Wilhelmina Murray - The de facto leader of the League. She originally appeared in Bram Stoker's Dracula as Jonathan Harker's fiancée and eventual wife, as well as a close friend of Lucy Westenra and a primary narrator of the novel. The vampire Count Dracula begins to feed on her at night and eventually forces her to drink his blood, apparently creating a link between them that allows Mina (when hypnotized) to see Dracula's position, which in turn allows Dr. Van Helsing and the others to track him down and destroy him. Mina is a curious mix of New Woman and "traditional" woman roles, as she exhibits certain qualities of New Woman-hood (using technology, holding a job as assistant schoolmistress) yet criticizes aspects of the New Woman lifestyle. The events between Dracula and the League, however, have hardened her considerably, as she has apparently divorced Jonathan, and she exhibits a marked independence and aggression throughout the novel.
Allan Quartermain - The hero of several H. Rider Haggard novels, most famed for his appearance in King Solomon's Mines. Allan is the prototypical Victorian adventurer, as he spends much of his adult life exploring and hunting in Africa. However, in Moore's universe his adventures take a turn for the strange, as the events of "Allan and the Sundered Veil" (a prequel to the League) lead him across space and time, battling with The Time Machine's Morlocks and the grotesque aliens of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction before finally being deposited in Cairo, a drug-addicted, emaciated shell of a man until Mina recruits him to the League. Quartermain seems the most "ordinary" of the members, though there are hints throughout of his colorful past (in Issue #2, for example, he can be seen closely examining a statue of relics in the British Museum, next to which is labeled "Cult of Ayesha," a reference to his involvement with the Armahagger Queen in Rider Haggard's She and Allan. He seems somewhat attracted to Mina, though he often grows frustrated with her (perceived) impertinence.
Captain Nemo - Captain Nemo is the captain of the Nautilus and a primary figure of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He is a mysterious, at times frightening figure within the novel who leads the narrator and several others on a journey around the world under the sea. Though he is initially described as a Polish nobleman, Verne changed his ancestry to Indian in The Mysterious Island. Nemo is articulate, proud, and often short-tempered, and he appears disillusioned within the League with the current state of British empirical affairs. He also displays an amazing intellect, as he often deduces the course of events before they happen (which has led to some reader speculation that Nemo is, in fact, Sherlock Holmes in disguise).
Henry Jekyll - A sallow-faced, gaunt man, Henry Jekyll is one-half of the split protagonist of R.L. Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the novel, he is a successful scientist and generally sociable man, though he has apparently hidden away many secrets throughout his life. He concocts a potion that bring out his darker half in the form of Hyde, who steadily grows more and more powerful until Jekyll will turn into him at any provocation or stress. Jekyll supposedly dies at the end of Stevenson's novel, but he appears to have somehow survived in the League, and he is showing the effects of Hyde's presence within him, as he constantly appears greenish and sickly.
Edward Hyde - The dark half of Jekyll's personality, initially separated via a chemical mixture. Whereas Jekyll is small and spare, Moore depicts Hyde is a hulking, ape-like monstrosity, with fanged teeth and prehensile toes--a substantial difference from the small, twisted figure of Stevenson's novel (though at one point Stevenson's Jekyll notes Hyde's growing stature, which suggests that his evil half has grown much stronger). Hyde is cruel and deliberately immoral, relishing the violence which he is called upon to commit throughout the adventures of the League.
Hawley Griffin - Griffin is the eponymous scientist of H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man, an inquisitive and brilliant young man who discovers a formula to make a human being invisible. Unfortunately, after he performs the experiment on himself and becomes invisible, his mind begins to fragment, and he begins to commit increasingly serious crimes. A fellow scientist with whom Griffin studied at university discovers that Griffin has gone totally mad and eventually lures him down to a West Sussex mob, who beats him to death. However, in the League it is revealed that the real Griffin had made another "half-wit" man invisible, and it is apparently this man we see killed at the end of The Invisible Man. The Griffin of the League is intelligent but totally amoral, raping young women and murdering a constable without remorse; his only motivations in joining are to earn a pardon and possible cure for his invisibility.
|title||Topics for Discussion|
•How does reading a graphic narrative differ from reading a prose one? What are certain things a graphic novel can do that a novel cannot? How does point of view in this graphic novel (third-person) affect our overall reading of the text?
•Overall, what do you make of the fact that Moore decided to use characters that already existed in literature? If you are familiar with Watchmen, how does the use of existing characters in The League of Extraoridnary Gentlemen differ from the creation of characters, which was the case for Watchmen? What does the reader expect when they read a story that includes characters who appear in other works? What is at risk when you remove characters from their respective environments and place them with one another to function as a whole? How do the previous roles that they had play a part on the roles that they are forced to embody when they are with one another?
