Nevins is a reference librarian. His annotations
of the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", found at
http://www.geocities.com/ratmmjess/league1.html, were praised
in the pages of "Spin Magazine" by Alan Moore himself.
Alan Moores League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a very entertaining
satire of Victorian-era adventure fiction. Moore also knowingly
uses Victorian archetypes; three of the members of the League and
their arch-enemy represent archetypes of Victorian-era adventure
The first archetype is embodied in Allan Quatermain, who first appeared
in H. Rider Haggards King Solomons Mines in 1885 and
went on to star in several sequels and prequels. The book has never
been out of print, and was immediately popular, selling over 50,000
copies--a quite respectable number, for the timein America
and England in two years. King Solomons Mines and its sequel,
Allan Quatermain, were enormously influential, spawning hundreds
of imitations. But the influence of Haggard and of the Quatermain
figure went beyond simple attempts to duplicate the Lost Race milieu,
what David Pringle calls "lost, forgotten or deliberately hidden
civilizations occupying undersea or underground realms or hidden
valleys, or some other forbidden enclave on or beneath our Earth."
(Pringle, Encyclopedia of Fantasy, page 594). Haggards creation
continues to be influential in popular literature and film today.
David Pringle has pointed out, Haggards influence on modern
literature and writers is two-fold. The first type of influence
comes through the Lost Race/Lost World genre. Much of Haggards
work with Quatermain involves Quatermain adventuring in African
Lost Worlds. What must be remembered about Haggard is that the Lost
Race/Lost World genre did not exist as a genre before King Solomons
Mines. There were certainly many earlier works with unknown lands
and races, but the genre as a whole did not develop until after
the real world was fully explored and mapped. In this respect the
Lost World/Lost Race genre only truly begins in the late 19th century,
with King Solomons Mines being the first of its kind. (Pringle,
The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, page 594)
King Solomons Mines popularity and the subsequent demands
for sequels and similar books not only helped Haggard prosper as
a writer but also gave rise to a flourishing industry of Lost World
writers. These imitators were numerous in the late 1880s and 1890s,
including such overt "homages" as John De Morgans
King Solomons Treasures, Andrew Langs He, and King Solomons
Wives by Henry Biron. However, the reading publics taste for
Lost Race/Lost World stories did not significantly diminish in the
decades to come. Writers as diverse as Edgar Rice Burroughs with
his Tarzan novels and Arthur Conan Doyle with Professor Challenger
and The Lost World (1912) produced Lost World stories. Even today
Lost World/Lost Race stories are still being written, as with Michael
Crichtons Congo, written in 1980 and filmed in 1995. Likewise,
subgenres as various as, in Pringles words, "tales of
forbidden enclaves, Ruritanias, planetary romance, prehistoric neverworlds,
fantasy-lands accessed by `portals, etc" all derive in
large part from the Lost World/Lost Race form which Haggard created.
second and larger influence of Haggard and Quatermain lies in fantasy
and adventure literature. Several of the most influential twentieth-century
authors of fantasy fiction, including Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert
E. Howard, read Haggard and were greatly influenced by him. Haggards
influence on Burroughs, A. Merritt, and Howard is marked, and those
three were models for writers of American pulp-style fantasy, as
well as sword-and-sorcery, which Haggard, via Eric Brighteyes (1891)
with its retelling of the Norse sagas, also prefigured. Haggard,
both through his Lost World/Lost Race and through his historical
novels and colonial romances, influenced many of the adventure writers
who penned stories for American and British pulps, authors as various
as Harold Lamb, Talbot Munday, and Arthur O. Friel.
was also read by C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien where his influence
is also visible in these authors plot and descriptive passages.
Through them Haggards Quatermain has influenced what Pringle
calls the "British `scholarly stream of fantasy,"
(Pringle, e-mail) which remains dominant in the fantasy genre.
himself, the Great White Hunter, the single character most people
remember from Haggard, is representative of all that Haggard established
and influenced. As Haggards lead character, he stands in for
Haggard in League, and represents all that Haggard did. [up]
Likewise, Mina Murray is, in her own way, something of an archetype.
