The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction


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It should not, but it does in the cross-over. More than interacting with each other, the characters can even become a part of another's story. Being obsessively murdering prostitutes, he is even suspected of being the real Jack the Ripper, who terrorized White Chapel in This literary cross-over allows Moore to integrate popular culture references like James Bond by Ian Flemming to a net of Victorian novels and short stories that answer to each other, and invite the reader to look for more literary clues.

Yet it is also a way to reflect upon the connection between those characters and their reunion in a modern comics. A pastiche of Victoriana Those multiple references to the Victorian Age, from the characters to the historical context to the constant references, create a playful pastiche. A pastiche is presently a work of literature or visual arts that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artist.

Unlike parody, the pastiche celebrates more than it mocks the work it imitates. However, this is not only the pastiche of one literary trend the Victorian fantasy or science fiction novel from which most characters are inspired, but a whole world: Victoriana. The end of each issue is treated like a chapter from a serial, with a little text at the bottom of the last page announcing what comes next in an old fashioned language and many exclamation marks.

The six issues of the first series are all separated by O'Neil's playful and referencing covers and other vintage products. The numerous para-texts to the story are explorations of the history of the author's own medium, referring to the Victorian print-media such as illustrated newspapers, novels, penny dreadfuls, boy's weeklies and of course, comics. The first issue's cover is for example modeled after an illustrated newspaper. The cover clearly recalls the sensationalism, so popular at the time, associated with this type of publication. This amalgam of media at the service of the graphic novel accentuate the playful pastiche that it is, inviting the reader to spot the references.

Moore and O'Neil even go as far as to add little games between each chapter, like a paint by number of the picture of Dorian Grey, instructions for a Nautilus origami or a League of the Extraordinary Gentlemen snake and ladder. The comic is a product, as Moore keeps on reminding the reader. It plays with both the encounter of mythic characters that only want a second chance at an adventure and the notion of pastiche: is it a celebration or a parody of the Victorian era? Probably both. However, the play with the references and the constant reminiscence to the reader that he is reading something, inscribes this work into a metafictional discourse.

A metafictional discourse about the comic genre Metafiction and deconstruction Metafiction is based on the notion that the fictional work self-consciously reminds the reader that they are reading a work of imagination. The format of the series, created like a Victorian serial, allows Moore and O'Neil to place their dark and witty characters in the context of a conventional Victorian medium style. The constant references and the play with the format of the work itself show that Moore wants to enlighten the reader about the modern notion of comics itself, giving them an historic recap of the medium's forms and purposes.

Metafiction is a process by which the work becomes a discourse about itself and the author's statements. After all, even if Moore takes pleasure in referencing the comics with obscure works, most of the names evoked can ring a bell for the reader. We are reading a world where some of the biggest heroes of the Western traditional imaginary dream of a new adventure: Mina is divorced.

Quatermain is virtually dead. Sherlock Holmes disappeared, leaving his brother and nemesis to fight for control of London. It is no coincidence if Moore set his characters at the dawn of their fictional lives. Moore was getting tired of caped superheroes after his debacle with DC in the 's , and felt like other literary influences were starting to fade.

This story is therefore not really about a League of heroes fighting archetypical villains like Moriarty, but about the great myths of Western literature becoming an interest for the public again. Moore's depiction of his characters is also discourse on Victorian literature. She argues that fictional Victoriana explores Victorian subject from a twentieth or twenty-first century perspective as a response to the cultural, political, social concerns of the last few years.

Recycling the nineteenth century in such a way would allow the use of historical context and stories to point out the modern questions of gender, sexuality, race or imperialism. Kaplan however attributes the new interest for the Victorian era to a form of nostalgia, a longing for a past that actually never was. Alan Moore was prominent in this neo-Victorian trend, especially through the comic culture.

The use of famous literary characters and the language of popular romance, associated with the prose of the sex-novel, are set in the well known sensation newspaper format. However, the fantastic aspect and the dark tone hint also at an inspiration from the Gothic novel. All together, Allan Moore parodies the modern conceptions of the conservative Victorian period. There is a bit of everything, and all those elements put together construct a critic pastiche of the modern perception of this idealized Golden Age.

