When you ask someone if they have heard of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, most would reply to you that yes they have heard of the film. What few people realize is that it was a graphic novel before it was a movie. The novel is far better than the movie could ever be. Grotesque images, dark colors and rough sketched drawings allow for the authors’ imaginative story to thrive. Set in the late 19th century, a band of “extraordinary gentleman” is formed with promises of saving England from those who wish to destroy it. The group does not in any way seem as though they should be together, each has different views and different morals, but for some reason they stay together. Each character seems to have their demons that they are trying to quarrel, and are drawn to this adventure in hopes of finding meaning and hopefully subdue those demons.
The book is full of imagery, and in many ways it is the reason why a graphic novel is the most appropriate form of telling the story. For example, the first pages set the mood for the entire book, what other novels do you know of that allow that to happen? On the second page, there is a panoramic view of Dover, England in 1898. It shows a great causeway towering above a sea of smog with dull and rusted steam driven cranes rising from the depths. The nearly-completed causeway is engraved with “INDUSTRY” and below it is a sign reading how due to mechanical problems, they will continue with construction in 1902. The only signs of life are the soaring seagulls, feeding off of the tainted fish that come from the murk below. This is an incredibly moving image because already the reader is given an image of England at the turn of the century. Industry seems to be the most prominent thing in this image, and it is shown as having a deadly affect on the city. It has created smog that only the tallest cranes can escape. Smog so thick that boats can sail upon it. While a beautiful structure built in dedication of England’s economic strength, it stands unfinished and deserted. There is a mood of chaos and uncertainty, one of incompetence and turmoil. It leads the reader to wonder what lies beneath to putrid green cloak, and a sense that no matter what is down there, it is in no way good. This is the England that the reader is presented, and there is no way that this could have been expressed without the use of images and drawings.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen does not seem to represent reality per say, but rather a dramatic rendition of what is reality. While no England was not a sea of smog in the turn of the century, it was a much polluted place; the graphic novel just allowed that to be expressed in a very forceful manner. The graphic novel allows readers to be shown something that they would otherwise not see through writing. Some of the images in the novel could never have been put into words; it would not have been as powerful.