V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta is a British graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd (with additional art by Tony Weare). Initially published, starting in 1982, in black-and-white as an ongoing serial in the short-lived UK anthology Warrior, it morphed into a ten-issue limited series published by DC Comics. Subsequent collected editions have been typically published under DC's more specialized imprint, Vertigo. The story depicts a dystopian and post-apocalyptic near-future history version of the United Kingdom in the 1990s, preceded by a nuclear war in the 1980s that devastated most of the rest of the world. The white supremacist, neo-fascist, outwardly Christofascistic, and homophobic fictional Norsefire political party has exterminated its opponents in concentration camps, and now rules the country as a police state.
|V for Vendetta|
V for Vendetta collected edition cover art by David Lloyd
Vertigo (DC Comics)
|Date of publication||March 1982 – May 1989|
The comics follow the story's title character and protagonist, V, an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, as he begins an elaborate and theatrical revolutionist campaign to kill his former captors, bring down the fascist state, and convince the people to abandon fascism in favour of anarchy, while inspiring a young woman, Evey Hammond, to be his protégée.
|1: Europe After the Reign||1: The Villain||#1
|2: The Voice||#2|
|6: The Vision||#6|
|7: Virtue Victorious||#7|
|8: The Valley||#8|
|11: The Vortex||#11|
|2: This Vicious Cabaret||Prelude||#12
|1: The Vanishing||#13|
|2: The Veil||#14|
|4: A Vocational Viewpoint||#16
|5: The Vacation||#18|
|12: The Verdict||#26
|3: The Land of Do-As-You-Please||Prologue||—||#8|
|1: Vox Populi|
|3: Various Valentines|
|V: The Valediction|
|9: The Vigil|
|10: The Volcano|
The first episodes of V for Vendetta appeared in black-and-white between 1982 and 1985, in Warrior, a British anthology comic published by Quality Communications. The strip was one of the least popular in that title; editor/publisher Dez Skinn remarked, "If I'd have given each character their own title, the failures would have certainly outweighed the successes, with the uncompromising 'V for Vendetta' probably being an early casualty. But with five or six strips an issue, regular [readers] only needed two or three favorites to justify their buying the title."
When the publishers cancelled Warrior in 1985 (with two completed issues unpublished due to the cancellation), several companies attempted to convince Moore and Lloyd to let them publish and complete the story. In 1988, DC Comics published a ten-issue series that reprinted the Warrior stories in colour, then continued the series to completion. The first new material appeared in issue No. 7, which included the unpublished episodes that would have appeared in Warrior No. 27 and No. 28. Tony Weare drew one chapter ("Vincent") and contributed additional art to two others ("Valerie" and "The Vacation"); Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds worked as colourists on the entire series.
The entire series has appeared collected in paperback (ISBN 0-446-39190-5) and hardback (ISBN 1-4012-0792-8) form, including Moore's "Behind the Painted Smile" essay and two "interludes" outside the central continuity. Later collections include reissued paperbacks, published in the US by DC's Vertigo imprint (ISBN 0-930289-52-8) and in the UK by Titan Books (ISBN 1-85286-291-2). A new hardback edition was published in 2005 featuring improved printing and coloring. In August 2009 DC published a slipcased Absolute Edition (ISBN 1-4012-2361-3); this includes newly coloured "silent art" pages (full-page panels containing no dialogue) from the series' original run, which have not previously appeared in any previous collected edition.
- — — (24 October 2008). V for Vendetta (New TPB ed.). DC Vertigo. ISBN 9781401208417.
- — — (24 December 2008). V for Vendetta (New ed.). DC Vertigo.
- — — (8 September 2009). V for Vendetta (Absolute ed.). DC Vertigo. ISBN 9781401223618.
- — — (9 October 2012). V for Vendetta (Deluxe Collector Set ed.). DC Vertigo. ISBN 9781401238582.
- — — (20 November 2018). V for Vendetta (The 30th Anniversary Deluxe ed.). DC Vertigo. ISBN 9781401285005.
In writing V for Vendetta, Moore drew upon a comic strip idea submission that the DC Thomson scriptwriting competition rejected in 1975. "The Doll" involved a transsexual terrorist in white face makeup who fought a totalitarian state during the 1980s.
