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September 02

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 O’Neil 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 Haggard’s Allan Quatermain (NOT ‘Quartermain’ from King Solomon’s 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 Stoker’s Dracula. The film also stars Jason Fleming and Stuart Townsend.

During their hectic purple-prosed adventures Allan and Mina encounter Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 creation Mr Hyde and the homicidal ‘Ourang-Ourang’ from Edgar Allan Poe’s C.Auguste Dupin story The Murders in Rue Morgue. They also meet Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Mycroft Holmes and Professor Moriarty-Sherlock Holmes, introduced by Conan Doyle in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet. We also re-encounter Jules Verne’s 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 Solomon’s 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 Herbert’s 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 anyone’s guess Vol.2. Episode 3 due September 25th 2002.
© Alex Grant October 2002

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