Points of Light: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen


Last week, I discussed how to bring an established literary character into your work. However, I neglected to mention perhaps the best example of this process to date, which I plan to rectify today. This work comes from the mind of British comic writer Alan Moore, who achieved tremendous fame with both his licensed work (Batman: The Killing Joke, Swamp Thing, For the Man Who Has Everything) and his original stories (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell). However, he has also done an intriguing mix of the two, merging classic characters of largely British literature, with stories and plots that could easily be part of any modern comic. This is that tale, the story derived from so many others- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

The Story

Beginning right in the aftermath of Dracula, the graphic novel begins with Mina Harker, now divorced and disgraced, being recruited into the British government by Campion Bond (grandfather of Ian Fleming’s James Bond). She is assigned to recruit a team of literary characters- Allan Quartermain (from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mine), Dr. Jekyll (Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde), Hawley Griffin (H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man), while being guided by Captain Nemo (Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). Once assembled, the League must do battle with Fu Manchu for a deadly substance, only to unknowingly hand it to their dishonest employer, Professor Moriarty (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes). The Leauge is able to wrestle the substance back, with Mycroft Holmes taking over as employer, just as meteorites fall towards London (hinting at H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds).

What Writers Can Learn- Adaptation, Revival, Character Study

While some may be familiar with this title through the disastrous film adaptation (which Moore has decried, along with all other adaptions of his work), the source material is truly amazing. Moore’s stories wisely focuses on very well known novels, but throughout the volumes (the above story is only volume 1), he sprinkles in various characters from Dr. Moreau to John Carter, making this comic a tremendous grab for literary minded readers. And rather then simply name drop, Moore makes sure each character has value- the members of the League each bring something special to the team, John Carter forces the Martians from Mars and onto Earth, and Dr. Moreau has knowledge of a compound needed to stop the Martian takeover.

However, Moore also works to portray these established characters in their original light. Captain Nemo is portrayed as Indian, a detail from the original text usually ignored, and is, true to form, quick to leave the League upon a seeming betrayal. The Invisible Man, who suffered from anger and madness in the novel, is shown with the same issues, being found in a convent where ‘immaculate conception’ is occurring. He proves to be a traitor in later volumes, where he attacks Mina, and hands over Britain to invaders. These traits are also expanded as the story progresses- Hyde, for all his savagery, is shown to be capable of civility and heroism, and becomes friends with Mina (who, as in Dracula, shows quiet intelligence as leader and is desired by ‘monsters’). Quartermain, the rugged hero, has aged and while still of value, is generally underplayed and seems aware of his age. There is even a stab at modern works, with an unnamed take on Harry Potter that is likely to shock fans. But at the same time, seeing these characters together in a group is a true treat for readers. Plotting a group story means making sure that the characters are strong enough to stand alone, but bring value to a group. Here, we have an established group that has never before worked together. Readers are familiar with the names, but are able to see new takes and look at how such a ragtag group might both succeed and fail to work together.

Final Thoughts

LOEG is a worthwhile read simply because of the strong writing of Alan Moore, but it offers a wealth of literature as well. Writer can learn about expanding upon established characters, and with luck, find new sources to draw upon for their work. At the same time, they will see strong group dynamics, some rather dark twists, and strong character devolpemtn for iconic heroes and villains. Simply put, this is a not to be missed literary tool that will open doors for newer and stronger writing from anyone who reads it.

Before I go, a Happy Thanksgiving to my readers, and remember that my giveaway will end after the holiday, so be sure to register if you haven’t already. And finally, I will be appearing at the Cranford NJ Library next week, so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area. Happy Turkey Day!

Posted on November 26, 2013, in Inspiration, Promotion, Writing, Writing Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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