Notes on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #3

by Jess Nevins and divers hands

(The image above is © copyright 1999 America's Best Comics. The text here, except where otherwise credited, is © copyright 2002 Jess Nevins, and may not be duplicated, in part or in whole, without my permission.)

(Additions and corrections are of course appreciated)

(most recent update: 10 March 2002; updates in blue)

Cover. Barb Lien and Park Cooper note something that I should have gotten, but didn't: Isn't the point of the cover, the way the title appears, the font and style etc, in the exact style of the Classics Illustrated comics from, oh, circa the 50's?
The dragon confronting the League is of the Chinese variety, which are an entirely different sort from the European type, including their personalities, which ranged from good to evil. This dragon in particular represents the "Doctor" referred to in issue #2, as seen in Quong Lee's words on page 7, panel 4.

Jacque Koh expands on this: The Chinese (generally the East Asians) have an etiquette in the use and depiction of dragons in art, for ornaments, and on structures. For example, a three-toed dragon is used by the common people...the five-toed dragon, as appears on the cover, is reserved exclusively for the use of Emperors, and as representations or tools of deities/gods.
Cory Panshin adds that "this cover struck me as being similar to Japanese pictures of Westerners done shortly after the Americans showed up in the 1850's -- note particularly Mina's oriental eyes and fan."

Page 1. Panel 1. A further indication of how far Mina Murray has fallen from the Victorian ideal of "proper" womanhood is seen here: she's smoking. It was simply not done for a woman to smoke in "proper" Victorian society; although some few women smoked, it was customarily done in secret, with a female friend; a woman who smoked was considered "fast." Similarly, it was not done to smoke or even ask to smoke in the "company of the fair;" one always excused oneself from their presence to enjoy a cigar or pipe.

Panel 2. J. Keith Haney points out that Griffin's words here are a reference to the beginning of Chapter 27 of The Invisible Man:

"The game is only beginning. There is nothing for it now, but to start the Terror. This announces the first day of the Terror. Port Burdock is no longer under your Queen, tell your Colonel of Police, and the rest of them; it is under me--the Terror! This is day one of year one of the new epoch,--the Epoch of the Invisible Man. I am Invisible Man the First."
Page 2. Note the planks of the table around which the League sits. "Hispaniola 1760" and "Skeleton Island" are references to R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island; the "Hispaniola" was the name of the ship on which Jim Hawkins sailed, and "Skeleton Island" was the destination for which the Hispaniola, Jim Hawkins, Long John Silver, and all the rest journeyed. Although the exact date of events in Treasure Island is not given, it was post-1745, as seen in the text, and 1760 seems a likely year for those events.

Page 3. Griffin, in The Invisible Man, broke into a theatrical supply store and acquired certain supplies which he used to pass among humans. Presumably he learned the skill of coating himself in greasepaint from there?

Page 4. Panel 4. The "eruptions on Mars" occur in the first chapter of Wells' War of the Worlds. The "well-known astronomer" Ogilvy believes that they might be volcanic in nature--that, or the impacts of a meteor shower on Mars--but they are, rather, the precursor to the Martian invasion of Earth.

Page 5. Panel 1. Terence Chua does us all a great service and provides translation for the ideograms here and following. Here, he says, the "The first banner translates as `Geography', as in the academic subject. The second is the word `Book'."

Jacque Koh notes, regarding the Chinese script: The script used in the book is the modern simplified script which is in current use. Given that this takes place in the late 1800s, the use of this script, I would think, is in error. Modern day Hong Kong and Taiwan, for example, still use the old script. It is only in recent years that Beijing has been pushing the simplified script for common usage.
John O'Neil adds this:

(I) can definitively tell you the language is Mandarin Chinese (Today called Putonghua, Beijing dialect, or Guoyu in Taiwan), written (anachronistically) in the modern simplified characters introduced by the PRC in 1954. It makes sense that "The Doctor"
would speak Mandarin, since he was a Manchu ("Fu Manchu"), the group that ruled China during the Qing (read "ching") Dynasty (1644-1911). It is also called the Manchu Dynasty.
Panel 2. Terence Chua notes that the wall reads "Doctor."

