10 December 2007

The Best Thing Ever?

I have been reading Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's Black Dossier, the third part -- but not the third volume, as that's not due until next year -- of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

I don't really know what to think. I've read it three times now, and I still can't figure out if it's mindbogglingly brilliant or just a self-indulgently clever piece of showmanship. Still, even if it's the latter it's impressive. I'm pretty sure that there are precious few people out there, after all, that could pull together -- and this is just listing the references I got on my first reading, without looking up Jeff Nevin's annotations -- into one coherent world such a list as this:

1984, Coronation Street, James Bond, Dan Dare, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Gulliver’s Travels, The Prisoner, The Great Dictator, Animal Farm, The Third Man, The Man in the White Suit, Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius and Elric novels, Dracula, Fu Manchu, the Lovecraft mythos, Robert E. Howard’s Conan, The Faerie Queen, Dr Faustus, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Orlando, Seven Against Thebes, 'Ozymandias', She and King Solomon’s Mines, the Iliad, the Aeneid, Up Pompeii, The Once and Future King, Beowulf, The Song of Roland, the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Don Quixote, The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Fanny Hill, Dr Syn, The Last of the Mohicans, Moby Dick, Blackadder Goes Forth, Jeeves and Wooster, The Great Gatsby, W.E. Johns’s Biggles stories, This Island Earth, Slaughterhouse Five, Edgar Rice Burrough’s Martian Chronicles, The Day of the Triffids, Moll Flanders, Tannhäuser, John le Carré’s George Smiley, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Invisible Man, The Avengers, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Frank Richards's stories of Billy Bunter and the Famous Five, The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Sooty, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Muffin the Mule, Five Children and It, Ben Hur, The Time Machine, The Water Babies, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes oevre, C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower, The War of the Worlds, Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Dolittle books, Noddy and Big Ears, Metropolis, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Colonel Blimp, Sunset Boulevard, Fireball XL5, St Trinians, Thunderbirds, Roy of the Rovers, Billy the Fish, The Little Prince, Pooh Bear, Goofy, Mary Poppins, Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair novels, The King of the Rocketmen, Toad of Toad Hall, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, Captain Marvel, Babar…

It's good going, really. The first four of those you'll get from just the first two pages of the story, if you're paying attention. It's a hell of an achievement, even if it is too clever by half.

I'm not sure it's fair to call it 'too clever by half', though. Sure, I doubt anyone else could have done what the creators of this have done, but that doesn't necessarily mean they just did this because they could. There's a lot to say, so I reckon I'd better make a start.

Moore on this tomorrow, so.

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