The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen creator Alan Moore.
Coutesy Jess Nevins
The League original lineup -- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula victim Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, the Invisible Man and Captain Nemo.
Among summer blockbusters featuring high-tech mayhem, time travel and green monsters is a film based on a comic novel combining Victorian-era nostalgia with superhero derring-do, plus a full measure of wit — The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The film version, starring Sean Connery and plenty of special effects, arrives in theaters this weekend.
NPR's Susan Stone profiles the mind behind the comic novel series, Alan Moore — one of the most respected writers of the genre.
"We've met these classic types before," Stone says. "There's the sociopath with special powers, the meek man whose anger transforms him into a force to be reckoned with, the great white hunter from King Solomon's Mines who might not be as brave as he looks, and a lady victimized by a vampire."
Moore is best known for his groundbreaking series The Watchmen, which portrayed superheroes as human, and flawed. Moore says the League series began as a way of putting together a heroic team that wasn't boring.
"And I thought that maybe if I looked back to the roots of superheroes, then I might find some inspiration there," he says. "And it pretty well all wound back to 19th-century fantastic fiction."
Moore chose characters originally created by Victorian-era authors Bram Stoker, H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson. In the League graphic novel, the heros — Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula victim Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, the Invisible Man and Captain Nemo — team together, reluctantly, to fight evil.
Moore chose an extraordinary woman to lead this team. He re-imagined Mina Murray, who was attacked in Dracula and consequently has vampire powers, as a divorced feminist suffragette. The film version of the League, however, puts Sean Connery's Allan Quatermain in charge.
Moore adds that he's not afraid to give his characters flaws. "I find the flaws much more interesting that the things one generally associates with them," he says. Quatermain, for example, has a nasty addiction to opium that sometimes puts his colleagues in danger.
Jess Nevins annotated the League series in his book, Heroes and Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He champions the series as an "intellectual game" that requires careful attention to detail.