However, Allan Moore can hardly be considered as nostalgic.

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In pointing both visually and literally to the ideological paradoxes that characterize the nineteenth century, both books not only parody some of our present-day conceptions of this period to highlight their commonalities, but they also point to the larger narratological concern Alan Moore has in characterizing past and present as literary and visual fictions. Let's take Griffin the Invisible Man for example. Popular culture remembers an arrogant invisible man looked for by the authorities, with sun gasses, a bandaged head and a big coat, so well remembered from the TV series or the movie that focused on Griffin's abilities to do good.

Does the modern public remember that he is a megalomaniac killer? Other hints, like Quatermain's physical weakness and drug addiction, Nemo's anti- British xenophobia a reflection of the other's racism around him or Hyde's murderous instincts, remind the reader that those iconic figures are not as simple as popular culture remembered them.

Those characters are all broken in a way.

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Not at all heroes for the most, their actions are guided by either a thirst for adventure or the promise of amnesty. Rape, misogyny, racism, drug addiction, dangerous technology, imperialism and the Eastern menace remain major preoccupations for the modern West. Elevating the comic genre Moore's graphic novel does not only serves as a reflection on the links between the past and the present, or even the graphic novel as a comics about Victorian comics. Moore's intentions have always been, since Spiegelman's Maus in and his own Watchmen in , to elevate the status of graphic novels and comics which are technically one and the same.

However, in the 's, graphic novels were completely separated from the 20 pages long issues that sold in kiosks. Moore's idea is that to separate two medium that were originally the same is to deprive the graphic novel from its sources and the comics of their respectability.


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Comics are a literary tradition that disregards distinctions between high and low literature. By making a graphic novel out of six smaller issues and install them in the format of Victorian newspapers, penny dreadfuls or boy's mags filled with adds, Moore reinstates the status of silly, perishable comics while linking it back to a more mature, general audience through the dark themes.

This difficulty not only attracts academics and a wider net of readers, but also legitimizes the notion that comics have much more to offer than what they are given credit for. Demanding a certain attention and sense of analysis, adding of a short novel at the end of the first series about Allan Quatermain, constant literary references that necessitate a good 19th century culture This format aims at a certain readership all the while promoting inclusiveness. Steampunk and retro-futurism Of course, Moore could not emphasize those notions without the graphic universe deployed by O'Neil.

I mentioned the pastiche work on the covers, reminiscent of illustrated newspapers or penny dreadfuls. But outside from the format, the general esthetic of the work is inscribed in a retro-futuristic trend that inscribe Moore and O'Neil in the neo-Victorian style, all the while developing a reflection on the popularity of the steampunk style.

Steampunk is part of a wider concept called retro-futurism or futuristic retro. To do so, those characters must be represented both in the simple, gory and graphic style of O'Neil and in the attractive and sensationalist style that is steampunk. Steampunk is a sub-genre of science-fiction and retro-futurism that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by the 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19 th century's Victorian era or American Wild West sometimes also an post-apocalyptic future or a fantasy world that uses the steam-power.

Steampunk is therefore the general style and aesthetic of the neo-Victorian trend, mostly recognizable to its anachronistic or fictional technologies just as seen in Verne's or Wells' works and respect of the era's perspective on art, culture, fashion and architecture. Added to that his exotic origins so colorfully represented striking blues and greens , he just by himself represents the paradox so dear to the steampunk aesthetics: how a traditional, archetypal character of an era here, the Indian prince resisting British colonialism can be doted with the most graphic, violent and technological weapons and tools and still be a character of depth.

London has also become a steampunk city, full with air balloons, tunnels under the Thames and a giant bridge in construction that links Great Britain to the European continent. This bridge is especially steampunk because it reunites traditional symbols of Great Britain like an armed Britannia or a roaring lion all the while turning them into symbols of modern technology. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol. It is moreover a lot more easier to depict a gang war between the Triades and the British MI-5 if they have hot balloons and mass destruction weapons.

