Tag Archives: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Alan Moore’s Superhero Universe Reboots 5: Watchmen Universe



The superheroes of this universe are only vaguely based on the originals from Charlton Comics so arguably this is not a reboot at all.  The main superheroes of the Watchmen universe include Captain Metropolis, the Comedian, Doctor Manhattan, Dollar Bill, Hooded Justice, Mothman, Nite Owl I, Nite Owl II, Ozymandias, Rorschach, Silhouette, Silk Spectre I and Silk Spectre II.   This is Moore’s last universe reboot alphabetically but his second chronologically.  This is the series that brought Alan Moore fame and fortune in the US. 


The comic book within a comic book takes the form of a pirate comic book named Tales of the Black Freighter.  A teen who happens to be at a newsstand, were the lives of the heroes intersect, is reading the comic book on the curb.  We view the panels of this comic book within a comic book as the series progresses. The plot line of Tales of the Black Freighter comic book is reminiscent of the Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  The comic book within the comic book also reflects the larger world’s descent into WW III and annihilation.  The Watchmen’s universe is too gritty and real for us to believe that anyone will survive as they generally do in comic books.  Nixon is President since he had those pesky Watergate reporters killed by the Comedian, a super hero!


Although this is never stated in so many words, there are enough references to Einstein and his thinking that one can assume Moore has probably read Einstein’s comment that good and evil are manmade constructs. Doctor Manhattan as more force of nature, than human takes this literally and departs from Earth to Mars rather than stop WW III. 


One of the more disturbing characters, Rosarch has an epiphany while watching dogs eat the bones of kidnapped girl and becomes a Nietzsche superman, beyond good and evil.  In contrast to Dr. Manhattan, who is a Superman type superman and then some.  Dr. Manhattan could easily take out Superman!  Dr. Manhattan is also four dimensional and shifts in and out of the present into the future and past and actually little gains the insight that past, present and future do not actually exist and therefore free will does not exist.


Ozymandias is a Batman type superhero who decides to create a fake alien invader that kills millions in New York City in order to unite the world against a larger enemy. Ozymandia succeeds and thus averts WW III.  The bad guy has succeeded!  This doesn’t happen very much in comic books but is he really a bad guy.  Ozymandias has lied to his fellow heroes, killed millions, and even killed his own servants but he did this to save the world and if fact did save the world.  Do the ends justify the means?


Another aspect of the Watchmen that is different from other works by Moore is his extreme use of symbolism.  The watch as symbol is used throughout the book.  The watch does not just represent time and the inexorable flow of events as most readers can easily figure out.  The watch also acts a secondary symbol that I think very few readers figure out.  The watch is symbolic of the most important question in human existence.  Is there a watchmaker?  Or more broadly does “existence precede essence” Is there an underlying karma, purpose, a plan to the universe?


Are the watchmen just watchmen as in the quote by Juvenal “Who will watch the watchmen” or are the watchmen also agents of the watch maker?  If the watchmaker is God as Newton stated then are not the Watchmen agents of God?  The Watchmen is an incredibly ambitious work that asks all the big questions yet provides an entertaining story.  The Watchmen to some extent was an inspiration for my novel Half Square (https://foxhugh.wordpress.com/half-square-chapter-1-agent-wanted/) in that I wanted to explore the big questions but do so in an entertaining manner.  Unlike my novel which is unpublished and largely unread, the Watchmen were a huge commercial success and have been reprinted in graphic novel form continuously.  The Watchmen is the greatest comic book ever written period!  The Watchmaker is the only comic book to win a Hugo Award ever and rightly so.  I would rank the Watchmen number one of the five reboots analyzed in this series.


So there you have it readers:


1) Watchmen

2) League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

3) Miracleman

4) Albion

5) Terra Obscura


Do you agree?  Comments are more than welcome.


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Alan Moore’s Superhero Universe Reboots 2: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen



The main “superheroes” of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen include Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Hawley Griffin and Mina Murray.  I put quotes around the word superheroes since the question must be asked if the aforementioned characters are actually superheroes.  Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, and Mina Murray do not have super powers but this does not mean they are not super heroes.  Batman doesn’t have super powers and an archetypical superhero.  Allan Quartermain and Captain Nemo are the literary grandfathers to Batman.  Allan Quartermain and Captain Nemo are men of adventure that belong to the world of pulp fiction that preceded comic books.  Can pulp fiction heroes be superheroes?  Both types of fiction are similar. The main difference would be that comic books went a step farther and emphasized more incredible and futuristic elements due to the ability of comic books, as a visual medium, to awe young readers with incredible pictures.


By putting all these fantastic characters in a more fantastic world than they originally existed in, Alan Moore has clearly made the pulp and/or sci-fi heroes into super heroes.  Alan Moore has done the opposite of the dictum of H.G. Wells, the original creator of the Invisible Man. The Invisible Man is a member of the league.  H.G. Wells stated that you could write about Martians or invisible men but not invisible Martians.  Comic books go in the opposite direction and if Martians are interesting then an invisible Martian like DC’s Martian Manhunter is even more interesting.  Superheroes are the baroque version of science fiction and that’s one of the reasons I love my comic books!


