The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One is a comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill, originally published under the Wildstorm imprint of DC Comics. A trade paperback has been published under DC's other imprints Vertigo and America's Best Comics. It is the first story in the larger League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. The story takes place in 1898 in a fictional world where all of the characters and events from Victorian literature (and possibly the entirety of fiction) coexist.
"London, 1898. The Victorian Era draws to a close and the twentieth century approaches. It is a time of great change and an age of stagnation, a period of chaste order and ignoble chaos. It is an era in need of champions.
Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin, Dr. Henry Jekyll, Mr. Edward Hyde, and Mina Murray are those champions, and together they comprise the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Recruited by the enigmatic Campion Bond, under the orders from the mysterious 'M,' these six adventurers are pressed into service by their empire in its time of need. Now they must face the nefarious Doctor and his vile plan for world domination. But things are not entirely as they seem; other factors, cryptic and corpuscular, are also at play. A remarkable drama ensues."
"The British Empire has always encountered difficulty distinguishing between its heroes from its monsters." -Campion Bond from Memoirs of an English Intelligence (Meeson's; 1908)
Issue 1: Empire Dreams
Miss Mina Murray is recruited by Campion Bond to assemble the League. Bond dispatches Murray to Egypt along with an unnamed sea captain (who is later revealed to be Captain Nemo). In Cairo, Murray finds Allan Quatermain, who has become an opium addict. The duo are forced to flee to the docks after Quatermain defends Murray from a group of Arabs who attempt to rape her, killing two of their number.
At the docks, Nemo emerges from the Nautilus and blasts the pursuing "Mohammedan rabble" with a large harpoon gun, rescuing Murray and Quatermain. Their next assignment is to head to Paris in order to rendezvous with C. Auguste Dupin and capture a beast-man who transpires to be Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. He has been hiding in Paris after faking his own suicide, and preying on prostitutes.
"In the next number of our picture periodical there are further scenes to divert and astonish, including episodes of a bawdy nature that out Lady readers, being of a more delicate sensibility, may wish to avoid."
Issue 2: Ghosts & Miracles
With Jekyll/Hyde successfully captured and handed over to MI5, the remaining trio head to a girl's school in Edmonton, run by the sado-masochistic Miss Rosa Coote. Rumours abound that many of the female pupils have become impregnated by the Holy Spirit. After a single night's investigation, the trio discover that the "Holy Spirit" is none other than Hawley Griffin, the Invisible Man, who has been hiding since faking his own death. At the time of his capture, he is raping Pollyanna Whittier.
"The next edition of our new Boy's Picture Monthly will continue this arresting yarn, in which the Empire's finest are brought into contact with the sly Chinese, accompanied by a variety of coloured illustrations from our artist that are sure to prove exciting to the manly, outwardgoing youngster of today."
Issue 3: Mysteries of the East
The League is then convened at its headquarters in the "secret annexe" of the Britisch Museum, where they are sent to recover a sample of Cavorite from the clutches of Fu Manchu (who is not mentioned by name for trademark reasons, but is instead identified by his pseudonym of "The Doctor").
According to Agent Bond, under the supervision of Professor Selwyn Cavor, Britain was secretly planning a moon landing to coincide with the turn of the 19th to 20th century celebrations. Cavorite is the key in powering and levitating heavier-than-air machines. However, the Doctor has stolen the cavorite, and may use it in his own efforts to gain revenge on the British Empire.
While Nemo decides to remain on board his submarine, the remaining quartet are dispatched to London's Limehouse district in order to discover more about the Chinese "devil-doctor". Murray and Griffin learn from an informant named Quong Lee (a storyteller from books by Thomas Burke) that Fu Manchu is indeed operating within the area and is planning something big; however, Lee only gives them information in the form of a cryptic riddle, stating, "The waters lap beneath the heavenly bridge. The dragon sleeps below it. My advice to you: do not awaken it." Although Griffin is skeptical, Murray concludes that Manchu's activities must be taking place beneath Rotherhithe Bridge.
Meanwhile, Quatermain and Jekyll enter Manchu's lair, and Quatermain spots the doctor applying caustic paint to one of his victims. The duo are almost uncovered as spies, but they manage to escape.
