I'm 'specially intrigued that the new story's gonna take place in a different time period than the rip-roaring Victorian era of the originals:
England in the mid 1950s is not the same as it was....Now, after many years, the still youthful Mina Murray and a rejuvenated Allan Quaterman return and are in search of some answers...
Which got me to thinkin': Which famous literary and pop culture characters from the 1950s will make special guest appearances in this one? I'd like to see James Bond, Holden Caulfield, Wilbur and Charlotte, Jim Dixon, Ralph and Piggy, Fowler and Pyle. It's not really a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen without a new Invisible Man, so why not Ralph Ellison's? Criminal masterminds? None more dastardly than Hercules Grytpype-Thynne and Count Jim Moriarty! (And hey, do you think Moore can resist sneakin' in a cameo by Micky Moran?)
Whoever he puts in the mix, Alan Moore knows the score. But that got me scratchin' my little stuffed head and thinking...if I were putting together a modern-day League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, who would I include?
A few ground rules first, because it's easy to overpopulate a twenty-first century league with superhumans and adventure characters. As Moore himself points out, the adventure character wasn't invented in the Victorian Age, but it was certainly the Renaissance of fantastic literature and led to the explosion of the Golden Age of Superheroes. In this day and age following the rise of the adventure and comic heroes of the 1930s, it would be child's play to put together a kickass League of, oh, let's say, Batman, Captain America, Doc Savage, Zorro, Electra Woman and Nacho Libre.
But I'm gonna play fair. I'm gonna pick most of my modern-day league draft choices (and alternates) from non-superhero literature, and I'm going to place them within the heroic archetypes that together make up a interesting, caustic, effective and controversial League.
First up: The Leader. There are all sortsa leaders, but in my league I want a solid but quiet man of adventure and action whose glory days are behind him due to age or infirmity, but who still finds himself battling bad guys single-handedliterally. In my bookand in the books of mystery master Dick Francisthat's got to be Sid Halley, moody but driven jockey turned private investigator after his hand is crippled in a gruesome steeple chasing accident. He's only one of two characters Francis has ever written multiple novels about (the other is young, more cheerful jockey Kit Fielding), and we're rewarded for it with the growth and evolution of Sid throughout the novels from Odds Against to Whip Hand to Coming to Grief and the new Dick Francis mystery coming out in the Fall of 2006, Under Orders. Sid's a grey man in a grey world who has accepted but never completely adjusted to the loss not only of his hand but of the joy and thrill of racing, and while the adrenaline he finds in chasing crime is no replacement, it's a start. Sid did some of his best work with cheerful and cocky sidekick Chico Barnes, so despite being a loner, he's an excellent if reluctant choice to lead the team and hold our League together. (A few alternate draft choices for the role: Spenser, Elvis Cole, Thomas Magnum.)
