Issue #1: Empire Dreams
"We live in troubled times, where fretful dreams settle upon the Empire's brow." ~Campion Bond to Mina Murray (Issue #1, Page 4, Panel 3)
While the England presented to us here is an alternate one, this is the first real hint we receive that Moore might be examining some issues of Victorian-era society and empire throughout his work. The British Empire of 1898 was indeed a troubled one, as issues such as Darwinism, the New Woman, and the notion of the "degenerate British" were plaguing Victorian society with anxieties.
"The Indian mutineers may have surrendered, but I did not. If I work with the British, it is because I no longer feel even Indian. The sea, now, is my only nation." ~Captain Nemo to Mina Murray (Issue #1, Page 13, Panel 2)
Nemo alludes here to the Indian Mutiny (or Uprising) of 1857, an attempt by a mutinous group of sepoys in India that ultimately led to the British taking control over the country (see external links for more information). Nemo makes clear, however, that he refuses to identify with the mutineers, or even with India itself, which makes him an interesting study in Victorian notions of identity--his Latin name of "No one" suggests that he has abandoned the entire idea of having a nationality, that his identity is not bounded by his ethnicity or social caste.
“Nemo: But what of you? What of your history? Why would your British secret service place a music teacher in the company of men as dangerous as Quatermain or myself? You are not qualified…"
Mina: "Dangerous men? Why captain you have no idea. As for my qualifications they must remain my own affair.” ~Nemo and Mina (Issue #1, Page 15, Panels 3-4)
This quote not only shows the view of women being inferior to “dangerous” men and Nemo’s high view of himself and Quatermain. It also alludes to Mina’s past in Dracula as the reason as to why she should be taken seriously by the men. But by refusing to tell the men of her past and her qualifications she only makes the men distrust her more.
“In the next number of our picture periodical there are further scenes to divert and astonish, including episodes of a bawdy nature that our Lady readers, being of a more delicate sensibility, may wish to avoid” ~Narrative Caption (Issue #1, Page 24)
This quote coincides with the Victorian view that women are inferior to men and are of a “delicate sensibility” and therefore cannot be subject to grotesque pictures. Also, this quote points to the idea that the novel is aware of its form, since it is acknowledging its publication.
Issue #2: Ghosts & Miracles
Hyde's Prehensile Toes (Issue #2, Page 7, Panel 2)
When in his Hyde form, Jekyll exhibits some highly ape-like qualities, especially his simian facial structure and the prehensile toes seen here. These details both echo Stevenson's own description of Hyde and also perhaps suggest some fin-de-siécle
anxieties concerning Darwinism and the alleged degeneration of the Victorian race.
“A waspish tongue, Miss Murray, is to my mind but one of the many unattractive features of the modern suffragette.” ~Campion Bond to Mina (Issue #2, Page 9, Panel 1)
This quote continues the Victorian notion that women are inferior to men and alludes to the new woman movement that occurred at the end of the 19th century.
"I fear he collects monsters." ~Nemo, referring to Bond (Issue #2, Page 11, Panel 7)
Nemo speaks volumes with this short statement. Throughout his body of work, Moore has often been preoccupied with the notion of the hero, and how those whom we perceive to be heroes may be not so heroic after all (Watchmen explores this idea considerably). Heroes have long been a popular part of fiction (indeed, of all human storytelling), but in Victorian fiction especially there was a renewed interest in the hero story, as adventure novels and popular literature described bold adventurers and heroic conquests. But the members of the League might all be considered monstrous in some way. Even Quartermain, ostensibly the most "normal" of the group, struggles with his addictions throughout--the opium and laudanum he craves are their own monstrosity. Nemo's statement (which seems especially appropriate given the monstrous idol depicted behind him in the panel) echoes back to Bond's statement at the beginning of the first issue that "The British Empire has always encountered difficulty in distinguishing between its heroes and its monsters." This monstrosity, then, might reflect the concerns of the Victorian age, when humans, once seen as heroic figures, were increasingly coming to be seen as monstrous in their actions.