Back on board the Nautilus, the League convenes once more and Murray organises the evidence. She believes Manchu has stolen the cavorite for some nefarious purpose, and states that there is an uncompleted tunnel beneath Rotherhithe Bridge, which would be a perfect place for him to craft some form of aerial war machine undiscovered. Four of the group plan to infiltrate his lair and steal back the cavorite, with Nemo remaining on board the Nautilus.
"Tremble, dearest Reader, at the horrid spectacle of Johnny Chinaman*, armed with the mighty weapons of our new Electric Age and bent on turning them against our island home! Can any force prevail against this terrible affront? Do not fail to reserve the next edition of our illustrated chapbook and thus learn the outcome of this rousing and invigourating narrative!"
*The use of the phrase "Johnny Chinaman" can be traced back to the mid-19th century. Right before the setting of Volume I. It was a nickname used for a Chinese man. This is one of many racist words or phrases that can be found within in the series. Mainly Volume I and II as they were set in an older era. Alan Moore uses these words when writing the stories in order to maintain a sense of period authenticity. This isn't to excuse the use of these words but to add context as to why they are in there.
Issue 4: Gods of Annihilation
It is Quatermain and Murray who first manage to infiltrate the Doctor's lair, and they discover a gigantic flying craft, heavily armed with guns and cannons (the "dragon" of Quong Lee's riddle). Although they are discovered by a guard, an unnoticed Griffin is able to kill the guard and Quatermain takes his uniform, allowing him a disguise so that he might get inside the Dragon and steal back the cavorite.
Griffin heads back outside to fetch Jekyll in the hopes of creating a diversion. Once inside one of the entrances, Griffin infuriates Jekyll to such a degree that he becomes Hyde and begins slaughtering Manchu's henchmen.
Having stolen the cavorite, Murray and Quatermain are re-united with Hyde and Griffin in an underwater glass tunnel, and although they lock themselves in they realise it will only be a matter of time before Manchu's men burst in and kill them. To escape, Hyde grabs Quatermain and Murray, with Griffin holding onto his neck. Quatermain blasts a hole in the glass roof with his elephant gun and Murray activates the cavorite, propelling the group upwards through the cascading water. Manchu's base is flooded, the Dragon is destroyed, and the Nautilus rescues the group as they fall back down into the Thames.
Bond congratulates the group on their success, and leaves the Nautilus with the cavorite, telling them he will take it back to his superior M (another parallel to the James Bond mythos). However, Griffin is oddly absent from the group, having disguised a load of brooms as himself, using his own bandages, spectacles and clothing. He follows Bond back to the Military Intelligence Headquarters, and discovers that M is in fact professor James Moriarty, the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes - note how this scene manages to subtly make another reference to 007, as both "James" (Moriarty) and "Bond" (Campion) appear in "M"'s office, discussing an evil genius's plans to threaten England.
"In the next number of our picture publication we see astonishing reversals as apparent victory Is swallowed in impending catastrophe. Mothers of sensitive or neurasthenic children may wish to examine the contents before passing it on to their little one, removing those pages which they consider to be unsuitable."
Issue 5: "Some Deep, Organizing Power..."
In flashback, Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes engage in their final confrontation at the Reichenbach Falls (as in Conan Doyles's The Final Problem). However, as Holmes fakes his own death, it revealed that Moriarty has survived his apparently fatal plunge into the falls, from where he is rescued by Campion Bond and Colonel Sebastian Moran. He ordered Moran to murder Holmes. Moriarty's criminal empire is in fact a front created by British Intelligence which Moriarty now controls, although he admits to being unsure whether he is a spy posing as a criminal or the other way round. He controls London's West end Underworld, while Manchu controls the East.
Moriarty has constructed his own aerial war machine, and with the cavorite he can now put it into action. Griffin returns to the Nautilus and informs the group of what he's discovered. Nemo realises that M is Moriarty, and that he plans to bomb London's east end, destroying what is left of Manchu's criminal empire.
After Murray and Quartermain try futilely to prevent Moriarty from launching his ship, and have a run-in with The Artful Dodger from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, the League embark aboard the Victoria, a hot-air balloon on Nemo's ship that was once owned by Jules Verne's "Five Weeks in a Balloon's" Samuel Ferguson, and board Moriarty's ship.
"In next month's harrowing conclusion to our splendid serial narrative we shall transcend the very boundaries of human spectacle in our depiction of this battle for the sovereign skies! IF man ye be and not some craven dog of Flanders, then in G___'s name do not miss our profuse climax!"