But steampunk is also part of a discourse about itself. Indeed, Moore depicts this steampunk world without glossing over the problems of pollution, health care and war technologies the steam-power could cause. To the contrary, the so popular steampunk and neo- Victorian aspects of the graphic novel are at the center of the critique. The bridge's enormousness and the Nautilus are impossible projects that are presented in all their negativity.

The bridge is shown as a polluting monstrosity, unfinished and unfinishable. The Nautilus is a fortress shaped like a giant squid that destroys ships on its way up to the surface, and Nemo refers to the ships he has sunk with it several times. Moore makes it a reflection of our own modern world, and links the steampunk esthetics enormous weapons, aircrafts, ample Victorian costumes Moore elaborates an intricate discourse about comics in this graphic novel.

His point is to deconstruct the literary and social myth that Victoria's reign was a Golden Age through a critical use of the steampunk and retro-futuristic aesthetics, all the while sending the reader back to the roots of the modern comics in order remind them that the comic genre englobes the graphic novel as well as the comics 20 pages issue. Moore crafted a comic book about comics, destined to legitimize the genre and to praise the ephemeral magazine that started it more than a hundred years ago.

However, the issues themselves are not purely Victorian, being a retro-futuristic re- contextualization of 19th century literary myths. Moore therefore sets not only to write about comics, but also to modernize the general public's perception of those myths that were, before superheroes, the supernatural creatures that fixed the Western imaginary.

Rewriting Victoriana I said before that Moore's principal alteration of the characters was their end. They don't achieve the end their authors imagined for them and kept going as their characters until they escaped the original story. Moore's Griffin is different than Wells' because, not being lynched by the villagers who killed another albino, his megalomania took so much of his identity that instead of an emperor, Griffin now thinks he is some kind of god. But Moore also plays with the modern vision he has of a literary figure as opposed to the contextual vision an author from the 19 th Century had on his own character.

It also allows the authors to transpose their own modern vision of the characters through the superhero genre, and to assert their politically incorrect and gory style. The prism of colonialism and feminism This shows in his depiction of Mina, so different than Stoker's Mina, but more subtly on Verne's Captain Nemo. Verne's Nautilus is 10 meters long for 6 meters high and 5 meter large. Moore and O'Neil's is a good triple of that. This introduction to the ship rather than to the Captain is not only a good graphic effect, it serves to show Nemo's opposition and alienation from the others.

Mina is a woman and dresses soberly, Griffin is invisible, Dr Jekyll is sickly shy and Hyde is out of control, Quatermain is old and weak. But Nemo is the closest the reader can find to the original strong character archetype: dressed in League of Extraordinary flamboyant colors and standing tall despite Gentlemen, vol. Adding to that, he is a terrifying warrior and is somehow dedicated to a certain morale since he agrees to obey Mina and to help the British Intelligence, which he hates, for a greater cause. As much as it is a symbol of Nemo's character, the Nautilus' explosive, gigantic and menacing shape is symbolically at the image of it's Captain: Moore enhanced his Indian origins and aggressiveness to the extreme, while Verne made sure Nemo's origins were hard to pinpoint.

In Verne's work, Nemo is always described as an anonymous, well educated, western ized man obsessed with scientific progress: a symbol of resistance to the masters of the world that were the British people at the time. His character is inscribed in Jules Verne's central notion that progress is foremost: any people is worthy if it creates civilization.

His origins, if they accentuates Verne's critique of the British Empire and add depth and mystery to the character, do not change his interaction with people. His real enemies are the ones who do not apprehend the ocean properly whale killers and pirates mostly and the Nautilus is his own place of freedom.

This marks a strong difference with the original Nemo who claimed his land to be the sea and passed as a Westerner. Added to that, Nemo is never out of his full sepoy attire from the Indian Rebellion of , loudly claiming his identity as a foreigner in London.


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  • Finally, Moore and O'Neil take great pleasure associating Nemo to his sword and harpoon, cutting weapons, in each big fights of the series. For a man symbolic of the incredible progress of the times, this contrast suggests that the character is stuck between his traditional identity son of a Raja, nephew of Indian heroes, leader of an Insurrection Luckily, this contradicting identity finds a balance during the final fight against Moriarty's men, as he attaches his home made machine gun to his hips and efficiently fires it, killing all the enemy at once, dressed in the strangely soothing blue color as the entire page is green, standing while everyone else is shown being thrown to the ground.

