Wednesday, 21 May 2008


To Amandine

Vertigo and Titan Books invite us to discover and rediscover the cult-classic dystopian visions of Alan Moore and David Lloyd. «V» and his vendetta are back. This is the future, this is V for Vendetta and this is now. This is not one of your darkest nightmares... this is worse.

« London calling to the faraway towns. Now war is declared - and battle come down. » (The Clash, London Calling)

The balance between the different forces composing British society relies on an implicit and fragile deal between those who rule and those who are ruled on a subjective basis of common interests. And numerous thinkers, authors or artists, conscient almost at a level of prescience of how much the deal is fragile, regularly asked themselves what would happen - in a country with a non-written constitution - if the deal was broken by a government with nothing more to often than an excessive exercise of the attributes of its regalian functions: police, justice, and army forces.


« Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves » (William Pitt)

Numerous are the British books, television or movie productions who dare to go « five minutes into the future » (like the subtitle of the Max Headroom tv-series) in order to speculate on the idea of an England ruled by a dictatorship: George Orwell's 1984 (1950), of course - and its adaptations of 1954 (by the BBC) and... 1984, and tv-serials like the forgotten The Guardians (1971), 1990 (1977), or the underestimated Knights of God (1987).

This political and artistical catharsis found its expression not only in England but also in the United States (It can't happen here, the novel by Sinclair Lewis - writtten years before 1984, or the miniseries V by Kenneth Johnson) or in France (Les Hordes, 1991). But V for Vendetta is to us the closest of this reflection. Because the future is in five minutes...

« It was horrible. Nobody knew if Britain would get bombed or not. » (Evey Hammond)

V for Vendetta is published for the first time in 1982 by Warrior, the independant British magazine home of Dan Dare (the English Buck Rogers). Alan Moore brings his true writing talents and his political preoccupations of the moment: Margaret Thatcher is the Prime minister of the conservative British government. David Lloyd, an artist who worked for Marvel Comics UK, illustrates the dark horizons out of the brilliant mind of Moore. They give to the main character a decisive element of his mythology: the costume and the mask of Guy Fawkes (« Remember, remember the fifth of November... ») V for Vendetta stops three years after its start, with the interruption of Warrior before the publication of an episode just completed.

In 1988, DC Comics, house of Batman and Superman, publishes in colour (with the assistance of colourists Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dobbs) the episodes de V for Vendetta from Warrior and goes on with a new material deeply awaited. Tony Weare joins David Lloyd and Alan Moore on two episodes and draws a full episode. The complete series is finally reunited in a magnificent graphic novel by Vertigo, a subsidiary of DC.


« Me, I'm the king of the twentieth century. I'm the bogeyman. The villain... The black sheep of the family. » (V)

In his introduction of the DC Comics run of V for Vendetta, republished in the present edition by Vertigo and Titan Books, Alan Moore confessed what he called « a certain amount of political inexperience » but this self-judgment may be quite harsh as the efficiency of his visions remain years after the launch of the series and the first edition of the graphic novel.

1997, United Kingdom is ruled by Norsefire, a fascist party, after a « nuclear winter » and a long string of riots and other dramatic events. Evey Hammond, 16, is caught during a stake-out of The Finger - the party's militia - while she was attempting to prostitute for the first time (« That's the clumsiest piece of propositioning I've ever heard. You've not been doing this very long, have you? ») She is saved from the Fingermen by a mysterious anarchist in costume who calls himself « V » and wears a mask of Guy Fawkes, the man behind the Gunpowder plot in 1605.

« Just His Master's Voice every hour on the hour. » (V)

The everyday life of everyone in the country is monitored by « The Ears » and « The Eye ». « The Eye » is headed by Conrad Heyer, a weak man manipulated by his wife, Helen. Helen Heyer wants her husband to be the next ruler of the government... and to pull the strings (« I'm going to be like Eva Peron, you know »). The chief of « The Finger » is Derek Almond, abusive husband of Rose Almond, whom he likes to threat with his revolver (« Don't worry, Rose. I didn't load it. Not tonight. »)

The legitimate police is « The Nose », and its chief is Eric Finch, a sincere by the book copper (« Although personnally I don't go much for this “New Order” business. It's just my job, to help Britain out of this mess »). Finch investigates the « V » case and reports to The Leader (« That you are still alive is a mark of my respect for you and your craft »), Adam J. Susan. Susan is meant to be the strongest man of the regime but he heavily relies on a computer system named « Fate » (« Please give me a sign »).

