It is perhaps simplistic to declare that "V for Vendetta" is Alan Moore's version of George Orwell's "1984." Orwell came up with his "prophetic" title by reversing the last two digits of the year in which he wrote his book. Moore began his story in 1982, picturing a future that was around the corner and setting his tale in then late 1990s in a Britain that had become a fascist state. Moore worked from the assumption that in 1983 the Conservatives would lose the elections and that the Labour Party would remove American missiles from the British Isles, which meant that England would no longer be a target during a nuclear war. In the post-holocaust Britain of the 1990s, Moore posited a Fascist takeover. The title character of V is a one time victim of a concentration camp medical experiment who is now an enigmatic hero wearing a grinning Guy Fawkes mask; Fawkes was one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot that was an attempt to assassinate King James I of England. In the opening chapter V sets his sights on The Voice of Fate, the official voice of the government's propagandistic lies. From that small but significant initial victory, the battle continues.
There is something decidedly "English" about "V for Vendetta," and not simply because of the setting. Moore can talk about Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" and "Fahrenheit 451" being among the elements he drew upon to create his own brave new world, but it is clear that he owes more to Orwell and Huxley, to Robin Hood and "The Prisoner," than American manifestations of the same impulse to freedom. V is not a superhero, even if the medical experiments have somehow made him more than human. Sometimes we forget that a lot of our heritage, both culturally as well as politically, comes from England, and on one level this work reminds us of our English roots.
It is ironic that Moore tells his story as a graphic novel because traditionally your comic book superhero is essentially a fascist vigilante. However, Moore succeeds in finding the perfect context to turn the traditional approach on its head. Most people have no conception of what is meant by the term "Fascism." They equate the idea with Hitler, although it was coined by Mussolini, and Hitler means Nazis, Anti-Semitism and Concentration Camps. Of course, Moore knows better. Fascism is based on the "struggle" for "order" wherein the ends justify all sorts of means. This dynamic clearly runs counter to the democratic ideals of "liberty" and "property." Historically, then, we are confronted with the monumental irony that although the Fascists lost World War II, the Cold War was on one level the triumph of Fascism, a period where we allowed all sorts of travesties, from the McCarthy witch hunts to Nixon's executive orders in the name of "national security." Moore brings the idea of fascism home. If you cannot recognize it in England's green and pleasant fields then you are never going to recognize it when it walks down Main Street in your hometown, U.S.A. Don't you think you should?
David Lloyd is the artist for the "V for Vendetta" series, although Tony Weare did the art for "Vincent" and some additional art on "Valerie" and "The Vacation." Notice the pattern? All of the chapter headings in each issue begin or at least include the letter "V." Lloyd's peculiar style is particularly well suited to this particular storyline. It is odd and a bit off, just like the world it is depicting. Lloyd, Siobhan Dodds and Steve Whitaker did the coloring, and I give them special mention because there is a carefully constructed style that also fits the mood and tenor of the tale.