by Jess Nevins and divers hands.
Updated 10 March 2002. Updates in blue.
Box #1. “Spring-Heeled Jack” is a reference to the subject of British folklore and penny dreadfuls, Spring-Heeled Jack. The legends, urban and rural, about Spring-Heeled Jack go back to the early- or mid- 19th century; the first penny dreadful with Jack in it was written by Charlton Lea and was published in 1875. Jack was, variously, a monster (attacking women and spewing blue flame in their faces) and a hero (rescuing the downtrodden, etc). More information on him can be found here.
2. The Diogenes Club is from A. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. The Diogenes Club is, according to Holmes, “the queerest club in London;” it is the pet club of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft.
3. Ally Sloper, seen on page 23, panel 1 of issue #6, is Ally Sloper, F.O.M. (Friend of Man), the comic strip character from Judy (1867) and Ally Sloper's Half-Holiday (1884-1914). Ally Sloper was a sort of heroic, roguish everyman.
4. “Detective S. Blake” is a reference to Sexton Blake, who was mentioned on page 32 of issue #1. Sexton Blake was created by Harry Blyth and first appeared in The Halfpenny Marvel in 1893; he was a gentleman detective who appeared in nearly 4000 stories through 1968 and is one of the most-published characters in the English language. For more information on Sexton Blake, go to my Sexton Blake page.
The “Mystery of Edwin Drood” is a reference Charles Dickens’ infamous mystery. “Drood,” left unfinished at the time of Dickens' death in 1870, has remained a mystery because of the unclear state in which it was left; though there is an obvious suspect, the murderer’s identity will never be known for sure. (And as Rich Morrissey points out, even Drood's body is never found, so there's the possibility that no murder was committed)
5. “Fleet Street” is a reference to Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sweeney Todd, for those of you who’ve never read any of the penny dreadfuls or seen the Sondheim musical, is about a London barber who kills his clients and turns them into meat pies, which he and his partner Mrs. Lovett then sell. Sweeney Todd was originally a London urban legend, starting circa 1820, with no basis in reality.
6. “Dr. Nikola” is a reference to Guy Boothby’s Dr. Nikola, who first appeared in “A Bid for Fortune” in 1895. Dr. Nikola was one of the first major arch-villains of fiction, and was (despite Boothby’s attempts otherwise) the most interesting and attractive character in his novels. For more information on Dr. Nikola, go to this page.
7. The “Time Traveler” is a reference to the hero from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895).
8. “Professor Gibberne” and his “New Accelerator” are references to H.G. Wells’ “A New Accelerator” (1899). Gibberne, in the story, is the inventor of “a new accelerator,” a drug which gives the human body super-speed. For more information on “A New Accelerator,” go to this page.
9. “Fan-Chu Fang, Prince Wu-Ling, and Wu Fang” are references to, respectively:
11. “The Moonstone” is a reference to Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone (1868), one of the earlier mystery novels in the history of the genre. The stone in question is a fabulous gem, a yelow diamond, originally taken from the forehead of a four-handed Hindu statue and which carries a curse upon it. The novel is about its theft and the search for it, as well as the efforts of three Indians to regain it.
12. “Mowgli” is a reference to the Rudyard Kipling’s feral child, first seen in “In the Rukh” (1892) but better known to the modern age as the lead in the book and film The Jungle Book. Mowgli was raised by wolves in the forests of India and is able to speak with the animals.
“Dr. John Doolittle” is a reference to Hugh Lofting’s Dr. John Dolittle, first seen in The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920). Dr. Dolittle has the ability to speak with the animals, and eventually devotes himself full-time to dealing with them.
13. “The Black Cat” is a reference to Edgar A. Poe’s “The Black Cat” (1843), a story in which the narrator hangs his good, black cat Pluto, only to find that the act was worse than a sin–it was a mistake.
14. “Pip” and “Estelle” are references to Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (1860). Pip, the youthful hero of the novel, has various misadventures as he tries to earn his way, and he falls for Estella, the adopted daughter of the filthy right Miss Havisham, but Estella marries Bentley Drummle. (Boo, hiss!) Lou Mougin adds that
You're only partly right about Pip and Estella from Great Expectations. In the first version, Estella does end up marrying the other guy. But so many people were disappointed in that outcome that Dickens went and wrote another one, one of literature's first retcons, in which Estelle was still single and Pip vowed to marry her. Who says this ain't the Victorian Age of Happy Endings??15. Kieran Cowan and Heather Kamp point out that this is in reference to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Premature Burial."
16. Kieran Cowan and Heather Kamp point out that this is a reference to Alexandre Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask (1846).
18. “Moby Dick” is of course a reference to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851), the eponymous character being the great white whale. The joke of this box is that anyone who catches Moby Dick and survives the experience would be in very good need of a Doctor’s services.
20. The “Good Ship Venus” was...oh, I haven’t the heart to say. Just go read it for yourself. Zack Smith (among a few others) adds that
The bulk of "The Good Ship Venus" was used as the lyrics for the Sex Pistols song "Friggin' in the Riggin'" for their 1980 album/documentary THE GREAT ROCK'N'ROLL SWINDLE. The verses are pretty much the same, although there is the added chorus, "Friggin' in the riggin'/Friggin' in the riggin'/Friggin' in the riggin'/There was fuck all else to do."“McTeague” is a reference to Frank Norris’ McTeague (1899), about McTeague, a dentist who has no license to practice and who is subject to greed. These twin flaws lead to his gruesome downfall. (This was also the source of the classic silent film, Greed).
21. “Robur” is a reference to Robur the Conqueror, from Jules Verne’s The Clipper of the Clouds (1887) and The Master of the World (1904). Robur, mentioned in a couple of points in League, is a rogue engineer who designs a new and powerful aircraft. His “Great Eyrie” is his mountain hideaway in North Carolina. More information on him can be found on this page.
22. The “Lake LaMetrie Monster” is a reference to Wardon Curtis’ “The Monster of Lake LaMetrie” (1899). The Monster was actually an “elasmosaurus” who is subject to a brain transplant from a human. More information on the story can be found here and the e-text of the story can be found here.
23. I assume that the obsession with numerology and the number 23 is a reference to Illuminati conspiracy theory and the central nature of the number 23 to numerological conspiracy theory.
24. The presence of the little girl in this box somewhat puzzles me, but “Nick Carter” is a reference to Nick Carter, who first appeared in “The Old Detective’s Pupil” on September 18, 1886. Carter, the most-published character in American literature and second over-all only to Dixon Hawke, is a heroic detective/adventurer. For more information on him, see my Nick Carter page. Matthew Davis says, "I think the presence of the doe-eyed young girl is Moore making an anachronistic reference to current pop teen idol Nick Carter of "The Backstreet Boys" (I am so ashamed to know this)." Ian Wildman said much the same thing. Dr. Hermes, of the very fine Dr. Hermes Reviews site, notes that
The caption says 'Fail to recognize Nick Carter...' and in the original stories, Nick was a complete master of quick change and instant disguise. His skill made Doc Savage look clumsy. I suggest that the somewhat too-sweet little girl is supposed to BE Nick. Look at that drawing again and see if it doesn't make you laugh.25. Great Cthulhu is of course a reference to the “god of elder days” from H.P. Lovecraft’s writings.
27. “Mr. Fogg” is a reference to Phileas Fogg, the world traveler from Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days (1872).
28. “Rosa Coote,” who appeared in League #2, was the lead character in The Yellow Room, a Victorian-era work of pornography.
29. “Mr. Wm. Bunter Senior” is a reference to William George "Billy" Bunter, created by Charles Hamilton and appearing in The Magnet from 1908. Bunter was a greedy, cowardly, cunning, foolish, and gluttonous schoolboy who was amazingly popular with the British reading public.
30. “Raffles” is a reference to A.J. Raffles, the creation of E. W. Hornung. Raffles was and is the most famous of the gentleman thieves, and he retains a healthy fanbase, even today. For more information on him, go to this page.
31. This box is a reference to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), in which Victor Frankenstein’s final confrontation with his patchwork man comes on an ice floe.
32. “Jim Hawkins” is a reference to Robert L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883). Jim Hawkins is the hero of the novel; he follows a parchment to find treasure alongside various pirates.
33. “Camilla” is a reference to J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” (1872). Carmilla is a female vampire who preys on the innocent child Laura in Styria, a rural Austrian province along the Hungarian border. For more information on her, go here.
34. “Black Michael” and “Ruritania” are references to Anthony Hope Hawkins’ The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). Ruritania is a mythical central European kingdom in which Rudolf Rassendyll duels with the forces of evil, in the person of Rupert of Hentzau, all to help Ruritania’s King. “Black Michael” is the evil Duke of Strelsau in The Prisoner of Zenda.
35. “Sir Francis Varney” is a reference to J. M. Rymer’s Varney the Vampyre, or The Feast of Blood (1847). Varney the Vampyre was the first novel (it was a penny dreadful, but cumulatively was a novel) of vampires written in English, with Varney playing the role of bloodsucker. The illustration of Varney here is a reference to the cover of the first issue of Varney.
37. “King Solomon’s Mines” are a reference to H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon's Mines, the first novel to star Allan Quatermain. The Mines themselves hold the fabled lost treasure of King Solomon.
38. “Hank Morgan” is a reference to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). Hank Morgan, in the novel, is a Connecticut engineer and the embodiment of hardheaded Yankee can-do pragmatism; through a knock on the head he is sent back in time, to the court of King Arthur.
39. “Dr. Van Helsing” is a reference to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Dr. Van Helsing was of course the aging vampire hunter who helped show the Transylvanian his quietus.
41. “Lilliput” is a reference to Jonathan Swift’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, by Lemuel Gulliver (1726), Lilliput being the island of six-inch-tall inhabitants which Gulliver visits.
42. “Dysentery,” in case none of you know, is “An inflammatory disorder of the lower intestinal tract, usually caused by a bacterial, parasitic, or protozoan infection and resulting in pain, fever, and severe diarrhea, often accompanied by the passage of blood and mucus.” (Also note that if you land on this square you’re stuck in a loop, going perpetually to square 8 and then back to square 42)
43. “Mr. Kurtz” is a reference to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” (1899). Mr. Kurtz is an agent for a company of ivory traders who becomes corrupted by the power he has over the natives of the Belgian Congo.
44. “Curipuri” is a reference to A. Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. “Curupuri” was mentioned in the hardcover of League; it is “the spirit of the woods, something terrible, something malevolent, something to be avoided. None can describe its shape or nature, but it is a word of terror along the Amazon.”
45. “Brobdignag” is a reference to Jonathan Swift’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, by Lemuel Gulliver, Brobdignag being an island of giants whose stature might well inspire penile dementia.
46. “Readestown” and “Frank Reade Jr.” are references to the Frank Reade, Jr. series of dime novels, which ran for 179 stories, beginning in 1879, and were the most famous and successful of the Edisonades. Frank Reade, Jr. is a boy inventor and adventurer who is as successful in coming up with wonderful new inventions, like “steam-boots,” as he is in exploring the frontiers and wiping out the natives. For much more information on Frank Reade, Jr., his father and son, and the Edisonades in general, go to this page.
47. “Sleepy Hollow” is a reference to Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1819), about a small town in upstate New York purportedly haunted by a headless horseman.
48. I think the “white feather” here is a reference to the phrase, “to show the white feather,” or “to act like a coward.” Any number of people, Matthew Davis and Peter Briggs (!) among them, e-mailed me to say that the "white feather" is a reference to A. E. W. Mason's The Four Feathers (1902), in which a would-be pacifist is shamed into fighting for the Empire in the Sudan when he's given the white feather. (Rob Ewen summarizes the novel: "In it, a young pacifist refuses to fight in the Sudan, and is given four white feathers by his 'friends' and fiancee as a sign of contempt for his 'cowardice'. Needless to say, he determines to prove otherwise, and returns each feather to its owner after significant acts of bravery in the face of the enemy.") I'd thought that the actual practice predated the novel, but my correspondents are probably right in that the Mason novel is the specific reference Moore is using. Matthew further adds "hence the link to #10 and then `the tan' reference at #51."
49. The “Baltimore Gun Club” is a reference to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (1865), the Gun Club being the club of Baltimore gun fanciers who decide to travel to the moon by shooting an inhabited shell at it.
50. The “Trans Atlantic Pneumatic Tube” is a reference to Jules Verne’s “Un Express de L’Avenir” (An Express of the Future) (1888) (I should note that I’ve read that this story was actually not written by Jules Verne, but by Michael) In the story a pneumatically-driven train can carry passengers under the Atlantic. Peter Briggs suggests that this might also be a reference to "Bernhard Kellermann's 1913 novel Der Tunnel (filmed as A Transatlantic Tunnel in 1935)."
51. “The Harkaway Boys” is a reference to Bracebridge Hemyng’s Harkaway stories, which began with Jack Harkaway's Schooldays (1871). The Harkaway Boys were Jack Harkaway and his son and grandson Jack, two-fisted, right-thinking English boys (later grown-up men) who traveled the world finding adventure and treasure and thrashing all those who had the misfortune not to be white and English. For more information on the Harkaways, go here.
52. “John Melmoth” is a reference to Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). John Melmoth sold his soul to the devil in exchange for lengthened life, and spends most of the novel bewailing his fate. At length. (Hence the player, here, missing five turns as Melmoth recounts an anecdote).
53. The “cylinder at the crater” is a reference to H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1898). When the Martians first land on Earth, their vessel, a giant cylinder, is at the heart of a crater. Naturally, those present when the cylinder opens and the Martians emerge are wiped out, hence the player retiring from the game if s/he lands on this spot.
55. “Willie” and “Tim,” seen on page 23, panel 1 of issue #6 of League, are references to “Weary Willy” and “Tired Tim,” the first regular characters of British comics, first seen in the 1890s. They were friendly tramps.
56. “Grimpen Mire” is a reference to A. Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902). “Grimpen Mire” is the dangerous section of Dartmoor just north of Baskerville Hall where the notorious Hound is said to prowl.
57. The “Moulin Rouge” is a section of Paris known for its prostitutes. Gabriel Neeb points out that during the Victorian era the "Moulin Rouge" was just the bar, the "Moulin Rouge," which was a hang-out joint for bohemian types like Toulouse-Lautrec.
58. “Arsene Lupin” is a reference to Maurice Leblanc’s character, who first appeared in "L'Arrestation d'Arsène Lupin" (The Arrest of AL), in the magazine Je Sais Tout on 15th July 1905. (Thanks to Jean-Marc Lofficier for correcting my mistake here) He was a master thief, very similar to Raffles (see #30 above) who stole from society but also fought for good. For more information on him, go here.
59. The “Rue Morgue” and “C. August Dupin” are references to E. Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841). Dupin himself appeared in the second issue of League.
60. Bot Fly Larvae is a particularly nasty parasite, but if there is a specific connection between it and some pieces of Victorian literature, I’m not aware of it.
62. “Absinthe” was (is, really) a drink popular during the Victorian era with aesthetes and intellectuals.
63. “Broad Arrow Jack,” seen at a few points in various issues of League, is a reference to E. Harcourt Burrage’s Broad-Arrow Jack (1866). “Jack” is John Ashleigh, an Englishman emigrating to Australia who runs afoul of thieves, is branded with the broad arrow that you see here, and has various adventures. In League he is one of Nemo’s crew. You can find out more information on him here.
The “Golden Rivet” is a reference to naval folklore. Crewmen new to a ship were told that one of the rivets in the lower part of a ship’s hull was made of gold and that they should go find it. Naturally, no such rivet existed. I also expect that the search for the golden rivet was also used as an excuse to sexually initiate the new crewman, hence Jack’s smile here.
65. The “Sargasso Sea” is a reference to an area of the Atlantic Ocean where the winds, mixed by the Gulf Stream and the North Equatorial Current, move in a circle, thus causing ships powered only by sail to be trapped in it. It is known for the distinctive blue quality of its waters and its vast islands of seaweed. Verne wrote about it in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
66. I’m unaware of any individual connection between fungal disease and Victorian literature. Luckily, some other folks are. Doctor Argent contributes this:
William Hope Hodgson wrote a short story (the title escapes me, damn it all!) about two castaways on a South Pacific island literally coated with a particularly vile fungus that converted any living thing it touched into itself without actually killing the victim. By the story's end, the two victims have been transformed into hideous parodies of themselves.Peter Briggs suggests that "`Fungal Disease' would seem to be a reference to all things Lovecraftian, and the various nasty things and ailments that overcome the characters in those books."
Dr. Rainer Nagel identifies the Hodgson story as "The Voice in the Night" (found in Men of Deep Waters, 1914) and adds that it's set in the North Pacific, not the South Pacific.
67. “Doctor Moreau” is a reference to H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), in which the cruel Doctor attempts to turn animals into men.
68. “Treasure Island” is a reference to Robert L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883).
69. “Lulu” is a reference to Frank Wedekind’s Earth-Spirit (1895) and Pandora's Box (1902). Lulu, in the novels, is a German femme fatale who leaves a trail of broken hearts and fortunes behind her, but who ends up destitute and plying her trade on the streets of London and is finally murdered by Jack the Ripper. The two Wedekind novels were used as the source for the silent film Pandora's Box (1928) in which Lulu was played by the unearthly Louise Brooks.
71. “Henry Hobson” is a reference to Harold Brighouse’s Hobson's Choice (1916). Hobson is a Lancashire bootmaker and a tyrant to his family. As Kieran Cowand and Heather Kamp point out, it's also a reference to "Hobson's Choice," which, to quote Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable,
This or none. Tobias Hobson was a carrier and innkeeper at Cambridge, who erected the handsome conduit there, and settled "seven lays" of pasture ground towards its maintenance. "He kept a stable of forty good cattle, always ready and fit for travelling; but when a man came for a horse he was led into the stable, where there was great choice, but was obliged to take the horse which stood nearest to the stable-door; so that every customer was alike well served, according to his chance, and every horse ridden with the same justice." (Spectator, No. 509.) Milton wrote two quibbling epitaphs upon this eccentric character.Another source, Garner's A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, puts it this way:
Tradition has it that Thomas Hobson (1549-1631), a hostler in Cambridge, England, always gave his customers only one choice among his horses: whichever one was closest to the door. Hence, in literary usage, Hobson's choice came to denote no choice at all--either taking what is offered or taking nothing.Matthew Davis adds, of Hobson's Choice, that "I think the choice of going back 1 or forward 4 spaces is a reference to Henry Hobson's drunken staggering, cf Charles Laughton in the film version trying to get upstairs."
73. “Mr. Cave” and the “Crystal Egg” are references to H.G. Wells’ “The Crystal Egg” (1897). In the story Mr. Cave, an antiquarian, becomes obsessed with his crystal egg, through which it is possible to view Mars.
74. The “Lidenbrock Sea” is a reference to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). The Lidenbrock Sea is an underground sea, filled with various prehistoric creatures, that subterranean explorers are forced to cross.
75. Heh heh heh heh. “Severin” is a reference to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs (1870). The novel, which gave birth to masochism, is about Severin, a dissipated dilettante who falls in love first with a statue of Venus and then later with his neighbor, Wanda, who resembles the statue and who indulges his taste for the lash.
76. “Kapitan Mors” is a reference to Captain Mors, the heroic protagonist of the German dime novel series Der Luftpirat und Sein Lenkbares Luftschiff (The Pirate of the Air and His Navigable Airship), which ran from 1908 to 1911. Captain Mors was a Captain Nemo-like character who fought for good and for Earth against villains both human and alien. For much more information on him, go to this page.
77. Heh heh heh. “Pere Ubu” is a reference to Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (1896), a surrealistic play about an unpleasant authoritarian monster. He’s given to vulgarities, including “merdre.” Matthew Davis adds that "`Ignore him, he's Polish' is Moore refering to Jarry's speech on the opening night of Ubu Roi: 'the action, which is about to start, takes place in Poland, that is to say Nowhere', meaning that Poland did not exist as such having been swallowed up by encroaching nations and Jarry's desire for a pre-Beckettian wasteland of caricatures." KKole adds "`merdre' is a french nonsense word similar to "merde" the french word for shit. It has been translated into English as "pshitt" or "shith" in various productions. It's interesting to note that this is the first line in Jarry's play and on opening night caused a riot in the theatre."
78. “Harry Flashman” is a reference to the character Harry Flashman, who first appeared in Thomas Hughes’ Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) as a bullying schoolboy who torments Tom Brown. Flashman became popular in the modern era through George Macdonald Fraser’s “Flashman” novels, beginning with Flashman; From the Flashman Papers 1839-1842 (1969). As an adult Flashman is no improvement over his childhood self, being an unlikeable cad and scoundrel.
79. “The Beetle” is a reference to Richard Marsh’s The Beetle (1897). In the novel the Beetle is a giant, deformed Beetle which is inhabited by the soul of an Egyptian princess. She can transform herself into the beetle, into a beautiful Egyptian woman, and into an ugly old man (thus explaining the change alluded to in this box). For more information on The Beetle, go to this page.
82. The “Purple Terror” is a reference to Fred M. White’s “The Purple Terror” (1899), about a carnivorous plant.
83. “Mr. Heep” is a reference to Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield (1850). Uriah Heep is a vile blackmailer and one of Dickens’ most despicable villains.
87. “Professor Cavor” is a reference to H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon. Cavor, seen on page 22 of League #2, was the short, fat scientist who comes up with a paste, “cavorite,” which cancels gravity.
88. “Wonderland” is a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), Wonderland being the magical land that Alice visits.
“Kallikrates” is a reference to H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887). Kallikrates was an Egyptian who Ayesha, the immortal goddess and She Who Must Be Obeyed, loved and slew.
Thanks to: Alicia, as always; Kieran Cowan and Heather Kamp; Zack Smith; Gabriel Neeb; "Doctor Argent;" Robert Cooper; Rob Ewen; Ian Wildman; Matthew Davis; Peter Briggs; KKole; Dr. Rainer Nagel; Lou Mougin; Dr. Hermes.
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