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Comic Book / From Hell

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"It is beginning, Netley. Only just beginning. For better or worse, the twentieth century. I have delivered it."
Sir William Withey Gull

From Hell is a comic book series written by Alan Moore and drawn by Eddie Campbell, speculating about the identity of Jack the Ripper. The series was published in 10 volumes between 1991 and 1996, and an appendix, From Hell: The Dance of the Gull-Catchers, was published in 1998. The entire series was collected in trade paperback, published by Eddie Campbell Comics in 1999.

From Hell takes as its central premise Stephen Knight's theory that the Ripper murders were part of a conspiracy to conceal the birth of an illegitimate royal baby fathered by Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence. Moore himself has written that he found Knight's theory to be rather unlikely, but felt it would serve the purpose of his story, which uses the killings to explore and deconstruct Victorian society. As he wrote the story, Moore came to believe that the murders and the media spectacle they created in their time marked the beginning of the 20th Century.

It was adapted into a film of the same title in 2001, starring Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline.

In 2018, it was announced that Top Shelf would put out a new version of the book. The original was in black-and-white but the second version would be colorized by the original artist Eddie Campbell with Moore's consent. The plan is to colorize the trade paperback edition, publish it serially in chapters, with a new epilogue written and drawn by Moore and Campbell.

This graphic novel provides examples of:

  • A God Am I: In Gull's last moments of life, he seems to believe that he's becoming a God. It might just be the hallucinations of a depraved, dying mind. Though what we see near the end indicates otherwise: he sees Mary Kelly alive and she sees him and tells him to "go back to hell."
  • Abstract Apotheosis: Gull, in his dying madness, believes this to be happening to him. Specifically, it's his spirit that gives rise to all modern serial killers.
    "I am set free from flesh and time. I am become a symbol in the human soul, a fearful star in mankind's inner firmament.... I am not man so much as syndrome; as a voice that bellows in the human heart. I am a rain. I cannot be contained. Free of Life, how then shall I be shackled? Free of Time, how then shall history be my cage? I am a wave, an influence. Who then shall be safe from me?"
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Gull's weapon is a Liston knife, a surgical blade which he brags can saw through a full human leg in less than a minute. This echoes the boasts of Liston himself.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Defied by Alan Moore, who notes that the women were not the sultry temptresses portrayed in other media, but perfectly ordinary women (albeit in worse shape than many due to their poor situation). Mary Kelly and Polly Nichols are drawn as attractive as reflecting contemporary comments though.
  • Affably Evil: Gull is polite even to people he's about to murder, and though it often comes from a place of condescension, none of it seems to be feigned.
  • The Alcoholic: Catherine Eddowes is a heavy boozer who tends to get in trouble with the law when she's knocked back a few. This ultimately gets her killed, as she drunkenly gives her name as Mary Kelly to the police when she's brought in, drawing Gull to her.
  • All There in the Manual: The identity of the mysterious woman in Gull's final vision only becomes clear if one reads the annotations, where Moore drops a large hint to help the reader solve the riddle. She is implied to be Mary Kelly, who survived because Gull accidentally killed the wrong woman.
  • Ambiguous Ending: It's not made clear whether Gull truly became a god or whether Mary Kelly survived and moved to Ireland.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: One which goes even beyond the Freemasons and the Illuminati, and stretches back to the beginnings of human belief when female worship was supplanted by male worship. Gull sees the whole of human history as being a conflict between men and women (with himself on the side of the former, naturally).
  • Anti-Villain: Netley feels disgust and horror at the crimes he assists in, and only continues helping Gull due to being weak-willed.
  • Arc Number: 5, which holds significance in Masonic ritual as a symbol of order. Gull demonstrates to Netley how significant London landmarks can be arranged into a pentagram shape, and considers his ritual complete upon killing his fifth victim.
  • Arc Words:
    • Several characters state that they "just made a little sound" at particularly overwhelming moments.
    • "What is the fourth dimension?"
    • "That's the funny thing... I made it up and it all came true anyway."
    • "Sir William, are you fit to continue?"
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Gull to Lees after confessing to the murders.
    Gull: Tell me, Mr. Lees: Have you ever truly had a vision? A real vision?
    Lees: I... I, uh...
    Gull: No? I didn't think so... but I have.
  • Artistic License – History: When talking about the symbolism of the Sun in gender politics to Netley over lunch, Gull describes how it will eventually grow "red and bloated as a leech" and devour its "daughter" the Earth. Nobody in the Victorian era would have known about stellar evolution, as the theory that stars were powered by nuclear fusion wouldn't be proposed until 1920. This may be an early symptom of Gull's temporal instability, though it happens before the first murder. Assuming the concept of "before" is even applicable.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Gull believes he is doing this near the end, which genuinely seems to be the case because he keeps witnessing future events. When the woman who may be Mary Kelly tells him to go back to hell, it's not clear if Gull has been foiled or if it was just one last glimpse of the repercussions of his actions before the ascension.
  • Astral Finale: The final chapter before the epilogue is Gull's journey through space and time as his body dies.
  • Author Tract: In the "Dance of the Gull-Catchers" Moore declares that no one will ever solve the mystery of the Whitechapel murders, that over a century of investigation has only exposed more details but nothing that will actual solve the crime. Moore also outright declares that no one actually cares about justice for these five women, instead everyone is obsessed with the mystery which he likens to being titilated by a striptease.