Her original appearance was as Mina Harker in Bram Stokers
Dracula (1897). The character of Mina Harker in Dracula is somewhat
at odds with the character of Mina Murray in League. In part this
is because of the way in which Mina has changed, in the world of
League, since the events of Dracula. But, coincidentally or deliberately,
Alan Moores Mina Harker is in many ways similar to a large
number of female characters in late-Victorian-era genre fiction
and is in large part an archetypal Victorian genre heroine.
the popular stereotypes of the Victorian era, women in England were
presented with a variety of role models to emulate. Clerical, medical,
sociological, and political spokesmen, all the mouthpieces of high
culture, stressed the sanctity of marriage, family, duty, chastity,
modesty, and other attributes that we today think of as stereotypically
Victorian. But as Michael Harrison, in Fanfare of Strumpets (1971),
and Peter Gay, in his five-volume "The Bourgeois Experience,
Victoria to Freud" series, point out, there were a varied number
and kind of female figures on which women could and did model themselves.
There were, of course, the morally upright, prudish figures, of
whom Queen Victoria (in the popular imagination) might be seen as
there were others who were not so confined to the morality of the
upper classes and who not only acted independently but flaunted
their unconventional lifestyle. Gay details how men and women of
all classes were much less bound by romantic and sexual restrictions
than is popularly thought. Harrison demonstrates how after 1860,
kept women, courtesans, demi-mondaines, the Grand Horizontales,
the Great Strumpets--whichever term one chooses to describe the
women of the Victorian age who accepted money from their lovers
in exchange for company and physical affection--were not only not
socially ostracized by Victorian high society, but they were accepted
into the most exclusive parties and occasions, idolized by many
young women and watched with admiration by both mothers and daughters.
A large number of women went so far as to copy their fashions and
dress their children in modified versions of the most characteristic
styles of the demi-mondaines. (Harrison, page 101)
high and low, was under no illusion as to what these women did but
did not condemn them for their actions. Rather, they were seen as
daringly unconventional as well as the living embodiments of a female
fantasy: wealthy, able to speak their minds without fear of social
punishment, and free to indulge in various pleasures whenever they
chose while not being tied down with children, poverty, or a restrictive,
soul-deadening marriage. These women were, likewise, able to travel
when they wanted, were socially influential, and routinely engaged
in activities such as riding and training horses which had previously
been seen as the province of men alone.
was reflected in a surprisingly large amount of adventure and detective/mystery
fiction where the heroines, or female love interests or adversaries
of the central hero were significantly more independent and less
subservient than modern readers would imagine of a Victorian-era
fictional heroine. Leaving aside the penny dreadful heroines, of
whom there were many, there were a number of heroines who did not
fit the conventional stereotype. The first professional female detective--that
is, one employed as a professional investigator and crime solver--was
"L_____" (her name is never given), who appeared in William
Burtons "The Secret Cell," in 1837, predating even
Poes Dupin, who first appeared in 1841. The first British
novel to feature a female detective was William S. Haywards
Revelations of a Lady Detective from 1861, 26 years before Doyle
debuted Sherlock Holmes. By comparison, the first really notable
male detectives in English fiction were Inspector Bucket in Charles
Dickens Bleak House, (1853), Hawkshaw in Tom Taylors
The Ticket-of-Leave Man (1863), and Sergeant Cuff in Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone (1868). While few of these women were as assertive
and abrasive as Moores Mina Murray, they were all independent
and self-sufficient, and some, like Fergusson Wright Humes
excellent Hagar Stanley and Grant Allens Lois Cayley, were
as cool, self-possessed, and tough as Mina.
Adventure fiction, too, had enough female characters who were much
closer to the willful and independent Grand Strumpets of British
reality than to the weaker milquetoasts of didactic literature.
Most notable is Irene Adler, The Woman to Sherlock Holmes, who appeared
in 1891's "A Scandal in Bohemia." Adler is, of course,
a match for Holmes. Adler is clever, an "adventuress"
(and any Victorian would have known what that meant), and quick
on her feet. Adler, in fact, cannot be classified as anything except
a demi-mondaine, as witness her unmarried relationship with the
King of Bohemia. Yet Adler is not presented as an outright villain
in the Doyle story but rather as someone to be respected and almost
admired, as Holmes does at the storys end.
