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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.

The story is a bit less fantastic than some of Moore's other work. It's a creepy kind of whodunnit where you know whodunnit very early on. 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 stated that he found Knight's theory to be rather far-fetched, but felt it served the purpose of his story. It's about how the 19th century turned into the 20th century. There's a lot of history and philosophy, and the art resembles an illustrated crime broadside from the time: gloomy and a bit unhinged-looking.

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. The "Master Edition" was colorized by the original artist (Campbell) with Moore's consent. The idea was to colorize the trade paperback edition and publish it serially in chapters, with a new epilogue written and drawn by Moore and Campbell. This wasn't the first time that Moore's work was retroactively colorized: Captain Britain, V for Vendetta, and Marvelman/Miracleman were originally published in B&W in Britain, and when they were reprinted or continued (in the case of the latter two) by American companies, they were colorized.

This graphic novel provides examples of:

  • Abstract Apotheosis: As he wrote the story, Moore came to believe that the murders and the media spectacle they created marked the beginning of the 20th Century. It's 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.

-->"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."

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Gull's murder weapon is a Liston knife, a surgical blade which he brags can saw through a full human leg in less than a minute.
  • 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).
  • Arc Number: 5, which holds significance in Masonic ritual as a symbol of order. Gull demonstrates to Netley how prominent 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.

  • Art Shift: Chapter 5. No, nothing's wrong with your copy; that's the way it's supposed to look. Moore and Campbell wanted to juxtapose Gull's posh live with the terrible conditions that the sex workers live under. These panels are more 'painterly'.
  • [[[As Long as There is Evil]]: Gull, in his dying madness, believes this to be happening to him. Specifically, it's his spirit which 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?"

  • 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 one last glimpse of the repercussions of his crimes before his 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 declares that no one actually cares about justice for these five women; instead, everyone is obsessed with the mystery, which he likens to being titillated by a striptease.
  • Awful Truth: 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 comprehends the implications, he vomits from fear.
  • 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: Jack the Ripper is never caught. Neither Gull nor any of his co-conspirators are ever exposed 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 might have survived and sentenced Gull to Hell.
  • Bad Present: Gull understands the Freemasons’ prominence and persistence through history, interpreting it as the story of the fall and suppression of female power. The magical workings of his killings are not only ushering in the 21st century, but causing him to have visions of it, as well. This why his final murder flings him into a skyscraper future, where he gives his speech to future humanity.
  • 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— including William Blake's perception of Gull's spirit. Blake's vision inspires the painting, The Ghost of a Flea.
    • Moore's essay (drawn by Campbell) at the end of From Hell, titled "Dance of the Gull-Catchers". After giving a short history of the various Ripper theories, he ends with a meditation on the essential unsolvability of the murders, at one point jokingly suggesting alien intervention as a plausible theory. Campbell responds with an illustration of an exterrestrial wearing a top hat.

-->Next page: "There never was a Jack the Ripper. Mary Kelly was just an unusually determined suicide. Why don't we leave it there?"

  • Bilingual Bonus: When Alois and Klara Hitler show up, their dialogue is in untranslated German.
  • Blood Magic: At several points in the story, Gull sees 'echoes' of the 20th century. Gull seems to have an almost prophetic ability to know what happens in the future when he is on his murder spree, and later moves as a disembodied spirit backwards and forwards in time. During one such vision, he says, "This is the one I didn't finish", in regards to the murder he committed seconds before. It's all to do with Moore's theory that an individual can be put in a trance-like state when performing certain acts, like killing, which allows them to see through time. (Moore even claims to have done it himself, but without the killing part.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Break Them by Talking: 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.
  • 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.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: In the middle of a fairly oblique and dark drama there are flashes of Black Comedy.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: The one which Gull flashes for Netley at the conclusion of their psychogeographical trip through London is horrible.

-->Netley: Oh, God!\\ Gull: Ha ha! Yes... but not yours.

  • Confess in Confidence: Gull taking his stagecoach driver on a tour of London, mapping out how the entire architectural landscape is a giant magical rune. In doing so, he lays out in excruciating detail why it is necessary to carry out these killings in such a savage, ritualistic manner.
  • 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.
    • An early chapter shows Gull riding around town with his sidekick, lecturing him on the supposed Masonic/pagan symbolism of London landmarks. Which itself was actually based on the book Jack the Ripper, the Final Solution written in 1976 by Steven Knight. The story of which was proven to be a fantastic hoax. 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.