  • Badass Bookworm: Sir William performs some pretty impressive pouncing for a scholarly doctor and stroke victim in his seventies.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Aside from Abberline and Godley, the police by and large don't know what they're doing, with prominent officers like Bill Thick pursuing inane leads in an attempt to quickly get the case over and done with so they can secure a promotion. The top brass, meanwhile, are aware of the conspiracy and actively working to cover it up, going so far as to frame Monty Druitt for pedophilia and then have him murdered to make the press suspect he's Jack the Ripper so they can bury the investigation.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Would seem to be a Foregone Conclusion, but it's more complicated than that. Gull does indeed complete his ritual and avoid getting caught, but it ultimately turns out to be a Pyrrhic Victory, as the world he creates by doing so horrifies him with its banality, and furthermore his brutality leads the Masons to confine him to an insane asylum where he dies alone and unmourned. If, upon his death, he did indeed ascend to godhood, it would seem to be played completely straight, but there also exists the possibility that Mary Kelly was able to escape (which would possibly invalidate his ritual) and banish him to hell, at which point this trope would be subverted entirely. Moore doesn't provide any clear cut answers, so Gull and Kelly's final fates are left purely to reader interpretation.
  • Bad Present: The world of the late 20th century, the ultimate fruit of Gull's labors, is to him a drab, horrifying place where mankind is ensconced in technological wonder yet lacks the imagination to appreciate any of it. See Horrifying the Horror below.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie:
    • Moore makes no secret of the fact that he doesn't believe Knight's theory, but damned if it doesn't make for a great story.
    Alan Moore: I was not at all interested in who Jack the Ripper was. That's Hardy Boys stuff... It was the behavior of the culture that fascinates me and still does. The William Gull figure is the culprit I came upon because he was the most interesting. Because he connected to a much bigger world than any of the others, so I could use him to explore all these kinds of mythical aspects of the Jack the Ripper story.
    • In the story itself, the original letter sent to the police that describes its sender as "Jack the Ripper" is shown as nothing more than a fabrication created by a hack journalist, as the most plausible theory has it.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The final fate of Mary Kelly * may be one of the most thorough aversions in the comics medium. The mass of gristle Gull leaves behind is barely recognizable as having once been a woman.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Gull sees his murders as a ritual binding the lunar or irrational influence on human minds. He succeeds, only to be horrified at the future, where people are surrounded by the fruits of the rational mind but feel no wonder at all.
    • Not to mention Queen Victoria and the masons, who certainly didn't expect something so gruesome when they asked Gull to take care of their problem.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: William Gull, Queen's Surgeon, is actually Jack the Ripper, who performed masonic rituals and at least temporarily ascended to a higher level of existence, where he shaped past and future events.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When Alois and Klara Hitler show up, their dialogue is in untranslated German.
  • Black Comedy: In the middle of a fairly oblique and dark drama there are flashes of Black Comedy.
    • The biggest moment that could be counted as Mood Whiplash comes from a montage of the numerous false "Jack the Ripper" letters being written. It drives home how much Humans Are Bastards by having a Reverend, a sadomasochist and kids all writing letters.
    • A few moments of Gull being a Deadpan Snarker about mocking Netley's stupidity with Netley Comically Missing the Point.
  • Blaming the Victim: Discussed In-Universe in "The Dance of the Gull-Catchers" where several Ripper-theories posit that Mary Kelly was always the killer's main target, with each theory implying that Kelly must have done something to deserve being so brutally murdered.
  • Body Horror: The fate of the final victim. At the very height of his derangement, Gull enters a trancelike state after cutting her throat and begins a meticulous, ritualistic mutilation of the body that leaves behind a mass of gore that can hardly be recognized as having once been a woman, all without the benefit of a Gory Discretion Shot at any point. The face and breasts are cut off, the thighs are flayed down to the bone, and the entire abdomen is cut open and the intestines removed. It's no wonder that Abberline proclaims the death of Victorian society after seeing the aftermath.
  • Book Ends: The prologue and epilogue chapters, both titled "The Old Men on the Shore," are about an aged Abberline and Lees reminiscing about the murders in 1923. The first and last panels both focus on a dead seagull.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Highlighted and lampshaded in the opening scene, during a political debate between Frederick Abberline (a working-class Tory) and Robert Lees (an upper middle-class Socialist). Lees seems to feel that his own privileged background is just evidence that the whole world will eventually come to embrace Socialism, since even the wealthy are sympathetic to its tenets; Abberline disagrees, feeling that only the wealthy can afford to rant about populist revolutions, since they've never had to worry about feeding themselves. It's suggested in that same chapter that Abberline's opinions on how working-class people think stem from his guilt over accepting bribe money to keep the truth behind the murders secret.
    Lees: It's the money, isn't it? You could shrug off anything but that. We both did well out of doing nothing, Abberline.
    Abberline: Yes. Yes, you're right. Nice pension, nice perks, nice expensive residence near the sea-front at Bournemouth... Didn't do bad out of it, did I?
  • British Coppers: Show up as extras quite frequently, usually either cordoning off the crime scenes or rounding up suspects. The most well developed one is Lieutenant Thick, who is depicted as an incompetent Glory Hound.
  • The British Empire: Depicted as being in a state of decline, with references to General Gordon's death in the Mahdi uprisings.
  • Central Theme: Predestination, specifically the idea of time existing as a fourth dimension of space, a state in which free will can't exist because everything has already happened. This is borne out through the repeated references to the fourth dimension as well as numerous instances of characters accurately predicting or even perceiving the future.
  • Connect the Deaths: A premeditated attempt at that. Gull in his insanity takes Netley through a tour of London and its famous landmarks, focusing on the architecture of Nicholas Hawksmoor which he believes had strong masonic resonance and would set the scene for their killings.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Royal cover-up, Masonic involvement, police complicity, ritualistic murder, paganism, time travel and baby Hitler. It's all here.
