What's your general opinion on League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ( the comic book not the godawful movie). I personally had never heard about John Carter or Gulliver Of Mars or The Sorns ( CS Lewis wrote a science fiction novel who knew?), before I read League.
I loved it, of course! America’s Best Comics was no
idle boast. League was always interesting to me in that the point of writing it was right in the text: “the British Empire could never distinguish between its’ heroes and monsters.” This is true; you read about a lot of great heroes of the British Empire, you simultaneously admire, despise, and laugh at how weird they are, like “Chinese” Gordon, the hero of Khartoum lionized by British newspapers as a great hero, but who was responsible for horrible deaths in industrial quantities, and, who in the words of John Dolan, “was an obvious closet case who probably died a virgin.” The purpose of League was sharply satirical.
I was never entirely convinced by the idea that Mina
Harker would, after the events of Dracula, have a Sarah Connor-like
transformation into a badass who would lead a group of secret agents. In fact, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s Mina
is exactly like Sarah Connor: an
ordinary everywoman who was in above her head when she encounters a European
man with a goofy accent who can’t be killed. I always heard that Alan Moore
wanted Irene Adler to be the female lead of the League, but he pulled back at
the last minute because he thought she was not famous enough to be a main
character. In retrospect, that was a bad move: after the approximately 1
billion adaptations of Sherlock Holmes since 2000, Irene Adler is pretty well
And don’t be embarrassed that you’d never heard of
Gulliver of Mars. This novel fell into total obscurity for decades, until
superfan Richard Lupoff discovered its’ many similarities as the inspiration
for John Carter of Mars. This wasn’t exactly Pollyanna; the only reason anyone
remembers Gulliver of Mars is the John Carter connection. That, and the fact he was a way for a comic company that didn’t have the permission of the Burroughs estate to have a knockoff John Carter of Mars comic!
There wouldn’t be a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
without two inspirations. The first is Kim Newman’s 1992 novel Anno Dracula, where
the premise is that van Helsing failed to kill Dracula, and he became the
consort of an undead Queen Victoria, with vampires ruling the British Empire.
It featured dozens of literary and pop culture characters, including Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde, Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows, the 19th Century
lesbian vampire Carnilla (from a novel that predated Dracula, incidentally!),
and even had Alan Quatermain as well as the Amhagger who worshipped
The other inspiration for the League is the body of
work made during Philip Jose Farmer’s “pulp phase,” a period of about ten years
in between his experimental novels that dealt with sexuality, and his later scifi novels like the Riverworld books. In his “pulpster phase,” PJF wrote a
biography of Tarzan, as well as A Feast Unknown (aka “What if Tarzan and Doc
Savage liked to fuck?”), where a big part of his project was worldbuilding by
putting literary characters together.
King Kong came out so long ago (1933) that the pop cultural effluvium he emerged from is downright prehistoric.
“Heu-Heu, or the Monster” (1924)
H. Rider Haggard’s seldom-read standalone Alan Quatermain novelette, Heu-Heu, the Monster, features a giant prehistoric throwback 10-foot ape for whom the local natives offered a woman, chained to a post, as a sacrifice. There is a direct reference to the legend of Andromeda.
“Isle of Sunken Gold” (1927)
A silent serial that was only recently rediscovered, it features a lost, undiscovered island in the South Seas ruled over by an ape named (get this) Kong, who is worshipped by the natives. Instead of beautiful blonde women, the Kong ape prefers offerings of gold, and is oddly, humorously human, wearing gold chains and jewelry in his greed and vanity.
Paul de Chailu’s travel guides (1861)
This is the only source that King Kong screenwriter Marian C. Cooper directly acknowledges as an influence. Explorer Paul de Chailu was the first to bring word to Europe of the existence of the gorilla, and in one part of his memoirs, he remembers meeting an especially impressive king gorilla, feared by the rest, who seemed to command the others.