--->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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Decadent Court: Moore seems to have abandoned his anarchism, but this book is a strong advocate for it. He uses the killings to explore and deconstruct Victorian society.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: 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 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.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: At the very end, Gull receives a long awaited one from Mary Kelly while he's on 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 "clear off back to Hell".
  • Dirty Cop: The highest brass as well as a few grunts are a part of the conspiracy, some more willing than others.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Averted with prejudice. Each victim is afforded some characterization, and the main characters are determined to solve their murders, against the wish of the royal family. 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 lure of fame and fortune for solving 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.
  • 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 claims to have 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 heated argument.
  • Dumb Is Good: Netley feels disgust and horror at the crimes he assists in, and only continues helping Gull due to being weak-willed.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Gull is a burning 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 Is Bigger: Gull is broad-shouldered and physically imposing, able to snap a woman's neck with his own hands despite being an aged stroke survivor.
  • 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.
  • Fainting Seer: Robert Lees has dramatic seizures, complete with convulsions and cryptic phrases which he chokes out.
  • 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.
  • 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 correctly assumes she'll 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.
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: It's Victorian London. It's always foggy. One of Gull's manifestations during his ascension is as a mist which moves strangely through the Tower of London.
  • 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 they obviously 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, Lees claims to have visions of Gull committing the Whitechapel murders. This turns out to be factually true, which still haunts Lees years later.
  • Friends with Benefits: Mary and Julia's relationship.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Queen and other players in the book seem to have forgotten that their power is derived entirely from the faith their subjects have in their rule. However, Gull 100% believes in the religious aspects and sees the system for what it is. Of course, in the fiction of the book, Gull actually claims to be clairvoyant—to the point where he hallucinates the gods of Freemasonry, which strengthens his belief. He is pointing out all of the ritualistic symbols that were put into place around the city which they are not even aware of anymore.
  • Funetik Aksent: Thick London accents get written into the dialog.
  • 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 that the fantastical elements are never seen from anyone's perspective other than Gull's, leaving open the possibility that he was an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Genius Bruiser: Sir William performs some pretty impressive pouncing for a scholarly doctor and stroke victim in his seventies.
  • Genius Loci: Gull saying that London is a person, one who can be wooed and brought over to one side or another. It is important enough to the world that what happens here will affect the coming century.
  • Giggling Villain: Gull likes to punctuate his sentences with light laughter when he is in a good mood.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Victoria sets the ball rolling with her orders.

-->Gull: ALL of them, your majesty?\\ Victoria: All of them. Go now, Sir William. Be about your work.

  • 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.
  • 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 witnesses Mary Kelly alive and well. She sees him and tells him to go "back to Hell".
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Gull sees his murders as a ritual binding the lunar or irrational influence on human minds. He succeeds, only to be horrified by the world he created, where people are surrounded by the fruits of the rational mind but feel no wonder at all.
    • Queen Victoria and the Masons, who certainly didn't expect something so gruesome when they asked Gull to take care of their problem.
  • 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.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Gull holds the Masonic Council in contempt, viewing them as social climbers who have forgotten the true values of their order. He starts to deliver an apocalyptic speech to the Council before his dementia catches up with him and he trails off in confusion.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Gull is convinced that he's a defender of human civilization itself, which he asserts as being inherently masculine. In his mind, the murders are part of a continued effort by “masculine rationality” to constrain “lunar female power.”
  • Hero Antagonist: Abberline. With the important caveat that he never even comes close to catching the killer.
  • 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, first ordering 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.
    • It seems like anybody living in Victorian London has been accused of being Jack the Ripper. Dr. William Gull was a real-life doctor and highly-respected professional. He 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 evidence implicating him as the killer or (as Moore portrays him) a misogynist, 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. There was an essay in a crime magazine which ended up online back in the early 2000s demonstrating that the Ripper wouldn't have required any medical training to do what he did. Probably a mortician or butcher's assistant with a good memory.
  • Human Sacrifice: Gull goes well beyond his initial assignment and decides to use the killings as a holy rite, to bind of the symbolic power of womanhood for the next century.

-->Gull: Behold my architecture: bricks of viscera, with knife as trowel...

  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: 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 and Aleister Crowley.
    • Adolf Hitler's parents make an appearance.
    • 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.
  • 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: Gull giving Netley a tour of the Freemasonic and Kabalistic "anatomy" of London's architecture and layout in a way that directly pertained to the themes of the story, i.e. Gull / The Ripper magically "giving birth" to the 20th century.

-->Moore: Like I say, this caused unanticipated problems, but I imagine they were much worse for Eddie than for me. Writing twenty extra pages isn't anywhere near as much of a physical and mental burden as drawing them.

