OK, so I recently finished the first story arc of Alan Moore's excellent comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I really recommend it to you all. It's like a Victorian era version of the Justice League of America, except that all the characters are pulled from Victorian novels. For instance, the team of protagonists is:
  1. Wilhemina Murray, more familiar to most as Mina Harker before a certain unfortuante incident (team leader),
  2. The daring adventurer Allan Quatermain, who is starting to get on in years,
  3. The exotic Captain Nemo and his fantastic Nautilus,
  4. Hawley Griffin, The Invisible Man, and
  5. Dr. Henry Jekyll with his fearsome companion, Edward Hyde.
In the first issue, the team takes on the double threat of Fu Manchu and Moriarty, who are both fighting for control of a supply of cavorite, an exotic lighter-than-air substance that would allow the construction of an amazing Arial Warship. The England through which they move is populated with all manner of characters from victorian dramas to victorian comedies to victorian science fiction to victorian porn. Imagine Moore's earlier work From Hell, but fun.

Anyway, I was reading the series, and I wondered...If I had to put together a LOEG today, who would I use?

Rules for the heros

Here are the rules, as deduced from the story so far:
  1. All heros must be fictional.
  2. Your team may have 6 members at most (the current team has 5.5, and a previous team had 6 members, but two of those were a husband-and-wife team).
  3. Everyone must bring an original skill to the team.
  4. They need not have extraordinary powers. Quatermain is just a guy with an ego and an elephant gun.
  5. Continuity must be preserved with the characters' other adventures. For example, you wouldn't want to use Fox Mulder in an adventure that takes place in 1998...wouldn't he be missed at work? Exception: You may bring them back from the dead, if you can make it plausable.
  6. You may use characters that are associated with any media except comic books or cartoons. I really wanted to put Dr. David Banner on my team, but the problem is that comic book heros are commonly seen in crossovers, and the objective here is to make a crossover team of characers in mediums besides comics.
  7. They may not be comedic characters. The LOEG has met up with characters that were from comedies, but all the books they were based off of took themselves seriously, even the hokey ones.
  8. They must be representatives of American Culture. This does not mean that they have to be from the United States, but it does mean that they have to have been popular there, just as the Hindu Captain Nemo was well-known to 19th century England.
That said, let me present my two offerings for LOEG 2000.
  1. The first one could actually have been formed in 1991:
    1. Special Agent Clarice Starling, riding her fame from a high profile arrest, (team leader). I'm ignoring the events in Hannibal, because they're inconvenient and the book sucks anyway.
    2. Retired San Francisco police officer Harry Callahan,
    3. High-tech vigilante Michael Knight, and his sidekick KITT,
    4. Ronin Lieutenant and master of disguise Templeton Peck,
    5. and John Shaft, Private Dick.
  2. The second team would need to be formed in a couple of years:
    1. Special Agent Dana Scully, relegated to this dead-end job because she's been talking about some weird shit, but no one has a pretense to fire her (team leader),
    2. Ex-Green Beret soldier John Rambo, pulled from the VA psych ward,
    3. Cole Sear, a pre-teen shanghaid into government custody after his talent is noticed by a school counsellor.
    4. Eminent mathematician and erstwhile paleobiologist Dr. Ian Malcolm.
    5. A beta version of the new Max Headroom program.

But who will they fight against?

This is the tricky part. All I can really say to define a bad guy is that he/she must be
  1. Evil,
  2. Powerful,
  3. well known, and
  4. not from a comic book either.
That leaves almost no one as a good villain today that can measure up to Fu Manchu or Moriarty. Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Patrick Bateman are both creepy psychopaths who are still on the loose, but neither one poses the kind of threat to National Security that would require a super team of our caliber to fight. Closer, I think, might be Freddy Kreuger, who has always exuded much more potential for carnage than a lone serial killer.

I am left with two possibilities:

  1. Rich Texan J.R. Ewing is running for President, but he has a dirty little secret: His company's patented Trioxin process has earned him millions, but an unfortunate leak triggers some disturbing side effects in a small town. The LOEG is called in to try and restore order, and they start to link the zombies to Ewing, but the Military is involved too....
  2. Godzilla. I don't have any idea what they'd do, but it sure would be cool.

So, got any better ideas? Tell me.

If I were going to put together a team from modern day, they'd probably be:

  1. George Clooney's character from Out of Sight, who robbed over 200 banks without a gun, and who escaped from several prisons.
  2. Fletch, who's excellent at talking himself into and out of trouble, and excellent with disguises.
  3. That crocodile hunter guy, who can deal with any animal with aplomb, no matter how dangerous.
  4. Lupin III, the master thief.
  5. Nick Foley. Nuff said.
  6. Kate Libby (Angela Joile's character from Hackers) to give them that extra electronic edge, and to distract the bad guys with her lips.
Supervillains:

You mean I get to use other people’s copyrighted characters in an adventure of my own sick devising, all the while imitating the man who singlehandedly brought literary respectability (however briefly) to American comics? JOY!


