Snakes are, in a literary sense, cunning, deceitful, and devious masterminds with their own overarching agendas.  That’s why I immediately took note of the seemingly random serpent watching over our heroes in the following panel.

Why did Kevin O’Neill, the illustrator, place this creature in the foreground, pushing the protagonists to the back, out of focus?  An artistic choice, maybe, but I believe there’s more to it than that.

Throughout the novel, “Mr. M” has been there.  Not directly, not in the thick of things, but watching over the rapidly unfolding events from a safe distance.  He slithers above them, unseen but seeing all, as they make and execute their plans.  On page 97, however, we know none of this.  O’Neill consciously, in my opinion, drew this snake to foreshadow what the minimalistic dialogue could not.  It is because of little things like this that I hope the graphic novel never dies.  It is a completely different experience from reading a book, and a refreshing break from the walls of text.

-Deathly Hallowed


Se magnifique!

Art is one of those words that just can’t be defined, or, rather, as a million different definitions.  A visitor to the Art Institute of Chicago, gazing at the “Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler,” would surely not protest if I called it art.  On the other end of the spectrum, a football fan would heartily agree if I described Barry Sanders an artist.  Scores of outsiders, however, would.  And there is the beauty of art.  Every individual can, and is expected to, describe it for themselves.

I present, for your consideration, the following screenshot from the wildly popular 2010 Game of the Year, Red Dead Redemption.

Are you kidding me?  That’s gorgeous.  Just try and tell me that’s not art.  I WILL FIGHT YOU.  Alright, chance to redeem yourself…try this.

That’s what I thought.  These two games, RDR and the Assassin’s Creed series, have taken my breath away on multiple occasions, as have plenty of others.  The amount of time the designers put into these games is staggering, as are the results.  Can we please show the respect deserved?

Deathly Hallowed

Not Your Average Comic Book

When I was first assigned the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentleman for class I immediately assumed that it would be a quick and easy read.  I read Archie Comics for the majority of my childhood, I even had my own pretty extensive collection of them.  I assumed that Alan Moore’s work would be similar, and after flipping through the first few pages I saw many of the same elements I had seen when I was 10 years old.  However, after reading the first chapter I quickly realized that this was no book for children.  The level of imagery, symbolism, and allusion I encountered was equal to most other novels I have read for english classes, and if read too fast it was easy to miss out on the finer points of each panel.

Below is one panel from the second chapter of the first volume, entitled “Ghosts & Miracles.”  Upon first glance it seems that Miss Murray and Mr. Bond are casually discussing fictional events involving fictional characters, with no real significance outside of the novel.  They also are walking through a small alley in Britain, with a church on one side and some people hanging out around it.  After digesting this information on my first read I decided to turn the page.  Little did I know that upon closer inspection there were not only many allusions I missed but also a lot of imagery and symbolism.

What I thought were fictional characters that Moore created were actually allusions to works by other authors from different time periods.  Mr. Bond speaks of the astronomer Lavell and his discovery of incandescent gas on Mars, and after a quick Google search I discovered that he is actually an allusion to H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.”  Wells named an island in his novel Lavelle of Java, which is actually in reference to an M. Javelle of Nice who claimed to have seen a strange light coming from Mars in 1894.  The Reverend Septimus Harding is actually a character from Anthony Trollope’s Barchester novel series.  Miss Rosa Coote on the other hand is actually a fictional dominatrix from many Victorian era erotic novels.  Her last name comes from General Sir Eyre Coote who was involved in a flogging scandal in 1815.

In the background of this conversation is a church with a sign that reads “God Help Us” which signifies the desperation felt by many English citizens during this time period, and civil unrest is further emphasized by the man being thrown out of or pulled into the church window.  The poor environmental conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution is signified by the dirty watery sludge that is pooled up in the street, which a man is actually diving into while his companion looks on.  The overall darkness of the panel helps to convey the somber mood of both the conversation and the city.

It would be hard to consider Alan Moore’s work as a simple comic book when all of these allusions are present along with deep symbolism and imagery.  The complex nature of each panel makes graphic novels much more like actual novels than many people give them credit for.

-George de Roziere

Not exactly what Stevenson had in mind

The first time you meet Edward Hyde in Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a scene of terrifying action.  As you can see from the panel below, Mr. Hyde bursts onto the page, shirt torn to shreds wielding a bloody cane.  To be honest, when I turned to this page for the first time, I burst out laughing.  I know what you’re thinking: “What kind of sick human being are you?” (or something to that effect).  Let me clarify.  I was not laughing at the scene taking place in the frame, but rather in the ridiculous manner in which Mr. Hyde is displayed.

I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde less than a year ago, and I assure you nowhere in the novel is Edward Hyde described as an enormous hulking monster.  Instead, this is the description found within Stevenson’s original work: “Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile, he had borne himself to the lawyer with a sort of murderous mixture of timidity and boldness, and he spoke with a husky, whispering and somewhat broken voice.”  Now take another look at the scene below and see how the portrayals match up.  The small, timid, pale figure with a weak voice is nowhere to be found, replaced instead by a massive monkey-like animal bellowing at the top of its lungs.  I know Alan Moore wanted to make his work as exciting as possible, but come on, can you see why I was laughing now?


