Sunday, April 20, 2014


Since LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN is one of my prime examples in THE LOGIC AND APPEAL OF CROSSOVERS, it should be obvious that I think this is a damned good crossover. I'll go even further: I think it's a work that's more in touch with the creative propensities of co-creator Alan Moore than many of Moore's more celebrated-- but sometimes intellectually arid-- works like WATCHMEN and V FOR VENDETTA. And as much as I like co-creator Kevin O'Neill's acid visual wit in MARSHAL LAW, I believe GENTLEMEN gives him a wider variety of emotional states to render.

That said, I wouldn't necessarily pronounce all the GENTLEMEN crossovers to be of equal excellence. I liked many sections of BLACK DOSSIER, but some of Moore's experiments in imitating authors like Jack Kerouac struck me as empty posturing, while I found the conclusion of CENTURY: 1910 almost unreadable.

So it's the first two volumes of GENTLEMEN that win pride of place here.  While I appreciate some of Moore and O'Neill's intellectual points about the evils of imperialism or the changing roles of males and females, I'm more impressed with the mix of characters-- with scenes like Nemo and Quatermain confessing their shared love for adventure despite their political defenses, or Hyde's quixotic feelings toward Mina Murray. 

Yet even the skillful interplay of the characters and their backstories proves secondary to the Moore-O'Neil project of writing a love letter to popular fiction.  Further, though bits of pop-fiction from America (Poe's Auguste Dupin) or France (Captain Nemo) have important roles to play, most of the characters the co-creators re-invent stem from British authors like Wells, Stevenson, Doyle, and even post-Victorian types like Ian Fleming. I would imagine that an author as well-versed as Moore in the history of fiction, popular and canonical, is aware that British authors were pre-eminent in the creation of what we now call popular fiction. Some genres were essentially invented in Britain, like the Gothic novel and the imperialistic adventure-novel, while some forms, like the detective story and the science-fiction romance, were arguably re-defined by British authors.  I further imagine that for Moore at least, there's considerable irony that his country defined so much of early pop fiction at the same time his countrymen boasted that the sun would never set upon their empire.  Now, of course, there is no real British empire-- a fact Moore and O'Neill would probably celebrate-- yet Britain is also less pre-eminent in the world of popular fiction, which has been very nearly usurped by the publishing juggernauts of Britain's former colony.

So, even though Moore and O'Neill express a Wellsian distaste for the exploitative nature of empire, they're far more sentimental than he ever was about the fantastic figures spawned during that period.

GENTLEMEN, by the way, would be another example of a "static crossover," since the creators are concerned less with any particular interplay between characters, or sets of characters, and more with creating the milieu in which all these characters can co-exist. It's occured to me that one might also term these two crossovers as "character-oriented" and "plot-oriented" in contrast to "dynamic" and "static," but I plan to keep the first set of terms at this point in time.

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