  • 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 Has Only Just Begun: The premise is that the Ripper killings mark the start of modernism. 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."

  • 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 he 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.
  • Karmic Death: Gull's ritual to influence the course of the next century results in a cold, mechanized world which 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.
  • Knife Nut: Gull, a master surgeon, performs all his killing with a long surgical knife.
  • 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:

-->"Mark my words, in 'undred years there'll still be cunts like 'im, wrapping these killings up in supernatural twaddle, making a living out of murder, Godley... And that's OUR job!"

  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Nearly all of them drawn from real life.
  • 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.
  • Magic Mirror: When Gull is about to kill his second victim, he walks past a window looking into an apartment which seems to be from another time period, suggesting a two-way street regarding ghost sightings. According to the the appendix, a guy living on Hanbury Street in the 70s said he'd seen people in Victorian era garb walk past his window.
  • Mask of Sanity: Sir William Gull. He's hired for his discretion, but he turns out to be a fanatic. Ironically, the Ripper can be considered one of the first "celebrities" due to the public's love of violence. His disturbing motivations for the killings are both magical and secular:

-->Gull: And Gull the doctor says, "Why, to converse with gods is madness." And Gull, the man, replies, "Then who'd be sane?"

  • 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 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.
  • Mind Screw: "What is the fourth dimension?"
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Gull experiences this when he glimpses the future he's brought about through his ritual. Notably, his reaction has nothing to do with the carnage he's responsible for, and more to do with his horror at the decadence of the modern world.

-->"How would I seem to you? Some antique fiend or penny dreadful horror, yet you frighten me!"

  • Mystical City Planning: Dr. Gull recruits Netley, the carriage driver, to assist him with his murders. He takes Netley 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 use the order as a way to acquire power and status. They're unable to reign in Gull, and it's implied that the Masons are heavily into cronyism, helping each other professionally in lieu of actual merit.

-->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.

  • 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.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Gull's letter to the police. Gull has the barely-literate Netley write it so as to deflect suspicion from himself.
  • 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.
  • 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 an asylum 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 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.
  • Platonic Prostitution: Abberline's relationship with "Fair Emma", who is implied actually Mary Kelly.
  • 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: Gull believes his killings will keep women in line, and that society has been controlled for millions of years by matriarchies (ignoring that he's been ordered to do this by a female ruler). Chapter 4 is just Gull being horsecarriaged around London, giving a lesson on Freemason history to his driver while mocking his mental impairments.
  • Pretender Diss: Gull delivers one to Lees, which ironically prompts Lees to try to frame him for the Ripper murders.
  • Prophetic Names:
    • 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.
  • Psycho for Hire: 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.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: In his first appearance Netley was a creepy man who admits to drunken incest. He quickly becomes sympathetic when he discovers what Gull has done, even teetering into madness.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: Gull's overall message is that London is very much a pagan city. The killings are an elaborate ritual to ensure male societal dominance over women. Gull does complete his ritual and avoids being incriminated. But when the killer briefly time-travels to the modern world, he is appalled at how soulless and banal everything is. Mixed-sex offices are a symbolic manifestation of the matriarchy's counterattack on Victorian inequality. In response to his missionary zeal, the Masons confine him to an 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's and Kelly's fates are left purely to interpretation.
  • 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.
  • Resign in Protest: When Abberline discovers the extent of the conspiracy, he decides that he'll retire from the police force and work for the Pinkertons.
  • Retraux:
  • From Hell is quite a divisive book. It inevitably appears in recommendation lists, so people obviously love it, but you also get responses from people who hated it: didn't like the walls of text, had issues with character recognition, and the art resembles old tintype photography. Something about the inky black pen scratches and geometry of the line work; fuzzy genetic memories from a less-developed stage in the public conciousness. It isn't there to provide a clear picture of what is going on. It communicates the characters' mental states, e.g. Queen Victoria in a perfect grid cross hatch juxtaposed against increasingly chaotic scribbles as the story goes on.
    • The coloring in the Master Edition does remind one of early 20th century strips. It has a subdued palette, not unlike V for Vendetta, which works in the context of this story. (Fans were probably expecting garish murder scenes.) There's also the nice detail that the endpapers have portraits of all the dramatis personae.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: It's been said before, and Gull makes the point, that the Ripper grants these anonymous women a measure of immortality by killing them. "Our suffragettes demand that woman vote, and have equality!" The irony is that, in focusing attention on the East End, he drives forward the cause of women because (as George Bernard Shaw points out in the appendix) society can no longer ignore the downtrodden easily. The dead prostitutes become symbols of Victorian neglect.
  • 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.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    • 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, but by that point, there's nothing Abberline can do about the situation but resign.
    • Jack the Ripper is hardly the only murderer to vanish. Unexplained stops are common among unidentified killers and, as far as we can tell, other killers like Zodiac and the Original Night Stalker/East Area Rapist were dormant for decades, so we have to admit that we don't have a handle on why serial killers stop killing. "Dance of the Gull-catchers" alleges that the lure of the Ripper drives people insane because the mystery is impossible to solve—considering that there are questions as to the authenticity of some evidence in the first place—and that most theories enhance the killer's mystique rather than than provide any real insight. In the book itself, the original letter sent to the police which identifies the sender as "Jack the Ripper" is shown as nothing more than a fabrication by a hack journalist, as the most plausible theory has it.