Panel 3. Quong Lee was the creation of Thomas Burke for a series of short stories which later appeared in the books The Song Book of Quong Lee of Limehouse (1920) and The Pleasantries of Old Quong (1931) as part of Burke's Limehouse series; Quong Lee was a wise, elderly Chinese man in the books, similar to Charlie Chan.

Terence Chua: "The sign reads in Chinese Script, but in the Cantonese dialect, 'Quong Lee, Eastern Fine Tea Supplier'."

Page 6. Panel 1. Terence Chua notes that the sign reads "Tea."

Page 8. For more information on Rotherhithe and the "Rotherhithe" bridge, see Page 15, Panel 3 below.

Panel 5. Steven Flanagan adds, of this panel: The bridge carries an advert for Fry's, a British confectionary manufacturer. Fry's best-known line is "Fry's Turkish Delight". Since Sax Rohmer assumed that everyone from "the Orient" (which he certainly regared as including the Ottoman Empire) was part of a great anti-Western conspiracy led by Fu Manchu, this may be significant. But I can't read anything into the bus advert for Pear's (soap).
Page 9. Panel 2. I've no idea who the "she" is that Quatermain has visited here.

"Ho Ling" is, I believe, the character from various Thomas Burke stories, including "The Song of Ho Ling." Ho Ling, in Burke's work, runs a fantan parlor (fantan being a Chinese gambling game).

In The Mystery of Fu Manchu there is an opium den which leads Petrie and Sir Nayland Smith to Fu Manchu. In the book, however, the name of the opium den is "Singapore Charlie's."

Panel 3. The individual with the hooked hand is obviously somebody, but I do not know who, unless Captain Hook was Chinese in appearance.

Panel 5. Brenda Clough says, of Quaterman's words: Haggard went back in 1912 and wrote another novel, Marie, inserting a new adventure into the chronology of the events already described in Allan's Wife. In this book Allan meets, courts and marries one Marie Marais, who dies tragically to save him. Of Marie Allan says, "She was my first wife, but I beg you not to speak of her to me or to anyone else, for I cannot bear to hear her name." So this covers for Stella being described as Allan's first wife. It's just that she was his second one. (The moral of the story: be -very- careful when you retcon.)
Page 10. Panel 1. The exterior of Shen Yan's shop, as seen here, is more-or-less identical to its description, such as it is, in Chapter 6 of The Mystery of Fu Manchu, including the sign "Shen Yan, Barber."

Terence Chua: "The Chinese script on the sign literally reads `Shen Yan, Barber Shop.' The two Chinese words on the side of the building mean `Killer.'"

Jacque Koh: A four-toed dragon, as appears on Page 10, Panel 1, is often used by noblemen, officials, people of rank and the gentry. That a four-toed dragon is used by 'Shanghai Charlie' outside his establishment, is indicative of his considerable rank.
Panel 2. The interior of the shop, however, is not similar to Rohmer's description in the book.

Page 11. Terence Chua: "The Chinese script this time, from the rhythm of the dialogue and the words chosen, is being spoken in Mandarin as opposed to Cantonese. The dialogue reads left to right, line by line."

Panel 2: "The boss (owner) needs more brushes. These are solidifying. Look at this. It's useless."

Michael Seery mentions that his Chinese coworker translated this dialogue differently, and suggests that "solidifying" should be replaced by "melting."

Panel 3: Angry Man: "I want another one."

Frightened Man: "All right, quickly, the boss is waiting."

Panel 4: Frightened Man: "Please forgive me. I have a new brush here."

