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

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?



           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.


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.


The The Extraordinary League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

“Wait, that’s the book you were talking about?” Said a friend when she saw The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore sitting on my desk. “That’s not a book; that’s a comic.”

“It’s a graphic nov” I managed to say, before she cut me off—“Tell me when you have some real reading for class.”

Graphic novels aren’t widely accepted as scholarly work. They are usually seen as picture books for kids, or as comics for “nerds” without value. I’m here to tell you that great graphic novels are as substantive and worthwhile as great novels, the same way a a movie can be. Below is a single panel from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The attention to minute details, and the plethora of fantastic allusions made in this graphic novel truly set it apart from a mere comic book.

This is one of four small panels, next to a large, page and a half panel. In this almost inconsequential panel, Moore gives the reader so much.

In the foreground there is a ragged, obviously poor gentlemen and a few boys dressed similarly. The details incorporated immerse the reader—the fingerless gloves, the cigarettes, the wart on his nose, and so much more. His low class and that of his young companions is affirmed from the way they talk. In the mid-ground there is a burning building and smoke. And In the background a flying ship can be seen bombing the buildings of London (the cause of the building fire.) This is what is understood at face value.

Now, onto the good stuff. In this panel on of the young boys refer to the older, ragged gentleman as Mr. Dodger. In the panel above this, the same boy tells Mr. Dodger that he has stole Mr. Quartermain’s purse (or “is tart’s purse.”) This automatically reminds any of us who have read Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. This Mr. Dodger, is none other then the skillful and cunning Artful Dodger grown up. It seems he has started a gang of pickpocket children as well.

Moore also included another quick allusion. Mr. Dodger refers to one the boys as “Mitchell,” and the other as “Watts.” A quick google search of “Mitchell and Watts London” brought up the EastEnders Wikipedia page. Having never seen the show, I do not fully understand the reference, but the show, taking place in the East End of London, is about the Mitchell and Watts family. Although a bit anachronistic, it makes sense that these two would be in the east end, the sight of the bombings. Maybe these two are the ancestors the two families.

Finally, the flying ship in the background is the quintessential representation of steampunk technology. This great advancement which has the power for so much good, is also the source of so much destruction. This theme of the duality of technology is prominent throughout many steampunk novels.

The above was one panel. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is full of allusions and symbolism that makes it worthy of being called a a true graphic novel.