« Fate » has the voice of Lewis Prothero, former commander of the Larkhill concentration camp and doll collector (« He collects dolls, you know. Wouldn't think it would you? Big man like that collecting dolls. He's sensitive, you see. You can tell by his voice »). Prothero is on the top of « V »'s hit list. The mayhem of Norsefire can begin...


« We shouldn't have to live like this. Should we? » (Evey)

« Naiveté can also be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to nudge England towards fascism » wrote Moore in 1988. « The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the 1982 General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our roles as Cassandras » he added. But does the reliability of Alan Moore and David Lloyd as disciples of Cassandra really matters?

« This is chaos. » (V)

After all lizards from outer space in orange uniforms never visited the United States... And the side effects of national socialism, fascism, communism or even hyper-capitalism to its extremity are more or less the same (« You couldn't be expected to know they have eradicated culture... tossed it away like a fistul of dead roses », V). Even readers who reasonably don't expect anarchy to be the solution to fascism will be amazed by the ability of Lloyd and Moore to invite us in an effective dystopian exercise of everyday terror. The destructions of the Houses of Parliament (in the beginning of the book), of Jordan Tower and PO Tower or the assault of « V » on the NTV television channel as answers to the dictatorship, demonstrate visually that it can happen everywhere no matter the accuracy of their « five minutes into the future ».

« Hormone research is almost useless when rats or rabbits are used. » (Delia)

Now that in some ways our present is at risk to look more and more like the future described in the great dystopian movies produced by MGM during the seventies, like Soylent Green or Logan's run, the fears in V for Vendetta are universal and timeless both on a big scale - tyranny, perversion of science, terrorism,... - and on a smaller scale - loneliness, lack of love, hostility, etc... The originality of the creation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd lies there: their interest is focused at the same time on the fall of dominos and on each of the dominos falling.


« Become transfixed... Become transfigured... Forever. » (V)

V for Vendetta, the graphic novel, is rich of these destinies of characters, penned with great humanity and clearness (by definition not excluding cruelty), and an indisputable litterary virtuosity by Alan Moore. Lost characters with their wounded souls in search of an exit in a London which doesn't belong to them anymore: Love for the Leader, Power for Mrs Heyer, Hate for Almond (« Apparently he had forgotten to load it » - his death has a bitter taste of irony), Identity for his wife, explanations for Finch, Vendetta for « V », Father figure for Evey (« ... or perhaps I'm your father? »), etc...

« I shouldn't have taken the LSD. » (Eric Finch)

David Lloyd and Alan Moore have largely contributed to help the recognition of comics as a form of Art. V for Vendetta is essential and accessible to a wide audience, should this audience not agree with the messages of Alan Moore (through themes like anarchy, drugs, religion...) The perfect demonstration of that accessibility is that the power of the graphic novel remains intact, even beyond some of the messages of its scribe, in a movie adaptation updated to the context and the anguishes of the 21st century. « Ideas are bullet proof » says « V ».

V for Vendetta - the movie and V for Vendetta - the graphic novel are complementary. The movie is a wonderful tribute to the comics even with its differences. Perhaps Warner Brothers will consider someday the idea of a lavish miniseries for television that would stick to the book, miniseries being the ideal format to adapt a novel, graphic or not. But for the moment, watch the dvd and read the graphic novel.

Vertigo and Titan books give you the keys of your future. London doesn't belong to The Leader, London doesn't belong to Norsefire, London doesn't even belong to Evey Hammond or to « V ». London belongs to YOU.

« He tried to squeeze out some childhood memory that should tell him whether London had always been quite like this. » (George Orwell, 1984)

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