  • Contract on the Hitman: The conspirators contemplate having William Gull killed when his mental illness reveals him as a liability.
  • Contrast Montage: The life of William Gull, Queen's surgeon, versus the life of Polly Nichols, prostitute.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Inspector Abberline was modeled after Robbie Coltrane (who ended up playing George Godley in film adaptation).
  • Country Matters: An awful lot, it focuses heavily on working class English people after all. The perpetually disillusioned Abberline uses it to refer to his superiors a lot, in particular.
  • Crapsack World: Whitechapel is a pit of criminality, depravity and poverty. England is a decaying empire afflicted with corruption and weak rulers. Even our modern times are dull and banal.
  • Creepy Cathedral: One memorable chapter has Gull taking Netley on a tour of London's cathedrals and lecturing him on their mystical significance. They show up in many other scenes looming in the background, even becoming a sort of Arc Symbol.
  • Crossover Cosmology: The Freemasons believe that all gods going back to ancient Sumer are different disguises of a single being they refer to as the Great Architect, and so their rituals incorporate elements from many different mythologies.
  • Dawn of an Era: The premise of the story is that the Jack the Ripper killings marked the real origins of the 20th Century and its Darker and Edgier future. After killing the woman he thinks is Mary Kelly William Gull tells Netley:
    It is beginning, Netley. Only just beginning. For better or worse, the twentieth century. I have delivered it.
  • Dead Guy Junior: At the end, the woman who might be Mary Kelly has named her three daughters Katey, Lizzie, and Polly, presumably after Catherine Eddowes, Liz Stride, and Polly Nichols.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Gull and Abberline both have dry and caustic senses of humor; in Gull's case it's mostly condescension towards his social inferiors, while in Abberline's case it's mostly the result of exasperation at his fellow officers and the media.
  • Deconstruction: From Hell deconstructs perceptions of the Victorian era, especially the late Victorian period, showing where many of our 20th Century obsessions (detective fiction, sensationalist tabloid journalism, serial killers) originated.
  • Deadly Doctor: Gull, a master surgeon, who performs all his killing with a long surgical knife.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The first chapter deliberately fools the audience into thinking that the protagonist is either Prince Eddy or Walter Sickert, only introducing Gull—the closest thing in the novel to a true protagonist—in the second chapter. As the later chapters gradually make clear, Walter and Eddy are both solid cases of Small Role, Big Impact, and they drop out of the story when The Conspiracy and the resultant murders grow beyond their control. Likewise, Mary Kelly appears to be a minor character in the first chapter (she first appears as Sickert's maid), but she later turns out to be the most developed of the Ripper's five victims.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Gull's possible fate, if Mary Kelly failed to send him back to hell.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Prince Albert's boyfriend, who displays a misogynist attitude towards the death of the prostitutes and uses sex to distract the latter from the murders.
  • Deranged Taxi Driver: Downplayed with Netley the coachman (a Victoria-era version of a cab driver). He comes off as an average working Joe, and even shows some resistance to the story's more sinister themes. It doesn't make him any more sane for his current fare: transporting Dr. William Gull, AKA Jack the Ripper, as he commits his infamous murders.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Abberline and Fair Emma's burgeoning feelings for each other go unfulfilled, on account of one being married and the other disappeared and possibly dead.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Very much averted. All of the victims are given significant amounts of characterization and the main characters definitely do not forget about their murders, even if the government does. From Hell is something of a deconstruction of this trope. The point of The Dance of the Gull-Catchers is that nobody actually cares about the prostitutes killed, or the continuing exploitation and objectification of women in modern times, only the fame for being the guy who solves the case.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Part of what makes Gull so unnerving is his calm and dispassionate exterior. As he butchers his final victim, he conducts himself as if conducting an autopsy. In his appendix, Moore asserts that the Ripper's mutilations, while ghastly, were free of cruelty, since the victims were already dead. Campbell's subdued artwork, the rigid page layouts, the loose handwritten lettering and the time period all conspire to create a more or less constant illusion of serenity.
  • Doing in the Scientist: Gull's genuine visions of the future would seem to dispel the notion that he's merely insane and hallucinating.
  • Door Stopper: The 500-page collected edition would probably kill you if it fell on your head. And it's a paperback.
  • Downer Ending: Jack the Ripper is never caught. Neither Gull nor any of his co-conspirators are ever uncovered or brought to justice, Gull's ritual succeeds in influencing the course of the 20th century, Abberline resigns from the police force in disgust, he and Lees are paid to keep quiet and grow into bitter old men filled with regrets, and Gull very possibly becomes a God of Evil at the very end. The only possible bright spot is that Mary Kelly possibly survived and banished Gull to hell.
  • The Dragon: Gull for the Royal Family, with Netley as The Brute.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Gull's real motives are much more ambitious and strange than merely preserving the royal family's honor.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come:
    • When Klara Hitler's husband ejaculates inside her, she has a sudden premonition of a sea of blood bursting out of a cathedral and drowning a group of Hasidic Jews, clearly a symbolic premonition of The Holocaust. In the epilogue, Lees says he had the same dream.
    • Polly Nichols tells the other girls about a dream she had where she met her dead brother engulfed in fire on a bridge somewhere in London. On the night of her death, she joins a group of people gawking at a warehouse fire from a bridge over the Thames. Shortly afterwards, she becomes Gull's first victim.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Mary Kelly copes with the knowledge of her impending death by drinking like a fish, causing her boyfriend Joe to leave her after a vicious argument.
