This edition of Cult Fiction was going to be on Chris Ware, arguably one of the finest contemporary graphic novelists around and a personal favourite.
It won’t be because one of my colleagues walked into my room last week and asked me, “So, who’s V?” He hadn’t read Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, it turns out, but he had seen the movie based on it (made by the brothers Wachowski, it features Hugo Weaving as V and Natalie Portman as Evey) and was curious to know the identity of V.
For those who haven’t read the book, nor seen the movie, V for Vendetta is Moore’s retelling of the Guy Fawkes story. Only, it is set in a post-WWIII Britain that has shades of Orwell’s 1984 to it (it is ruled by a totalitarian government, Norsefire): News is manufactured, everyone and everything is under surveillance, and any deviation from the norm decided by an absolute government is dealt with firmly. V is the protagonist of the story, a masked figure who wreaks his own brand of violence in an attempt to bestir the populace out of its fear-induced inertia and get even with those who did horrible things to him in a government-run concentration camp. The story is about V as much as it is about Evey, a working class girl who, in the course of the book, transforms almost magically from victim to unwilling accomplice to V2 (version 2 of V, if you will).
My colleague wanted to know who V was. Is it Valerie, an actress imprisoned and tortured by the government because she is gay? Or is it Evey’s father, a character who makes a fleeting appearance in the book?
Moore himself whets this appetite in the book, when he says he would have spent some time explaining who V was and his relationship to Evey if he had only had more space.
Moore might have been speaking the truth, or he may have been trying to extend a recurring theme in most superhero comics into real life. Several books featuring Spiderman, Superman and Batman (and other masked men and women) feature characters (almost always obnoxious), who are focused on finding out who is behind the mask or costume. This doesn’t work in the case of Superman because of a unique twist—Superman wears a costume to become Clark Kent. These attempts usually end badly for the identity seekers. This writer is convinced that Moore’s note at the end of the book was meant to evoke just this who’s-behind-the-mask kind of behaviour from readers.
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