Publication historyThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a series of graphic novels by writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O'Neill which began in 1999. It spans two six part limited series' and a graphic novel published by American publishers America's Best Comics (an imprint of Wildstorm/DC Comics) and a third miniseries and a graphic novel published simultaneously in the US by Top Shelf Productions and in the UK by Knockabout Comics (after Alan Moore pulled the series away from America's Best Comics due to personal issues with DC Comics). Moore described the original concept as being a Victorian version of the Justice League of America in England, though the narrative has since advanced beyond that premise.
The plotThe story begins in 1898, with Mina Murray (heroine of Bram Stoker's Dracula) recruited by British Intelligence to form a team of unusual individuals to protect the Empire; initial recruits include Allan Quatermain of King Solomon's mines fame, Hawley Griffin the Invisible Man, Henry Jekyll and his alter ego Edward Hyde, and Captain Nemo. The team stop a gang war between Fu Manchu and Professor Moriarty, then become involved in the War of the Worlds, losing members along the way (the duplicitous Griffin is raped to death1 by Mr Hyde, who is himself later killed in an act of heroic self-sacrifice). Murray and Quatermain eventually become immortal and are next seen in 1958 (in a story which follows the fall of the Big Brother government from 1984), and later in an adventure which spans the years 1910-2009, and which involves an evil magician's attempts to unleash the Antichrist on the world (by which time, Allan and Mina have been joined by the gender-switching smug immortal Orlando). There are also a number of spin-off stories featuring Captain Nemo's daughter.
The series' main characters and most of the minor characters are derived from classic works of fiction, mostly Victorian, though later stories include numerous cameos by characters from later works of fiction, including The Doctor from Doctor Who, Dan Dare, Jet-Ace Logan, Andy Capp, Buster, and various characters from The Avengers including Emma Peel, Tara King, Cathy Gale and Purdey. James Bond is depicted as a deeply unpleasant character, a cowardly, incompetent liar and rapist, and a double agent for the US government; Bond is eventually replaced by a succession of namesakes, each one slightly younger than the last, who look suspiciously like certain well-known movie actors. He is, however, never explicitly referred to as "James Bond" since Bond is not in the public domain; instead, he's referred to as either "Jimmy" or "Sir James". The same goes for all the other characters in this paragraph, who are cunningly anonymised or semi-anonymised because they aren't in the public domain either.
Possibly one of the most obscure characters to appear is Rosa Coote, a dominatrix who appeared in several works of Victorian erotica in The Pearl magazine. Katy Carr, originally the twelve-year-old heroine of the classic children's book What Katy Did and its sequels, appears as a teacher with a taste for inflicting corporal punishment who works at Miss Coote's girls' school.2 Another children's heroine, Alice of Wonderland fame, is revealed to have died of starvation after her trip through the Looking Glass reversed her body chemistry and left her unable to digest anything, while Rupert the bear appears as a slavering monstrosity created by lunatic animal experimenter Dr. Moreau. One suspects Alan Moore's childhood imagination was a scary place (albeit impeccably logical).
The first story was very loosely adapted (by comics writer James Robinson) into a Hollywood movie starring Sean Connery, which Alan Moore has quite justifiably been less than complimentary about. A TV series has also been discussed as a possibility, but has yet to materialise.
Volumes in the series:
- Volume I
- Volume II
- The Black Dossier
- Volume III: Century
- Century 1910
- Century 1969
- Century 2009
- Nemo Trilogy
- Nemo: Heart of Ice
- Nemo: The Roses of Berlin
- Nemo: River of Ghosts
2 A major theme of What Katy Did was how disabled young people can learn valuable life lessons, contributing towards their personal development, in the 'School of Pain', but Moore's version probably wasn't what the author Susan Coolidge had in mind.