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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Other Leagues of Extraordinary Gentlemen?!?

Recently I finished wadding through Alan Moore's extensive compilation of the history of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in "The Black Dossier", and again I found myself thoroughly amused at the universe building Moore does combining so many fictional characters into a cohesive world of their own. This time out there's not just characters from Victorian era pulp stories and English literature, but plenty of characters maybe more familiar to readers from films, such as Harry Lime from Carol Reed's "The Third Man", Richard Hannay from Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps", an assemblage of figures from several works of German Expressionist cinema make up the ranks of a German attempt at a "League", the French team has several such figures too. Even good old James or "Jimmy" Bond shows up.

These new additions to the world of The League got me thinking that I remembered our dear Canadian (or is he Scottish?) adventurer Richard Hannay showing up somewhere else before... in the Universe of Wold Newton.

I first heard of the Wold Newton Universe years ago when I found an article about the works of Hugo and Nebula award winning sci-fi writer Philip Jose Farmer. Farmer wrote two books as fictional biographies, one on Tarzan called "Tarzan Alive" (1972) and the other on Doc Savage, entitled "Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life"(1973). In Farmer's books, he accounts for the super heroic traits of these men being linked to a family tree of exceptional offspring. This tree began with the crash of a meteorite which fell in Wold Newton, Yorkshire, England, on December 13, 1795. The meteorite was radioactive and caused genetic mutations in the occupants of a passing coach, whose future descendants were thus endowed with extremely high intelligence, strength, and an exceptional capacity and drive to either carry out acts of exceptional good, or, as the case may be, exceptional evil. The "family" of progeny of these travelers are supposed by Farmer to have been the real-life originals of fictionalised characters, both heroic and villainous, over the last few hundred years, such as Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Doc Savage, and Lord Peter Wimsey. Other popular characters that Farmer concluded were members of the Wold Newton Family include:

Solomon Kane; Captain Blood; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Sherlock Holmes's nemesis Professor Moriarty; Phileas Fogg; The Time Traveller (main character of The Time Machine by H. G. Wells); Allan Quatermain; A.J. Raffles; Professor Challenger; Richard Hannay; Bulldog Drummond; the evil Fu Manchu and his adversary, Sir Denis Nayland Smith; G-8; The Shadow; Sam Spade; Doc Savage's cousin Patricia Savage, and one of his five assistants, Monk Mayfair; The Spider; Nero Wolfe; Mr. Moto; The Avenger; Philip Marlowe; James Bond; Lew Archer; Travis McGee; Monsieur Lecoq; and Arsène Lupin."

This "family tree" saw some major growth in 1997 thanks to Win Scott Eckert, when he posted the web's first site devoted to expanding Philip Jose Farmer's concept of the Wold Newton Family. Eckert's site "An Expansion of Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton Universe", uses Farmer's concept of the the Wold Newton Family as a unifying device where The Family expands into a universe of documented crossovers between fictional characters which appeared in various media and genres. It should be noted though that not all characters linked into the Wold Newton Universe are necessarily blood relatives, descendants, or ancestors of those present at the 1795 Wold Newton meteor strike, just that they all exist in the same shared fictional universe. A universe which is still expanding and I kid you not now includes:

Victor Frankenstein and his Monster; the Chthulu Mythos; comic strip characters from Dick Tracy to The Phantom; Doctor Who; The Immortals from Highlander; Robert E Howard's characters such as Conan, Kull, and Red Sonja; Zorro; The Lone Ranger and Tonto; all kinds of TV cowboys from Paladin of "Have Gun, Will Travel", to The Cartwrights from "Bonanza" and Matt Dillon and company from "Gunsmoke", as well as Brisco County Jr.; the characters of the Star Trek Universe; Vampirella; Indiana Jones; Mulder and Scully of the X-Files; and one Miss Buffy Summers and a her "Scooby Gang" of monster fighters; and so much more stuff in between that I couldn't even attempt to mention it all here.

If I've piqued your curiosity at all, you can learn more about the Wold Newton Universe at:

Also, please know that Win has written pulp tales for a yearly anthology of Wold Newton type stories, Tales of the Shadowmen Volumes 1-4 (Black Coat Press, 2005-2008), mostly centered on the adventures of Doc Ardan, a French version of Doc Savage. Volume 4 is currently offered in this month's Previews Catalog. Win has also penned a story for the upcoming The Avenger Chronicles from Moonstone Books, which is offered in this month's Previews too.

If this type of fiction is of interest to you, check out Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volumes 1-3, or Warren Ellis' Planetary Volumes 1-3. In Planetary, this premise of fitting many different science fiction, fantasy pulp, and super hero elements into the same universe comes together in an entertaining adventure of a team of archeologists of the strange and unknown. A collected fourth volume should come about if Warren Ellis could finally wrap up the series, but that's a rant I could devote an entire post to some other time.

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At 1/02/2008 8:11 AM, Blogger One of the twins said...

Um.. the character Richard Hannay isn't originally a film character... He actually hails from the literature world. John Buchan wrote the book The Thrity Nine Steps which Hitchcock based his film on. There's a whole series of John Buchan books featuring Hannay.

At 1/02/2008 9:29 AM, Blogger Joe said...

You're right, I do remember that now. In fact, in the books isn't he Scottish, but it's in Hitchcock's film that he's Canadian? I should amend my write up.

Thanks for pointing this out!

At 1/02/2008 3:34 PM, Blogger Win Scott Eckert said...

I humbly thank you for all the plugs... Most appreciated, and I hope you enjoy the new stories in TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN 4 and THE AVENGER CHRONICLES.

Stay tuned for my CROSSOVERS: A SECRET CHRONOLOGY OF THE WORLD, coming from MonkeyBrain Books in early 2009.



At 1/02/2008 4:44 PM, Blogger Joe said...


You're quite welcome for the plugs, and hopefully now that the link in this write up works, I can send a few readers your way a little easier.

I am very excited for the Crossovers book next year! I really enjoy this stuff. If there's other works in the pipeline too, feel free to let us know!

Take care and thanks for dropping by our site!



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