inspector Dick Donovan, is an established character from a previous work of fiction or an ancestor of a character from modern-day fiction. This has lent the series considerable popularity with fans of esoteric Victoriana, who have delighted in attempting to place every character who makes an appearance.

        Sherlock Holmes and Dracula are notably absent from the League's adventures, though the former appears in a flashback sequence and the latter's connections to Wilhelmina Murray do not go unnoticed. Holmes is still believed by the public to be deceased following the events of "The Final Problem". Moore has noted that he felt these two seminal characters would overwhelm the rest of the cast, thus making the book a lot less fun.

Second press run on issue 5

        Issue #5 of Volume one contained an authentic vintage advertisement for a "Marvel"-brand douche, which caused DC executive Paul Levitz to order the entire print run destroyed and reprinted with the offensive advertisement edited. Marvel Comics is DC's chief rival within the industry and Moore had had a public dispute with Marvel, his former employer. Some copies of the pulped print run did escape destruction and may well be the rarest modern comic book existing.

        In a later title, Moore creates a "Miracle Douche Recall" headline on a newspaper, which is not only a reference to this furor, but is also a reference to the Marvelman/Miracleman furor, when Marvel Comics had previously forced Marvelman, which was written by Alan Moore, to change its name to Miracleman despite the "Marvelman" having been around for 40 years.

Future works

        Alan Moore has announced his intentions to write the adventures of other leagues in different historical eras. One possible group of heroes is seen in a portrait dated 1787 seen in the League's headquarters in the first volume of the comic. A slightly different version of the portrait can be seen in the film version.

        Moore departed from Warner Bros, including its subsidiaries DC Comics and Wildstorm Comics, as a result of a dispute with the filmmaker over an incorrect allegation that Moore had approved of the film version of another of his comic book works, V for Vendetta, and failed to retract the comment or apologize . As a result, Moore has confirmed that any future installments of League stories will be published by Top Shelf Productions and Knockabout Comics. "The Black Dossier" will be released May 30th, 2006 as of February 3rd, 2006, though there are few details regarding what this volume will entail.

About the League

        The year is 1898. Britain lives in troubled times, where fretful dreams settle upon its Empire's brow. If England's to survive them, a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is to be recruited by British Intelligence. A menagerie of the Empire's greatest heroes, adventurers, and foes is assembled.

        Despite the boasting and hubris of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, an event of great self-celebration on the part of the British, the general mood among British leaders and opinion-makers in the late-19th century is pessimistic. France is re-emerging as a world power and expansionist European rival, newly-united nations like Germany and Italy are disturbing the familiar world order, British exports are falling, the country no longer maintains a trade surplus, and the supremacy of the British manufacturing and commercial empire is being threatened by the German Empire and the United States. Finally, Britain's diplomatic isolation, which Lord Salisbury approvingly called the "splendid isolation" in 1896, has grown increasingly uncomfortable. Britain has no reliable allies, and it is disliked by many in Europe and America, not least for its actions in maintaining the Empire, such as the Jameson Raid in South Africa in 1895, which was a failed attempt to overthrow the Afrikaner government.

        The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is led by Miss Wilhelmina Murray (of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula), recruited for Military Intelligence by one Mr. Campion Bond (likely a homage to Margery Allingham's Albert Campion and Ian Fleming's James Bond). Miss Murray recruits the following four members subsequently:

  • 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);
  • Allan Quatermain (the elephant hunter and African explorer of H. Rider Haggard's 1885 novel King Solomon's Mines and its various sequels and prequels);
  • Dr. Henry Jekyll and/or Mr. Edward Hyde (from Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 short story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde);
  • Hawley Griffin AKA The Invisible Man (from the 1897 novel by H. G. Wells. Moore gave Griffin his first name, that of murderer Dr. Crippen).

History

        It has been shown that there have been previous leagues and implied there will be others subsequently. In particular Volume one features a portait of a previous league, the heroes in the portrait appear to be:

  • The Reverend Dr. Christopher Syn also known as the pirate Captain Clegg, and later known as the Scarecrow, the vicar turned pirate turned smuggler in the Doctor Syn novels (1915-1944) of Russell Thorndike.
  • Sir Percy Blakeney and his wife Lady Marguerite Blakeney from the Scarlet Pimpernel novels of Baroness Orczy published in 1905.
  • Lemuel Gulliver, the far-flung protagonist from the 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.
  • Nathaneal "Natty" Bumppo, the hero of the Leatherstocking Tales novels (1827-1841) of James Fenimore Cooper, the most famous of which is Last of the Mohicans. Natty has more different names than most literary heroes. In Cooper's novels he is variously called Deerslayer, Hawkeye, and Pathfinder as well as several other names.
  • Frances "Fanny" Hill, the eponymous heroine of the 1749 pornographic novel Fanny Hill by John Cleland.

        According to the New Traveller's Almanac, an appendix to the trade paperback collection of The League Vol.2, the earliest incarnation of the League was known as "Prospero's Men" and consisted of:

  • Prospero the Duke of Milan, the sorcerer protagonist of Shakespeare's 1611 play The Tempest.
  • Caliban, Prospero's malformed, treacherous servant, also from The Tempest.
  • Ariel, a sprite and air sprit, 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.
  • Captain Robert Owe-Much, a British explorer and discoverer of the Floating Island called Scoti Moria or Summer Island, President of the Council of the Society of Owe-Much, and the title character from Richard Head’s 1673 book, The Floating Island or a new Discovery Relating the Strange Adventure on a late Voyage from Lamberthana to Villa Franca, Alias Ramallia, to the Eastward of Terra Del Templo: By three Ships, viz., the ‘Pay-naught,’ the ‘Excuse,’ and the ‘Least-in-Sight’ under the Conduct of Captain Robert Owe-much: Describing the Nature of the Inhabitants, their Religion, Laws and Customs (published under the pseudonym Frank Careless).

        This league collapsed in 1690 when Christian found the "heavenly country" for which he was seeking, and thus left this world. Allegedly, Prospero later followed him, as hinted in the Almanac.

 

Source: Wikipedia.