V FOR VENDETTAOriginal medium: Comic books
Published by: Quality Comics
First Appeared: 1982
Creators: Alan Moore (writer) and David Lloyd (artist)
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You wouldn't know it from the end product, but V for Vendetta started out as an attempt by writer Alan Moore (Watchmen) and artist David Lloyd (Night Raven) to collaborate on a noir-style 1930s period piece. During the early stages of development, they came to a conclusion that they could save research time while enlarging
their scope of possibilities, and still retain the dark, edgy style and the sense of slightly off-kilter familiarity, by moving it to a dystopian near-future setting.
What they came up with is darker and edgier than most '30s detective stories. V (he has no name — that's just what you can call him) operates in London of the late 1990s (the story was published in the '80s) as sort of an urban Zorro — a masked hero who opposes an oppressive power structure, with the aim of exacting personal vengeance while bringing freedom to a populace that can scarcely remember even the glimmerings of such a thing. Both to emphasize the Britishness of the series and to suggest V's motives and goals, instead of costuming him as a regular superhero, Moore and Lloyd dressed him like traditional renditions of Guy Fawkes. He made his public debut on Guy Fawkes Day (November 5), 1997, by accomplishing Fawkes's goal of blowing up the houses of Parliament.
The story began in Warrior #1 (March, 1982), published by Quality Comics (a British start-up publisher, not the American one that did Plastic Man and Blackhawk). That issue also contained the first appearance of the revived Marvelman (later Miracleman) and the debut of Laser Eraser & Pressbutton. It was published in black and white, allowing Lloyd to use a chiaroscuro style, telling the story largely in sharply contrasting light and shadow. (Later, Lloyd would show he could do the opposite, rendering several issues of Hellblazer as full-color paintings.)
V for Vendetta was also a story of the personal odyssey of Evey, the 16-year-old girl he rescued from a fate worse than (and including) death in the first episode. She began as a typical product of the totalitarian regime that had taken over Britain when she was very young — bored, miserable, desperate, ignorant of her country's rich past, devoid of cultural values or even context, and with nothing but a bleak, dismal existence to look forward to. By the end, she was able to act independently, guided by principles (not precisely congruent with V's) that she'd developed by expanding her mind through education and experience.
But the story was far from finished when, with its 26th issue (February, 1985), Warrior folded. It remained unfinished for more than three years, until DC Comics (Superman, Batman etc.) picked it up as a ten-issue limited series (reprinting the Warrior material and allowing room for the story to play out to its end), published monthly beginning with a cover date of September, 1988. DC hadn't yet launched its Vertigo imprint, which specializes in comic books for adults (such as Sandman and Swamp Thing), but was moving in that direction with stories like this. DC wouldn't go so far as to publish it in black and white, as originally intended, but its colors were muted compared to the company's average fare. DC collected the ten issues into a trade paperback in 1990, and it's remained in print ever since.
The movie version, released March 17, 2006 by Warner Bros. (Catwoman, Steel), starred Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in Matrix) as the title character and Natalie Portman (Taffy Dale in Mars Attacks) as Evey. Like From Hell, also based on a graphic novel written by Moore, it's the sort of comic book movie that most people don't immediately realize is from comic books. If moviegoers have an impression V for Vendetta is adapted from a modern literary classic in the tradition of 1984 and Brave New World, that's because it is.
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