Years later, Skinn reportedly invited Moore to create a dark mystery strip with artist David Lloyd. V for Vendetta was intended to recreate something similar to their popular Marvel UK Night Raven strip in a 1930s noir. They chose against doing historical research and instead set the story in the near future rather than the recent past.
Then V for Vendetta emerged, putting the emphasis on "V" rather than "Vendetta". David Lloyd developed the idea of dressing V as Guy Fawkes after previous designs followed the conventional superhero look. During the preparation of the story, Moore made a list of what he wanted to bring into the plot, which he reproduced in "Behind the Painted Smile":
Orwell. Huxley. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, Catman and The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World by the same author. Vincent Price's Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Night Raven. Batman. Fahrenheit 451. The writings of the New Worlds school of science fiction. Max Ernst's painting "Europe After the Rain". Thomas Pynchon. The atmosphere of British Second World War films. The Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin...
The influence of such a wide number of references has been thoroughly demonstrated in academic studies, above which dystopian elements stand out, especially the similarity with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four in several stages of the plot.
The political climate of Britain in the early 1980s also influenced the work, with Moore positing that Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government would "obviously lose the 1983 elections", and that an incoming Michael Foot-led Labour government, committed to complete nuclear disarmament, would allow the United Kingdom to escape relatively unscathed after a limited nuclear war. However, Moore felt that fascists would quickly subvert a post-holocaust Britain. V, an anarchist, initially murders members of the fascist government, but as the story develops, Moore deliberately made V's actions "very, very morally ambiguous" with the aim that "I didn't want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think."
Moore's scenario remains untested. Addressing historical developments when DC reissued the work, he noted:
Naïveté can also be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to nudge Britain towards fascism... The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the 1983 General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our roles as Cassandras.
Book 1: Europe After the Reign
On Guy Fawkes Night in London in 1997, a financially desperate 16-year-old, Evey Hammond, sexually solicits men who are actually members of the state secret police, called "The Finger". Preparing to rape and kill her, the Fingermen are dispatched by V, a cloaked anarchist wearing a mask, who later remotely detonates explosives at the Houses of Parliament before bringing Evey to his contraband-filled underground lair, the "Shadow Gallery". Evey tells V her life story, which reveals her own past as well as England's recent history. During a dispute over Poland in the late 1980s the Soviet Union and the United States, under the presidency of Ted Kennedy, entered a global nuclear war which left continental Europe and Africa uninhabitable. Although Britain itself was not bombed due to the Labour government's decision to remove American nuclear missiles, it faced environmental devastation and famine due to the nuclear winter. After a period of lawlessness in which Evey's mother died, the remaining corporations and fascist groups took over England and form a new totalitarian government, Norsefire. Evey's father, a former socialist, was arrested by the regime.
Meanwhile, Eric Finch, a veteran detective in charge of the regular police force—"the Nose"—begins investigating V's terrorist activities. Finch often communicates with Norsefire's other intelligence departments, including "the Finger," led by Derek Almond, and "the Head," embodied by Adam Susan: the reclusive government Leader, who obsessively oversees the government's Fate computer system. Finch's case thickens when V kidnaps Lewis Prothero, a propaganda-broadcasting radio personality, and drives him into a mental breakdown by forcing him to relive his actions as the commander of a "resettlement" camp near Larkhill with his treasured doll collection as inmates. Evey agrees to help V with his next assassination by disguising herself as a child prostitute to infiltrate the home of Bishop Anthony Lilliman, a paedophile priest, who V forces to commit suicide by eating a poisoned communion wafer. He prepares to murder Dr. Delia Surridge, a medical researcher who once had a romance with Finch. Finch suddenly discovers the connection among V's three targets: they all used to work at Larkhill. That night, V kills both Almond and Surridge, but Surridge has left a diary revealing that V—a former inmate and victim of Surridge's cruel medical experiments—was able to destroy and flee the camp, and is now eliminating the camp's former officers for what they did. Finch reports these findings to Susan, and suspects that this vendetta may actually be a cover for V, who, he worries, may be plotting an even bigger terrorist attack.
