A couple of extraordinary gentlemen chat – Pádraig talks to Alan Moore about the new LOEG Century
Our resident expert on all things Alan Moore, Pádraig Ó Méalóid, talked on the phone to the man himself for an interview with the 3am site a few weeks back (which you should go and read if you haven’t already). And while they were chatting Alan was also kind enough to talk to Pádraig specifically about the upcoming and much-anticipated second volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century – 1969. With the new LOEG book from Alan and stalwart collaborator Kevin O’Neill due to hit the racks towards the end of this very month we thought you’d enjoy a little insight into it from the great bearded Magus of Northampton, via one of the great wizard’s familiars, our own Pádraig:
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: The next part of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century is coming out quite soon.
Alan Moore: I would hope so.
PÓM: So would I! So, do you want to tell us what it’s about, briefly?
AM: Well, I’ll tell you a little bit. It’s a continuation of the first part, 1910. This part happens in 1969, which explains its title, which is 1969.
PÓM: Fair enough.
(cover to LOEG Century 1969 by and (c) Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill, published Top Shelf/Knockabout)
AM: I bet nobody saw that one coming! The actual episode title is called Paint it Black. It is following on from some of the threads that were established in the first part, notably the Moonchild stroke Antichrist Oliver Haddo thread. This is developed against a backdrop of the mid-1960s, which of course was a time of a great psychedelic… a magical revival, that coincided with the psychedelic culture. Aleister Crowley had been on the front of Sergeant Pepper, they’d just released the Thoth tarot deck by Crowley and Freda Harris in 1967, and a lot of the rock stars of the period were flirting with mysticism, if not with actual Satanism. And of course, Crowley was very popular at that time.
Other things that I remember from the 1960s was how all the psychedelic culture, yes, it crossed over with mystical culture, it also crossed over with criminal culture, as perhaps best exemplified in films like Performance. What we’ve got in 1969, in keeping with the League’s usual practice, is that we’ve got a world entirely composed of references to the culture of that period, or around that period. So we’re taking bits from various films, television series, books, comics, any culture of that time we’re working into the fabric of our story, and me and Kevin personally think that this is the best League episode yet, and the job that Ben Dimagmaliw has done on the actual colour is wonderful, and Todd Klein’s done his usual marvellous job on the lettering. So it’s looking wonderful.
I hope that people will have as much fun digging out the various references as we had putting them in there, and there’s also the second chapter of Minions of the Moon, which I think develops nicely, and there some… as with the first part, we’ve tried to work in a number of different lunar fictions, so if you can think of lunar fictions that we haven’t included, then do please send them in, in time for part three, in about a year’s time. Yeah, it’s going to be a very, very good issue, and Kevin’s artwork is exquisite, and I’ve also seen the first eight or nine pages of 2009, so he’s banging on with that, and that looks like it’s going to be incredible, so, yeah, we’re very pleased with it.
PÓM: I’m kinda guessing, if you’ve literary references and other contemporary fictional references from, let’s say, the 1960s, and certainly from right now, you’re obviously dealing with things that are still in copyright, so you’re going to have to be a little more creative, I imagine.
AM: That’s it. And that’s not to say, of course, that we might not run into bits of trouble from certain areas where people might have their own reasons for being particularly litigious. However, we think that we’ve been sufficiently clever in our glancing references. We’ve still got to get the issue finally back from the legal advisors, but no news is good news, I’m hoping, at the moment. I mean, yeah, it does make it more and more difficult. Once we’re past 2009, then we’ll be mainly using science fiction stories that were providing versions of the future, but perhaps a long time ago, so we won’t have the same problems, but we’re very pleased with the way things are working out. Yeah, we could have a couple of instances of difficulties over a few things, I’m sure, but we seem to be doing alright so far.
PÓM: Yeah, I think you’ve cleared a few hurdles before, so… You reckon that the final part of Century is probably due next year?
AM: Yeah, I believe so. I mean, Kevin, like I say, is getting on with it very, very quickly, but I wouldn’t want to say that it would be earlier than next year, because a lot can happen, but it’s on its way.
PÓM: And you’re also basically saying that there are more plans for more volumes of League set further in the future?
AM: Oh yes, or ones that are set in the past. I think that in 1969 there are a few faint references to the fact that Mina had been in London since her and Allan’s visit in 1958, as documented in the Black Dossier, that Mina had been there in 1964, without Allan or Orlando, and had a little side project of her own going, which we give a couple of tantalizing glimpses of.
(Mina trips out – hey, it is the 60s, after all, alter your perceptions! Pic borrowed cheekily from post about lettering work on 1969 by the excellent Todd Klein on his blog, (c) Moore & O’Neill)
PÓM: There is a kind of an extra story running through all the previous volumes, I think, about Mina, is it in Innsbruck, or something like that? No, not Innsbruck…
AM: Innsmouth, but this is not then, this is set, I think if you notice in the text story for 1910, there are references to Mina having been involved with some sort of group of superheroes, so there are, I think that there are references to Mick Anglo’s Captain Universe – used with permission – and to Vull the Invisible, and there’s glancing references to a couple of other people in there as well. But, what will probably happen, is that when we finish this, we will probably do a little one-off special, which will be detailing Mina’s adventures in 1964.
Then, I have got an absolutely killer idea for something which would be a great climactic episode of the League – that’s not to say that it would be the last episode of the League, but it would be a fantastic climax to stuff that’s been referred to since, well, the first couple of volumes, but certainly since the Black Dossier. It would be tying all of that up in a spectacular fashion that I thought of while I was writing the 2009 sequence. I got to a piece in 2009 where Orlando had got a real dilemma which, as a writer, I was not certain how she was going to solve. But when I thought of the way that she could solve it, that opened up an absolutely blockbuster plotline that would tie up so many of the… it would tie up ends going all the way back to that Shakespeare pastiche in the Black Dossier.
And then, after we’ve done that, we’d be pretty much free to do whatever we wanted. We would have the League in a situation where they could explore the future, as it’s depicted fictionally, or of course we could always flash back to earlier incarnations of the League. As long as we can keep it fresh, so that each episode, so that it won’t be what people are expecting. That is all that we want people to be able to expect from the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so that it doesn’t just get into a profitable rut, with keeping all the characters alive if they’re popular, and keeping it all in the 1900s, or whatever. So, I think that we’ve established that the League can go into pretty much any direction that should take our fancy.
PÓM: OK, Alan, thanks a million for that.
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century – 1969, will be released towards the end of July from Knockabout in the UK and Top Shelf in North America. Alan’s partner-in-crime Mr Kevin O’Neill, Esquire, will be in our Dublin store on August 6th to sign copies of the new book. FPI would like to thank Alan and Pádraig very much for taking the time to have this chat for us.
Back in 2009 Pádraig conducted a very long, in-depth interview with Alan for us here on the blog, and as it happens part of it took in the then-two-years-in-the-future LOEG Century 1969 book, with Alan discussing some of the elements he was weaving into it, his references and influences, from Moorcock’s New Worlds to the Clangers and the Avengers TV series, so we thought it was worth repeating the relevant segment again on here so you will be better armed with what to watch out for in 1969 (if you want to read the whole of the 2009 interview it is still on the blog archives in three segments, part one, part two and part three:
(a familiar yet different submarine makes an impressive entrance in LOEG Century 1969, (c) Moore & O’Neill)
PÓM: Well, yeah, I was going to ask you, actually, one of the things a lot of people asked me about, a question I got a lot of was, what are the sources for 1969 and for 2009. What should people read in advance to know who you’re dealing with?
AM: Well, let me see. In 1969 we thought, there was an awful lot of films out by 1969, which there hadn’t been in 1910; there were a lot of television series, so what we’ve done is, we’ve kind of gone back to some of the cult cinema that was around at that time. I think that, probably having a look at Nick Roeg’s Performance – Nick Roeg and Donald Cammell’s Performance – wouldn’t do any harm.
PÓM: I got a copy of that, I see that, is it Litvinoff was a dialogue coach on that?
AM: Yes he was, David Litvinoff, the author of the apparently mythical Litvinoff’s Book, who was also an occasional partner of Mr Ronald Kray of that ilk. An interesting man, David Litvinoff, but, yes, he was the dialogue coach, and he came up with some of the strange elliptical dialogue that doesn’t seem to mean much, but conveys the flavour of the period excellently, So, yeah, there’s probably going to be a couple of references to Performance, that’s a pretty safe bet.
PÓM: Are we around Clockwork Orange time?
AM: No, because Clockwork Orange was, I mean, it was later. It was actually made in the seventies, I believe, and it was set in a kind of a future, so we’re not sure with that one, we haven’t made any references to that. But films of the period like Get Carter, there are certainly a couple of nods to that; other crime films of the period, like Richard Burton’s Villain, which starred a young Ian McShane as the boyfriend stroke criminal gang member of the central Ron Kray-alike criminal played by Richard Burton.
One of the things we’ve done in the 1969 version is we’ve taken all of the characters that were based upon Ronnie Kray or the Kray Brothers, and decided that they were all rival East End villains of the period. So we’ve got Harry Flowers from Performance, who was based on Ronnie Kray, we’ve got Harry Starks from Jake Arnott’s later written but set in the sixties The Long Firm, who was based upon Ronnie Kray, we’ve got Doug and Dinsdale Piranha, who were based upon the Kray Brothers – I mean, they’re referred to, as part of this warring set of criminal factions around in the East End. Then of course there’s the Richard Burton character, who was also based on Ronnie Kray.
(swinging sixties means Mina’ hemline is a little higher than her original Victorian era costumes. Great boots too, I think they were meant for walking...)
So we’ve got all of those in play, there’s also references to things like Big Breadwinner Hogg, which was a very obscure, very violent nineteen sixties crime show about a young thug trying to rise to the top in the London criminal underworld – I think it was taken off the air after two or three weeks, but it made an impression on me, so there’s at least a passing reference to that.
There’s references to the fictional music scene of the times, which includes pirate radio – we had to go quite a way to find a fictional pirate radio station, but we found one in an episode of Dangerman. And then there’s also a lot about the sixties occult scene, which is the thread that really ties all three of the chapters together. In the 1910 chapter we’re talking about, well, we start this thread of the character Oliver Haddo, who was referred to in the Black Dossier as a way of preparing people for some of the stuff that we’ve got coming up in the future, and what we’ve done with Haddo, who is from Somerset Maugham’s The Magician, and was based upon Crowley, is to tie him in with all of the other surrogate Crowleys that appeared in the literature of the time and also in the films and books that have appeared since.
So we’ve got our essential Oliver Haddo character, who was supposedly dead at the end of The Magician, which I think happened in 1908, or something, or at least was published around that time, but we’ve also explained that, just as the real Crowley took on lots of assumed identities, that Oliver Haddo was also a character called Doctor Carswell Trelawney, which combines MR James’s Carswell, who was based upon Crowley, from Casting the Runes, with Dr Trelawney from Anthony Powell’s Dances to the Music of Time, who was based upon Crowley, and we’ve also included the bizarre architect from The Black Cat, played by Boris Karloff, who name was, I think, Hjalmar Poelzig…
PÓM: Right! I’ll look that one up, so. [I subsequently looked it up, which is why I’ve got the spelling right...]
AM: Yes, look that one up! He was based upon Crowley, and we’ve also tied in Adrian Marcato from Rosemary’s Baby, who was the father of the Satanist in the film, and was based on Crowley. We’ve tied a lot of the supernatural films, at least by reference, that came out in the sixties. We’ve also got, as well as Adrian Marcato, we’ve got Mocata, the similarly named Crowley-based protagonist and black magician of The Devil Rides Out, which was probably set earlier, but the film version was released in the sixties, so we’ve got all of these neatly tied together as one man, and we managed to – oh yeah, there’s also, I’d forgotten, there’s a character called Cosmo Gallion, who is a Crowley-alike magician from I think the second series of The Avengers. There’s an episode called Warlock, which has a character who is bearded, and reminiscent of the younger, mountain climbing Aleister Crowley, and who wanders around saying, “Do what thou wilt” all the time, so we’ve got him as a key figure.
We’ve also tied in Robert Irwin’s Satanist from his brilliant book, Satan Wants You. Robert Irwin is a fantastic writer and I actually spoke to him and asked if it was OK to use the character name from Satan Wants You, and he was, he likes the League apparently, so he was OK with that. So, it’s the usual eclectic mix; Jerry Cornelius turns up. I mean, I know he appears briefly as a child in the Black Dossier, but he turns up in his 1969 form as a black-skinned white-haired figure in a panda-skin coat. There’s a nice little exchange in the heart of Soho, where we’ve got lots of references to stuff from Moorcock’s New Worlds, and a couple of little gags thrown in for people who remember Berwick Street in the late nineteen sixties; it doesn’t matter if people don’t get the gags, but it’s still a compelling narrative without them. But when it comes up to the 2009 stuff, we’re sort of using characters that, I think for obvious reasons, it would be kind of difficult to actually talk about too much.
P; Yeah, I imagine that there are certain copyright reasons, and that people are a lot quicker to jump at these kinds of things of late…
AM: Well, that’s it. It’s sort of – we’ve preferred to be discreet about some of those, you know, but, I think, just in the background of the five pages that I’ve written so far we’ve got – the third book opens in the middle of, it’s the tail end of the disastrous American and British invasion of Qumar which is, I believe, I don’t watch the show myself, but I believe it’s the Iraq surrogate from West Wing, so you’ve got some stuff there, there’s a reference to an excellent short story by Gerard Kersh called Colonel Cuckoo – Corporal Cuckoo – I’d forgotten, I promoted him [the story is actually called Whatever Happened to Corporal Cuckoo? – PÓM], and Corporal Cuckoo makes a brief appearance in the pages that I’ve done, and there are references to, let me see, Armando Iannucci’s Time Trumpet, Viz, there’s a couple of background references to Lost – only a very, very, very background reference – and I think also to the show Entourage, which again I’ve never seen.