I have spent a significant space on Mina Murray and her Victorian
counterparts, it is because the stereotype of how the Victorians
saw women, as the prim, demure, soft-spoken, chaste, delicate shrinking
violet, is the most common and therefore requires the most space
to overcome. In Dracula Mina Harker is not as openly independent
as Irene Adler or Lois Cayley or any of the others mentioned. But
she is no weak sister and is present at the storys end for
Count Draculas defeat. In her incarnation as Mina Murray in
League, she is most like these independent female adventurers and
detectives. Mina Murray is not so much archetypal in the sense of
having set the character type; she is archetypal in representing
so many of the characteristics of the character type. [up]
Captain Nemo comes from Jules Vernes Twenty Thousand Leagues
Under the Sea (1870), and has always been memorable enough for his
name to evoke very specific memories, even if they are of James
Mason rather than the Indian Verne always intended Nemo to be. But
on a deeper level Verne, in the character of Nemo, created an archetype
that later writers followed, to greater and lesser degrees, but
which, through its longevity and the originality of its concept,
has always been influential. Nemo was the archetypal Man With The
Machine (TMWTM), the inventor/engineer character who created scientifically
advanced machines and used them on their adventures. In his French
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Pulp Fiction Jean-Marc Lofficier
describes Nemo in terms which apply to a certain extent to The Man
With The Machine archetype:
is a Byronesque figure: a brilliant scientist, an adventurer, a
loner who exists beyond the reaches of mans society, a law
unto himself, like Dumas Count of Monte-Cristo, a man so wronged
that he committed unspeakable deeds in the name of revenge. Nemo
was an avenger who stood for freedom and justice. He was almost
an anarchist, a modern anti-hero. (Lofficier, page 338)
Objections immediately rise to this claim. Werent there already
science fictional characters who fit this description? Yes, but
not like Nemo, neither in terms of their fame or literary and cultural
influence. As Lofficier points out, isnt the Nemo character
merely an extension of the Byron/Count of Monte-Cristo? To a certain
extent, yes, but the Nemo character, unlike the Byronic or Monte-Cristo
archetypes, operates in science fictional settings as well as engages
the world far more directly than the Byronic character, whose weltschmertz
is more important than the idea of changing the world, or the Monte-Cristo
character, for whom personal vengeance supercedes other ideals.
(Nemos vengeance is against the entire world, unlike Monte-Cristos,
which is quite personal and directed at a handful of individuals.)
The Nemo character, the Man With The Machine, is a development of
the Byron/Count of Monte-Cristo archetype, not an extension of it.
are two primary strains of science fiction which involve TMWTM characters.
The first is what has been called Techno-fantasy or Science Fantasy,
in which the Machine replaces the Magic Item (sword, ring, amulet,
etc.) of fantasy stories. The Machine is the object which allows
the hero to do whatever he wills--and the protagonist is almost
always a male--and the explanation for The Machines operation
and existence is "Its Scientific!" in much the same
way that a magic sword is understood to be sharper and harder than
ordinary swords because "Its Magical!" Much of mass-media
science fiction, including Star Wars and Star Trek, and virtually
all modern superhero comics fall into this category, regardless
of the lengths to which their creators go to justify the Techno-fantasies
by means of pseudo-scientific jargon.
second type of science fiction in which TMWTM appears is what has
become known as "hard science fiction," that is, science
fiction which is based on either established or reasonably extrapolated
science and scientific principles. In hard science fiction faster
than light travel is not possible, or takes place only through verifiable
scientific phenomenon such as wormholes. In hard science fiction,
travel between planets takes place at speeds slower than light.
A significant proportion of modern science fiction is hard, but
in the mass media it is rare and in comic books nearly non-existent.
the Victorian era this dichotomy was most prominently seen in H.G.