Book 2: This Vicious Cabaret
Four months later, V breaks into Jordan Tower, the home of Norsefire's propaganda department, "the Mouth"—led by Roger Dascombe—to broadcast a speech that calls on the people to resist the government. V escapes using an elaborate diversion that results in Dascombe's death. Finch is soon introduced to Peter Creedy, the new head of the Finger, who provokes Finch to strike him and thus get sent on a forced vacation. All this time, Evey has moved on with her life, becoming romantically involved with a much older man named Gordon. Evey and Gordon unknowingly cross paths with Rose Almond, the widow of the recently killed Derek. After Derek's death, Rose reluctantly began a relationship with Dascombe, but now, with both of her lovers murdered, she is forced to perform demoralizing burlesque work, increasing her hatred of the unsupportive government.
When a Scottish gangster named Ally Harper murders Gordon, a vengeful Evey interrupts a meeting between Harper and Creedy, the latter of whom is buying the support of Harper's thugs in preparation for a coup d'état. Evey attempts to shoot Harper, but is suddenly abducted and then imprisoned. Amidst interrogation and torture, Evey finds an old letter hidden in her cell by an inmate named Valerie Page, a film actress who was imprisoned and executed for being a lesbian.
Evey's interrogator finally gives her a choice of collaboration or death; inspired by Valerie, Evey refuses to collaborate, and, expecting to be executed, is instead told that she is free. Stunned, Evey learns that her supposed imprisonment is in fact a hoax constructed by V so that she could experience an ordeal similar to the one that shaped him at Larkhill. He reveals that Valerie was a real Larkhill prisoner who died in the cell next to his and that the letter is not a fake. Evey forgives V, who has hacked into the government's Fate computer system and started emotionally manipulating Adam Susan with mind games. Consequently, Susan, who has formed a bizarre romantic attachment to the computer, is beginning to descend into madness.
Book 3: The Land of Do-As-You-Please
The following 5 November (1998), V blows up the Post Office Tower and Jordan Tower, killing "the Ear" leader Brian Etheridge; in addition to effectively shutting down three government agencies: the Eye, the Ear, and the Mouth. Creedy's men and Harper's associated street gangs violently suppress the subsequent wave of revolutionary fervor from the public. V notes to Evey that he has not yet achieved what he calls the "Land of Do-as-You-Please", meaning a functional anarchistic society, and considers the current chaotic situation an interim period of "Land of Take-What-You-Want". Finch has been mysteriously absent and his young assistant, Dominic Stone, one day realises that V has been influencing the Fate computer all along, which explained V's consistent foresight. All the while, Finch has been travelling to the abandoned site of Larkhill, where he takes LSD to conjure up memories of his own devastated past and to put his mind in the role of a prisoner of Larkhill, like V, to help give him an intuitive understanding of V's experiences. Returning to London, Finch suddenly deduces that V's lair is inside the abandoned Victoria Station, which he enters.
V takes Finch by surprise, resulting in a scuffle which sees Finch shoot V and V wound Finch with a knife. V claims that he cannot be killed since he is only an idea and that "ideas are bulletproof"; regardless, V is indeed mortally wounded and returns to the Shadow Gallery deeper within, dying in Evey's arms. Evey considers unmasking V, but decides not to, realising that V is not an identity but a symbol. She then assumes V's identity, donning one of his spare costumes. Finch sees the large amount of blood that V has left in his wake and deduces that he has mortally wounded V. Occurring concurrently to this, Creedy has been pressuring Susan to appear in public, hoping to leave him exposed. Sure enough, as Susan stops to shake hands with Rose during a parade, she shoots him in the head in vengeance for the death of her husband and the life she has had to lead since then. Following Rose's arrest, Creedy assumes emergency leadership of the country, and Finch emerges from the subway proclaiming V's death.
Due to his LSD-induced epiphany, Finch leaves his position within "the Nose". The power struggle between the remaining leaders results in all of their deaths: Harper betrays and kills Creedy at the behest of Helen Heyer (wife of "the Eye" leader Conrad Heyer, who had outbid Creedy for Harper's loyalty), and Harper and Conrad Heyer kill each other during a fight precipitated by Heyer's discovery that his wife Helen had had an affair with Harper.
