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


           After some amount of time flipping through the pages of this graphic novel, I arrived at this deeply interesting panel. This panel is the first panel in which the Limehouse district is visually introduced to the reader.  To begin, the scenery in the panel is dark and dreary, thereby giving the reader the impression that this area isn’t a particularly good area to live in. Furthermore, the sky is filled with a face that is presumed to be the face of “The Doctor”. The face is not meant to be taken literally as being in the sky, but rather it helps to emphasize the fact that “The Doctor” oversees the district, acting as its crime warlord.

The next items that stood out to me in the panel were the smokestacks coming from the houses and pollution in the sky.  Following the norm in most steam punk fiction, the pollution indicates a critique of the over-industrialization of the city by showing one of its negative effects on the environment. Also, in the top left corner, two workers are working on repairing a phone line in a very precarious manner. Herein lies another critique of the over-industrialization displayed in most steam punk fiction, as the safety of the workers is not put into consideration, and they are viewed simply as a means to the completion of industrial projects.

The panel also contains some racism, specifically against the Chinese. First, in the bottom left corner, three Chinese men are displayed with slanted eyes and stereotypically Chinese headwear. Moreover, these men are robbing an unconscious man lying on the ground. In addition, in the middle-bottom right corner of the panel, a Chinese man is karate-kicking two other men while raising his sword menacingly at them. Although the racism throughout the graphic novel is not meant to be taken literally, the panel does demonstrate the stereotypes about the Chinese, and it portrays them in a very negative manner.

Next, the housing of the district is extremely broken down and ragged, and beggars can be seen in various parts of the panel, such as in the bottom right corner, thereby displaying the district as a very poor area.  In addition, a brothel exists right next to this beggar, and naked men and women are shown on the decks of this building. There is even a depiction of a woman beating on a man in the center of the panel. These examples portray the district as a fundamentally immoral and flawed neighborhood that thrives on vice and crime in order to survive.

All of these examples come together to show that the Limelight district is a seedy, dark, and corrupt location filled with evildoers, prostitutes, and violent individuals. By showing  “The Doctor” in the background overseeing all of this activity, he is thus also characterized as an evil and corrupt individual. However, the panel also critiques industrialization by displaying many of its negative consequences.  These characteristics help to influence readers’ opinions later in the novel, thereby increasing the panel’s importance.


“We Are All A Little Bit Racist Sometimes”

Racism and stereotypes are things we cannot avoid. Our bodies make snap judgments based on peoples accents, religion, and physical appearance without conscious cognitive reasoning. The thing that novels without pictures struggle to encompass, is that first snap judgment, or take in of an entire scene.

We spoke in class about how the racism that is pervasive through out the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in some ways takes away from the book. While I do think using the name “Johnny Chinaman” does not add any substance to the graphic novel, I think in some ways Alan Moore’s use of racism and bluntness does.

Multiple times throughout the graphic novel Moore expresses that this “comic book” is not meant for children. It is a graphic, brutal story geared towards adult readers. These adults should have already formulated opinions on race strong enough to at the very least not be swayed by a comic book, and thus readers will be accepting what they see as a form of media and not as truth.

The scene that best utilizes racism and callousness to add to the novel is when Ms. Murray ventures to Cairo to seek out Quatermaine. Upon entering the building wherein he is staying, Ms. Murray is confronted by an almost alien scene. The bar is packed and thick with dark shisha smoke. There are no women and none of the men seem friendly at all. In fact, they fit the exact Arab stereotype that makes some of us as Americans uncomfortable. In the dark room they all wear turbans or little hats, wear the thin mustache and heavy beard and do not speak English. Ms. Murray is wearing proper English lady attire and is easily recognized as out of place and not belonging there.

The stark contrast of Ms. Murray and the men around her and the use of racism provide a powerful visual message. Upon entering the bar, we can see that this place is alien, it is different and potentially harmful. There are no allies in this place of people so different from her, and she is not safe. It illustrates the intensity of the position that Quatermaine is in and the lengths Ms.Murray would go to find him.