•How do Moore's interpretations of the characters differ from their original counterparts? When we see these characters put in front of our eyes, how does this toy with our initial perceptions of what they would look like before we saw them drawn out as graphic novel characters? For example, how does Mina Murray differ from the original Mina Harker? Does the graphic part of the novel affect our perception more than the fact that these characters are being given new dialogue?
•Consider the role that disguise/deception has in this novel. Which characters appear to prefer functioning without social recognition, and which ones seem to appreciate the attention a bit more? Is disguise/deception necessary for the acts that these characters need to commit, or does it function more as a commentary on their personas?
•Do you consider the members of this group to be heroes? If so, which ones do you think fit that mold/idea best? Who seems to acknowledge this label and act upon it? If not, what makes you feel this way? Bravery and nobility are often two words used prominently when discussing what makes up a hero; consider this when deciding on each character. Which characters appear to recognize their obligation(s) as a hero? Which ones seem to shy away from it?
•What particular Victorian/fin-de-siécle anxieties might be reflected in this novel? What can each character tell us about these anxieties? What can the depiction of the city of London tell us?
•What are we to make of Moore's choice to include Arabic and Chinese text in the novel? Would this have been acceptable in a non-graphic novel? More so, how would this have been integrated? Does the fact that we are given images to supplement the languages make it more acceptable and easier to comprehend?
•Consider the title of the novel. Do you feel that the men involved in this group are in fact gentlemen? Do you consider Mina Murray to be a gentlewoman? What makes/doesn't make these individuals qualify as gentlmen and a gentlewoman?
•Look at the other covers at the back of the graphic novel. Consider how the drawings differ from cover to cover. What perceptions are altered by examining all these covers? (For one, this is the only place that we see Mina Murray without a scarf)
|title||Form is Content|
Issue #1: Empire Dreams
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.
"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)
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.
"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)
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.
“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 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.
“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)
Issue #2: Ghosts & Miracles
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.
Hyde's Prehensile Toes (Issue #2, Page 7, Panel 2)
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.
“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)
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.
"I fear he collects monsters." ~Nemo, referring to Bond (Issue #2, Page 11, Panel 7)
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.
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 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.
“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)
Issue #3: Mysteries of the East
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.
Mina smoking (Issue #3, Page 1, Panel 1)
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?
“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 deals with the racism towards Chinese in the Victorian era that becomes inherent especially after the opium wars.
“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 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.
“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 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.
“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)
Issue #4: Gods of Annihilation
This is a clear allusion to Dracula.
“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)
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.
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)
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.
"Why are men so obsessed with mechanisms that further nothing but destruction?" ~Mina to Quartermain (Issue #4, Page 15, Panel 5)
Issue #5: "Some Deep, Organizing Power..."
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.
“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)
Common Victorian notion of the woman. She is either the virgin or the whore.
“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)
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."
"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)
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.
“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)
Issue #6: The Day of Be-With-Us.
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.
“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)
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.
“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)
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.
"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)
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.
"Sergeant? Throw this smelly little lesbian over the side." ~Moriarty, referring to Mina (Issue #6, Page 16, Panel 3)
|title||Biography: Alan Moore, Distinguished Author|
Alan Oswald Moore was born to Ernest and Sylvia Moore on November 18, 1953, in Northampton, England. He grew up in a working-class family, often under the care of his eccentric and superstitious grandmother. Largely left to his own devices, he spent much of his childhood reading comic books. Moore gained entry to Northampton Grammar School, but he was expelled at age 17 for dealing LSD and barred entry to the local universities and art schools.
Moore began taking a variety of odd jobs to make a living. At the same time, he began to get involved with the Northampton Arts Lab, experimenting with art, music and literature. It was also at this time that Moore met his future wife, and after their first marriage he began working a desk job to support his new family. Eventually, however, it became clear to Moore that he would likely be trapped in an office job for the rest of his life, and he began his attempt to become a professional comic book writer or artist. He briefly attempted a career as an artist, but he soon discovered writing to be better-suited for his sensibilities, and he began selling short strips to various magazines, emerging as a new talent within the comic book world.
He first rose to fame with his Marvelman revival series and his ten-issue V for Vendetta series, the latter of which remains one of his best-known works. In 1983, Moore began to work with DC Comics on a revival of the Swamp Thing series of comics. As he rose in international prominence, Moore's scope began to widen, as he undertook a Superman story arc and a Batman one-shot entitled The Killing Joke. But it was with the publication of Watchmen in 1986-7 that Moore truly came to be hailed as a comic-book legend, and along with other late-1980's icons such as Frank Miller and Art Spiegelman, Moore soon became a figurehead for the exploding graphic novel movement. However, Moore began to grow increasingly disillusioned with the treatment of his work, and in 1989 he ceased working with DC.
