Monday, May 28, 2012

On the Coffee Table: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Title: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Volume One)
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Kevin O'Neill

Image via Wikipedia

I've been reading a lot of superhero team comics over the past several months: Justice League, X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four, etc.  Moore's and O'Neill's Victorian era team serves as a reminder that all of the characters who populate the comic books of the 20th century have their antecedents in the fantastical literature of 19th century Europe.  Indeed, this picture discovered by Miss Murray in the second issue of an earlier incarnation of the League demonstrates that even she and her entourage are part of a long lineage:

Image via wikia

Some of the connections between 20th century characters and their ancestors are obvious.  What is the Hulk, after all, if not a nuclear age interpretation of Jekyll & Hyde?  Loads of modern era superheroes have invisibility powers like Hawley Griffin.  Moore and O'Neill aren't shy about drawing parallels either - their League has one token female character as did all of the teams listed above in their first incarnations. 

I was instantly intrigued by the characters themselves.  My own experience with literature of the era is pretty shoddy.  Of all Volume 1's central characters, Captain Nemo was the only one for whom I had read his original book, Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in this case.  If I am to continue with this series, I may dig into the source material as well.

The stories themselves, however, didn't do as much for me - at least not at first.  Despite the costume drama trappings, many of the team story formulae are easily identified: the team formation story, the early hints of romantic possibilities, basic beat-the-bad-guy adventures and so forth.  I was also a little turned off by the admittedly era-appropriate misogyny.  But by the end of the collection, I was sad it was over.  I am quite charmed by the way literary figures keep turning up and am eager to see who makes appearances in further installments.

Mock wrote about the League as part of his A to Z Challenge.  I'm still a relative newbie.  If you want to read the thoughts of someone who lives and breathes this stuff, Mock's your man.  Also, my blogger pal Suze has an interesting post this week about the original Superman movie with pertinent thoughts about the stories that influence our lives.


  1. I must say that it sounds like an interesting comic. If only because the era it's set in is so different. :-)

  2. Squid, it's all the in jokes hat make it such a fun read. Just like the Watchmen. Classic books.

    1. Don't get me wrong. I recognize that this is high quality stuff and I'm definitely up for more. Over the past few months, I've gone full immersion into the old Marvels and I'm tiring of the formula. TLoEG is definitely a fresh take on the whole idea of the super hero teams. I still feel my comic explorations are just beginning but I have yet to be disappointed by Alan Moore.