  • Eagle-Eye Detection: Deconstructed. Abberline's clever and has a good eye, but due to a mixture of dated investigation methods, false leads from people seeking attention, and interference from his superiors, he never comes close to solving the case. It's only through pure chance that Robert Lees leads him to Gull, who by then is insane enough to freely confess to the killings, and by that point there's nothing Abberline can do about the situation but resign.
  • End of an Age: The book portrays Jack the Ripper's murders as the symbolic end of the Victorian Era, suggesting that the killer saw himself as the symbolic deliverer of the 20th century. Even if you don't believe his claims about the murders being an elaborate magic ritual, their sheer savagery helps to lay the uglier aspects of Victorian society bare, spelling the end of a more innocent (or at least less self-critical) era of English history.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Gull is a flaming misogynist who eagerly hunts, kills and maims women, yet looks down on Lees for exploiting the bereaved with his phony psychic powers. Conversely, Lees is an absolute clown and charlatan, but is shaken to his core by the unrepentant evil emanating from Gull.
    • Queen Victoria, who ordered the murders to begin with, is horrified by the savagery of them, though it's ambiguous as to whether it's genuine moral outrage or merely dismay at the publicity they've created.
  • Evil Old Folks: Gull doesn't begin his campaign of violence until he's well into his seventies.
  • Facial Horror: Along with removing most of her internal organs, Gull basically cuts Mary Kelly/Julia's entire face off.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • The last chapter implies that Gull killed the wrong woman in place of Mary Kelly, who escaped to live a life of anonymity back home in Ireland. Or maybe not...
    • To keep him from revealing the conspiracy in his dementia, the Freemasons stage a fake death and funeral for Gull in 1890 and have him locked away in a Bedlam House under the pseudonym Tom Mason, where he dies for real of a stroke six years later.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The reader knows from page one that none of the girls are going to get out alive and that the police will never catch the killer. Subverted with the strong implication that Mary Kelly actually escaped and lived a happy life back in Ireland at the end.
  • Fainting Seer: Robert Lees has dramatic seizures, complete with convulsions and cryptic phrases which he chokes out.
  • Fan Disservice: Towards the end, there's a rather graphic three-way sex scene between Mary Kelly, her boyfriend Joe, and her friend Julia. It's hard to find it arousing, though, since Mary Kelly only goads Joe into it so that she'll have something to take her mind off the fact that four of her close friends have just been horribly murdered, and she knows damn well that she'll probably be next. Not even Joe can get into it, since he quickly senses that Mary Kelly is deeply troubled by something.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Even in a book full of grisly murders, Annie Crook's fate is absolutely horrifying. She's forcibly taken away from her husband and infant daughter and dragged to an insane asylum, kicking and screaming all the while, where Gull successfully manages to make her insane by slicing out her thyroid gland. When Sickert sees her again, she's a gibbering lunatic wandering through the streets in the rain, with apparently no memory of ever having a baby.
  • Finger in the Mail: Truth in Television, after the death of Catherine Eddowes, Gull removes her kidney post-mortem, has Netley write the famous "From Hell" letter and sends it by mail to George Lusk of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. Of all the many letters claiming to be from the killer, this is unsurprisingly, the only one serious researchers consider to have sound claims as coming from the real culprit.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: Gull sees one at the very end of his ascension, inhabited by all the deities of the Freemasons.
  • Footnote Fever: The collected editions has a detailed set of annotations written by Moore himself going into exhaustive detail about the painstaking research he had conducted, pointing out every bit of Artistic License he had taken and the factual basis for even the most minute subplots and connections.
  • Foregone Conclusion: In real life the police never caught Jack the Ripper, so obviously they don't get him in this story either. However, the comic suggests some of them were aware of the killer's identity but remained silent for various reasons, which is pure speculation on Moore's part.
  • Foreshadowing: It's an Alan Moore comic with a prominent focus on fourth-dimensional theory and predestination, so needless to say there's a lot of it, most of it only apparent upon rereads. In particular, pretty much all of Gull's "hallucinations" end up becoming actual premonitions of subsequent events in the novel, but that's only the most obvious example.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: In retaliation for an insult, Phony Psychic Lees claims to have visions of Gull committing the Whitechapel murders. He turns out to be Right for the Wrong Reasons, which still haunts him years later.
  • Friends with Benefits: Mary and Julia's relationship.
  • Funetik Aksent: Thick London accents get written into the dialogue.
  • Gainax Ending: The last chapter (not including the epilogue) features Gull going on an elaborate spiritual journey, traveling back and forth in time, before seemingly reaching the source of all enlightenment... only to be confronted by a woman who may or may not be Mary Kelly having fled to Ireland who tells him to go back to hell.
    Alan Moore's annotation for the scene: The cryptic scene upon page 23 must go without an explanation for the moment. Work it out yourself.
  • Gayngst: Prince Albert displays some.
  • Genre Roulette: Done subtly. In keeping with Moore's (and Dr. Gull's) view of history as a complex multi-faceted structure that can be viewed and understood from multiple angles and perspectives, the story sometimes seems to shift genres depending on whose viewpoint we're seeing. To whit: from Abberline's perspective, the story comes off as a more-or-less standard Police Procedural following the heroic detective pursuing the evil serial killer. From the prostitutes' perspective, it's a gritty crime drama following the daily struggle to survive in the seedy underbelly of London. From Walter Sickert's perspective, it's a personal drama about middle-class Victorian life. From Gull's perspective, it's experimental speculative fiction incorporating concepts like mysticism, predestination and time travel. note 
  • Giggling Villain: Gull likes to punctuate his sentences with light laughter when he is in a good mood, to the point that it's a Verbal Tic.
  • Go Among Mad People: Annie Crook suffers a particularly unsettling case of this. She is a sane woman in an asylum...until Gull makes her insanity authentic by surgically removing her thyroid, thus ensuring that no one will believe her stories about having her baby taken away from her.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation:
    • Netley undergoes this during their tour of London chapter with the former starting to realize that he is Alone with the Psycho as he starts talking about all kinds of masonic symbols and associations that connect London together. When he tries to back out, Gull forces him to look at the horse's herald and realize that it too had an emblem and this scares Netley into serving Gull.
    • The appendix "Dance of the Gull-catchers" describes the Jack the Ripper killings as something that makes people crazy since the crime is impossible to solve, and how most theories and attempts to solve the murder only contribute to the legend of the killer rather than provide genuine investigation:
      "Koch's Snowflake begins with an equilateral triangle, which can be contained within a circle, just as the murders are constrained to Whitechapel 2nd Autumn, 1888. Next, half-sized triangles are added to the triangles' three sides. Quarter-sized triangles are added to the new shape's twelve sides, and so on. Eventually, the snowflake's edge becomes so crinkly and complex that its length, theoretically, is Infinite. Its AREA, however, never exceeds the initial circle. Likewise, each new book provides fresh details, finer crennelations of the subject's edge. Its area however can't extend past the initial circle: Autumn 1888, Whitechapel. What have we to look forward to? Abberline's school nickname or the make of Mary Kelly's shoes? Koch's snowflake: gaze upon it, Ripperologists, and shiver. The complex phantom we project. That alone, we know is real. The actual killer's gone, unglimpsed, might as well not have been there at all."
  • Gone Horribly Right: This is how Gull ultimately sees the results of his Masonic ritual killings when he gets a glimpse of a late 1980s office building. Yes, he's contained society's feminine, "irrational" side, allowing "reason" to triumph, but in the process he's created a world that's utterly banal and incapable of genuine feeling. Also a pretty good description of Catherine Eddowes' impersonating Mary Kelly because she wanted to get her in trouble with the authorities. Said authorities happened to include Gull himself.
  • Gotta Kill Them All: Queen Victoria assigns Gull to kill four prostitutes to keep them from revealing Prince Eddy's affair with a common woman. Gull pursues this goal with far more enthusiasm than she expected or intended.
  • Government Conspiracy: The murders were ordered by Queen Victoria and covered up by Cabinet government and police figures.
  • Greater-Scope Villain:
    • Queen Victoria, who orders the murders, and the Freemasons who help cover Gull's tracks.
    • Gull is also a greater evil in the story as he inspired several British serial killers, such as Sutcliffe and Brady, in addition to his crimes.
  • The Grotesque: Gull visits Joseph Merrick, a.k.a the Elephant Man, early in the novel. He is portrayed as civil and eloquent despite his deformities, and Gull treats him with respect.
  • Hallucinations: These play a large part in Gull's story. Or maybe they are more than hallucinations?
  • Hero Antagonist: Abberline.
  • Historical Domain Character: Damn near everyone, right down to random background characters on the street. Pretty much everyone of historical significance who was alive at the time, including Oscar Wilde, the Elephant Man, Aleister Crowley, and Adolf Hitler's parents make an appearance.
  • Historical Person Punchline: In one scene, Abberline has a brief conversation with a young boy named "Alexander" who believes in magic, and flat-out tells Abberline that he's wrong for doubting the supernatural. Though the scene itself doesn't quite make it clear, the appendix reveals that the young boy is a young Aleister Crowley, who was born "Edward Alexander Crowley" before changing his name to "Aleister" as an adult.
  • Historical Relationship Overhaul: There's no evidence of any connection between the victims beyond all working as prostitutes in Whitechapel apart from Catherine Eddowes pretending to be Mary Kelly when being arrested for public drunkenness (which is a common enough name that it might simply be coincidence). Here, as in the Stephen Knight conspiracy theory, four of them are depicted as friends who were in on a blackmail plot against Walter Sickert and by extention to Royal Family together, while Eddowes was an acquaintance of Mary Kelly who disliked her and deliberately impersonated her to get her in trouble with the police.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • Queen Victoria is given one, ordering first a lobotomy of the prostitute Prince Albert has impregnated and then giving mandate to Gull for the murder of four prostitutes as a cover-up. In his appendix, Moore noted that this was something he especially relished as a Take That! to the popular image of the Queen, though Eddie Campbell wasn't entirely on board with it.
    • Dr. William Gull is a real life doctor and highly respected professional who was also by all accounts an ordinary decent gentleman, as well as a supporter of women trying to pursue a career in medicine. There is no real evidence linking him to the Jack the Ripper killings or, as Moore portrays him, a misogynistic Masonic shaman who regarded the killings as a quasi-magic ritual. Moore admits as much and said he accepts the Gull hypothesis as an assumption and story-telling convention and doesn't really think that Gull is the real culprit any more than the myriad other suspects suggested over the years. Eddie Campbell for his part said that he came to genuinely admire the real Gull the more he read about him.
  • Horrifying the Horror: The ordinary society of the late 20th century does this to Gull, who is disgusted by how complacent and coddled humanity has become because of the technological advances that have happened since his time. To his mind, he's looking upon people who might as well be gods but lack so much perspective that they can only be bored by it.
  • Human Sacrifice: Gull goes well beyond his initial assignment and decides to turn the murders into this, to serve as a symbolic binding of the mystical power of womanhood for the next century.
  • Humanoid Abomination: William Blake's perception of Gull's spirit. The vision inspires his painting, The Ghost of a Flea.
