The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
A comic book series Review by Alex Grant
On June 28th, 2002 film director Stephen Norrington (Blade 1998) began
filming The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen at the huge underwater
tank-cum-studio in Malta where U-571 was finessed. The Alan Moore/Kevin
ONeil comic book saga, a graphic novel series, is now well into
its second volume.
The initial six episodes of The League were published
jointly in softcover in September. They owe a captivating debt to the
now aborted Bulwer-Lytton annual bad writing competition It
was a Dark and Stormy Night.
Set in 1898, volume one of The League is an archly old-fashioned
and hugely ambitious ode to The British Empire a.k.a. Perfidious
Albion and to the exhortation Rule Britannia. It is a curious coincidence
that the 7th filmisation of the 1901 novel by A.E.W. Mason The Four Feathers
is now in wide distribution since September 20th.
Moore, the writer of this bizarre comic book series, knowingly introduces
a host of the hoariest but most enduring and endearing fictional characters
from the Victorian Era and earlier. His principal protagonist H.Rider
Haggards Allan Quatermain (NOT Quartermain from King
Solomons Mines (1885)). Scots superstar Sean Connery takes this
role in the film. Quatermain is aided and abetted in his quests by Mina
Murray-Harker from Bram Stokers Dracula. The film also stars Jason
Fleming and Stuart Townsend.
During their hectic purple-prosed adventures Allan and Mina encounter
Robert Louis Stevensons 1886 creation Mr Hyde and the homicidal
Ourang-Ourang from Edgar Allan Poes C.Auguste Dupin
story The Murders in Rue Morgue. They also meet Arthur Conan-Doyles
Mycroft Holmes and Professor Moriarty-Sherlock Holmes, introduced by Conan
Doyle in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet. We also re-encounter Jules Vernes
Captain Nemo aboard his supersubmarine The Nautilus, even The Artful Dodger
and Bill Sykes from Charles Dickens Oliver Twist, first published
from 1837 through 1839.
A veritable cornucopia of Victoriana and all told a mischievous tongue-in-cheek
macedoine of the most exuberant Illustrated Classics comic books of yore.
Appended to this newly released softcover edition of The League is a very
knowing ersatz short story by Alan Moore entitled The Sundered Veil.
Attached to Episode One of Volume Two of the series is a calendar which
brings into play even such obscure C18th characters as Dr Christopher
Syn and the notorious pirate Captain Clegg, both taken from the novels
of Russell Thorndike and William Buchanan, and both filmed in 1962-63.
Of course Sean Connery in his prime would have made as fine an Allan Quatermain
had he ever starred in the re-make of King Solomons Mines - as did
the late Stewart Granger in the 1950 version.
Episode One of the Volume Two of the League is a weird combination of
totally off the wall Frank Herberts Dune and H.G. Wells War
of the Worlds. Just who will turn up in the next four episodes of classic
penny-dreadful/bloodand thunder classic pulp literature is anyones
guess Vol.2. Episode 3 due September 25th 2002.
© Alex Grant October 2002
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