    The next page shows him again the only blue color contrasting with the green tones of the scene , destroying the enemy along a half naked Hyde, his ape-like antics of dismembering and wild eyes a stark contrast with the calm, standing Indian officer fighting next to him. The scene is intentionally gory, the green light showcasing the dark red blood spills and Nemo's difference. Nemo's blue attire makes him not only the current enemy as a member of the League, but also an ideological enemy to the British guards's green, official uniform. The scene is presented as a cathartic military battle between him and his ideological oppressor.

    If Moore highlights Nemo's position as an ideological opponent to the all-mighty Britain, he does not forget the historical perception of the colonized people. It is no coincidence if the The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, vol.


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    • Placing the ape-like Hyde and the over-armed Nemo on the same panel, fighting alongside, both inspiring terror in the eyes of the British soldiers, Moore and O'Neil remind the reader of the ideological ideas that impregnated the now idealized Victorian Era, and that might still exist at the back of some British heads She is referring to the time she prevented Hyde from hurting her with only a stern tone, implying that she cannot even scold Nemo for he is too savage to listen.

      A feminist undercurrent Of course, Moore did not overtly modernize most Victorian concepts: misogyny and racism bubble beneath the surface in a way sure to make the reader slightly uncomfortable. The characters are pure products of their sometimes less-than-politically-correct times, and Moore wants it so: steampunk means Victorian ideology, which allows for Moore's insolent and provocative tone. Moreover, it adds realism and a conflictual situation that gives dynamics to the story. There is however a strong feminist undercurrent running through the work.

      Mina Harker, the most iconic virginal victim of the Victorian literature becomes the leader of a heteroclite band of murderers, rapists, drug addicts and pirates. Most importantly, she is completely independent from her original story. Moore even changed a few aspects of the original Mina that were not introduced by Stoker, whereas Verne already stated that Nemo was an anti-colonization Indian. First, Mina's neck is completely hidden by the scarf: instead of bite marks, Dracula completely scarred her neck. The scars disgusted Jonathan Harker who already blamed her for having fallen prey to Dracula and her socially unacceptable kidnapping.

      Stoker states that Mina goes back to her pure self in the end and enjoys a happy weeding and life with her husband. Moore does not even mention Harker and leaves Mina a scarred, bitter divorcee. Moore deliberately empowers Mina, adding an irreverently ironic touch to the respectful way the classic character is depicted. This is introduced very soon in the series when she find Quatermain in Cairo.

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      In a typical trope of the unsuspecting young woman entering a wolf's lair, Mina goes alone find him in the darkest part of Cairo. The following page completely turns the trope upside down as Quatermain is thrown to a wall and almost stabbed by the second opium seller. This time, Mina is the one saving him by stabbing the other man with his own sword before supporting the old man back to the ship, her red scarf the only touch of color in the whole page while Quatermain is uniformly grey. She is the pro-active one in the story, and the one who gets the others to stay within the League.

      Transposing the superhero genre Mina leading the League under the command of Campion Bond and their mysterious benefactor, M. M, is another sign of Moore's play with the world of Victoriana, the most ironic being him transposing the superhero genre onto a neo-Victorian pulp comic.

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      Indeed the superhero genre only started after Superman's creation in , and Moore had decided not to write about superheroes anymore after an incident with the publishing house DC Comics. This is of course only an impression, and the savagery of most of the characters is a playful deconstruction of the archetype of the gentlemen's club. Most of its member are here not to do good, but to gain something or not be sent to jail. This involuntary reunion of extraordinary characters finally gains a meaning when the group as a whole is given their orders by Campion As Mina observes the walls of the British museum, she discovers that they are not the first of their kind to be assembled by the British services.

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      The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction
      The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction
      The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction
      The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction
      The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction
      The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction The Fabulous Originals: Lives of Extraordinary People Who Inspired Memorable Characters in Fiction

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