is on the record as having expressed interest in telling further tales of the League
s of other era
s, but rather than the tedious retro
y 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 literature
s (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:
- Lemuel Gulliver, intrepid explorer of lands far and satirical, by the date given an old man whose Swiftly-told travels have fallen into the annals of urban myth;
- Sir Percy Blakeney (aka The Scarlet Pimpernel, Wold Newton impact witness and singlehanded army against Le Comité de la Santé Publique) and his wife, Marguerite Blakeney, "the cleverest woman in Europe", from the writings of Baroness Emmuska Orczy.
- The Reverend Dr. Syn (aka Caprain Clegg, aka the Scarecrow) originating from the works of Russell Thorndike from 1915 on. (From the looks of things, he's one bad mother.)
- Fanny Hill, notorious "bawdy heroine" of John Cleland's 1749 oeuvre Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.
- and finally we have the intrepid Natty Bumppo (aka Hawkeye, aka Leatherstocking) from the novels of James Fennimore Cooper - perhaps you've heard of The Last of the Mohicans?
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!