I was inspired to run a new feature today, highlighting books that I am reading or really enjoying. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I am a voracious reader. I love reading, especially science fiction, fantasy, and adventure books. I am also a huge comic book fan.
My father got me into reading, he always had a book or something when I was growing up, and continues to now. We even exchange books at holidays through the mail to further each others habits. He introduces me to new fiction and adventure novels, I show him great genre and science fiction reads.
This particular column, hell the reason that I thought to do this today, was inspired by a comic book. I have been collecting comics since i was 10 yeas old in 1986. Superheroes, independent press, a variety of reads throughout the years. Never before though have I been so astounded by a book than the one I am reading now. This includes novels and "real literature." Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier.
First a bit of back story. Alan Moore is comics literary genius. Creating some of comics greatest works, V For Vendetta, From Hell, Watchmen, and seminal runs on Superman, Swamp Thing, and Miracle Man. Many of these works have been translated to film, some good (V for Vendetta) and some bad ( League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Moore will have nothing to do with the films, giving all proceeds to the artist an not wanting his name on something he didn't directly do. O'Neill is a gifted artist who helps create the League book's Victorian feel.
There are three League series in print so far and I recommend getting the first 2 volumes for back story. What Moore has done is to craft a tale of some of literature's greatest characters into a team of heroes of the royal crown. Mina Murry, wife of Jonathan Harker of Dracula fame. Mr. Hyde, Allen Quartermain, The Invisible Man, and Captain Nemo comprise the team featured in his books. But the scope of research done to connect so many literary characters so well is mind boggling. Weaving a tapestry that connects novels like Last of The Mohican's, Pilgrims Progress, Gulliver's Travels, Shakespeare' Midsummers Night Dream,War of the Worlds , Sherlock Holmes, 1984 and characters like James Bond, Fanny Hill, H.G. Wells Time Traveler... the list is endless.
As I read the third volume, presented as a collection of articles on the various incarnations of the League throughout the years, with Prospero's league (featured in Shakespeare's The Tempest) to Mina Murry's 19th century League, to a 1950's League led by James Bond and Emma Peel (from televisions Avengers) I am amazed at the amount of research that Moore pored into this work.
I consider myself fairly well read, but I have never felt like more of a literary hack than while reading this book. I honestly cannot imagine putting such time and energy into something like this, crammed with reference that most people may not even see. Including me, as I surely have not read every one of of the novels Moore references. It's almost demoralizing to see how inconsequential what I do is in comparison.
This is what comic books are truly capable of. Moore's works, particularly Watchmen ( a deconstruction of super heroes in the real world) are already studies in colleges. In fact Watchmen is considered by many to be the pinnacle of comic storytelling. Moore is blowing this stuff away with his League books. Please check them out.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
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