In the frame I chose, Ms. Murray is being raped. In this foreign, unsafe place she is forced to the floor and has her legs spread. In the frame one can see the man’s naked but as he prepares himself to rape her while his fat brother holds her down. The men’s faces are totally unconcerned or afraid or merciful. Once again, before reading this book we were warned of its illicit material.

This scene is incredibly disconcerting to put in words, but to see it on paper, in color, to a woman whose character has been developing? Far worse. However, I think that that is a good thing. Rape is a very disconcerting thing, and we should not take it casually even when we read it. Too often now in books do we read of massive amounts of civilians dying without pause to think of each of their families- the widows and the orphans. It is so easy to just keep reading, “what is going to happen next”? Between the two frames I have discussed, one can see how hopeless and afraid Ms. Murray, how dire her situation is and better relate to it. If the first frame was brighter, and the men there looked more decent and less foreign maybe Ms. Murray could have called for help, or maybe even she could expect that these men would be punished for their crimes. If I only saw a shadow of her about to be raped, I would not have fully grasped how invasive they were being or the closeness to which they came to being successful.

All in all in this set of frames the racism help build set the tone of the scene, and better let us relate to the character and her situation.

This is not just a comic book… it’s a graphic novel.

– Kinetix

The Language of Posture

In a graphic novel, I think that body posture has to make up for a lot, considering less words are you to describe how a character feels. In the pane below, taken from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I believe the author tells the reader quite a bit about the character based on how their bodies are positioned.

For instance, in this strip, Quatermain and the invisible man both look quite relaxed. The author put them in comfortable chairs, possibly signifying that the two characters  take life less seriously than others in the picture. Although we can’t see the invisible man (obviously) we can tell he is holding a cigarette and dressed in very comfortable clothing, including slippers. Perhaps this is coupled with his extremely nonchalant attitude toward morals to further his image of not-giving-a-crap.

Dr. Jekyll, on the other hand, looks extremely nervous, which lines up perfectly with what his dialogue reveals about his character. The way he is sitting all scrunched up makes it look like he doesn’t even want to be seen. He’s is also sitting in a very unforgiving looking wooden chair, in stark contrast with the pompous chair Quatermain is sitting in.

Wilhelmina looks like she is in charge, just like always. Her straight posture and focused glare give the impression of someone who wants to get something done, NOW.  She is looking at maps, which may signify that she is the only one who actually is planning on working out what the group will do. The drawing of her also suggests she is comfortable sitting at Nemo’s head desk, where others might feel intimidated with the captain right behind them.

Speaking of the captain, His demeanor shows one main emotion: annoyance. From his use of the word fancy, to the fact he is standing right over Wilhelmina’s shoulder shows that he doesn’t like what is going on. He is holding a weapon in his left hand, possibly signifying that he doesn’t trust these people on his ship.

Just in this short analysis, I think it is clear how effective pictures can be at displaying emotions.


The graphic novel, in all its splendor

As children, I would hazard a guess that most of us read a comic book at some point or another. Why? Comic books are meant to be entertaining. They don’t need a terribly deep story line or minute references to real people and events or social commentary to achieve that point. But can they?

If you’re name is Alan Moore, you clearly thought that they could. And thus we have the graphic novel (as one would call a long comic book with substance such as this) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Now, graphic novels usually get bad press in the academic world because of their similarity to comics. But a look at just one panel of Moore’s novel shows that it has much more meaning colored and shaded into the frame than a comic and provides as much, if not more, detail as a normal book would.

Don’t Be So Superficial About It

The League of Incredible Gentlemen, as I understand it, is not your typical comic book. Its satirical nature allows it to go into societal issues that the superficial nature of comic books ordinarily does not. Some of the most important points made in The League of Incredible Gentlemen are not learned from reading the dialogues but instead can only be understood with close examination of each panel and its social and historical significance.

