Day Two – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
This past fall I managed to finally get my hands on a copy of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: the Black Dossier and read it cover-to-cover. Having read the first two volumes of the League again along with the Black Dossier, I realized that the Chinese and Arabic people in the series, specifically the first volume, are very ugly. In an interview in Tripwire in 1998 Moore states: “It’s more British attitudes that are being pilloried rather than the targets of those attitudes” (Taken from Heroes & Monsters by Jess Nevins).
While it’s easy to say that with the publication of Lost Girls, Moore has a lot of sex on the brain and it’s bleeding into his other works, Black Dossier being one of them (and believe me, I’ve heard this theory bandied about), the challenge to understand sex in Moore’s work stems from the material that Moore is working with in pastiche.
There’s an interesting section in The Black Dossier that recreates a sequel to the John Cleland novel Fanny Hill, titled “The New Adventrues of Fanny Hill, or the Further Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure”, where Moore and O’Neill are both riffing on the source: 18th century pornography. Not that I’m an expert in that field but the aims of the piece in the Dossier are legitimate. There is indeed an approach similar to the literature of that time. I’m also reminded of a popular play from that era: William Wycherley’s The Country Wife. What really perplexes me about the Fanny Hill story is that the publishing date says 1912 in Roman numerals, and that really throws me off.
The grotesque is a very important feature of many characters in the League. The emphasis on how good the English look compared to others is striking, and it appears to be the running theme of all three books. In volume 1 it’s apparent in the members of the League themselves (specifically Hyde and Nemo) and their appearance. In the 2nd volume you can spot it in Dr. Moreau’s animal hybrids. In the league, I believe that it’s present in the character of Jimmy, the James Bond parody character.
Jimmy appears to be an uber-smooth ladies’ man on the surface, but when Mina and Allan kick his ass in the “ministry of love”, he looks battered and beaten and we get a real portrait of the super-spy. It’s not pretty. I believe this is what the League series does with these figures. We get real portraits of not-so-pretty ideals. I also found this on a more comical note with Dr. Moreau’s hybrids. This is what makes the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen so interesting for me. It’s easy to salivate over all the literary references that appear here and there, but what’s going on under the surface, especially with the way the series is written, it what really strikes me as the basis for this great series.
Happy Boxing Day! See you tomorrow!