It was during this time that he was to publish From Hell and Lost Girls, two highly complex and provocative Victorian-era works dealing with Jack the Ripper and pornography in children's stories, respectively. Moore eventually made his way back to mainstream publishing, however, and after several smaller projects, he returned to the forefront of the comic book world in 1999 with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Moore continues to work on the League series today. He is also involved in a number of other projects, including founding a new "underground" magazine entitled Dodgem Logic.
Smoky Man and Gary Spencer Millidge, ed. Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman. Leigh-on-Sea, England: abiogenesis press, 2003.
Alan Moore Interview, 1988
|title||Biography: Kevin O'Neill, Esteemed Illustrator|
Kevin O'Neill was born in London in 1953. While he had only a casual interest in superhero comics as a child, it was the reprints of MAD magazine in comic book form that truly inspired him to be a comic artist. He worked as a colorist for some time at the British publisher IPC until being transferred in 1976 to work on the newly-launched sci-fi title 2000AD.
His first major success, in 1980, was Nemesis the Warlock, a series within 2000AD written by comics author Pat Mills. Outrageously violent and highly satirical, the strip proved popular with readers, but O'Neill eventually had to the leave the series due to financial difficulties.
In the mid-80's, O'Neill moved to the mainstream American comic publishers, DC and Marvel, a venture that initially proved unsuccessful, as the Comics Code Authority often took umbrage with his violent, dark works. Even his series Marshall Law (a satire focused on a government-hired "superhero killer"), while popular with readers, was met with complaints from Marvel.
When Moore approached O'Neill about illustrating The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, O'Neill happily agreed, and in preparation for the first volume he extensively researched original engravings and drawings of the characters. He continues to work with Moore on the third volume of the League, as well as contributing to Moore's new Dodgem Logic project.
July 1999 Interview
February 2009 Interview
February 2009 Interview
|title||Resources and Links|
Neo-Victorianism; or Rewriting the Long Nineteenth Century
Neo-Victorian Studies - online journal of Neo-Victorian studies; includes analysis of literature, film, art, and other media.
Baker, David. "Colonial Beginnings and the Indian Response: The Revolt of 1857-58 in Madhya Pradesh." Modern Asian Studies 25.3 (1991): 511-543.
Cozine. Joshua. "Mina: the magical female: Inferential sexism in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Film International 5.2 (2007): 43-7.
How to Read Comics - a quick guide on how to approach reading comics and graphic novels.
McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. This is an astonishingly in-depth examination of the comic strip (and graphic novel) as a medium of communication, expression, and art.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Annotations - A heavily annotated guide to the series. Includes translations of the non-English text and instances of allusions to other Victorian works.
Original Full Texts - The original texts upon which Moore draws his League, available for free on Project Gutenberg.
King Solomon's Mines
Twenty Thousand Leagues
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Invisible Man
Alan Moore Interviews - A compendium of interviews with Moore. As his works have often proved controversial and ambiguous, it can be helpful to understand where he's coming from and what he's attempting to accomplish in his works.
Steampunk - The "steampunk" genre (to which the League belongs) is a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy that prominently features steam-powered technology, usually set in the 19th century or in Victorian England. There tends to be an overlap between the steampunk and "alternate history" genres, as many authors have used steampunk to re-examine historical periods (particularly the Victorian) in a different light. In recent years, steampunk has moved beyond the bounds of literature, as steampunk art and music are becoming increasingly popular.
Steampunk Magazine - Free online magazine featuring steampunk literature, poetry, and art.
Steampunk on boingboing - Compendium of steampunk fiction, art, architecture, fashion, music, etc.
|title||Alan Moore Talks - The _League_|
Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill discuss their work on the League.
Originally aired on BBC 4's Comics Britannia series.
|title||The League of Extraordinarily Poorly-Received Films|
This is the trailer for Stephen Norringon's 2003 film adaptation of the League. Both Moore and O'Neill expressed extreme disappointment with the adaptation, and Moore refused to receive credit or any royalties for the work. It should also be noted that the film version differs from the graphic novel significantly.
This book cover is ©2000 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, but it is believed that the educational use of this cover qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law, for these reasons: (1) it is a low resolution copy; (2) it does not limit the copyright owner's rights to sell the book; (3) this copy cannot be used to produce illegal copies; (4) the image is pertinent to the wiki; (5) the image is being used for educational purposes only and not for commercial distribution.