V for Vendetta – The New Face of Guy Fawkes
By Hervé St-Louis
November 5, 2011 - 15:43

In 1982, writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd started a comic book series for Warrior, a British magazine, called V for Vendetta. The story was about a fascist United Kingdom closely modelled on Margaret Thatcher’s regime where a freedom fighter or a terrorist, depending on which side you are, trained a neophyte girl into the art of toppling a government.

In the story, V, the anarchist organized his most masterful attack on Guy Fawkes Night. Guy Fawkes, better known as Guido Fawkes was a Catholic opponent of the Protestant-led British regime in the early 17th Century. He and a cohort or allies had planned to blow up the British parliament in London on November 5 1605. An ally of Fawkes denounced him and he was arrested, tortured and the rest of the conspirators were arrested. In memory of the failed gun powder plot, Britons have begun to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. Parts of the celebrations include the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes. Kids in the United Kingdom often make the effigies from rags and other debris. Up to the 1982, there had never been an official depiction of masks and effigies based on Guy Fawkes.

That changed of course in 1982, when artist David Lloyd who had no references as to what a Guy Fawkes mask looked like, upon reading the instructions from Alan Moore’s script, fashioned the current Guy Fawkes mask used in the comic book series and subsequently, in the film adaptation of V for Vendetta released in 2006. The film which was an allegory for the latter years of President George Bush’s presidency pushed the idea, more than the comic book ever had, that governments and by extension, people in authority should fear the people they govern.

An improvised scene in the movie, not present in the comic book series (you’ll notice that I don’t use the word graphic novel – it’s a stupid term created by people ashamed of saying they read or make comic books – but that’s another debate), is the one where various characters, dead or alive show up with Guy Fawkes masks fashioned specifically around the one V wears to challenge the authorities ruling their country. All the masks are the same. And moreover, many of the people also wear a cape fashioned on V’s.

The #Occupy movement which has gained a lot of traction the last few months has served as a real life application of some of the maxims of V for Vendetta. The movement at the core is a denunciation of the bailouts governments have handed to the financial industry. It serves to show how common people have not been afforded the same protections and second chances that elements of the financial industry are alleged to have. It’s basically the people versus the big guys. It’s a clear echo to V for Vendetta’s scene with all the masked people storming out. However, as the news source NPR reports, the effigies of Guy Fawkes sold and used by demonstrators in the #Occupy movement are all fashioned around the likeness created by Lloyd and owned by comic book publisher DC Comics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Warner Brothers, a large media group similar to those denounced by the #Occupy movement. While some would criticize the fact that the new face of Guy Fawkes is owned by a major corporation, what it shows is that fictional works, once they reach a critical mass and appeal cross over and no longer are fully owned by their original creators and promoters. Sure, legally, the face of V is and will be owned by DC Comics for years to come. But in real life, the meaning of Guy Fawkes Day has received a new meaning that would certainly annoy to no end creator Alan Moore, but is reviving an old celebration for a newer generation. More important, is that Guy Fawkes, would probably enjoy this, if he could comment.

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