When reading the graphic novel and later deciding what panel to analyze this panel kept sticking out to me. When I first read the novel, I stared at this panel for a while trying to understand how it worked, because it was different from most of the rest. At that time, I wasn’t analyzing it for meaning but instead, it stuck out to me because everything seemed to be scaled incorrectly.  Now, looking at it I can see that these miscalculations in scaling are one of the first expressions of sexism seen within the novel. In this image, Mr. Bond is holding up the trap door that he and Miss. Murray have apparently just walked through. While, Mr. Bond is undoubtedly above average in size, the image makes him appear abnormally large and powerful. In the panel, Miss Murray can hardly be seen as she is already as ways down the path. Therefore, there is no apparent reason for Bond’s continuous holding of the door except for the artistic representation of his strength and size. Bond stands with one arm extending to the door at an angle and the other extended downward at an angle so that his two arms create a diagonal line. This makes him seem as large as possible. His bottom hand is also in a fist increasing his appearance of dominance and strength. Furthermore, in the panel, Miss. Murray’s head appears to almost as small as a button on Mr. Bond’s shirt, and his position on the higher level makes it so he is towering over her more than usual. A couple of panels previously, it is obvious that Bond can see Miss. Murray’s carriage approaching and her walking towards him, however, he chooses not to acknowledge her until she speaks to him. That panel, pared with this one shows how much more Mr. Bond values himself than his female companion.

And what of the dialogue?  Mr. Bond’s words seem to go against the image that his physical structure portrays. He tells Miss. Murray, “as we see, England has a place for you, in the employ of my superior. “ The fact that he uses the term “superior” was surprising to me as previously I believed him to think he was the most superior of all. However, his use of this word creates a sense of mystery and fear regarding the identity of this “superior”. This in turn adds to Bond’s mysterious nature because he works for this important mystery man. Furthermore, the fact that he connects having a place in England to having a place in his company shows how important he finds himself and his employer. Miss Murray’s response highlights that fact that she is not a typical submissive woman, as it appears Bond is trying to make her. She quickly counteracts his attempts at creating a mysterious and fearful atmosphere around the identity of his employer by stating that everyone knows who he is and even using his full and shortened name.  Furthermore, she responds to him while continuing to walk and look out over the bridge so that her back is towards him. She makes no attempt to turn and make eye contact, which would be a sign of respect. Miss Murray clearly understands Mr. Bond’s persona and the type of appearance he tries to portray but she dismisses his attempts to belittle her and to inflate himself. She does this previously by saying that calling her Miss. Murray will do just fine when he requests to call her by her first name. Furthermore, her facial expression throughout their encounter is stern and serious if not angry.  She is not oblivious to the fact that he is blatantly ignoring her approach in the beginning and she makes no attempt to secure his ego by acting below him.

Overall, this if looked at closely this panel can do a lot for explaining the typical interactions between sexes at this time and how Miss. Murray defies them. The superficial appearance of the two characters would play into the domineering man submissive woman stereotype. However, when looked at more deeply it is clear that those are manipulations of the true relationship. It is clear that Miss Murray respects herself too much to succumb to the usual inferior position of women.


The Baddies of of the League

In the league of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the graphic novel) there are a great many of well know characters from other stories and comics. In this frame, we are introduced to Mr. M. who we find out is James Moriarty. The first thing I notice is obviously Mr. Moriarty himself. A deeper look at his character reveals the darkened deep-set eyes which seem to peer very deeply at you. I slight wrinkled brow makes him seem very old and maybe slightly angry. His right arm is suspiciously curled behind his back, seeming rather shady and rather unnaturally curved. His fingers on his left hand show wrinkled skin laid loosely over scrawny bones. He is delicately pointing towards himself which, coupled with the appearance of his character, suggests that he is a hard person, but a crafty and careful plotter. His attire is that a powerful but necessary businessman. No extravagant displays of wealth through shiny cigar cases or flashy clothing. His bald head and simple suit suggest that he is a to-the-point kind of person who takes no bull. The pointed teeth give the appearance of anger and evil. His dark suit also points towards evil characteristics. If we look off in the background, we see the typical steam punk elements of, well, steam and gear-run machines.