Teams full of heroes have been getting people giddy for over 50 years, what could be better than seeing your favourite heroes all grouping together to rid the world of evil, and one of the best platforms to portray these stories is through comic books. Comic books have brought some of the best crusaders to life through their pages, such as The Avengers and the Justice League of America. However, before these two super-teams were formed, and even before the first avenger (Captain America) was born, there was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.Straight from the mind of Alan Moore, one of the greatest writers of our time, comes a story which unites together some of the most famous literary characters from the 1800s: Mina Murray, Alan Quatermain, Hawley Griffin, Dr. Henry Jekyll, Captain Nemo and Mr. Edward Hyde. The year is 1898, and Mina Murray is given a mission by Campion Bond (an ancestor of James Bond), who works for a man known simply as ‘M’, to track down and recruit the other members of the team. For there is evil afoot, and the league are the only ones who might stand a chance of stopping it. It seems that a contraption called the Cavoret, which enables flight, has fallen into the wrong hands and must be returned to the proper authorities by any means necessary. However in a world where the characters from authors imaginations actually exist, there’s no telling what could be waiting around the corner as they embark on their adventure.
What was great about reading this graphic novel, was the fact that it had so many different literary references throughout, on every page there would be a symbol which linked to another famous story, even something as simple as a painting or a wall sign. A few examples include the ‘Rue Morgue’ street sign in Paris, which is taken from Edgar Allen Poe’s 1841 short story ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, and when Bond is briefing the league of their mission, past leagues can be seen in paintings on the wall which include other famous literary figures, like Lemuel Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels and Natty Bumppo from The Leatherstocking Novels.
Another incredible read from Alan Moore who has brought us so many great graphic novels: V For Vendetta, Watchmen and From Hell, to name a few. He always uses such in-depth and thought-provoking story lines, which help the reader to delve into the plot more and connect with the characters, maybe even enticing them to research about the novel after reading it. One of the great aspects about Moore’s work is that the artwork always differs between novels, but fits together so well with the impression which the story gives off. This time Kevin O’Neill (2000 AD/Marshall Law) is the man behind the artwork, the images constantly switch between highly detailed drawings to blocked shapes representing the characters, but it works really well due to the Victorian theme which is present throughout. The dark, sombre colours match the tone of the story, and are suddenly thrown vibrantly bright during the violent action scenes, and when something is obviously out-of-place in this time-zone. It paints a picture of how is would have felt to live in that era and uncover something so unknown, that it would be a bright vision of the future.From start to finish The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen kept me gripped to the storyline, maybe it’s because I enjoy a plot with some history behind it, and Alan Moore had obviously done a lot of research prior to writing it. It is a graphic novel which Moore’s previous fans will love, and will be enjoyed by an audience with a passion for literature.
Publication: TITAN BOOKS
Miss Wilhelmina (Mina) Murray:
Mina Murray was a character in the world-famous 1897 novel, Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Her fiancée, Jonathan Harker, had a rather frightful encounter with Count Dracula in his castle but managed to escape to Budapest where he met up with Mina. Once her lover had recovered, they return to England and formulate a plan with Abraham Van Helsing to destroy the prince of darkness. However in the process Mina is bitten, and destined to turn into a vampire unless Dracula is destroyed, they succeed and the curse is lifted. Mina and Jonathan are married soon after, making her Mina Harker. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen however, Jonathan Harker has passed away, and Wilhelmina has changed back to her maiden name of ‘Murray’.
Alan Quatermain was the lead character in H. Rider. Haggard’s 1885 book, King Solomon’s Mines, and many novel’s after that as well. He is an English, professional game hunter who prefers the plains of Africa to the civilization and cities of Britain, therefore he spends the majority of his life in Africa. He is referred to as Macemazahn by the natives, which means ‘watcher-by-night’, and on occasions is accompanied by his two helpers Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good, also by his African friend Umslopogaas. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Quatermain is a tired old man who resides in Egypt (check) and is addicted to Opium, whilst barely conscious and in Opium withdrawal he asks for Umslopogaas, and babbles about the diamond mines.
The character of Captain Nemo comes from the 1870, Jules Verne novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Nemo is the son of an Indian Raja and is a scientific genius, and through his genius he created his submarine, the Nautilus. Which allows him to roam the deep seas, as he attempts to reap his vengeance on the British Empire. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Captain Nemo is written slightly different, instead of his hatred for the British Empire, he is instead attempting to save it. In the graphic novel, among his crew is ‘Ishmael’ from the book 1851 book Moby Dick. The word Nemo derives from the Latin term for no-one, when Quatermain is drifting in and out of consciousness he asks Captain Nemo who he is, and he replies “No One.”
Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde:
The character, or rather characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are world-famous, even if you have not read the 1886 novel – Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – by Robert Louis Stevenson, or seen any of the film adaptations, you still will have heard the stories. The story goes that Jekyll has always lived with the feeling that he is fighting between the good and evil inside himself, so to make himself a better man he creates a potion which should take away these evil urges. However the serum does the exact opposite and unleashes the evil, transforming Jekyll into the monstrosity known as Mr. Hyde. As Hyde, Jekyll becomes violent and cruel, causing havoc in the streets. After taking the serum many times Jekyll realises that he no longer needs it to transform into Hyde, he just needs something to tip-off his rage, and after he murders a man he becomes an outlaw in England. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Dr. Jekyll has fled to Paris, where Mr. Hyde has began to raise hell. Hyde is even stronger and more ferocious now, however after a sedative and a talk they persuade him to aid them in their mission.
Hawley Griffin is actually the only character in the novel who is not taken straight from a book, although he is based around a familiar story. Alan Moore took the name ‘Griffin’ from the main character in H. G. Wells’ 1897 novel, ‘The Invisible Man’, and the name ‘Hawley’ from the infamous Edwardian murderer, Dr. Hawley Crippin. The character of Hawley Griffin in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen seems to based on a man who, after The Invisible Man was killed by a mob, stole the invisibility formula for himself.