Monday, 22 July 2013

On 22.7.13 by KieronMoore in , , , ,    No comments

One of my aims for this summer, as part of Camp NaNoWriMo, was to write a graphic novel. How’s it going? Well, I, uh, started it. You may say that we’re more than three weeks into July and so I should have written more than the first chapter and a half, but I’d respond to your criticism with… yeah, you’re right. I’ve been hindered by other projects, by this painful heatwave (I’m a Northerner, I really can’t be productive when it’s hot), and by general procrastination.

Nevertheless, I have got a detailed story planned for Reich, which will one day be my magnum opus. I won’t spoil too much, but it includes Nazis, the Colosseum, space battleships, and a mysterious character who, importantly, doesn’t look like Alan Rickman. That all makes sense in context. One of the main themes in Reich, however, is the surveillance society, and it is this which prompted me to read V for Vendetta, one of the classics of the comic book form, for inspiration.

I’ve only seen the film adaptation before, but am a fan of Alan Moore’s other works, and V for Vendetta didn’t disappoint. