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Comicbook / 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 contains 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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."
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Gull believes he is doing this near the end...only for a woman who may possibly be Mary Kelly to tell him to go back to hell.
  • Badass Bookworm: Sir William performs some pretty impressive pouncing for a scholarly doctor and stroke victim in his seventies.
  • Based on a Great Big Lie:
    • Moore makes no secret of the fact that he doesn't really 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 one theory has it.
  • 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: Jack the Ripper performed masonic rituals and at least temporarily ascended to a higher level of existence, where he shaped past and future events.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Sir William Gull a.k.a Jack The Ripper shows these for a moment.
  • 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.
  • The British Empire: Depicted as being in a state of decline, with references to General Gordon's death in the Mahdi uprisings.
  • 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 Mary Kelly, prostitute.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Inspector Abberline was modeled after Robbie Coltrane (who ended up playing George Godley in film adaptation).
  • 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.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: A particularly tragic and depressing example, during which Netley has a brief moment of remorse and self-loathing at his part in Gull's murders.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Door Stopper: The 500-page collected edition would probably kill you if it fell on your head. And it's a paperback.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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 son 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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; and 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."
  • 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.
  • 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 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 five 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.
  • 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: If Gull did indeed ascend to become a god. Averted with Netley though, who has his head caved in by a horse spooked by Gull.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Abberline comments to Godley about a peddler cashing in on the murders:
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Nearly all of them drawn from real life.
  • 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.
  • 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 Adolph'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.
  • Mind Screw: "What is the fourth dimension?"
  • Never Suicide: Needless to say, the police don't inquire too closely into the death of Montague John Druitt.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Phony Psychic: Robert Lees. He's making it all up. But it all came true anyway.
  • Poetic Serial Killer: Gull is a particularly disturbing example of this trope.
  • 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 centuries by matriarchies (ignoring how he's been ordered to do this by a female ruler).
  • Platonic Prostitution: Abberline's relationship with "Fair Emma", who is implied actually Mary Kelly.
  • Psycho for Hire: Sir William Gull. He's hired for his discretion, but turns out to be quite Ax-Crazy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Increasingly becomes this as Gull's "ritual" continues, and reaches its apex in the climax when Gull attempts to become God.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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