Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The 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. There is also a prequel short story, "Allan and the Sundered Veil", included in the book form of the first miniseries.
The title may be inspired by The League of Gentlemen (more likely the novel and subsequent film than the unrelated comedic television series), the Justice League of America comic books, and/or the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Like the Justice League (and the Justice Society which inspired it), it features a team composed of pre-existing characters, each with special abilities.
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 novel Dracula
- Captain Nemo from Jules Verne's novels 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island
- Allan Quatermain, the hero of H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines and its various sequels and prequels
- Dr. Henry Jekyll and/or Mr. Edward Hyde, from Robert Louis Stevenson's 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)
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. 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.
Moore has anounced 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 novels of Russell Thorndike .
- Sir Percy Blakeney and his wife Lady Marguerite Blakeney from the Scarlet Pimpernel novels of Baroness Orczy.
- Lemuel Gulliver from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift.
- Natty Bumppo, the hero of the Leatherstocking Tales 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.
Volume one opens with Mina Murray recruited by Campion Bond to assemble the League. Captain Nemo having already been independently recruited, they then find Quatermain (an opium addict), Jekyll/Hyde and Griffin the Invisible Man in succession. The League is then convened at its headquarters in the British Museum, where they are sent to recover a sample of cavorite from the clutches of Fu Manchu (who is not mentioned by name, for reasons of copyright).
Following the success of this mission, it is revealed that Bond's superior, M, is not —as had been supposed— Sherlock Holmes' older brother Mycroft, but in fact Professor Moriarty, who intends to use the cavorite to assemble an airborne armada. The League boards Moriarty's fleet as it is bombing Fu Manchu's headquarters and defeats Moriarty, who spirals into the sky clutching the cavorite. Mycroft Holmes finally succeeds Moriarty as the head of the League.
Volume two opens on Mars, where John Carter and Gullivar Jones have assembled an alliance (including the SÚroni from Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis) to defeat the aliens who have been bedeviling the native Martians. These prove to be the aliens from The War of the Worlds, who learn about Earth from the humans on Mars and launch themselves there.
When the aliens land on Earth, they begin to rampage across the countryside. Griffin forms an alliance with the aliens, and beats Murray. Then Nemo and the Nautilus attempt to obstruct the aliens in London while Quatermain and Murray are sent into the English countryside to contact Doctor Moreau, who is hiding with the aid of the government. Quatermain and Murray return with one of Moreau's hybrids while Hyde brutally rapes Griffin who is left to die from said injuries. Hyde then sacrifices himself to buy time so that the hybrid —a cross of various strains of viruses— can be launched at the aliens, killing them. Nemo quits the league in disgust at the use of bacterial weapons, leaving Quatermain and Murray —who have become lovers— at a crossroads.
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, collects vol 1 #1-6
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Book 2, collects vol 2 #1-6
Primary sources (for major characters)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- King Solomon's Mines and sequels, by H. Rider Haggard
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu and sequels, by Sax Rohmer
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
- The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
- The Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
Secondary sources (minor characters)
- The First Men in the Moon , The Time Machine, and The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells
- A Princess of Mars and sequels, by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- Gullivar of Mars by Edwin Lester Linden Arnold
- The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H. P. Lovecraft
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
- Tarzan Alive, Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, and the rest of the Wold Newton family stories by Philip JosÚ Farmer
- Anno Dracula and sequels, by Kim Newman
A film starring Sean Connery and directed by Stephen Norrington was released on July 7, 2003 in the United States. It adds the additional characters Tom Sawyer (from the novels by Mark Twain; he is portrayed anachronistically as a young man in the film) and Dorian Gray (from the novel by Oscar Wilde), as well as a new villain. Characters from the comic are also changed: Quatermain is the leader of the team, and is not recovering from an opium addiction as he is in the comic; Mina Murray is still Mina Harker, and a vampire; and the Invisible Man is a new character known as Rodney Skinner, a thief who has stolen the invisibility formula (because the film-makers were unable to obtain the rights to Wells' character). While Dr. Hawley Griffin from the comic is a sociopath, Rodney Skinner is merely mischievous. Jekyll and Hyde appear, but they are also portayed in a more favorable light in the film than they are in the comic. In a move reminiscent of the James Bond novels, the League is recruited by a character known as "M". Moriarty from Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories also makes an appearance, as does a character referred to as the "Fantom" who resembles the Phantom of the Opera or French master villain Fantomas. The character of Campion Bond was supposed to appear (one media report suggested that he would be played by Roger Moore, thereby having two former James Bonds in one movie), but the character was dropped before filming began.
- Article at FilmForce about the film
- Official movie website
- Annotations to the League (Notes and annotations in a page-by-page commentry to the comics.)
- A mirror site for the Commentary
- A fansite, which includes pictoral representations of the Leagues throughout the ages
- The DC Comics Message Board for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- A fansite dedicated to Mina Murray
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