The Rogue: Every team needs a resident con-man, a wise-cracking connection to the underground, a lecher whose head is turned by a beautiful woman, a shady but chipper can-do character with the ability to get anything in a few hours (legal or illegal) and an encyclopedic knowledge of his various specialties. Put Jonathan Gash's art forger Lovejoy in this position: no friendship or alliance comes before his quest for the beauties of art and antiques, not for monetary gain, but for the sheer appreciation of craftsmanship and skill (and the desire to keep true art out of the hands of charlatans who don't appreciate it). He's got an ultra-keen mind and a sharp attention to detail, as well as being an expert forger and plotterideal for his role as the League's loose cannon. I've illustrated this section with a photo of TV Lovejoy Ian McShane, but don't mistake the roguish but loveable TV version of Lovejoy for the real thing: while McShane's portrayal of Lovejoy was fun and faceted, that ain't quite the real Lovejoy, who would swindle his best friends and pilfer the Louvre of its greatest treasure (leaving behind a perfect forged replica, of course), bed a friend's wife, and leave his partners and teammates behind in the pub while he motors away with his prizes. The literary Lovejoy even has a minor superpower the TV one didn't: the instinctive ability to tell if an antique or art object is real or forged by the chimes it rings in his body. Lovejoy's a solid addition to the League, but he's only got one man's goals in mind: his own. (Alternate draft choices: Danny Ocean, Sergeant Ernie Bilko)
The Muscle: You know every team needs one: the guy who's not afraid to get his hands dirty, who can make your problems go away if you turn your head and plug your ears, who knows where the bodies are buried and who buried 'em (him). He's not evilhe's a force of nature. If he's disciplined and on the side of the angels (although you'll never really know what side he's on), there's no one you'd rather have by your side. That's Hawk from Robert Parker's Spenser novels: a deadly master of armed and unarmed combat, a broad tower of strength and power, above the law but not above his own code of honor and duty: you are either with him or against him. Hawk's strong and quiet but not silent; if you know him he can disarm you as easily with a sharp grin and a wise word as he can by breaking your gun hand. If he misses his target, that's not what he was aiming at. At no time, ever, will he not look dangerous. There're few other people in his life that Hawk will swear his allegiance, skills, and life to: Spenser and Susan Silverman. To get him to join the League would be tough...but well worth having this man on your side; you don't want him against you. (Alternate draft choices: Tony Soprano, Joe Pike, O-Ren Ishii)
The Woman of Mystery: She's smart. She's savvy. She's every bit the equal of a man, but because she's a woman, she's gotta work hard to prove it every day. She's Hermione Granger of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and even though she's just a teenager, she can turn you into a newt if you blink the wrong way at her. There's no more faithful and fierce teammate you want by your side, and she falls easily into a team dynamic; happy to not be the leader but scornful of foolish choices made by the men trying to order her about. In your darkest moment she'll figure out a way to get out of a predicament, and it's because she's got good old-fashioned book learnin' on her side. When you're fighting in a world of literary characters, what better power to have? (Alternate draft choices: Modesty Blaise, Beatrix Kiddo, Jessica Fletcher)
The Guy with a Boat: Every team needs one. Okay, okay, just because you're sitting there counting off on your fingers the number of teams that didn't have a guy with a boat...look, The Avengers didn't have a guy with a boat, and look what happened to them. Know why the Justice League broke up? They had a swimming guy, but no guy with a boat (nb: for purposes of argument, please ignore the Bat-Boat). The X-Men had a guy with a boat: remember Peter Corbeau? Sure you do. That's how the X-Men got to be the #1 name in team-action entertainment, baby! If you need to get from one place to anotherand every international crimefighting team doesyou need a guy with a boat. That boat's name is the Belafonte, and that guy's name is Captain Steve Zissou. He's an internationally famous oceanographer who is at home only on the sea. He battles sharks, rescues stranded snow mongooses, tackles ocean pirates, and faithfully subscribes to the "no man left behind" policy, even if that man left behind is his bond company stooge. He may not be the brains of Team Zissou, but no one can deny that he's the Steve. (Alternate choices: Skipper Jonas Grumby, Lt. Cdr. Quinton McHale, Captain Merrill Stubing, Captain Marko Ramius).
Whew! That's one mighty League, and I didn't even get a chance to fit in Easy Rawlins, Encyclopedia Brown, Denny Crane, Michael Corleone, Bridget Jones, Detective Lennie Briscoe, Norville Rogers, Arkady Renko, Johnny "Drama" Chase, Artemis Fowl, John Rebus, Dewey Finn, Veronica Sawyer, Alfie Elkins, Saffron Monsoon, Major Boothroyd, Arthur Dent, Clarice Starling, Samantha Jones, Sheriff Andy Taylor, Patrick Bateman, Marshall Flinkman, Ron Burgundy, Daisy Duke, Ennis Del Mar, Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries, Nick Naylor, Jim Phelps, Nelson Muntz, Owen Meany, or Stephanie Plum!
Oh well, maybe in the sequel.
Who's in your League?
Addition on 8/16/06: The follow-up, with many more Leagues suggested in the comments