Archive for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Friday Night Fights: Cumberbashed!

I see that the long-awaited third season of the BBC’s amazing “Sherlock” series is going to be airing in America on PBS this Sunday. I won’t be able to see it right away — I don’t have cable and can’t even get PBS over the antenna here, so NO SPOILERS, DAMMIT. But never let it be said that I won’t piggyback on someone else’s popularity for the chance to win… FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS!

So anyway, tonight’s battle comes to us from June 2000’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 1, #5 by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, where we get to watch the grand, semi-final battle between Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.








So there we go, everyone go vote for me. But I swear to Kirby, any of you guys spoil this season, and I will be painting “RACHE” all over the walls with your innards.

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20th Century Analog Boys

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1910

The first part of a new chapter in the literary-themed adventure series from Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill focuses on the early part of the 20th century. The current League includes former vampire victim Mina Murray, the rejuvenated Allan Quatermain (masquerading as his own son), immortal sex-changing warrior Orlando, ghost-hunting detective Thomas Carnacki, and reformed thief A.J. Raffles. They’re on the trail of a bunch of occultists, led by a fictionalized version of Aleister Crowley, who are trying to bring about the end of the world. Added on top of all this are the daughter of the late Captain Nemo, who becomes known as Pirate Jenny, and a brutal killer (who may actually be Jack the Ripper) named Jack MacHeath, who is better known as Mack the Knife. In other words, a large chunk of this story is based on Bertolt Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera” — and yes, there are characters who actually break out in song during the story. Frankly, this is extremely weird. It all ends with a terrific slaughter, but with the prophesied apocalypse seemingly scheduled for many years in the future.

Verdict: I hate to say it, but thumbs down. While Jenny was an outstanding character, and her storyarc was very satisfying, the rest of this felt like Alan Moore was thumbing his nose at me. Sure, okay, Alan, you’re vastly smarter than I am, there’s no denying it. But do ya have to rub my nose in my own intellectual inferiority?

Secret Six #9

In one of the “Battle for the Cowl” crossovers, Batman is seemingly dead, and the criminals of Gotham City are going wild. A band of kidnappers have targeted the children of wealthy citizens, but Catman and Bane both decide to help stop them — partly because both of them would like to try to take Batman’s place. And Ragdoll is tagging along, because he, disturbingly, has decided that he wants to take Robin’s place. None of the trio is much good at leaving any of the kidnappers alive, but they do manage to save the children and their families — and they all get off some excellent one-liners.

Verdict: A big thumbs up. This one is a huge amount of fun, the action is absolutely top-notch, and like I said before, the one-liners are primo. Ragdoll gets the most, especially when he discovers that everything he says ends up sounding perverted, but Bane and Catman get their share, too. This one’s definitely worth picking up, even if you’re not into the “Battle for the Cowl” storyline.

The Human Torch Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1

Marvel is putting out a whole series of comics focusing on their Golden Age characters to commemorate their 70th birthday. This one, by Scott Snyder and “Atomic Robo” artist Scott Wegener, focuses on the Human Torch from the 1940s — unlike the more familiar Torch from the “Fantastic Four” comics, the Golden Age Torch was an android who was able to set himself on fire. The first story is pretty straightforward — the Torch rescues a woman from a sewer monster, but its venom means he has to discard his human-looking skin. Finding himself despised as a robot monster, the Torch has to decide whether to stay inside where his appearance won’t horrify people, or to go out and save lives anyway. The second story is a reprint from an old “Human Torch” comic, featuring the introduction of the Torch’s sidekick Toro.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a charming story, with wonderful illustrations. The reprint is a nice bonus. Definitely worth a read.

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The Black Dossier

I know this has been out there forever, but I only managed to grab this one after Christmas, thanks to some handy and much appreciated gift certificates. So what the heck, let’s review it.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier

This picks up several decades after the last episode of the entirely classic “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. (And if you haven’t read that yet, you really, really should. If all you know of “LoEG” is that awful Sean Connery movie, then excise all memories of that pile of cinematic dreck and go read the comics, ’cause they’re really cool.)