Jacque Koh notes: This is a very strange image as the vessel used is recognisable as a chueh. I extracted the following from an encyclopaedia:

'Many such ritual vessels were buried in royal and other tombs from the time of the Shang dynasty, the chueh being used for pouring libations of wine to the spirits - the handles on the spout probably being designed to be gripped by tongs when the liquid was heated over a fire.

IIRC, these are the size of a wine carafe.

Panel 5: Angry Man (presumably): "Hurry up, idiot, the boss is writing poetry!"

Terence says that "The words on the man's chest, reading from right to left and up and down, are as follows: The stars are the poetry of fate
A man who is never wounded
Is a book on which no words have been written
Michael Seery mentions that his Chinese coworker translated this differently, and suggests that "wounded" should be replaced by "scarred."

Alvin Pang continues the translation dispute:

Seery's co-worker is right, and my compatriot Terence has forgotten some basics of the language!
Here's my haiku translation of the poem being acid-etched into the poor sod's chest:
The stars are destiny's verse:
A man without scars
Is an unwritten book.
Panel 6: "Look at this! I found one!"

Page 12. Panel 1. Angry Man: "Give it to me! I'm in a hurry!"

Panel 2. Angry Man: "Finally! Next time, be quicker!"

I'm not sure what Moore is implying here with the shot of Fu Manchu's eye. It might be, as Quatermain says (unknowingly quoting Nayland Smith in Chapter Two of The Mystery of Fu Manchu), that Fu Manchu's inhuman eye is an indication of his Satanic origins. I think it more likely, however, that this shot of the Doctor's eye is meant to put the reader in mind of another sort of eye, ones "envious" and backed by "intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic"--those of the Martians. Perhaps the insidious Doctor is truly not human at all. Steven Flanagan notes that this "the close-up helps to confirm that this is Fu Manchu, even if Moore cannot use the name: IIRC, the devil doctor was noted for his green eyes." Mark Coale notes that the Doctor is "drawn to match pop culture expectations, not as he appears in the book." Greg Coveney says,

In one of my favourite cross over books, Ten Years Beyond Baker Street by Cay Van Ash, Holmes and Dr Petrie discuss Fu Manchu's eyes after their first meeting and Holmes talks of an extra eyelid or membrane which flicks over the eye in times of stress. I'm pretty certain he refers to it by a Latin term but I am unfortunately doing this from memory as my copy of the now out of print book was lost in a house move a few years ago. So I'm afraid I cannot check this out but am certain the comment is made, I'll understand if this is not precise enough a reference for your site but perhaps a more fervent Sax Rohmer fan could confirm it.
Taina Evans adds that this membrane, which she doesn't remember Fu Manchu having, is a nictating membrane.

Panel 3. Angry Man: "Who are you?"

Terence Chua notes that "the banner behind Quatermain reads `Doctor.'"

Page 13. Panel 2. Brian Death points out, of Quatermain's statement here, that "although the two substances are very similar in color and texture, opium has a distinct perfume-like smell that would make it unlikely to be confused with tar by anybody other than a novice opium smoker.  Perhaps this bolsters Quatermain's explanation that he feels like a schoolboy for having been duped."

Page 15. Panel 3. Rotherhithe Road runs along the south side of the Thames, in the area known, both during the Victorian era and currently, as Rotherhithe. Just across the Thames from Rotherhithe is Wapping, which (as I understand it) is a part of Shadwell. The "planned tunnel linking Rotherhithe and Shadwell" actually existed in the Victorian world here on Earth-Prime; in the Victorian era it was known as the "Thames Tunnel," along which the East London Rail ran. It was the first underwater tunnel in the world; it still exists, under the name of the "Rotherhithe Tunnel."

However, it was completed here on Earth-Prime in 1843; an earlier attempt was abandoned in 1807 when the Thames broke through, but a second try, started in 1827, was successful. Given the superior technology that the world of League possessed, it's reasonable that they would have constructed a bridge instead, but the difference in time between Earth-Prime and Earth-League seems a bit difficult to reconcile.