This is my “Summer 2001” squad:

The first nefarious plot they would stop would be the conspiracy by the Teletubbies and David Manning to enslave the minds of American youth with corporate crap, defended by the high-powered Ally McBeal. I won’t tell you exactly how the summer squad wins, but it involves pentacles, shotguns, and BOOTY.

The original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were all famous or infamous. They were legends. So when I was forced to assemble a new super-team in 2001, I went looking for people of similar calibre. The new League consisted of the following:
  • James Bond, super-spy, converter of errant lesbians, and connoisseur of the vodka martini. Also has good CIA and FBI connections. His notoriety in the criminal underworld actually complicated our mission on occasion, but his good looks and prowess at the art of the double entendre made him a must-have.
  • Indiana Jones, archeologist and expert on the occult. Missing, presumed dead, since 1951, Jones was really - no, actually I can't tell you that. Let's just say he seems to be about 55 years old in 2001.
  • Max Cohen, genius mathematician and hacker extraordinaire. Although for a time it appeared that his amazing mental powers had been crippled, they gradually returned with a vengeance, making him highly twitchy and prone to debilitating migraines, but also one of the most intelligent people on Earth. It is also rumoured that he is on first-name terms with God.
  • John Connor, guerilla fighter and demolitions expert. Also a hacker, although not quite as skilled as Cohen.
  • Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. Her combination of necromantic, vampiric and lycanthropic traits made her a valuable asset when dealing with the supernatural. Her tendency to talk for hours at a time, making a five-page story turn into a 350-page novel, proved to be an advantage, helping us distract the Agents when... but no, I really can't say any more.
  • Steve Austin, cyborg prototype. Taken off the Agency's active duty roster in 1981, but was called back into service when a new top secret bionic program was launched in 1996. With his all-new parts and hair transplants, his current value is estimated at $60,000,000,000. Unfortunately, after consuming industrial quantities of drugs that were fashionable during the Eighties, he seemed to be stuck in some sort of time-loop. The nearly lethal Seventies flashback rendered him incapable of wearing anything but wide flare trousers and open, large-collared shirts, revealing an unsightly amount of chest hair and making him unsuitable for covert operations, so the Agency was happy to release him when we told them he was needed to help save the universe.

The Mission: Early in 1999, I began to suspect that our life was nothing but a world pulled over our eyes to blind us to the truth, said truth being that we are slaves. I was discontented, and felt that my job was getting just a bit too boring to be real. I began to bend my amazing Web-surfing prowess towards the goal of uncovering the mind-boggling conspiracy. It was at this point that I enlisted the aid of Max Cohen, a fellow New Yorker, hapless Go player and lover of independent films.

When the aliens with acid blood and great nasty claws began to appear in my bedroom, I knew I was on to something darker than my wildest nightmares. I began to investigate a rogue start-up called www.LethalKillerRobotsTimeTravelandPlanetarySimSystems.com, and was eventually led to the vaults of Cyberdyne Entertainment, a company founded by disgruntled employees of the defunct Cyberdine Systems. Through this investigation I was introduced to John Connor, but the vast left-wing conspiracy that we uncovered demanded that we bring in further reinforcements. Thus was born the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2001. The full extent of our adventures may not yet be told to the public, but if you /msg me I'll be happy to provide links to Slashdot articles that will prove everything.


For the record, I completely agree with Pseudo_Intellectual about future LOEGs - if they are to be written, I would rather read about the League of 1787, or those of older periods, than about any modern team, which would surely be as lifeless and uninspiring as any Marvel-DC-Image-DHC Crossover Spectacular X-Treme!!!. But here, we're talking about a League 0f 2001. Obviously this work would be written in 2102. And what will the readers of 2102 prefer to read? Most of the characters so familiar to us today will be ripe for a new presentation. James Bond may be too popular for serious consideration at the moment, but a hundred years from now I suspect most people will think he was a transgendered American who drank mostly Pepsi and did his best spywork in cyberspace - or else they will have forgotten him entirely, like the unfortunate Doctor Syn.

Alan Moore is on the record as having expressed interest in telling further tales of the Leagues of other eras, but rather than the tedious retro-kitschy exercise of bringing out tired and relatively-devoid-of-personality warhorses of recent years' pop culture for one more lap around the royalty track what might be considerably more interesting (both to the writer /and/ reader) - and distinctly less slashfic-y - is to delve further into the literatures (both high and low) of still earlier ages, helping the reader (re)discover what kind of protagonist moved the literate public when the publishing industry was in its relative infancy.

Presenting us with characters we're already deeply familiar with is uninteresting, as it's difficult to give them room to surprise us without plainly violating canon. Instead in this first crew of Extraordinary Gentlemen he provided us with characters whose names might ring a bell but who for the most part were largely enigmatic, allowing Moore to surprise and delight us with details which were already canonical, such as Captain Nemo's subcontinental origins. Who hasn't heard of the Invisible Man? - and yet who knew anything beyond what he doesn't look like?