It’s useful to have a fictitious actor who makes fictitious films to work into the background detail of the League’s world. We’ve got some pretty good stuff from comedy shows, which, I actually like a lot of modern comedy, so people can expect some references to modern comedy shows. I’ve been watching Nathan Barley again, because that has got some really brilliant little bits in it. Fictitious magazines like Sugar Ape, and things like that, those will probably turn up in the background.
We’re going to try and be as comprehensive as possible about modern culture, good and bad, and we’ll try to fit it all together into a version of our world that isn’t quite our world, just like the Victorian era League wasn’t quite the real eighteen nineties, but by bringing all of the fictitious parts of our culture together it will give quite a good if bizarre snapshot of what our culture’s like at the moment, you know. And I thank that overall this third volume is going to be quite a dizzying ride, because it sweeps through a whole century in three seventy-two page volumes, and I think that the way that our fictional landscape has changed, it parallels in certain ways the way that our real landscape has changed…
PÓM: Undoubtedly, yes.
AM: And I think that that’s going to be quite interesting, and quite a rush for the readers, you know. And also I should mention that there’s a backup story running through all three issues, that’s called Minions of the Moon. It’s presented as if it were a three-part story from a late nineteen sixties issue of Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds of Science Fiction, but obviously we couldn’t use the name Michael Moorcock or New Worlds of Science Fiction, because those were real, so what we’ve done is, we’ve, I found a quote from Brian Aldiss, from when New Worlds was going through all of its problems, he had at one point jokingly suggested that they change the name to Lewd Worlds of Science Fiction, so Minions of the Moon is from Lewd Worlds of Science Fiction issues 183 to 185, edited by James Colvin, who was one of Moorcock’s pseudonyms.
I believe that James Colvin, they ran an obituary for him in New Worlds where it said that he’d been crushed under a filing cabinet of rejected manuscripts. This is obviously back when James Colvin was still alive and, yeah, Minions of the Moon, the author of it is John Thomas, which was a pseudonym used by John Sladek for his first couple of sales to Galaxy, ‘cause it’s his first two names, John Thomas Sladek, but he wasn’t selling many stories under the name John Thomas, so he decided to change tack and just called himself John Sladek, but we’ve kind of made a reference to that, because Sladek was one of me favourite authors, but that’s just the title panel to it really, the actual content of the strip is looking pretty fantastic so far. It ties together, as far as we know, almost every fictional reference to the moon. It’s a story set in 1965, but it’s got everything from Wells’s Selenites to Verne’s Baltimore Gun Club, and maybe even a reference or two to The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street through the Baltimore connection.
It’s got things like Mysta of the Moon from Planet Comics, which is brought into continuity with Maza of the Moon by Otis Kline, and Amazon Women of the Moon, which was a soft-core porn film with a lot of naked women living on the moon. So we rationalised all of this, along with Lucien and Baron Munchausen’s journeys to the moon by waterspout, and Mister Godwin of Northampton – I’ve forgotten his first name for the moment – the guy who wrote his account of travelling to the moon in a goose-pulled chariot in the sixteenth century. So we’ve got all them tied in – obscure things like Honeymoon in Space, which was a narrative serial from a British magazine in 1910 – we’ve got all of these things, oh, and the black monoliths, of course, from 2001, and a load of other things. Oh yeah, the Clangers, the soup dragons, the Lunar hoax of 1947, I believe, where someone said that through a telescope he’d seen bat-winged creatures and moon-bison – it turned out just to be a journalistic hoax, but it’s a fiction, of its kind, so we’ve worked that in, along with all the soup dragons and Clangers and Amazon Women of the Moon and Ant-people and, yeah, there’s also, we find out what happened to Professor Selwyn Cavor who figured in the first volume, and we also find out what eventually happened to Professor James Moriarty.
He becomes important to the plot, but this’ll be running over the three books. We’re having a load of fun with it. It originally came from a suggestion that Kevin said that he’d like to do a story set on the moon, and I hadn’t got much idea as to what to do with the backup pages before he’d said that, but once he made that suggestion I suddenly thought, “Yeah, the fictional moon, that would be splendid.” So that’s almost as much fun as the lead story itself, and in fact it ties in, I’m writing it so that it does connect up with the lead story of the third volume, but it won’t be apparent until volume three exactly how it connects up.