Aaaanyway, it’s 1958, Big Brother’s dictatorship from George Orwell’s “1984” has just fallen, and Mina Murray and Allan Quatermain are still kicking around England. Thanks to an encounter with the “Fire of Youth,” both are now basically immortal. They’re after a book called the Black Dossier, that includes the complete, secret history of their League, as well as the Leagues that came before and after.

While most of the main story is told through traditional comic illustrations, the material from the Black Dossier is, for the most part, recounted in straightforward text. These include a lengthy comic strip focusing on the life of Orlando (the immortal gender-swapping swashbuckler from Virginia Woolf’s novel); a “Fanny Hill” sequel; a short story written in the style of the ’50s beat writers; a Tijuana Bible about life and sex in Big Brother’s England; and a comedy combining P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Bertie Wooster with H.P. Lovecraft’s cthulhoid horrors. There’s also an actual pair of 3-D glasses to go along with the extended 3-D sequence at the end of the story.

Verdict: Well, I’ll give this a thumbs up, partly because I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to thumbs-down an Alan Moore story, and partly because I thought “What Ho, Gods of the Abyss?”, the Jeeves and Wooster story, was extremely funny. But yeah, this story has some severe problems. There’s vastly too many folks running around without their clothes on — sure, there’s an awful lot of classic literature that’s pretty wildly bawdy (like, fer instance, almost all of Shakespeare’s plays), but “The Black Dossier” really does desensitize you to sex and nudity after just a little while. (“Oh, look, it’s Mina without any clothes on. Oh, look, it’s Fanny Hill without any clothes on. Oh, look, it’s Orlando without any clothes on. Oh, look, it’s a Tijuana Bible. Oh, look…”)

In addition, several of the text pieces were really difficult to read, partly because of formatting issues (Paragraph indents, Mr. Moore! And less single-spaced stuff, please!) and partly because they’re not all that well-written — “The Crazy Wide Forever,” written in the style of Jack Kerouac, was almost unreadably awful.

All the stuff drawn from “1984” was a bit of a setting breaker, too, frankly. I just can’t buy into the idea that England would transition so quickly from a fairly normal society, to a crushingly autocratic dictatorship, and then back to a normal society in such a short space of time. The Ingsoc from “1984” wasn’t a government that was going away any time soon, and the concept of doublespeak wasn’t something that would allow a normal, well-adjusted society to occur, in any case.

And finally, one of the characters who shows up at the end is a giant Golliwogg doll. If you’re not familiar with those, they were blackface minstrel ragdolls. Why is there a racist doll running around England with an airship? I got no idea. And it really pulls you straight out of the story. You’re reading along, you’re in an exciting chase sequence, and then, hello, racist stereotype doll! What the frackin’ frack?! Weren’t there any other popular children’s toys in England in the late 1950s? Winnie the Pooh, maybe? Peter Cottontail? Betsy-Wetsie? Madame Freakin’ Alexander dolls?

I really do think this is my least favorite of all of Moore comics, and I’ve read a ton of ’em. But even with that caveat, I still think it’s probably worth reading.

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Alan Moore knows the score

A friend of mine suggested recently that I should spend more time here recommending writers and artists worth reading. Fair ’nuff — there are a lot of wonderful creators out there, and it’s always a good idea to steer people toward the Good Stuff.

So let’s start with the Best of the Best: Alan Moore.

Moore is a shaggy, shaggy Englishman, a practicing magician, a worshiper of a Roman snake-god called Glycon, and the second-best-known comics creator in the world, after Stan Lee. He’s known for intricate plotlines, razor-sharp characterizations, and scripts so detailed, a single panel description can go on for a page or more.

Moore has always worked to create comics for adults. That means there’s violence, nudity, swearing, and other stuff that parents may not want their kids getting their hands on. Moore sees the comics medium as something that shouldn’t be mired in juvenilia, though he also recognizes that superhero comics can be a great deal of fun for grown-ups as well as kids.

Here’s some of his best stuff, with short descriptions.