Mags Halliday contributes the following:

London Under London (Richard Trench & Ellis Hillman, pub. John Murray 1993 edition, as referenced throughout the annotations to Moore's From Hell) details the building of Brunel's tunnel. It was actually the third attempt: both the 1798 and 1802 attempts were abandoned due to technical difficulties (quicksand and the Thames breaking in respectively) and lack of funds. Work on Brunel's tunnel was halted between 1828 and 1835 due to the amount of accidents and, again, a lack of funds. It was only completed due to the government providing the money to complete the project. It could be speculated that in the League's world, the gvt did not intercede. A gap of 50 years between the abandonment of the tunnel and the building of the bridge is a bit implausible though...!
Page 16. Panel 4. This is the second time in this issue that Nemo has raised the idea of an aerial bombardment of Britain. There are many precedents in the popular fiction of the day for such a thing; perhaps Moore is indicating that Nemo has encountered a "lethal airship"?

Page 18. Panel 2. I'm quite certain that the waif in the nightgown is meant to be someone, though I don't know who. Paul Crowley suggests that she's simply meant to refer to the plight of poor children in Victorian England, poverty having driven her to prostitution. Dave McKenna suggests that the waif might be Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll, while Emilio Martin sees Dr. Gull, the murderer in Moore's From Hell. Paul Crowley also suggests that the two individuals in the right foreground are Prince Albert Victor and a friend, perhaps Walter Sickert. Having checked with what photographic resources I have at hand, I'd have to agree that the character here, and Prince Eddy, do look alike. Mark Singer responds to this by noting that Prince Eddy died in 1892, six years before LoEG. Mark's right, of course. Dr. Eric Fennessey speculates that the pair might be Lord Arthur Savile and Dorian Gray, from Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891).

There are in fact such things as Triads, here in the real world, and they are centuries old. It is their business fronts which are referred to as "Tongs." Terence Chua adds the following about the Triads: According to Triad legend, the Triads trace their origins to the 103 Shaolin monks, of which only 5 survived the destruction of their temple by the Imperial government who believed that they were a threat due to their popularity with the people. The 7th monk was the one who betrayed the temple's plans to the Imperial government, and to this day, "7" is used as Triad slang for "traitor". The five survivors, after escaping and facing more legendary obstacles which have become part of Triad ritual, founded the first Triads, underground societies with their own system of symbols, intiation rites and codes."
For the overseas Chinese, these "Tongs", or "Societies", acted as mutual protection unions, to protect their own people from being persecuted or oppressed. Of course, over time, they began to mutate into full fledged criminal organisations, staking out territory and warring with rival "Tongs".
Panel 4. "Alienists" were, in effect, practicing psychologists, some of the first in the world (here on Earth-Prime, anyhow). They were "medical specialists in the study and treatment of mental diseases" (that from a 1901 Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology). They were also occasionally called upon by the police for help in constructing personality profiles of criminals based on evidence found at crime scenes, but were more often connected with insane asylums. They were not well-regarded by most Victorians. For more information on them, read Caleb Carr's The Alienist.

Dr. Eric Fennessey notes that Mina has had direct experience with alienists, as both Dr. Seward and Professor Van Helsing were practising alienists--Seward with the asylum next to Carfax, and Van Helsing as Seward's teacher.

Page 19. Panel 2. Judging from the roster of names on the wall behind Quatermain, the shelter will be crowded with writers of fantastic literature.

Adam Cummins adds:

Its just that I noticed that the list of names on the side wall of the hostel behind Quatermain aren't simply writers of fantastic literature. They are in fact the "Creators" of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen itself.  Each author created one of the characters in the narrative, ie.