With the fate of the top government officials unknown to the public, Stone acts as leader of the police forces deployed to ensure that the riots are contained should V still be alive and make his promised public announcement. Evey appears to a crowd, dressed as V, announcing the destruction of 10 Downing Street the following day and telling the crowd they must "...choose what comes next. Lives of your own, or a return to chains", whereupon a general insurrection begins. Evey destroys 10 Downing Street by blowing up an Underground train containing V's body, in the style of an explosive Viking funeral. She abducts Stone, apparently to train him as her successor. The book ends with Finch quietly observing the chaos raging in the city and walking down an abandoned motorway whose lights have all gone out.
- The Voice of Fate as broadcast by the Mouth was provided by Lewis Prothero, former commander of Larkhill Resettlement Camp, driven incurably insane by V in Book 1, Chapter 5.
- Shot by Rosemary Almond.
- Abandoned by Helen Heyer to exsanguinate following struggle with Ally Harper, gangster from Scotland.
- Dies in explosion of Post Office Tower.
- Assisted by Dominic Stone, who fills as leader of The Nose in for Finch during the latter's forced holiday after Finch was goaded into striking Peter Creedy.
- Stabbed by V when confronted at Dr. Surridge's apartment.
- Shot by Fingermen as a decoy.
- Temporarily elevated to Emergency Commander in the wake of Susan's death.
- Killed by Ally Harper using a straight razor.
- As explained in Bk 1 Ch 5.
- Abandoned by Finch to "louts" at the conclusion of Bk 3 Ch 11.
- Medical researcher at Larkhill. Poisoned by V in Bk 1 Ch 10.
- Dascombe pressures the widowed Rosemary Almond into a relationship.
Themes and motifs
Moore stated in an interview that V is designed as an enigma, as Moore "didn't want to tell people what to think" but wanted them to consider some extreme events that have recurred throughout history.
In December 2005 Warner Bros. released a feature-film adaptation of V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue from a screenplay by the Wachowskis. Natalie Portman stars as Evey Hammond and Hugo Weaving as V.
Alan Moore distanced himself from the film, as he has with other screen adaptation of his works. He ended co-operation with his publisher, DC Comics, after its corporate parent, Warner Bros., failed to retract statements about Moore's supposed endorsement of the movie.
After reading the script, Moore remarked:
[The movie] has been "turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country. ... It's a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neoconservatives – which is not what the comic V for Vendetta was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about England.
He later adds that if the Wachowskis had wanted to protest about what was going on in the United States, then they should have used a political narrative that directly addressed the issues of the US, similar to what Moore had done before with Britain. The film arguably changes the original message by having removed any reference to actual anarchism in the revolutionary actions of V. An interview with producer Joel Silver reveals that he identifies the V of the comics as a clear-cut "superhero... a masked avenger who pretty much saves the world," a simplification that goes against Moore's own statements about V's role in the story.
Co-author and illustrator David Lloyd, by contrast, embraced the adaptation. In an interview with Newsarama he states:
It's a terrific film. The most extraordinary thing about it for me was seeing scenes that I'd worked on and crafted for maximum effect in the book translated to film with the same degree of care and effect. The "transformation" scene between Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving is just great. If you happen to be one of those people who admires the original so much that changes to it will automatically turn you off, then you may dislike the film—but if you enjoyed the original and can accept an adaptation that is different to its source material but equally as powerful, then you'll be as impressed as I was with it.
In October 2017, it was announced that Channel 4 was developing a television series based on the comic book.
Since the release of the film adaptation, hundreds of thousands of Guy Fawkes masks from the books and film have been sold every year since the film's release, as of 2011. Time Warner owns the rights to the image and is paid a fee with the sale of each official mask.
Anonymous, an Internet-based group, has adopted the Guy Fawkes mask as their symbol (in reference to an Internet meme). Members wore such masks, for example, during Project Chanology's protests against the Church of Scientology in 2008. Alan Moore had this to say about the use of the Guy Fawkes motif adopted from his comic V for Vendetta, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:
I was also quite heartened the other day when watching the news to see that there were demonstrations outside the Scientology headquarters over here, and that they suddenly flashed to a clip showing all these demonstrators wearing V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks. That pleased me. That gave me a warm little glow.
