Today we close Levi‘s request with the last character appearing in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the only secondary character who’s actually taken from the comics: Ishmael, portrayed by Terry O’Neill. In the movie, Ishmael acts as Captain Nemo‘s first mate aboard the Nautilus, but he’s sadly killed off by Dorian Gray as his treason is exposed. That introduction, “Call me Ishmael”, should leave few doubts on the literary primary source, but yes, he is Herman Melville‘s most famous protagonist, who in the comics had an unexpected promotion. Let’s see together.

The man called Ishmael started wandering the seas when he was very young, feeling an urge to do so in the deepest of his soul. He served aboard several merchant vessels, then he went from Manhattan to New Bedford to board his first whaling ship, the Pequod. The night before, he shared the bed in an overcrowded hostel with a Polynesian man, Queequeg, who would have been hired with him on the Pequod. The voyage changed the young man’s life: at first, Ishmael believed he was serving on a normal whaler, but then he met Captain Ahab, an obsessed man who led his own ship to ruin. During the voyage, Ishmael learnt to know the other officers: the rationalist first mate Starbuck, the good-hearted second mate Stubb, the strong third mate Flask, but none of them was nearly as charismatic as Ahab, a proud and magnetic leader who was rapidly losing his sanity over his one obsession. As Ishmael soon learnt, in fact, the Pequod wasn’t hunting for “any” whale, but for a specific, moon-white sperm whale named Moby Dick, a majestic creature that enchanted Ishmael the first time he saw it, but that Ahab, who had lost a leg because of it, believed to be the incarnation of evil itself. Hellbent on destroying its nemesis, Ahab led his crew in a deranged hunt, losing many men in the process, until the Pequod faced Moby Dick in an epic final stand: driven by a cruel intelligence, the whale destroyed the ship, killing Ahab, Queequeg and all the others. Only Ishmael, of all the sailors aboard the whaler, saved himself, and used as a lifeboat the coffin that Queequeg had built for himself, the only thing saved from the destruction. Ishmael floated on it for an entire day, until he was found by the Rachel, another whaler sent to the rescue.

Ishmael’s thirst for the life at sea hadn’t been quelled by the tragedy only he had survived to, quite the opposite: soon enough, he resumed moving from a ship to the other, learning more of the world than most of of men. Under unknown circumstances he crossed paths with Captain Nemo, a wanted terrorist who was believed to be dead by the entire world. Nemo had consecrated his life to the sea, just like Ishmael did, and he was in need of a crew, as his old one had been killed in a failed attack on the British Empire. With all his experience, and with no loyalty to the British Empire being an American, Ishmael joined Nemo aboard his incredible ship, the Nautilus, one that could teach also a man like him a lot of new things about the sea, as it traveled also under the surface. Ishmael proved to be not only a skilled sailor, but also a good confidante for the seasoned captain, and he became his first mate. Along with the former British pirate Broad Arrow Jack, Ishmael was the longest serving member of Nemo’s crew, and the most trusted one. He accompanied Nemo in a variety of adventures, including the disastrous expedition to the Mountains of Madness, in Antarctica, and was with him when Mina Murray, an agent for MI5, recruited the captain and his Nautilus for a special mission for the British Empire. Quite experienced in both sailing and in reading people, Ishmael didn’t trust at all the man who acted as a liaison officer between the team Mina was leading and the MI5, Campion Bond, and he expressed his doubts to his captain, only to realize that Nemo felt the same about the sneaky spy. They both proved to be right, as Bond turned out to have moved them as pawns on a chessboard in a local war between his boss, James Moriarty, and Fu Manchu, a new crime boss who threatened his monopoly. Once the menace of Moriarty (and Bond) was solved, Ishmael was quite surprised in seeing that Nemo was disposed to work for the MI5 again, that this time was under the leadership of Mycroft Holmes. Whoever his captain would have served, however, Ishmael would have followed to the end of the world.

Ishmael is a wise and seasoned sailor, a man who has seen pretty much everything, and always learnt a lot from it. He is an extremely skilled sailor and a good leader, as well as a loyal and trusted confidante for one of the most dangerous men in the world, the infamous Captain Nemo. Ishmael found in Nemo something he never found anywhere else, a cause to fight for: loyal to a fault to his captain, he’ll follow him, and then his daughter Janni, even to Hell and back… not that he didn’t visit it before.