We’ve discussed this a bit already. This is widely considered to be the very best comic book ever created. They teach this one in many universities as literature. If you’ve never read this, you should.

V for Vendetta

A masked, swashbuckling anarchist battles a fascist dictatorship in Great Britain. Not a perfect work — there are way too many characters to keep track of — but the story absolutely blisters the brain with excitement, derring-do, and mad, dangerous ideas. An extremely political comic — Moore wrote it in response to Maggie Thatcher’s hard-right British government.

From Hell

This is a story about Jack the Ripper. Moore comes up with his own solutions for the Ripper slayings, ties it all together with head-trippy stuff about sacred geometry and time travel. Moore did a lot of research into “Ripperology” and includes an excellent bibliography and panel-by-panel endnotes. This comic is violent and absolutely blood-drenched, but if you have any interest at all in the Ripper slayings or in the seamier side of Victorian England, it’s highly recommended.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

It’s a superteam composed of characters from Victorian-era adventure fiction! The British government assembles a covert team of Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Henry Jekyll, and the Invisible Man to battle Dr. Fu Manchu. A second series of the comic has the team taking on invaders from Mars. Guest stars include everyone from Auguste Dupin, Mycroft Holmes, Dr. Moreau, the Artful Dodger, Mr. Toad, John Carter, and many, many more.

Tom Strong

A modern-day superhero book that takes most of its inspiration from old pulp adventure novels, particularly Tarzan and Doc Savage. The quality is a bit here-and-there, but in general, it’s grand, frothy fun.

Top 10

One of my favorite Moore comics, it’s a hard-boiled police procedural set in a city where everyone — citizens, cops, crooks — has superpowers and wears a brightly-colored spandex costume. It’s a fun commentary on comics in general, plus it has a lot of really wonderful mysteries for the cops to solve. If you like TV shows like “Law and Order” or “Homicide: Life on the Street,” you’ll like this one.


A psychedelic/metaphysical comic about a superhero who is destined to bring about the end of the world. If you’re into new age stuff, magick, Qabalah, or the Tarot, you’ll love this. This comic is also the one where Moore does the most experimentation with visual styles and symbolism. It’s not light reading — it’s a very challenging book that requires fairly deep reading to understand.


A British superhero, similar to Captain Marvel. The original version got its start in the ’50s, and Moore started working on it in the ’80s. In his version, Marvelman ends up taking over the world and ruling as a god. It’s awfully hard to find this series anywhere in the U.S. — the rights to the character and the series are in dispute. (They even had to change the name from “Marvelman” to “Miracleman” when Marvel Comics threatened to sue.)

The Killing Joke

This Batman story presents the definitive origin of the Joker. And it’s the story that started Barbara Gordon on the path from being Batgirl to becoming Oracle, the wheelchair-bound super-hacker. It’s a wonderful comic, one of the best Joker stories ever.

Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

DC was preparing to reboot the Superman from the beginning back in the mid-’80s, and Moore wrote this story to bring an end to everything in the old Superman mythos. Supes is forced to deal with powerful enemies who destroy his secret identity, turn his old rogues gallery into psychotic murderers, and threaten to destroy him and everyone he loves. It’s a sad and scary story that’s soaked in nostalgia for the lost innocence of DC’s fabled Silver Age.

Saga of the Swamp Thing (especially “The Anatomy Lesson”)

When Moore took over this comic, the Swamp Thing was a low-selling comic on the fast track to cancellation. In the space of just a few issues, he turned it into one of DC’s best-selling and scariest comics. “The Anatomy Lesson” revamps Swamp Thing’s origin and re-introduces the character as a terrifying monster. Highly recommended — go hunt it down.

Terra Obscura

This one was just plotted by Moore, but it’s still great fun. A simultaneous spin-off from “Tom Strong” and a series of superhero comics from the ’40s, this series featured a bunch of characters with a strong Golden Age flavor but modern personalities and characterizations.

Most of these stories are still in-print in various anthologies and trade paperbacks. You can go out and buy them today. In fact, you should, because they’re all wonderful reads. Git after it, kids.

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