The film allegedly inspired some of the Egyptian youth before and during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
On 23 May 2009, protesters dressed up as V and set off a fake barrel of gunpowder outside Parliament while protesting over the issue of British MPs' expenses.
During the Occupy Wall Street and other ongoing Occupy protests, the mask appeared internationally as a symbol of popular revolution. Artist David Lloyd stated: "The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny – and I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way."
On 17 November 2012 police officials in Dubai warned against wearing Guy Fawkes masks painted with the colours of the UAE flag during any celebration associated with the UAE National Day (2 December), declaring such use an illegal act after masks went on sale in online shops for 50 DHS.
- Combe, Kirk (2013). Masculinity and Monstrosity in Contemporary Hollywood Films. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 160. ISBN 978-1137360809.
Here, Creedy not only bullies but delights in reminding Finch of his marginalized status as a mongrel according to long-standing English prejudice against the Irish, as well as Norsefirean standards for racial purity. Chillingly, in this small exchange, we also discover that Norsefire chose to release its deadly virus on Ireland, no doubt yet one more effort by an English ruling class to pacify that uncooperative island.
- Shantz, Jeff (2015). Specters of Anarchy: Literature and the Anarchist Imagination. Algora Publishing. p. 223. ISBN 978-1628941418.
[Norsefire's] goal is to lead the country that I love out of the Twentieth century. I believe in survival. In the destiny of the Nordic race.
- Call, Lewis (1 January 2008). "A IS FOR ANARCHY, V IS FOR VENDETTA". Anarchist Studies. 16 (2): 154–172. Archived from the original on 6 October 2011.
V for Vendetta offers a clever, insightful look at the rise of fascism. The fascist 'Norsefire' party takes advantage of the power vacuum which occurs as the liberal British state collapses in the aftermath of the nuclear war.
- Muise, Chris (2011). Quicklet On V for Vendetta By Alan Moore. Hyperink, Inc. pp. 1–10. ISBN 978-1614640844.
Britain, however, survives under the cold, watchful eye of the Norsefire government, a fascist regime that took control amidst the chaos and confusion after the war.
- Madelyn Boudreaux. "An Annotation of Literary, Historic, and Artistic References in Alan Moore's Graphic Novel, V For Vendetta". Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2008.
...make Britain great again....This is typically "nationalistic" sentiment.... It was this sentiment, taken to its extremes, that drove Hitler's Nationalist Socialist (Nazi) Workers' Party to try to rid Germany of "non-Germans".
- Moore, Alan (1981). V for Vendetta, Book One: Europe After the Reign. Vertigo (DC Comics). pp. 37–39. ISBN 0-930289-52-8.
My name is Adam Susan. I am the leader. Leader of the lost, ruler of the ruins. I am a man, like any other man... I am not loved, I know that. Not in soul or body. I have never known the soft whisper of endearment. Never known the peace that lies between the thighs of woman. But I am respected. I am feared. And that will sufﬁce. Because I love. I, who am not loved in return. I have a love that is far deeper than the empty gasps and convulsions of brutish coupling. Shall I speak of her? Shall I speak of my bride? She has no eyes to flirt or promise. But she sees all. Sees and understands with a wisdom that is Godlike in its scale. I stand at the gates of her intellect and I am blinded by the light within. How stupid I must seem to her. How childlike and uncomprehending. Her soul is clean, untainted by the snares and ambiguities of emotion. She does not hate. She does not yearn. She is untouched by joy or sorrow. I worship her though I am not worthy. I cherish the purity of her disdain. She does not respect me. She does not fear me. She does not love me. They think she is hard and cold, those who do not know her. They think she is lifeless and without passion. They do not know her. She has not touched them. She touches me, and I am touched by God, by Destiny. The whole of existence courses through her. I worship her. I am her slave.
- "The V for Vendetta Graphic Novel is a National Bestseller". WarnerMedia. 30 March 2006.
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"100 'most inspiring' novels revealed by BBC Arts". BBC News. 5 November 2019. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
The reveal kickstarts the BBC's year-long celebration of literature.
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