Throughout this series Mr. Moore dropped a series of tantalizing tastes, each hinting at a world of flavour beyond the comic in some source that everyone in the Western world seemed to have forgotten save Alan. Employing contemporary characters from our ironic and postmodern age would be like shoveling out loads of Twinkies from the back of a dump truck, page after page of smug, self-conscious cameo guest appearances waiting for the studio audience's applause. The use of largely-forgotten characters is more like wandering a path in a forest, occasionally stopping to pick nuts and berries by the side and catching a faint waft of truffles growing somewhere nearby.

(Deftly coming full circle to the first paragraph, I point out) On page 20 of issue #2, Alan Moore plants a small grove of these delectables, scrutinized by Wilhemina Murray in the first two panels while action continues unabated behind her. Portrayed is a group portrait of six figures at Montagu House (site of the future British Museum) in the year 1787 - a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as might have been convened a century earlier: L. Gulliver, Esq., Mr. & Mrs. P. Blakeny, The Reverend Dr. Syn, Mistress Hill, and N. Bumpo, Esq. Some research rewards us in learning the full identities and provenance of this diverse group:

The lists in the earlier write-ups leave a bad taste in my mouth, yet this roster makes me giddy as a schoolgirl - while I'm probably not going to head to the video store to check out a TV pilot on the recommendation of Joe Fanboy, Alan Moore has, in this throwaway gesture, made me feel that I'm cheating myself by not going to the public library more often.

In short - I don't want to be told a story using characters I know; I want to be told a story using characters I can't wait to know better.

To get a feel for the prodigious scholarship that went both into the creation of this most atypical comic book series and its subsequent analysis, I recommend you check out my inside source - Jess Nevins' Comic Book Annotations at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/7160/annos.html. Enjoy!

While thoughtfully admiring the scholarship of P_I above, and despite wishing fervantly that I could follow in his noble and high-minded brainsteps, I nevertheless find myself unable to resist the temptation of the more recently (in)famous. That said, I have attempted to limit the pop-nature of my team.

The Custodial Asskickers, 2002

  • Buckaroo Banzai: Despite his recent and technological bent, Dr. Banzai has all of the requisite traits to be named team leader. He is experienced in this role, being the founder and generalissimo (not to mention resident physician, marksmanship instructor, zen master and wicked syncopated jazz-monger) of the Banzai Institute for Biomedical Research and Strategic Information. An accident involving the Jet Car, poorly-tuned Electro-Nuclear Carburetion and a minor singularity have forced him into the past, where he must confront Ninpo Xan (the ancestor of Hanoi Xan) to prevent the latter's efforts at world domination.
  • R. Crusoe: Master of endurance and survival, Mr. Crusoe is the (if I may be forgiven a pop reference) original MacGyver. Rarely has such an ingenius inventor and adapter been found; it was he who devised the lashed-pole and coconut oil-powered barge with which the Jet Car was removed from its South Seas island resting place followiing Dr. Banzai's mishap.
  • Professor Arronax: Although not blessed with the genius of his mentor Nemo or the trials of his colleage Crusoe, the Professor brings a keen eye for detail and a locktrap memory to the table. This is a man who's seen things you people wouldn't believe; and unlike most others who've gone through that, he made extensive mental notes. Plus, he's a dab hand with a revolver just in case. He, too, had washed up on Dr. Banzai's destination island whilst attempting to ascertain the final fate of the Nautilus.
  • Number 6:Despite a strange, narcissistic yet fiercely-held belief that the entirety of reality is somehow constructed to thwart him, Number 6 seems to find his associates men of good character - "Not warders," as his highest praise is wont to run. While he can accept Dr. Banzai's technological achievements, he remains unconvinced of the chronospatially-displaced origins of their colleagues. In any case, despite the team having exceptional willpower, Number 6 is better able than the others to direct his against a chosen target or circumstance. He will not, however, divulge to anyone his given name.
  • Prospero: The team philosopher, Prospero (who phased into reality immediately in front of the Jet Car as the last vestiges of the Oscillation Overthruster-induced chronoslip faded) is furious at having his chances of returning home to rule dashed. However, his mastery over the ethereal is more than enough to compensate for his occasional dark mutterings.
  • Henry V: The warrior king typically provides the straight combat expertise as well as any command presence needed to rally localand/or green troops. Thought fallen in battle, it turned out he was betrayed by those closest to him. Led by his uncle the Duke of Exeter, they overpowered him during a battle and secreted him away by sea; it was their hope that in so doing they might preserve their beloved liege's life and legacy. As Exeter had observed, the wars that brought about Henry's supposed end arose more from the need of various factions internal and external to test themselves against this upstart, once-delinquent ruler than from actual grievance. Although what happened to him is unclear (as he won't say), he was found by Dr. Banzai residing on Crusoe's island. Crusoe himself was at a loss to explain it, but repeated references to a 'deep cave' have surfaced.

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