  • In-Series Nickname: Mary Jane Kelly is also called Ginger and Emma. The latter name is how Abberline knows her, so he does not realise why she does not meet him.
  • Info Dump: An early chapter is Gull traveling around town with his sidekick lecturing him on the secret Masonic/pagan symbolism of London landmarks.
  • Inspired by…: Alan Moore extrapolated the story from Stephen Knight's theory on the Ripper murders. The idea of conducting an "autopsy" of the period also stemmed from Douglas Adams's Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, in which to solve a crime holistically, one would need to solve the entire society in which it occurred.
  • Ironic Nickname: Discussed when Godley and Abberline talk about fellow Scotland Yard cop Bill "Johnny Upright" Thick.
    Godley: Hoho! Bill Thick? "Johnny Upright", all the dips and dragsmen call him.
    Abberline: Oh yes? Why's that, then?
    Godley: Well, it could be because he's fair and dependable. Or because he's not. Take your pick.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • While interviewing the Wild West showman "Mexico Joe," Abberline scoffs at a book of prophecies that predicts that Russia and the United States will be the most powerful nations on Earth one day.
    • The police ignore the suggestion of dusting a crime scene for fingerprints on account of it just messing things up even more.
  • Jack the Ripoff: These copycats are unsettlingly drawn into the story, depicted as being influenced by Gull's spirit as it moves through time and space.
  • Karma Houdini: Gull, if he did indeed ascend to become a god. More broadly, none of the conspirators are ever brought to justice, and history shows that most of them died of natural causes, wealthy and comfortable.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Years after the murders, Gull appears to Netley as an apparition which spooks his horse and causes it to cave his head in.
  • Knight Templar: Gull is convinced that he's a defender of human civilization itself, which he asserts as being inherently masculine.
  • The Last DJ: Gull holds the rest of the Freemasons in contempt, considering them to be nothing but cynical social climbers who have forgotten all the true values of the order.
    Anderson: Knight of the East, you stand accused of mayhems that have placed our brotherhood in jeopardy, before your peers, masons and doctors both.
    Gull: I have no peers here present.
  • Large Ham: Robert Lees is incredibly theatrical, to better sell his supposed psychic freakouts as genuine visionary moments to his gullible customers.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Abberline comments to Godley about a peddler cashing in on the murders:
  • Loners Are Freaks: The reason the Masons select Monty Druitt as their patsy for the murders; as someone with no real social life or connections, it'd be trivial to fabricate accusations against him, and nobody would care to look closely if he apparently killed himself.
  • Lunacy: Gull fears and despises the power of the moon, as he associates it with femininity, matriarchy, and primordial chaos. He carries out the murders as a series of ritual sacrifices to bind its power for the next century.
  • Mad Doctor: Gull began to have hallucinations after a stroke, though he seems inclined to cruelty from early on. After his final murder, his sanity degenerates almost entirely.
  • Male Sun, Female Moon: The Freemasons worship the sun as a source of rational, masculine power, and conversely revile the moon as a source of feminine disorder.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Lees states early on that all his prophecies and claims of psychic powers were made up. But he does trail off when he wonders about how they all came true anyway. Additionally, his last words in 1923 is how a dream about the Jewish quarter of London make him think there is going to be another war, the exact same vision that Klara Hitler had at the moment of Adolf's conception decades ago.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • In the second appendix, Moore points out that "gull" is a word for a person easily fooled (from where we derive "gullible"). Gull, of course, is fooled into believing he actually killed Mary Kelly. Twice.
    • More straightforwardly, Lieutenant Bill Thick is shown to be a very, very dumb person.
  • Mind Rape: Gull pulls a soft form of this on Netley by exposing the working class coachman to the true history of London and the Freemasons' secretive role in all of it. Netley grows noticeably more agitated and disturbed throughout the day, until by the end he's vomiting out of fear.
  • Mind Screw: "What is the fourth dimension?"
  • Motive Rant: Gull's Info Dump to Netley about the occult history of London is also partly this, as he lays out in extensive and exacting detail why he feels it necessary to carry out the killings in such a savage, ritualistic manner.
  • Move Along, Nothing to See Here: An officer says this a couple of times at the scene of the first murder when a crowd starts forming.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Gull experiences this when he glimpses the future he's brought about through his ritual, though notably his reaction has nothing to do with the atrocities he's committed and more to do with his horror at the decadence of the modern world.
  • Mystical City Planning: Downplayed when Dr. Gull has Netley, the carriage driver he recruited to assist him with his murders, take him on a tour of London, stopping at various landmarks and locations and expounding on their mystical significance, noting that the modern world has forgotten these aspects. When it's all over, the not-very-bright Netley admits that pretty much all of what Gull talked about has gone over his head, but is horrified when Gull points out on a map that the locations they visited are laid out in a pentagram pattern.
  • Never Suicide: Needless to say, the police don't inquire too closely into the death of Montague John Druitt.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Freemasons are depicted as a group of craven, backbiting old men who just use the order as a way to acquire power and status. They're unable to control Gull, and he holds them in absolute contempt.
  • Not So Stoic: Abberline has an understated but very noticeable emotional collapse after he observes the corpse of the final victim. He has an explosive outburst at a prostitute who tries to solicit him on the street afterward, and when he gets home he admits to his wife that he considers himself a weak man and asks her to hold him. It's implied that he subconsciously realizes the corpse in the apartment was likely the "Fair Emma" he had been planning to ask on a date that day.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: How Abberline feels when he sees the body of the final victim, mutilated beyond reason. He tells his deputy that he feels all of them, that is the whole of Victorian society, died in that room.