Wells, whose work usually qualified as Techno-fantasy, and Jules
Verne, who was far more scrupulous in his use of science. (The pair
were aware of their differing styles, with Verne speaking scornfully
of what he saw as Wells lack of scientific credibility).
terms of The Man With The Machine, the Techno-fantasy TMWTM predates
even Verne. In 1868 Edward S. Ellis, in the dime novel Beadles
American Novel #45, created the character of Johnny Brainerd, in
"The Huge Hunter, or the Steam Man of the Prairies." Brainerd
was a young hunch-backed dwarf who created a man-shaped steam engine
and used it to adventure in the American frontier. Attempts to describe
the steam engine in realistic terms were made, but the net effect
of "The Huge Hunter" was of a Techno-fantasy machine.
was the first Edisonade. An Edisonade was a boy inventor who used
a machine, usually some kind of ship, to transport himself to the
Western frontier and make his fortune by "civilizing"
it, usually by slaughtering great numbers of natives. The Edisonade
was one of the most popular of the dime novel forms, and Edisonade
characters such as Frank Reade, Jr., Tom Edison, Jr., and Electric
Bob appeared in the dime novels through the 1890s. After the heyday
of the Edisonades ended, the figure of the brilliant if eccentric
inventor whose creations were powerful weapons and vehicles remained,
sometimes as comic characters, as in Clement Fezandies "Doctor
Hackensaw" stories, but more often as heroic Thomas Edison
types. The coming of the "space opera," what Brian Stapleford
describes as "colourful action-adventure stories of interplanetary
or interstellar conflict," brought the figure of the Edisonade
into a new context, that of outer space. In each case The Man With
The Machine, the Edisonade, made use of machines whose workings
were only lightly justified, if at all, by actual science.
The hard science fiction Man With The Machine began with Captain
Nemo, whose ship, the Nautilus, was described in great detail and
at great length, with Verne ascribing its marvels to electricity
in very realistic and plausible terms. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under
The Sea was published in France in 1870; the first British translation
was published in 1872, with an American translation following in
1873. Its influence was marked; Luis Senarens, the creator of Frank
Reade, Jr. and one of the most influential dime novel authors, read
Vernes work and praised him for it, in turn receiving a letter
of praise from Verne himself. (This led to both authors using concepts
that first appeared in the others work.) Many of the protagonists
of Vernes later works, including Robur the Conqueror from
The Clipper of the Clouds (1887), are Men With The Machine variations
on Nemo. Thinly veiled copies of Nemo proliferated following the
British publication of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, with
two of the most blatant being Bracebridge Hemyngs "Captain
Nemo," in "Dick Lightheart; or, the Scapegrace at Sea,"
published in Young Men of Great Britain in 1873, and Edward Stratemeyers
"Captain Vindex," in "The Wizard of the Deep; or,
the Search for the Million Dollar Pearl," in 1895. Captain
Mors, a character who appeared in 165 issues of a German dime novel,
Der Luftpirat und sein Lenkbares Luftschiff (1908-1911) and who
is mentioned in League, was another Man With The Machine whose adventures
took him into space, anticipating the space opera genre.
Nemo is the archetypal Man With The Machine. [up]
The Insidious Doctor Fu Manchu was the creation of "Sax Rohmer"
a.k.a. Arthur Sarsfield Ward, and first appeared in The Mystery
of Fu Manchu (1913: American title, The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu),
with numerous appearances following over the next few decades. Fu
Manchu is in many respects the Yellow Peril archetype. Fu Manchu
admittedly was not the first Yellow Peril stereotype, nor was he
even a Victorian character. But, as we shall see, Fu Manchu was
the high point for the Yellow Peril stereotype, and the versions
which followed were mostly modeled, consciously or unconsciously,
Sinister Oriental, or Yellow Peril, stereotype begins in the 19th
century. Through much of the early and middle part of the century
Asians, when they appeared in British and American fiction, were
stereotyped either as lust-crazed, savage, opium-addicts or as simple,
sentimental peasants. It was only in the 1890s that the idea of
an evil Asian mastermind, one capable of threatening not just one
man but an entire nation or the world itself, began to appear in
first true Yellow Peril figure was Kiang Ho, who appeared in "Tom
Edison Jr.s Electric Sea Spider, or, The Wizard of the Submarine
World," in the dime novel Nugget Library in 1892. "Tom
Edison Jr.s Electric Sea Spider" was credited to "Philip
Reade," but "Reade" was a house name for Street and
Smith, and so Kiang Hos true creator may never be known. Kiang
Ho, either Mongolian or Chinese--the text refers to him as both--is
a warlord and pirate who controls a port in China and prowls the
seas, leading a fleet of ships (and a super-submarine) and sinking
everything in sight. Kiang Ho is also Harvard-educated and more
literate and articulate than one would expect. He is eventually
defeated and killed by Tom Edison, Jr., but for most of the story
poses a significant threat.