Leave the reading to me

Sharp Dracula fangs in coordination with a patented Bruce Banner shirt rip is enough to give any little kid nightmares for weeks. The eruption of Edward Hyde onto the seen made me pee my bed for three nights straight. The monstrous ape figure, who is suspending a legendary detective with the might of his grip, not only shocks the reader but also horrifies them. The wide open mouth and the cap-locked spelling of “Edward” makes the reader’s eardrums ring as they quickly go to the next panel to try and leave the massive beast they just saw.

All of us have had that moment. When the door is closed, the lights are off, and the room is silent except for the shuffling of feet. Your eyes dilate and your hearts starts beating outside of your chest for fear of the unknown that lurks behind closed doors. You count up to three in your head then with a deep breath you throw the door open and examine the contents of the room. Alan Moore feeds off of this anticipation with this monstrous exposition of the horrific possibility that it is indeed a monster behind the door.

The finely detailed panels make every movement fraught with life as we have to piece together what happens in between pictures. We do not see Mr. Hyde walking to the door before destroying it but we can easily imagine the sequence of events previous to this panel. Graphic novels are interesting because it leaves most of the work to the reader to use their imagination to fill in the gaps between panels. However, the details that play on various emotions and senses such as this picture makes it possible and fun to do so.


Illustrating Nothing

In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphics must tell what dialogue cannot. Excessive narration would kill the flow of the story, and overly mouthy characters would feel out of place. It thus falls to the illustrator to create images that add to the reader’s understanding of the story and characters in a way that is also amusing.

A most fascinating character is the Invisible Man. He should by all rights be the most difficult character to properly illustrate: he’s not even visible. However, the illustrator does a fantastic job of giving the Invisible Man character and of supplementing his humorous dialogue with complementary images. That is, at least, in general: sometimes it seems as though the illustrator lets the Invisible Man just be invisible, passing up an opportunity to add to his character/the scene in favor of a simplistic ’empty air’ approach. Here is an example.

You can tell he cares deeply

Having just killed a man in cold blood, the Invisible Man turns to his companions (presumably) and casually makes idle conversation. There is only one indication of this: the sword, and this is an example of where I feel the illustration slightly fails. The words here do all the work: they are what is funny about this scene. In later scenes the Invisible Man is better represented: he leaves fingerprints or interacts with his environment in a way that reveals his appearance, contextually. Here, however, there is nothing. This happens a couple of other times in the graphic novel, and I feel the illustrator could have done more in this scenario: show something leaning under his weight, or have him wipe the sword with a piece of cloth, anything besides making a sword float. It is to both the narrator and illustrator’s credit that the Invisible Man is one of the best and funniest characters in the whole book despite being an invisible man, but where in every panel other characters appear something about them is being expressed facially/via body language, some panels of the Invisible Man seem sadly wasted.


The League of Extraordinary Allusions

Since our early years in the educational system, we as students have been taught to look beyond an author’s words for additional meanings in text. The lesson has been hammered in over and over– don’t judge a book by its cover, there’s more than meets the eye, don’t always take things at “face-value”. All of these phrases highlight the fact that we as humans are always looking for hidden meanings and alternative ways to view our lives. For those of us who enjoy delving into literature to unravel its subtle innuendos and allusions, Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the perfect piece to analyze.

Now, seeing as Moore’s “book” is actually a comic, some may be quick to write it off as mere entertainment, assuming that the equivalent of an adult picture book couldn’t possibly have any depth. These critics, however, would be greatly mistaken.

Take, for example, the following panel, within which our heroes Miss Murray, Mr. Quartermain, and Monsieur Dupin confront the infuriated Mr. Hyde:

Now, though one could easily be distracted by the action of this scene, a few smaller details provide the perfect example of Moore’s subtlety and love of allusions.

Besides the obvious shout-out to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Moore alludes to the infamous battle between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla with the unobtrusive electrical box on the wall, which has the name “Edison” inscribed with curling letters. Right below Edison’s name, “Teslaton” is either inscribed or scratched in, depending how one wishes to view it. The letters seem less elegant than Edison’s, so it is up to the reader to decide. Did Moore place the rival inventors’ names side by side to create a sense of unity between the two? Or is he merely highlighting their animosity by making Edison’s name more appealing than Tesla’s?

Besides alluding to the rival inventors of current, Moore also uses his comic to bring up unsettling questions regarding the inequality of the sexes. In his witty commentary at the bottom of the page, the author mentions that the upcoming panels may offend his female readers, who are “of a more delicate sensibility.” Is Moore writing with blatant sexism to highlight how prevalent this attitude was in the late 19th century? Or is he being controversial simply to get a rise out of his audience? A slight to women would obviously rub some readers the wrong way, especially those who were not gifted in recognizing satire. Also, the fact that this snarky comment is placed right next to a defenseless heroine dressed in prostitute’s clothing cannot be a complete accident. Throughout his comic, Moore is constantly portraying women, as well as many minorities, in a distinctly unfavorable light. So the question remains, is Moore a satiric genius, or just a guy who likes to rile people up? Can he be both?

These are the kinds of questions Moore’s hidden allusions and ideas bring up for the reader. The comic is not merely entertainment, but a piece of art that uses bits and pieces of history and culture to create something new altogether. While Moore’s satiric style may be offensive to some and merely ridiculous to others, no one can sensibly deny that, for a comic book, his work as an astounding amount of depth.


–The Humblebug