V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta

by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is the graphic novel V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

I recently overcame my snobbishness against reading comic books — or as they are now called graphic novels — partly because the movie is about to come out. It’s one where Natalie Portman has a shaved head, if you recall. I was in for a few surprises. In V for Vendetta  there are no superheros — or any heros at all. And there isn’t exactly a happy ending. It’s post-nuclear war England, where the remaining citizens turn gratefully to fascism, with its promise of protection from the terrifying outside world. That’s where the mysterious masked V comes in. He is a domestic terrorist, quite clearly. He blows up buildings in the name of freedom. Can his actions be justified, ever? I don’t know how the movie will tackle this topic, but I found the graphic novel — first published in 1988 — to be brilliant, thought provoking, and timely.  The book is V for Vendetta by Moore and Lloyd. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

This graphic novel was first published in 1988, and is now about to be released as a film. Interesting timing, I think. The book — a very serious, very grown up comic book, although that description is misleading — is set in a post-nuclear war England, run by a fascist government that brings Big Brother to mind. The government uses fear to keep its grip on power. V — the mysterious masked figure of the title — is for Vendetta, and the question we are forced to face is when terrorism fights tyranny, is it still terrorism? Or is it freedom fighting? And when you feel safe, is it worth it to even try? These are tough questions, and V for Vendetta, while not classically prettily illustrated, is compelling and absolutely worth reading.  V for Vendetta by Moore and Lloyd. I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation Minute. The book is a graphic novel — a grown up comic book — V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

If you think comic books are all superheros in tights, you need to think again. I chose this book because the movie is about to come out, and it is already stirring a lot of talk. One page in and I knew why. The V of the title is a mysterious masked freedom fighter, working to bring down an evil, fascist state. Or he’s a terrorist who blows up buildings. Or he’s a madman looking for revenge. The government can’t stop him, can’t find him, and struggles to keep it’s grip on power even as V destroys it’s institutions one at a time. Safety is a cage, he tells us in the book’s climactic scene, and to be free we have to be willing to sacrifice everything except that last inch of integrity. The important thing about V for Vendetta is not whether he succeeds in bringing down the government, but the questions he forces us to ask. V for Vendetta by Moore and Lloyd. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is a Fiction Nation minute. The book is V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

You may have seen the trailer for the movie recently — Natalie Portman has a shaved head — and a masked man — that’s V. It’s set in post-nuclear war England, where what remains of the country is ruled by a corrupt Fascist government who keeps the people feeling calm and safe through a steady stream of media lies. V for Vendetta is about rising up against evil, sacrificing everything, and learning to think for yourself. Most of us like the idea of freedom, but probably wouldn’t blow up a building for it. After all, that’s terrorism. V asks us, when does it become morally justifiable to rise up?  Are you willing to trade your freedom for safety? These are uncomfortable questions, but I don’t know if there are any that are more important. V for Vendetta by Moore and Lloyd. I’m Kim Alexander on Fiction Nation on Book Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.

For a long time I was allergic to comic books. It wasn’t a genetic thing — I read Archie and Richie Rich along with all the rest of the 3rd graders. I developed my allergy as an adult. It was given to me by my ex husband, who had a world class comic book collection. That, along with a broken bicycle and two pairs of sneakers were his sole possessions on this earth. It’s funny what you think is romantic when you are young. And stupid. Anyway, the collection had its own room in our house. And while I am sure they were brilliant and incisive works of art, I was only allowed to look at the covers — they were wrapped in plastic, you know. I don’t know how much the collection was worth, but I can tell you how much it weighed, because I got to schlep it from house to house every time he — my ex — had a disagreement with an ever-increasing and increasingly hostile series of landlords. Well, they started as landlords but by the time we snuck out under the cover of darkness, dragging the collection, they had graduated to arch mortal enemy. And finally, after our 6th move, so had he. I went on to discover that I had also developed allergies to basketball, pinball games, and poverty. Anyway, this was many years ago, and I’m not bitter, no siree! But I would have gladly strangled any member of the X-Men with my bare teeth.

I also have a proud tradition of discovering things last, and it took a movie trailer for me to take a deep breath and read the graphic novel V for Vendetta. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll remember Natalie Portman’s shaved head and the guy in the white, smiling mask.

V for Vendetta was originally published in 1988, and the road to the screen has been a long one. I had read about the release date being pushed back because of the ‘difficult’ subject matter, and I thought I’d read the series and find out what the fuss was all about. After all, it’s just a comic book.

When it arrived, I spent a few skeptical moments looking it over, and three days absolutely captivated. Turns out I was wrong about the comic book thing. It’s not ‘just’ a comic book, certainly not the way I remember them. There are no superheros, no one in tights, no one flies or has magic powers. What it is, is a serious and thought provoking work of fiction which has artwork. I guess why the trend towards calling them graphic novels has sprung up.

V for Vendetta was written by Alan Moore and David Lloyd in the late 80’s — in Thatcher’s England — but so many things about it say Now, it’s about right now. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic England — nuclear war has erased most of the world — and the remaining people have gladly turned themselves over to the fascist government which controls their lives. I was strongly reminded of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, another dystopian meditation on ‘what’s the worst that could happen’? In that book, like this one, the government has seduced a terrified and demoralized nation by switching freedoms. The freedom ‘to’ has been replaced by the freedom ‘from’. You may not be free to speak your mind, but you will be free from the big bad ‘other’ — in the case of V for Vendetta, it’s terrorists, the boogie-man of the 21st century. There are cameras on every corner and every conversation is assumed to be monitored. Of course, that could never happen here.

It’s in this dark world that we meet Evy, a poor young woman who makes one mistake and winds up under the wing, as it were, of the mysterious V. We’re never sure who V is — Evy thinks he might be her long-vanished father — but he is without question a terrorist. He blows up buildings, he’s got an agenda, he’s a terrorist. But what if he’s a freedom fighter? What if violence is justified? What if the government is evil and corrupt? V describes himself as an agent of anarchy, and Evy must undergo a brutal test in the interrogation rooms and prisons of the government before she understands what he’s talking about — that the illusion of safety and happiness is a prison, and you have to be willing to sacrifice everything down to your last inch of integrity to open the bars and be free. Freedom may be terrifying and uncharted — that’s the anarchy part — but it’s the difference between living in fear, and living.

I haven’t talked about the actual artwork in V for Vendetta: it’s very dark and grim.  It’s not pretty, but neither is the post-nuclear world Evy and V inhabit.  It all serves to create an atmosphere of claustrophobia and dread. Snatches of beauty may be found in V’s underground lair, papered with classic movie posters, all either censored by the government or lost in the war and gone.

I am cautiously optimistic about the movie version of  V for Vendetta (it opens in mid-March) and wonder what will be said about a protagonist — can’t really call him a hero — who says in the tagline from the film that “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

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