-->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.

  • 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 at 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 is historically accurate. Not only does it show off the insane level of research that went into the book, but it's one of the first scenes to demonstrate how far down the rabbit hole Gull really is. Interestingly enough, Moore says in the notes in the back of the book that you can do this tour in a single day, walking!
  • 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.
  • Soiled City on a Hill:
    • Whitechapel is a pit of criminality, depravity and poverty. England is a dying empire afflicted with corruption and weak rulers. Present-day London is culturally and spiritually bankrupt.
    • The biggest moment that could be counted as Mood Whiplash comes from a montage of the numerous false "Jack the Ripper" confessions, with a Reverend, a sadomasochist, and children each writing letters.
  • 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.
  • Stable Time Loop: 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.
  • 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
  • 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 which 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. The final fate of Mary Kelly, or possibly Julia (depending on your outlook) is one of the most stomach-churning examples in the comics medium: The mass of gristle Gull leaves behind is barely recognizable as having once been a woman.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: These play a large part in Gull's story. Or maybe they are more than hallucinations?
  • 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 suffers an ignominious 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.

-->"I'm not Tom! I'm not JACK I'm WILLIAM."

  • 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.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: This is a dense, dense book (even by Moore's standards). 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.
  • Villain Protagonist: Moore and Campbell do a thorough job of making William Gull a complex figure and not pure evil. Gull is by far the most prominent character in the story, and while the killings make very little sense on the surface (mutilating the last woman and expounding for many pages on the history of gender), 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.
  • We Are Everywhere: During the tour of London chapter, the carriage driver begins to realize that he is Alone with the Psycho as Gull starts talking about all kinds of Masonic symbols and associations that tie 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.
  • 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.
  • World of Symbolism: 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 in its final days.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Limehouse, Whitechapel.
  • You Bastard!: Discussed in "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.

The Movie contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline is more attractive than he's drawn in the comic, where he's based on Robbie Coltrane. Ironically, Coltrane was cast in a different role.
  • Body Horror: John Merrick perhaps counts.
  • Composite Character: Johnny Depp's character is a cross between Abberline & Robert Lees, though physically he resembles Prince Eddy more closely.
  • Darker and Edgier: The movie retains the sombre mood of the original and adds even more dark elements which is no small feat (in the graphic novel Ann Crook was not a prostitute, Abberline didn't commit suicide but is an elderly narrator, Gull wasn't lobotomized (although he developed dementia and was institutionalized by Freemasons) etc.
  • Doubling for London: Prague, using backlot sets rather than city streets.
  • Eagle-Eye Detection
  • Eye Scream: "I could pop your eye out...they don't care if a whore can't see."
  • Fake Brit: Johnny Depp, using the same accent that he would later use as SweeneyTodd.
  • Goodnight, Sweet Prince: Said by Sergeant Godley after Abberline dies of a drug overdose.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Uttered by one of the prostitutes before heading out for some hooch.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Averted, because it's rather her enemies. Abberline knows perfectly well that Mary survived, but decides not follow her to Ireland because, if it became clear that she survived that night, Mary would be hunted down and silenced.
  • Les Yay: Between multiple characters.
  • Madness Mantra: Ann has several, but then again, she has had a rather extensive lobotomy.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film's one clever moment was how it efficiently replaced the visual montage of how ordinary people wrote phony letters claiming to be from Jack the Ripper with a quick scene in which the detectives read those letters with each being read with a different voice.
  • Psychic Powers: Abberline has these in the movie, linked to opium use--hallucinations were commonly thought of as divinations.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Try to guess which whore unfortunate is the future love interest.

->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.

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