Yen How, a character from M.P. Shiels The Yellow Danger (1898),
is the first Yellow Peril figure to appear in British fiction. Shiel,
who is today best remembered for his languid, drug-taking Decadent
detective Prince Zaleski, was from Montserrat and was not purely
White but tried to hide his ethnic background and, perhaps as overcompensation,
took on several of bigotries common to the era, especially against
Jews and Asians. Dr. Yen How is one example of Shiels bigotry.
He is a half-Japanese, half-Chinese warlord who connives his way
to power in China, unites China and Japan, manipulates the European
Great Powers into warring with each other, and then unleashes the
armies of Japan and China on the West. Naturally, Dr. Yen How is
eventually defeated but through the course of the novel he is presented
as a very worthy opponent for the doughty White hero. In 1896 Robert
Chambers published a series of stories in The Maker of Moons about
a Chinese sorcerer and emperor named Yue-Laou, but entertaining
and Yellow Peril-ish though Yue-Laou is, he belongs in the horror
fiction tradition rather than mystery and adventure; through previous
decades similar evil magician characters, usually depicted as Italian
or Egyptian, had appeared. Too, Yue-Laou threatens the world through
sorcery rather than through criminal or military means.
Yen How and Fu Manchu the only significant Yellow Peril character
was Quong Lung, who appears in Dr. C.W. Doyles The Shadow
of Quong Lung (1900). Quong Lung is a merciless crime lord and the
evil ruler of San Franciscos Chinatown. He is also a Yale
graduate and a "barrister of Londons Inner Temple."
Quong Lung, however, has no higher aims than to rule the underworld
of San Francisco, and so is not in the same league as Yen How or
Kiang Ho nor Yen How started the craze of Yellow Peril characters,
however. It was Fu Manchu himself who did that, and Kiang Ho and
Yen How must be seen as forerunners rather than influences. It is
true that Fu Manchu did not spring from nowhere. Interest (mostly
racially biased) in China and the Chinese developed in America and
the United Kingdom following the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900),
and during the Edwardian years there was an enthusiasm among British
readers for tales set in Londons Limehouse district, as seen
in Thomas Burkes excellent "Quong Lee" stories.
(Not coincidentally, Quong Lee also appears briefly in League.)
But Fu Manchu was immediately popular and spawned numerous imitators,
characters who did not exist before The Insidious Doctor came along.
A short list of Fu Manchu-styled and -modeled characters will indicate
the breadth of influence of the character:
LeRouges Dr. Cornelius Kramm, from the 18 Le Mystérieux
Docteur Cornélius, beginning in 1913; Li Ku Yu, M.P. Shiels
reprise of Dr. Yen How, in "To Arms!" (1913), later published
as The Dragon and The Yellow Peril; Wu Fang, from the Exploits of
Elaine serial in 1914; Sax Rohmers Mr. King and the Golden
Scorpion (the latter an agent of Fu Manchu himself), from the "Gaston
Max" stories beginning in 1915; the enemy in the serial Neal
of the Navy, in 1915; Jean de la Hires Leonid Zattan, from
the French "Nyctalope" series of novels, beginning in
1915; Wu, from the 1916 comic strip "Captain Gardiner of the
International Police;" the Silent Menace, from the 1916 serial
Pearl of the Army; Ali Singh, from the 1916 serial The Yellow Menace;
H. Irving Hancocks Li Shoon, from Detective Story Magazine
in 1916 and 1917; A.E. Apples Mr. Chang, from 33 stories and
two collections, beginning in Detective Story in 1919; Ssu Hsi Tze,
the "Ruler of Vermin" from "The Spider" novels,
in the mid-1930s; Wu Fang, from the serial Ransom, in 1928; Ming
the Merciless, from Flash Gordon, beginning in 1929; Kong Gai and
the Nameless One, from Sidney Herschell Smalls "Sgt.
