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League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill, published under the America's Best Comics imprint of DC Comics. As of 2004 it comprises twelve issues (published as two six-issue mini-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 miniseries. more...

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There is also a prequel short story, "Allan and the Sundered Veil", included in the book form of the first miniseries.

Overview

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 year. This setting allows 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 issue 1, there is a half-finished bridge to link Britain and France, referencing problems constructing the real-world Channel Tunnel.)

The League is assembled by the British government to protect the empire from various menaces, including the criminal genius Fu Manchu (Vol. 1) and the Martians from H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds (Vol. 2).

The individual members of the League are:

  • Mina Murray (formerly Harker) of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula
  • Captain Nemo from Jules Verne's 1870 novels 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island
  • Allan Quatermain, the hero 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 novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Dr. Hawley Griffin, The Invisible Man from the 1897 novel by H. G. Wells (Mr. Moore gave Dr. Griffin his first name, that of murderer Dr. Crippen)

The League are recruited for the Government by one Campion Bond. Bond is an original creation likely an homage to Margery Allingham's Albert Campion and Ian Fleming's James Bond.

Campion Bond deserves special attention because he may be the only character in the series who is an original creation of Moore's. Every other 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, 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 Mina 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.

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.

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 volume 1 of the comic. A slightly different version of the portrait can be seen in the film version.

The heroes in the portrait appear to be:

  • Doctor Syn also known as the Scarecrow, the vicar turned smuggler in the 1915 novels 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 from the 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.
  • Natty Bumppo, the hero of the Leatherstocking Tales novels (1841-1827) 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.
  • Fanny Hill, the eponymous heroine of the 1749 pornographic novel by John Cleland.

According to the New Traveler'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, protagonist of Shakespeare's 1611 play The Tempest.
  • Caliban, Prospero's malformed, treacherous servant, also from The Tempest.
  • Ariel, a sprite, bound to serve Prospero, also from The Tempest.
  • Christian, a pilgrim, protagonist of John Bunyan's 1678 novel The Pilgrim's Progress.

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.

Inspiration

The title and concept 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; however, this connection is speculative and unconfirmed.

Synopsis

Volume one

Volume one opens with Mina Murray recruited by Campion Bond to assemble the League. Bond dispatches Miss Murray to Egypt along with an un-named "sea captain" (who later we discover to be Captain Nemo). Whilst in Cairo, Murray finds Allan Quatermain, who has become an opium addict. The duo are forced to flee to a port after Quatermain defends Miss Murray from a group of Arabs who attempt to rape her, killing two of their number. Down at the docks, Nemo emerges from the Nautilus and blasts the pursuing "mohammedan rabble" with a large harpoon gun, rescuing Murray and Quatermain.

Read more at Wikipedia.org


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