There is no comic book within a comic book since these heroes were from books not comic books.  On the other hand, Alan Moore has created a universe were all fictional literary characters imaginable coexist in a single universe.  Every character in the series is from a literary piece and half the fun of reading the comic book is figuring out what work of fiction the character is from.  There is also an atlas of this world in textual form that is incredibly intricate and takes universe building to another level!  I suspect compiling the atlas probably took Moore more time to write than writing all the other reboots together.


There is also not a superior level of characterization in Moore’s material compared to the source material since the original material were great works of literature rather than obscure comic book universes.  Moore does take the original source material into a darker realm as he does in other reboots.  Mr. Hyde beats the Invisible Man and then sexually assaults the Invisible Man, finally killing him!  The Invisible Man had betrayed Earth to the Martians and, worse in the eyes of Hyde, hurt Mina Murray.  Hyde also eats a Martian in front of the other Martians for fun and the purposes of psychological warfare.  For some reason this version of events was never shown in the movie of the same name. 


I do want to mention that the movie and the comic book are very different both in plot and tone.  The movie is very typical, feel good, sell popcorn, movie fare.  The comic book is dense with literary references and much darker than the movie.  The characters in the comic book are much more fleshed out and less heroic and more human than the same characters in the movie. 


Mina Murray is a person weak physically but strong of will and mind who wins the affection of Mr. Hyde, the love of Quartermain and the respect of Nemo in a way that is believable.  This character was written out of the movie altogether!  The only comic book character that is even vaguely similar to Mina Murray is Spiderman’s aunt May, another character whose will allows her to surpass her physical frailty.  Quartermain, in contrast to the portrayal by Sean Connery in the moview, is portrayed as an old broken man that has been in the deepest slums of India smoking opium and is only saved by the strong will of Mina Murray.


The “do the ends justify the ends” question is explored again by Moore.  Germ warfare is used to destroy the invading H.G. Wells style Martians.  Moore rightly assumes that characters of the Victorian age would find such behavior shocking and immoral.  This is before WWI and WW II desensitized us as a species to such behavior, unfortunately.  Because of the strong characterization and incredible universe building, I would rank this reboot number two of the five reboots this series will examine.

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Alan Moore’s Superhero Universe Reboots 0: Introduction

Alan Moore is the master of superhero universe reboots and this series of posts will describe his efforts, compare and contrast his reboots and finally evaluate which have been the most successful from a critical point of view.  A reboot is a radical remake of an existing character in fiction.  Batman Begins, Battlestar Galactica and Casino Royale are example of cinematic reboots.  A reboot of Star Trek is also in the work.  The following universes will be looked at including the Albion Universe, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the Miracleman universe and the Watchmen universe.


I will argue that

1) Moore’s reboots always go in a darker direction than the original source material. 

2) Moore also adds a layer of characterization that was not present in the original material.  3) The fact that the characters are in a universe is emphasized much more than in the original source material. 

4) There is almost always a comic book within the comic book.

5) Certain larger political/philosophical questions are consistently explored in Moore’s work.


The first point is not surprising since the source material is generally from the 1960s when comic books were aimed at readers of an average age of ten and there was code that controlled what sort topics and material could be dealt with in comic books.  The second point is explained by the fact Moore as a superior writer brings characterization to a medium were characterization is generally ignored.  The third point is also related to the current comic book market versus the one of the 1960s. Crossover issues do well on the market place.  Sagas that involve all the superheroes are major events and seem to happen almost yearly these days.  Interestingly, Moore is very critical of these universe events in his unpublished description of his own DC saga, Twilight of the Superheroes.  In particular, Moore really slams Marvel’s Secret Wars.  You can read Moore’s proposal at:




This unpublished proposal has been bouncing around the internet for awhile and is required for any fan of Moore’s and provides a rare insight into the person I consider the greatest genius in the area of comic book writing ever!  There is the finished product of the artist and then there are the notebooks of the artist that let a student of the artist to see how the artist goes about making the final product i.e. the process!  The process is often more interesting than the product.


Fourthly, and this is really Moore’s signature touch in almost every reboot, Moore almost always figures out a way to make the comic self-referential with the exception of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  There is invariably a comic book within the comic book!  In some cases the source material as comic book is revealed within the story.  This is the case in the Albion universe and the Terra Obscura universe.  The Watchmen has a comic book within a comic book but this comic book does not point to the original source material. 


Fifthly, Moore is a great writer because he often asks the political question does the end justify the means in a manner that is not easy to answer.  Moore also explores existential questions of free will and the two questions are put together to form a larger question of what the hero should do.  Being the hero in a Moore work is generally a much grayer situation than being a hero in other comic books that accept the convention of easily identified good versus evil characters and morally easy to figure out modes of action.


These posts will not reiterate the plots of each series, except as necessary for critical purposes, since this has already been done at Wikipedia and this link will be supplied with each post.  Rather, the purpose of these posts is to provide a critical overview of all of Moore’s reboots using a consistent framework. 

My other website at:

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WereVerse Universe Baby!