Jimmy Wentworth" stories in Detective Fiction Weekly beginning
in 1931; Botak, from the 1932-1933 radio serial "The Orange
Lantern;" Wu Fang, from Norman Marshs Dan Dunn comic
strip; Carl Zaken, "The Black Doctor," and Chang Chien,
from T.T. Flynns "Valentine Easton" stories in Dime
Detective in 1933 and 1934; Wo Fan, in Bedford Rohmers "Wo
Fan" stories in New Mystery Adventures in 1935 and 1936; Wu
Fang, in Robert Hogans The Mysterious Wu Fang from in 1935
and 1936; Doctor Yen Sin, in Donald Keyhoes Dr. Yen Sin in
1936; The Griffin, from J. Allen Dunns stories in Detective
Fiction Weekly in the late 1930s; and Pao Tcheou, specifically identified
as a cousin of Fu Manchu, from Edward Brookers French "Le
Maitre de LInvisible" novels beginning in 1939.
so on, through the 1970s, with the hilarious moment in James Blishs
The Day After Judgment (1971) when Satan is mistaken for Fu Manchu,
and into the 1990s, where Hark, in Warren Ellis Planetary,
is a member of a pantheon of pulp immortals.
Fu Manchu is not the first of the Yellow Peril characters, he was
historically the most important of them, so much so that the stereotype
came to be named after him. [up]
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Griffin, the Invisible Man, do not individually
represent archetypes of Victorian literature.
Dr. Henry Jekyll and his horrific alter ego "Mr. Henry Hyde"
were familiar figures to readers in the late Victorian years and
afterwards, and today the phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" has
entered common parlance and become a cliche. In this sense Jekyll
and Hyde are archetypal; when thinking of the phenomenon, one thinks
of the original. However, the number of truly Jekyll-and-Hyde characters
in literature are few, and in this sense Jekyll and Hyde have not
been influential. The most prominent example is Marvel Comics
The Hulk, Dr. Bruce Banner in his calm, human state, but when he
is enraged becomes the Incredible Hulk, a green-skinned monstrosity
of enormous size and strength. But there are few other examples
to be found, and Jekyll and Hydes influence remains psychological
and linguistic rather than literary.
As for the Invisible Man, he does not even achieve that level of
influence. While the original story is memorable, and the notion
of invisibility used for good or evil purposes a lingeringly interesting
one, as seen in various superhero comics, television series, and
movies, the figure of Griffin was not influential and did not spawn
imitators. As a type Griffin is essentially a monster, a man who
has gained superhuman powers and uses them for evil ends. In this
Griffin is little different from various other figures from Victorian-era
literature, such as J. Cobbens Master of His Fate, which featured
James Courtney, a man who had the ability to drain the life force
from others and who used this ability to sustain his own youth.
choice of these six characters may have been simply a decision to
use six very different characters to produce an entertaining narrative.
It might also have been a knowing choice to make use of these Victorian
archetypes as a way to invoke and make use of their symbolic and
cultural capital. Either way, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
is the richer for his choice. [up]
Robert. "Sinister Orientals." The Encyclopedia of Mystery
and Detection. 1976.
John, and John Grant. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. 1997.
Lilias Rider. The Cloak I Left. 1951.
Michael. Fanfare of Strumpets. 1971.
Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier. French Science Fiction, Fantasy,
Horror, and Pulp Fiction. 2000.
John. A Page of Fantastic, Mysterious, and Adventurous Victoriana.
Victoria, and Susan Thompson. Silk Stalkings: When Women Write of
David. E-mail to Fictionmags mailing list. February 26 & 27,
Jessica Amanda. An Annotated Bibliography of H. Rider Haggard's
Fantasies in 1st Editions, Alphabetically Arranged. 2000. http://www.violetbooks.com/haggard?bib.html
on Lost Race Literature With Special Reference to the Works of H.
Rider Haggard. 1998. http://www.violetbooks.com/lostrace.html
All the images are from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen miniseries
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is TM and © Alan Moore and