V for Vendetta
July 11, 2017 10:44 AM - by Alan Moore - Subscribe

V FOR VENDETTA takes place in a totalitarian England following a devastating war that changed the face of the planet. In a world without political freedom, personal freedom and precious little faith in anything comes a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask who fights political oppressors through terrorism and seemingly absurd acts.
posted by latkes (9 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I can't believe it took me till age 42 and year 2017 to get around to reading this, but I'm sure glad I did get around to it.

I finally get what the hoopla is about: this is a unique work that is lingering in my brain the way some of the most affecting and provocative films and novels I've read have done.

Some of the stuff I'm mulling:
- The scene where V kidnaps Evie and pretends he is part of the state torture apparatus. I'm just percolating how to process this part of the story and what it means. In the context of knowing he wrote The Killing Joke (which I'm not interested in reading) does make me think Moore has some kind of weird thing around portraying women being tortured. But my daughter who just read it too was saying she though this was a key moment for the book because it takes away from the reader any inclination to hero-ise V.
- The meaning of the destructive anarchist urge and what relationship, if any, that has with building a better society
- The beautiful, stylized and stylish imagery of the world of V
- So amazing that Moore addressed state sponsored homophobia in 1981!

I'd love to hear more about the creation of this book and critical response to it.... I'm a first timer to the world of this comic.
posted by latkes at 10:51 AM on July 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

(Also sad that I can't remember how old I am anymore!)
posted by latkes at 11:06 AM on July 11, 2017

Evie's torture/interrogation scene is very difficult to get through, but it's paid off with the letter from Valerie, which IMO is the heart of the book: not only does it tie together so much of the rest of the story (V's own concentration camp experience and use as a subject of medical experiments, the use of roses in both the literal and figurative sense throughout the book), but it's a beautiful meditation in and of itself. The idea of having that one inch within which one can still be free is a retort to Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-four saying that Room 101 would take it away, just as this book overall is a reply and commentary of sorts to Orwell's.

Not sure what's in the current edition, but the first collection of the complete series (which has the same cover as above) has two forewords/afterwords by Lloyd and Moore, both very good and very different from each other. Moore's is pretty straightforward, saying that since he'd begun the series (bit of history: per Wikipedia, the series began as a serial in the British comic Warrior from 1982 to 1985, then finished publication at DC/Vertigo starting in 1988), he'd changed his mind about two things: one, that even a limited global thermonuclear war was survivable, and two, that it would take something like that to drive Britain into fascism. (He cites various Thatcherite policies, including the then-recently-enacted Section 28, which V4V seemed to predict; Moore would subsequently contribute to the comic AARGH, which he also published via his short-lived self-publishing venture Mad Love. Moore would also rework his story for the publication, "The Mirror of Love" (which is likewise quite lovely) into a stand-alone publication.) David Lloyd's contribution is in the form of an anecdote about his being at a pub where a succession of sitcoms featuring "cheeky, cheery" working-class people appear on the TV; when the news comes on, the bartender switches it off, saying that no one wanted to watch that. Lloyd states that there are a shortage of cheeky, cheery people in V for Vendetta, and that it's for people who don't switch off the evening news.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:42 AM on July 11, 2017 [6 favorites]

I personally found this book because it was shelved next to Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion pulp novels in my hometown library. I'd read all of those after school, was thirsting for more of the same, and stumbled upon this instead.

One of the cruelest exchanges I've ever read is from this book and went like this. Creedy, the new head of the secret police, tells one of his stool pigeons, Robert, that the era of special treatment for his elderly mother is over, and that she will be taken to an old age home. Robert wails, "Homes? They're gas chambers!" Creedy looks Robert in the eye and said "Not gas. If you want the truth Robert, there's just three good South Ken boys with iron bars." The idea that grown men would willingly beat seniors to death for a living, knowing that it's probably the best they have to look forward to themselves, may be the single biggest force that knocked twelve-year-old me off the path of movement conservatism, never to return.

My mother found the book in my stuff one day, leafed through it, and was disturbed by the story and illustrations. She confronted me about it, we talked it through, and eventually I must have said the right thing about grappling with the book's ideas and presentation, because she didn't make me return it immediately. I read it over the next ten years enough to be able to quote many, many lines verbatim.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:37 PM on July 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

The scene where V kidnaps Evie and pretends he is part of the state torture apparatus. I'm just percolating how to process this part of the story and what it means.

Eh, it's Moore's usual attitude toward women. Remember, this is the guy who depicted child rape for yuks. Aside from the abuse elements, it fits well into Moore's oeuvre where women have no agency outside of men, whether sexually satisfying them, or giving them emotional support/direction.

Typical 60s counterculture, in other words.
posted by happyroach at 1:55 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Halloween Jack, thanks for the background! I am trying to order The Mirror of Love but having some snags with our interlibrary loan system. It looks great. I just went down a google rabbit hole trying to understand the context for why Alan Moore, a presumably straight dude, was actively discussing and working against homophobia in the 80s, and I don't have a good answer except it does sound like he was intimately connected with queer people in his personal life and in a queer relationship of sorts. Anyway, it's impressive.

Re: scripting of female stories, I do see a problem, both with the presentation of torture of women and with somewhat less complex/more stereotyped female characterizations, but I guess I'm also seeing strengths of his being interested in women's experience and clearly opposing structural sexism and misogyny. I'm going to read some of his other stuff but my impression so far is Moore as a Land of Contrasts, not just as a dude who wants to see women tortured. But... I don't know yet.
posted by latkes at 8:05 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Moore himself has occasionally expressed regret about some of the work that he's done in the past; Watchmen helped to spur the grimdark fad (although not without a lot of help, particularly from Frank Miller, and not without precedent), and he's also had second thoughts about The Killing Joke. Interestingly, a lot of the anti-Moore sentiment in fandom in the last decade or so seems to have been coincidental with Moore criticizing his former publisher DC for some of the things that they'd done with his work for them, particularly Watchmen, and the company recently released an animated adaptation of The Killing Joke, which was criticized for treating Barbara Gordon even worse than the original. (When screenwriter Brian Azzarello--who also worked on the Before Watchmen comic prequel that Moore and others criticized--was questioned at Comic-Con about the changes, his response was, “Wanna say that again? Pussy?”)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:55 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's extremely hot-take to dismiss Moore as sexist or as someone "who depicted child rape for yuks." This is a terrible, sub-Armond White level of criticism, and an opinion that anyone should be embarrassed to hold. Yet it is true that sex assault as a plot device is a Moore tic as disconcerting and off-putting as it is, ultimately, dull to the admirer of Moore who can't believe s/he is seeing him trot this trope out yet again.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:45 AM on July 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

My biggest problem with V is that it falls into the trap of thinking that a superman can help us with fascism, when all it can ever do is change the regime. I thought the movie was pretty successful in avoiding this, and I'd be interested in knowing if others felt that way (realizing that this is not a movie thread).
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:51 AM on October 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

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