Haggard = H. Rider Haggard who created Allan Quatermain
Rohmer = Sax Rohmer who created Fu Manchu, who isn't The Doctor at all. Oh no ;-)
Poe = Edgar Allan Poe, who created C. Auguste Dupin
Stevenson = Robert Louis Stevenson, creator of Jekyll and Hyde
Stoker = Bram Stoker who created Mina Murray
Verne = Jules Verne, creator of Captain Nemo
Wells = H.G. Wells who created Hawley Griffin, the Invisible Man

Page 20. Panel 8. The "Are You Ready To Die" carved into the wall of the poorhouse is accurate; Victorian workhouses and shelters had many such sentiments engraven in their ceilings, as Moore himself pointed out in the notes to Appendix to Volume One of From Hell.

Page 24. Presumably the cavorite will be used to power the vessel seen here. It's entirely possible--likely, even--that the Insidious Doctor had this craft constructed from nothing; but it's also possible that he got the craft, or designs for it, from someone else. There were a number of characters, in post-Vernean Victorian popular fiction, who had powerful, Nautilus-like submarines; two of them who might reasonably be expected to ally with Fu Manchu against Perfidious Albion were Kiang-Ho and Ker Karraje. Kiang-Ho appeared in Philip Reade's Tom Edison, Jr.'s Electric Sea Spider (1892); he was the "US-educated Chinese mastermind of sea crime," and fought Tom Edison, Jr.'s "Electric Sea Spider" in his own Vernean submarine. Ker Karraje appeared in Jules Verne's For the Flag (1896); Karraje was a notorious pirate of the Western Pacific who built an electricity-powered supersubmarine and tried to hold the world ransom.

tphile speculates that the craft seen here may be a part of a lunar battle between the Martians and the Selenites, the insect race that Dr. Cavor encounters in The First Men in the Moon, and that considering E.R. Burroughs' Barsoom has been added into the mix, in "Allan and the Sundered Veil," it should be interesting to see how the Martians relate to the Barsoomians and the Selenites. Pedro Dias notes, with reason, that "the assumption that this will be a submarine would seem premature. Given the presence of cavorite in the plot, as well as all the foreshadowing in the form of conversations about aerial bombardment, I still hold for a flying vessel."

Jacque Koh notes relates the five-toed dragon on the cover to the dragon on the front of the craft here and wonders if this means that the League is facing a being of "godlike" power.

"Allan And The Sundered Veil"

The Morlocks are, of course, from H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. The "Mi-Go" are the creation of H.P. Lovecraft; they are believed by certain Nepalese hill-tribes to haunt the Himalayan summits. They are referred to in At the Mountains of Madness (1931) and "The Whisperer in Darkness" (1930). Paul Crowley brought up what I knew but somehow neglected to mention, which is that the Mi-Go are the minions of the Old Ones in Lovecraft's work. Moore echoes this, with the time traveler's words that the Mi-Go are the servants of the "atmospheres or entities...vile, trans-existential beings...unfathomable alien grotesqueries" which are threatening the universe--a neat summation of the Lovecraftian mythos.

Terence Chua contributes more information on the Mi-Go: "Mi-Go" is the Nepalese name for the Abominable Snowman. Lovecraft equated his creations, also known as the Fungi from Yuggoth (Yuggoth being the Mi-Go name for Pluto) with the sightings of the Snowman, and its tracks. The fungi are crustacean in appearance, with a fungoid mass for a head which changes colour as they communicate. They fly the ether between the planets, and abduct humans, removing their brains and keeping them in cannisters which render them effectively immortal and able to survive the long flight between the stars.
Regg Kashi notes that "Mi-Go" is actually Tibetan, "mi" meaning man and "go" meaning "head," and that Tibetan mythology is full of tales of half-beasts, demon-spawn, and the like. Which just goes to show that Lovecraft did his research. Emilio Martin, on seeing the O'Neill drawing of the door under the Sphinx, is reminded of a Lovecraft description "a temple door opening on R'Lyeh in `Call of Cthulhu.'"


Page 30: an ad for America's Best Comics.