    Frederick Abberline: To be honest, I felt worse than sick. I came out that room and I felt somethin' bad 'ad 'apened. Not just to 'er, to everythin'. I felt as if everythin' were lost.
  • Odd Friendship: Abberline and Lees are two people from completely different walks of life who strongly dislike each other at first, but maintain a lifelong friendship due to being two of the only people who know the truth about Jack the Ripper.
  • Old-Fashioned Copper: Considering it's 1888, all of them, really.
  • Ominous Fog:
    • It's Victorian London. It's always foggy.
    • One of Gull's manifestations during his ascension is as a mist that moves strangely through the Tower of London.
  • Orphaned Punchline: Talking with Annie and Harry, Eliza is saying, "'...and this cliff-path,' 'e says, 'it were that narrow. I didn't know whether to block 'er passage or toss meself off.'"
  • Parental Incest: Annie Crook was molested by her father, which he reveals in a very uncomfortable moment when he mistakenly believes that her internment in a Bedlam House was due to this abuse and not Gull lobotomizing her. His wife is suitably horrified and enraged.
  • Parting-Words Regret: Joe Barnett's last encounter with Mary Kelly is a vicious, drunken argument where he storms out of their apartment in a rage. He's haunted by this for the rest of his life.
  • Pet the Dog: Gull speaks to Joseph Merrick pleasantly and respectfully, comparing him to Ganesha and telling him he'd be worshiped if he was born in India. Merrick is clearly quite moved by this. Zigzagged in that, while Gull's respect seems to be genuine, it's less that he views Merrick as a human being equal to himself and more that he considers him a religious icon who will bring good luck to him on his mission.
  • Phony Psychic: Robert Lees says he makes up all his predictions. They all come true anyway. It's never clarified if he's good at making educated guesses, if he's genuinely psychic but doesn't realize it, or if it's all just a coincidence.
  • Poetic Serial Killer: Gull is a highly literate gentleman who tends to go on erudite monologues even while hacking apart his victims.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Downplayed. Abberline is basically a decent bloke, but still a product of his time. He displays casual misogyny towards the women of Whitechapel on several occasions, and one of the first suspects he crosses off his list is a native American from an Old West show travelling through the area, purely on the suspicion that the killings might be too savage for an Englishman to commit.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Villain Protagonist to be specific. As Gull seriously believes that his killings will keep women in line and that society has been controlled for millions of years by matriarchies (ignoring how he's been ordered to do this by a female ruler).
  • Police Procedural: Abberline's story is a rather straightforward example, with the important caveat that he never even comes close to catching the killer.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Abberline's relationship with "Fair Emma," who is implied to actually be Mary Kelly.
  • Psycho for Hire: Sir William Gull. He's hired for his discretion, but turns out to be quite Ax-Crazy.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Gull's ritual to influence the course of the next century results in a cold, dull, soulless world that has no place for people like him. The climactic scene also implies that Gull's actions might have led to his rejection by his own gods and banishment to hell.
  • Rain of Blood: During his ascension, Gull causes one to appear over a ship on the ocean, apparently composed of the blood from his victims.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: The art style gives this look to Mary Kelly. Historically, her hair color is disputed, with different accounts describing her as being anything from blonde to redheaded to this trope.
  • Readers Are Geniuses: The work is teeming with references to historical figures and events, a lengthy exchange on fourth dimensional theory, psychogeography, Masonic ritual and Pagan mysticism and the Illuminati. Reading the appendix is not just recommended. It's a necessity.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Gull delivers one to Lees, which ironically prompts Lees to try to frame him for the Ripper murders. Gull starts to deliver a real apocalyptic one to the Masonic Council before his dementia catches up with him and he trails off in confusion.
    • At the very end, Gull receives a long awaited one from Mary Kelly who's Not Quite Dead while he's in the astral plane. She sees him and tells him that he's a monster and he will not hurt the children she's raised in Ireland, telling him in no uncertain terms to "go back to hell."
  • Reverse Whodunnit: The Ripper's identity is revealed in the opening chapters. It's not so much a Whodunnit? as a Whydunnit? or not even that. Moore examines the Jack the Ripper killings as a medium to portray all of Victorian society, and indeed as the real end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the far Darker and Edgier 20th Century.
  • Scotland Yard: The highest brass as well as a few grunts are a part of the conspiracy, some more willing than others.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: When Abberline discovers the true nature of the conspiracy, he decides that he'll retire from the police force and work with Pinkerton.
  • Sex for Solace: Mary Kelly tries to cope with her oncoming death by getting drunk and hooking up with anyone willing to share a bed. It doesn't work.
  • Shout-Out: Dance of the Gull Catchers features Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell carrying a pair of butterfly nets walking around outside a group of Ripperologists chasing after a gull with their own nets while Moore looks out to the reader and goes "Be vewy vewy quiet. We'we hunting wippers!"
  • Shown Their Work: The comics includes lengthy annotations section detailing the research he put into making the comic, and the truth (or not) behind the more fantastic elements, such as Mary Kelly's possible survival. Even the moment when Dr. Gull collapses on the meadow was based on a real life incident. More to the point, the minutiae of London of that time is portrayed with a lot of accuracy.
  • Sigil Spam: Gull shows Netley the Masonic codes hidden all over London, culminating in his reveal of every horse harness in the city bearing the Masonic symbols of the sun and moon. When Netley fully begins to comprehend the implications, he vomits from fear.
  • Sinister Geometry: Gull goes on for pages about the architecture of Nicholas Hawksmoor's cathedrals, which he asserts were deliberately constructed to bind and repress the wills of the people living in their shadow.