Quatermain: "Nemo, what are we doing here?"
Nemo: "Ha! Yes, it is curious, isn’t it? The great colonialist and the great colonial rebel. For my part, if I’m honest, I’m here because I wanted another adventure."
Quatermain: "Yes, it’s hard to just stop, isn’t it? When we stop, we start to fall apart.” ~Nemo and Quartermain (Issue #2, Page 15, Panels 1-2)
This quote gives us the reason as to why Quatermain and Nemo agree to be a part of the league but it also alludes back to both of Nemo and Quatermains original stories as being manly and heroic, which goes along with the Victorian literary view seen in both Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
and King Solomon’s Mines
that men are the adventurous type and are always looking for the next adventure.
“The next edition of our new Boys’ Picture Monthly will continue this arresting yarn, in which the Empire’s Finest are brought into conflict with the sly Chinee, accompanied by a variety of coloured illustrations from our artist that are sure to prove exciting to the manly, outwardgoing youngster of today.” ~Narrative Caption (Issue #2, Page 24)
This is yet another quote that shows the bias of Victorian literature to men but also shows the anxieties and racism that was prevalent in many Victorian novels.
Issue #3: Mysteries of the East
Mina smoking (Issue #3, Page 1, Panel 1)
That Mina is smoking a cigarette here both suggests that she has distanced herself from her role as a traditional woman ("proper" women did not smoke cigarettes, especially not in company) and puts her on an equal level to the men, several of whom are also smoking in the following panels. Moore is making it clear that Mina is as valid a member of the League as Quartermain or any of the others.
“That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to earn a pardon and perhaps a cure. The only empire I’m interested in is my own: the Empire of Invisible Man the First.” ~Griffin to the others (Issue #3, Page 1, Panel 2)
This quote is interesting because it not only gives us a better knowledge of Griffin but Griffin also contradicts himself in this statement. He wanted to be a part of the league for a cure so that he can rejoin humanity, yet he then says that he only cares about himself. Why then should he rejoin humanity if they mean nothing to him?
“Well, after seeing that yellow devil at his work this afternoon, I’m prepared.” ~Quatermain to Mina (Issue #3, Page 18, Panel 1)
This quote deals with the racism towards Chinese in the Victorian era that becomes inherent especially after the opium wars.
“This doctor is an opium warlord. Out east, they have entire criminal secret societies in their employ, called triads. Your doctor is the first to export this idea” ~Quatermain to Mina (Issue #3, Page 18, Panel 2)
This quote says something about the new world that was emerging at the end of the Victorian era. Not only were materials being traded globally but so were ideas. New ideas that challenged the norm of society. This notion was a frightening to the Victorian and the anxieties shows through numerous depiction of outsiders in literature.
“Tremble, dearest reader, at the horrid spectacle of Johnny Chinaman, armed with the mighty weapons of our new Electric Age and bent on turning them against our island home! Can any force prevail against this terrible affront? Do not fail to reserve the next edition of our illustrated chap-book and thus learn the outcome of this rousing and invigorating narrative!” ~Narrative Caption, when Mina and Quatermain find Chinese “flying machine” (Issue #3, Page 24)
This quote deals with the racism against the Chinese after the opium wars but it also touches on the subject of the new “Electric Age” that the world was coming into. The fear that this new technology would lead to humanities downfall in some way was a common theme in Victorian literature.
Issue #4: Gods of Annihilation
“Mr. Quatermain, you do not know me or my history very well. More to the point, you do not have the first idea about my dreams. Dreams that were merely bad, sir, would be a great relief to me.”~ Mina to Quatermain (Issue #4, Page 5, Panel 2)
This is a clear allusion to Dracula
Hyde: "Hurrrrgh! What a hole! It stinks of Chinamen and the river!"