Page 31: an ad for the "Yankee Rubber Whore." Which seems a bit explicit for the average Victorian ad, but that's Moore's sense of humor for you, I guess. Danny Sichel points out that the ad is "an exact replica of the `Yankee Rubber Baby' ad in #1, (on page 32 - Jess) except with `adulterer' replacing `father' and `winsome inflatable sluts' replacing `laughter-producing infants.'"

Page 33: an ad for "The New Belt." This ad looks quite normal for the time, but the typeface is a giveaway that this is a new ad, and the names of the corset types seems to indicate that this is another of Moore's jokes--that is, each corset's name is significant in British and/or Victorian-era history. The implication, then, being that the gentlemen named (and pictured) might be cross-dressers, the corset being a woman's article of clothing.

"The Kitchener" is named after, and seems to have the head of, Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916). Sir Kitchener was a notable British general, the Secretary of State of War in 1914 at the start of World War One, and was responsible for the organisation of Britain's military forces during the war until his death onboard the Hampshire in 1916. (He was also responsible for the British policy in the Boer War of burning Boer homes and forcing civilians into concentration camps, as a way to counter the Boers' guerrilla tactics; Kitchener was widely criticized for this, but that took place from 1900-1902, after the events of League) In 1898 Kitchener was a national hero (he was "virtually canonized in England as the archetypal Christian soldier") for his reconquest of the Sudan and his victory, on September 2, at the Battle of Omdurman, which avenged the death of General Charles "Chinese" Gordon at the hands of the Mahdi Mohammed Ahmed of Dongola. The joke deepens, however, when one discovers that Kitchener, who was notable at the time for being a "woman-hater" and had a number of very intense and passionate relationships with young, good-looking men; it will never be known for sure whether Kitchener was openly gay or simply sublimated his homosexuality, but it seems likely that this stalwart of the Empire was also a Friend of Dorothy.

"The Marlboro" would seem to be named after John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Marlborough (1650-1722) was one of the greatest of the English military commanders, responsible for the defeat of the French at the Battles of Blenheim and Malplaquet and the eventual British victory in the War of the Spanish Succession. It might also be a reference to Marlborough House, the residence of Prince Albert Edward, Queen Elisabeth's heir, who lived at the House with a "fast-living" set, who concentrated on living a high life of leisure.

The provenance of "The Carlton" has proven a bit trickier. There was a William Carlton, the author of The Black Prophet: A Tale of the Irish Famine (1847), but I can't see any particular reason he would be chosen here. I think it more likely that the name "Carlton" comes from the Carlton Club, which in 1898 was the official gentleman's club of the ruling Conservative Party.

Relevant Web Sites

For those interested in reading some of the source materials for these works, or about these works and their authors, you can find them at the following places:

Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island

Thomas Burke's "The Chink and the Child" From Burke's Limehouse Nights. Not a Quong Lee story, but representative of Burke's work. The story is also the source for D.W. Griffith's film Broken Blossoms (1919).

Thomas Burke's The Song Book of Quong Lee of Limehouse. The e-text of the book (a collection of poems, actually). It's hosted on my site and will soon be a part of Project Gutenburg.

The Page of Fu Manchu. Articles on and e-texts of Rohmer's work.

Go back to issue #1

Go back to issue #2

Go far ahead to issue #4

Get up to date with issue #5

Finish the series off with issue #6

Enjoy some lagniappe with the League hardcover

Tide yourself over with the Game of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Marvel at the images from the French version of League


Thanks to: "Astrocitizen;" Jerry Boyajian; Terence Chua; Brenda Clough; Mark Coale, as always; Park Cooper; Greg Coveney; Paul Crowley; Adam Cummins; Brian Death; Taina Evans; Dr. Eric Fennessey; Steve Flanagan; Mags Halliday; J. Keith Haney; Jeff; Jobriga@aol, Regg Kashi; Jacque Koh; Barb Lien; Dave McKenna; Emilio Martin; John O'Neil; Alvin Pang; Cory Panshin (!); Martin Schroeder; Michael Seery and his coworker; Danny Sichel; Marc Singer; tphile.

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