  • Slashed Throat: How Gull kills most of his victims, before he sets about mutilating their bodies. Polly Nichols has her neck snapped instead, and he strangles Annie Chapman with a scarf.
  • Slasher Smile: The one which Gull flashes especially for Netley at the conclusion of their psychogeographical trip through London is horrible.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The final chapter seems to reveal that Marie Jeanette Kelly (one of the Ripper's five historical victims) actually survived and fled to Ireland, and that Gull mistakenly killed her friend Julia instead.
  • Stealth Pun: On the night of her death, Polly Nichols exits a pub called the Frying Pan and subsequently joins a crowd of people observing a nearby dock fire. Shortly afterwards, she becomes Gull's first kill. Out of the Frying Pan, into the fire. Historical note
  • Stout Strength: Gull is broad-shouldered and physically imposing, able to snap a woman's neck with his own hands despite being an aged stroke survivor.
  • Stylistic Suck: Gull and Netley's letter to the police. Gull has the barely literate Netley write it so as to protect himself.
  • Surreal Horror: For the most part it's among Alan Moore's most rigorously down-to-earth and realistic works, but there are eruptions of this into the narrative as Gull descends further into madness, culminating in the horrifying breakdown of reality that occurs during the final murder.
  • Surrounded by Idiots:
    • Gull is a highly educated physician with keen interests in history, mythology, mysticism and art, and a tendency to deliver long lectures about each subject at the drop of a hat; his "minion," Netley, is a barely-literate coachman just trying to squeeze out a few extra pounds. The book derives a few welcome moments of Black Comedy from the two's interactions.
      Gull: Netley, do you know what your foremost distinguishing feature is?
      Netley: Why, I... I can't think, sir.
      Gull: Precisely.
    • Abberline seems to be one of the only officers investigating the case with the least bit of intelligence and honesty. He repeatedly expresses frustration with the way other officers handle the case, particularly Lieutenant Thick.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Gull speaks with a tone of near reverence towards his victims, even after killing them. They're integral parts of his ritual, after all.
  • Time Travel: Gull has visions of his own future and the 20th Century, and later moves as a disembodied spirit backwards and forwards in time.
  • Title Drop: Gull very pointedly insists that Netley begin their letter "From hell."
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: William Gull is shown dissecting field mice out of curiosity in his youth.
  • Undignified Death: Gull dies an anonymous death locked away in an asylum where no one knows who he is, passing away from an aneurysm while his apathetic handlers have rough sex a few feet away.
  • Unstuck in Time: While still alive, Gull experiences flashes of both the future and past, and when he dies his spirit travels all throughout time and space. He has no control over this phenomenon, and believes it to be the guidance of a higher power.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Nobody really knows the truth behind the Ripper murders. There are a lot more credible theories than the one presented in this story, though. Moore himself has openly stated that he doesn't believe a word of the theory he uses, rather he wanted to deconstruct the entire Ripper killings as a post-modern myth by exploring the events with a fully formed hypothesis rather than a new attempt at solving the unsolvable.
  • Victorian London: The setting.
  • Villains Blend in Better: Inverted. When the killer briefly time-travels to the modern world, he is horrified by how soulless and banal everything is.
  • Villain Protagonist: Pretty obvious since the main POV is the man who would come to be known as Jack the Ripper. Gull is by far the most prominent character in the story, and while his motives are completely unsympathetic, he doesn't lack for charisma, nuance, or psychological depth.
  • Visionary Villain: Gull's purpose with the murders is nothing less than shaping the course of the entire 20th century, to ensure the continued dominance of men over women and rationality over irrationality.
  • Vomiting Cop: George Godley, upon finding the corpse of Jack the Ripper's last victim. Also Abberline once he discovers the full extent of the conspiracy.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Netley has an adverse reaction to Sir William Withey Gull's Walking Tour of London.
  • Wham Shot: Late in the book, there are two panels where Gull briefly glimpses a television set playing inside a house and a steel-and-glass skyscraper in the middle of London. Both shots abruptly make it clear that this book isn't quite the by-the-numbers work of historical fiction that it initially seems, but that Gull's attempts at occult rituals have created a magical effect.
  • Wicked Cultured: Gull is a well-educated aristocrat who constantly references science, history, and mythology during his monologues.
  • Wife Husbandry: Walter Sickert allegedly helped raise Alice Crook after her mother was lobotomized by Gull, then when she came of age fathered a child with her, said child being Joseph Gorman, the man who told Stephan Knight about the putative conspiracy theory that Moore based the comic on.
  • Womanchild: Polly Nichols looks and acts much younger than her 43 years, which is especially impressive given her miserable living situation. Her youthful looks and immature attitude are in fact commented on in contemporary accounts.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Limehouse, Whitechapel.
  • You Are What You Hate: Done subtly. Gull (a physician by trade) sees himself as a champion of rationality and logic, viewing his murders as a means of protecting humanity from the chaos of irrationality and superstition. But despite claiming to be firmly on the side of science, he engages in magic and mysticism as a means of defeating those very things. He even regularly eats grapes, thematically associating himself with the god Dionysus.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The story posits an eternalist conception of time, which is pretty much the most extreme conception of this idea as applied to quantum physics, in which past, present, and future all coexist in an unchanging four-dimensional block where all events are preordained because they have, in effect, already happened. Notably, Moore previously explored this idea in Watchmen.

Netley: I- I don't know where I am anymore, sir, and that's the truth... that's the truth!
Gull: There there, Netley, there there. I shall tell you where we are. We're in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind, a dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men may meet themselves... Hell, Netley. We're in Hell.