Griffin: "Really? I can't smell anything..." ~Hyde and Griffin (Issue #4, Page 12, Panel 4)
Interestingly, Hyde displays both superhuman sight (he is somehow able to see Griffin) and smell, as evidenced here. In some ways, then, he is less than human (specifically in his ape-like appearance), yet in others he is beyond a man's capacity. Moore is perhaps commenting on the power of the "beast within"; though Hyde may appear primitive, he is a force to be reckoned with.
"Why are men so obsessed with mechanisms that further nothing but destruction?" ~Mina to Quartermain (Issue #4, Page 15, Panel 5)
Mina's distaste for violence might reflect the anxiety at the time that men would eventually destroy themselves. The emergence of modern warfare and advanced technologies capable of destruction (machine guns in particular) would have doubtless reinforced this anxiety.
Issue #5: "Some Deep, Organizing Power..."
“The point is that I’m supposed to be the person organizing this…this menagerie! But that will never do, will it? Because I’m a woman?” ~Mina to Jekyll (Issue #5, Page 15, Panel 2)
Mina tries to be the leader of the league and tries to validate that leadership but she ultimately knows that she cannot win against the Victorian notion that woman are inferior to men.
“Hmm. For my part, she’s no more distressing than most western women. They all disobey their men and dress like whores.” ~Nemo to Quatermain (Issue #5, Page 16, Panel 2)
Common Victorian notion of the woman. She is either the virgin or the whore.
"There was some scandal, after which they underwent one of your English divorces." ~Captain Nemo, referring to Mina and Jonathan Harker (Issue #5, Page 16, Panel 3)
While Nemo never explains what "scandal" he refers to, we can only infer that he alludes to the events of Dracula. It may be that Mina's near-infection by Dracula somehow made it into the public eye, and given the equation of vampirism and sexuality in Dracula, she might have even been labelled a "fallen woman."
“Now half London’s to have horror rained upon it. All because of my ridiculous female naivete!” ~Mina to Quatermain (Issue #5, Page 21, Panel 3)
This is an allusion to Mina’s character in Dracula
. She often represents the new woman with her actions but constantly degrades them with her speech. She is supposed to be the leader of the league and displays actions that make it seem like she is, but with this one simple sentence she reverts to the Victorian notion that woman are naïve.
Issue #6: The Day of Be-With-Us.
“Aheh. And that’s your plan? An unarmed balloon against that thing? Now I see how you chaps did so well with your Indian mutiny…” ~Griffin to Nemo (Issue #6, Page 8, Panel 1)
This quote refers to what the British called the Indian Munity while the Indians call it the Indian Rebellion, and it is also referred to as India’s first war of independence. This rebellion occurred during 1857-1858 when the Indian soldiers began a revolt against the British rule because of new cartridges that had pork grease on them which was unholy to the Indian Muslim soldiers.
“Th-that is, he’s too big to need one. At least, he is these days. Do you know, I was once taller than he was?” ~ Jekyll to the others (Issue #6, Page 8, Panel 3)
Allusion to The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
, where in Jekyll’s final letter he says that he notices that Hyde is beginning to grow.
"D-dear gracious God! That inhuman mechanism! I-it's...it's so unsporting!" ~Mina, upon witnessing Nemo's automatic harpoon gun (Issue #6, Page 14, Panel 2)
While Mina's comment might seem like throwaway black humor, she touches on an important concern of the day. The Crimean War and American Civil War heralded the emergence of modern warfare, and there were several incidents in the late 19th century, particularly the Battle of Omdurman (see Winston Churchill's account, available here
), in which the British army killed thousands of Sudanese dervishes while only losing several dozen men, thanks to technologies such as those seen here.
"Sergeant? Throw this smelly little lesbian over the side." ~Moriarty, referring to Mina (Issue #6, Page 16, Panel 3)
That Moriarty refers to Mina as a "lesbian" is perhaps a reference to her New-Woman tendencies, though it is difficult to say how Moriarty would know of this.