The Masked Movement

“I suppose when I was writing V For Vendetta I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn’t it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world… It’s peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction.” – Alan Moore 2011

Shout out to me mucka Meeko for linking me up to the recent interview in the Guardian with my main man Alan Moore, in relation to the symbolic use of V masks by participants in the ever growing global protest movement.

The mask is worn by V, the central character in Moore’s dystopian tale of Britain under a totalitarian government. V is a vigilante / revolutionary, based on Guy Fawkes, the most (in)famous figure in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed plan to blow up London’s House Of Lords that’s still commemorated here every November 5th, when bonfires are lit and a ‘Guy’ is placed on top (the real Guy Fawkes wasn’t burnt at the stake, but hanged, drawn and quartered – a special English horror saved for men convicted of high treason).

‘V For Vendetta’, illustrated by David Lloyd, originally appeared between 1982-1985 in the British comic ‘Warrior’, but gained wider acclaim when published by US comic giant DC in 1988. This followed on from the great success of ‘Watchmen’, published in ’86 and ’87 by DC. It was made into a movie in 2006, bringing the story to a new generation, and it’s as a result of this fresh wave of interest that the anarchic yet playful V image has characterized the mood of the times as the ‘Occupy’ movement continues to build momentum internationally.

Shepard Fairey, a leading light of the street art world, and the guy behind the iconic ‘Obama Hope’ poster, which played a key role in the President’s historical election victory of 2008, has adapted the image in support of Occupy, by placing a V mask over Obama’s face and amending its message from the one word ‘HOPE’ to ‘Mister President, we HOPE you’re on our side’, whilst adding the Occupy slogan ‘We are the 99%’.

Whist all this is going on it’s interesting to contrast the views of the comic world’s 2nd most famous figure, Frank Miller (‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns’, ‘Sin City’, ‘300’ etc). Miller, whose recently published ‘Holy Terror’ has been slammed as anti-Islamic propaganda, is now experiencing a backlash on a further front, having alienated many former fans by going ever so slightly over the top in labelling the Occupy protestors as ‘louts, thieves and rapists’ on his blog, whilst imploring:

“In the name of decency, go home to your parents, you losers. Go back to your mommas’ basements and play with your Lords Of Warcraft. Or better yet, enlist for the real thing. Maybe our military could whip some of you into shape.”

Back to ‘V For Vendetta’ and Alan Moore for the final word on how the characterization of V metamorphosed (from his ‘Behind The Painted Smile’ essay of 1983):

“The big breakthrough (regarding what the character of V should look and act like) was all Dave’s (illustrator David Lloyd), much as it sickens me to admit it. More remarkable still, it was all contained in one single letter that he’d dashed off the top of his head . . . I transcribe the relevant portions beneath:

‘Re. The script: While I was writing this, I had this idea about the hero, which is a bit redundant now we’ve got (can’t read this next bit) but nonetheless . . . I was thinking, why don’t we portray him as a resurrected Guy Fawkes, complete with one of those papier mache masks, in a cape and conical hat? He’d look really bizarre and it would give Guy Fawkes the image he’s deserved all these years. We shouldn’t burn the chap every Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!’

The moment I read these words, two things occurred to me. Firstly, Dave was obviously a lot less sane than I hitherto believed him to be, and secondly, this was the best idea I’d ever heard in my entire life. All of the various fragments in my head suddenly fell into place, united behind the single image of a Guy Fawkes mask.”

V For Vendetta Wikipedia:

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One Response to The Masked Movement

  1. Dave McGinn` December 7, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    It’s funny how underground anti-establishment figures often end up swinging way to the right as they get older, richer and more pompous. Morrisey, Ben Elton and now Frank Miller for example. Perhaps they are more interested in pushing against what they aren’t than making any specific point.

    Credit to Alan Moore then, who has maintained his pathologically anti-establishment position to the point of turning down cash money he’s owed from the various awful adaptations of his work. V for Vendetta the Movie (aka the Matrix 4: Wachowski vs Thatcher), is far from the worst, despite being a film I’d rather melt into a pool of liquid plastic and shove my cock into than watch again.

    Rather than pumping the grumpy old man hormones into hatred of the young, he’s channeled all his curmudgeon power into his archaically bloody-minded refusal to develop a brand evangelism strategy, or bolster the organic growth of stakeholder engagement through dissemination of breakthrough viral content to key influencers.

    Alan Moore is a rarity – at the pinnacle of his art form without ever selling out or compromising, but then he’s good enough not to need to.

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