Issue 6: The Day of Be-With-Us
Hyde and Nemo launch an attack on the crew (Nemo using a fully automatic harpoon gun, Hyde using his fists), while Murray and Quatermain ascend to the top deck where Moriarty is waiting (Griffin has cowardly stripped and remains by the balloon, which is still anchored to the ship). Quatermain guns down Moriarty's guards using his own machine gun; however, the Professor disarms him and prepares to kill him. Murray smashes the case containing the cavorite and Moriarty rushes toward the device, grabs onto it, and is propelled into the night sky. The League leave the ship via the balloon, and once again are rescued by the Nautilus, this time manned by Nemo's first mate Ishmael (the narrator from Herman Melville's Moby-Dick).
The series ends with Mycroft Holmes, who becomes the League's new director, congratulating the League for their work, telling them to remain in London should there be additional need for them in the future. The comic ends with the scene of Martian ships falling towards Woking, and sets in motion the Second Volume.
"HURRAH! Thus we conclude our first remarkable and rousing narrative...but wait! What are these ominous and incandescent lanterns, plunging through the London summer skies of 1898? To learn the answer, seek out the fourthcoming second volume of our chums's extraordinary exploits, made available from all purveyors of fine literature at some point later in our current century. Long live the Queen!"
"We have heard of this device, above London. They say it was powered by light, but this is surely fantastic. Can it be true? Also, they tell us that they Sikh is still alive and played some part in this affair. I must confess I do not know what to think. And now these fireballs in the sky! Our element is all in uproar, it would seem. What next? Whatever next?" -Robur, in private correspondence with Luftkapitan Mors, August 12, 1898
The Distinguished Authors
"MR. ALAN MOORE, author and former circus exhibit (as 'The What-Is-It from Borneo'), is chiefly famed for his chapbooks produced with the younger reader in mind. He astounded the Penny Dreadful world with such noted pamphlets as 'A Child's Garden of Venereal Horrors' (1864), and 'Cocaine and Rowing: The Sure Way to Health' (1872) before inheriting a Cumbrian jute mill and, in 1904, expiring of Scorn."
"MR. KEVIN O'NEILL, commenced his career as a pugilist in 1859. Due to excessive drinking and repeated cerebral splintering during and early bout with Walter Phibbs, the Widnes Goliath, O'Neill passed into an insensible state from which he was never fully to awaken. However, in 1885, doctors discovered that by attaching galvanising cables directly to the comatose prize-fighter's brain, his right hand could be made to delineate exquisite and fanciful illustrations, such as his well-known series 'Modern Times, or The Progress of a Scented Nonce,' and, of course, his scandalous 'Queen Victoria and Emily Pankhurst Girl-On-Girl Novelty Flipbook.' Mr. O'Neill is currently maintained on a special diet at the London Hospital."
- First Murray Group
- British Military Intelligence
- Auguste Dupin
- Rosa Belinda Coote
- Katy Carr
- Olive Chancellor
- Becky Randall
- Pollyanna Whittier
- Selwyn Cavor
- Nautilus Crew Members
- Quong Lee
- Shan Yen
- Ho Ling
- Sherlock Holmes(flashback)
- The Artful Dodger
- Mister Watts
Written as young boy's periodical. It's a prequel to Volume I that tells the adventures of Allan Quatermain meeting the Time Traveller, Randolph Carter, and John Carter and their battle against the Morlocks.
Basil Hallward's Paint by Numbers: No. 1. Dorian Gray
Simply a black and white portrait of Dorian Gray intended to be painted by the reader. A second, now painted in picture, depicts a very elderly looking Dorian Gray.
A story depicting a bathroom on wheels designed by the Fergus of Fergus.
"Dashed Good Try Sir!"
A small biography on Dr. Barnstable Herzegovina Barnstable and his invention the Electrical Cardio-Turbine.
This maze with no solution has you help Allan Quatermain find his missing drug, Taduki.
Shortly after the release of Volume I, a film adaptation was released on July 11, 2003. It received mixed to negative critical reviews. The film famously caused lead actor Sean Connery to retired. Stephen Norrington vowed never to direct another film again.
Both Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill disliked the movie immensely. Moore distanced himself from all movies based on his works. O'Neill believes the movie didn't work due to not staying faithful to the source material.
Despite the bad legacy of the first film adaptation, 20th Century Studios has recently announced they will be moving forward with a new adaption. This time it is said to be closer to the original work.