The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969
Alan Moore - writer
Kevin O'Neill - artist
Benedict Dimagmaliw - colorist
Todd Klein - letterer
Chris Staros - editor
Top Shelf Productions, 2011
by Adam Hoak
No one ever accused Alan Moore of being a prude. From Lost Girls to V for Vendetta to this, the most recently published The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969, Moore has pushed the boundaries of sexuality, be it straight, gay, or anything and everything in between. Century: 1969 provides a fantastic glimpse into the sexuality and dark magic of Swinging London Town through the eyes of Mina, Allan, and Orlando..
While certainly not a stand-alone story, any reader with a toe dipped in the pool of pop culture history will marvel at the brilliant mash-up of pop culture characters past and present. The plot is your basic super-team versus supervillain against a backdrop of mysticism, sex, and drugs (it IS 1969, after all) but that's not what many read Alan Moore for. Where else are you going to find Dracula's Mina Murray getting felt up by Tom Riddle (a.k.a. Voldemort) at an open air concert after tripping on acid?
I got no further than the first page before I had a moment of, “Oh, hello. Hold on, what's going on here?” Shame on me for assuming Kevin O'Neill's gorgeous art depicted a female figure with long brown hair fellating Basil Fotherington-Thomas (a character from a series of British children's books) when it's actually none other than Wolfe, the boyfriend of vicious gay gangster Vic Dakin. Both characters were taken from the 1971 Richard Burton film Villain – which was based on real-life openly homosexual British gangster Ronnie Kray. Confusing enough for you? It gets, depending on your views, worse or better.
Moore sticks to the vein of 60s gay gangsterism with the introduction of Terner, based on Mick Jagger/Turner, the central character from Nicholas Roeg's 1970 film, Performance, which incidentally also features a character, Harry Flowers, based on Kray as well. Not finished with gangsters, Moore tosses in Jack Carter, brought to life originally by Michael Caine in 1971's Get Carter. Carter makes a reference to Dakin's type as “brown 'atters” (look it up if you don't know what it means), prompting Vic Dakin to compare himself favorably to Flowers. The exchange provides one of my favorite lines of the book: “We aren't poofs. We're 'omosexuals.”
Also of particular interest is omnisexual character Orlando, who presents him/herself in a state of gender flux in this installment. While initially wearing his male countenance, he admits that he feels a change coming on – which is hinted at as the shrinking of his genitalia. I found it interesting that as the character transitioned from male to female, he was more sexually comfortable with men than women, though clearly sleeps with both during the periods when he or she is fully immersed in one gender.
This issue of League also focuses strongly on Mina's determination to adjust to the era, culturally and sexually. She decidedly breaks from the three-way relationship with Allan and Orlando, declaring herself tired of “team sports,” and is drugged and happily seduced by a woman she's gone to for information about the case she's working on. It's particularly fascinating and confusing to watch her go off the rails into a technicolor pop-art astral plane and Kevin O'Neill's art is rarely better represented than in this gorgeous scene.
As someone who's generally pleasantly surprised by the melding of queer sexuality and mainstream comics, I found this installment in the adventures of the League truly enjoyable. It's not an easy read, and if you've got an eye for detail and a brain for pop culture, it'll satisfy you for days if not weeks, though I'd recommend reading the first Century book, 1910, before setting off on this adventure. Those without a taste for graphic drug use, violence, and rampant sex – there's a particularly graphic scene involving a woman having sex on stage with a gargoyle-like Vril-ya (from the sci-fi novel The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton) – but the rich, disturbing, brash, colorful representation of London, 1969, and the freewheeling depiction of the spectrum of sexuality make it absolutely worth reading.
Editors' Note - Thanks for reading! - PKA
Actor/singer/writer Adam Hoak has performed everywhere from the stages of London's West End to the cafeterias and gymnasiums of West Virginia and Western PA. He is a lifelong Marvel reader and recently completed his MA in Acting at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts with his thesis Gaily Forward: One Homo Actor's Exploration of Historically Queer Drama. You can catch him performing this fall in NTC Productions' midwest tour of A Christmas Carol.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969 © 2011 Top Shelf Productions. Review © 2011 Adam Hoak.
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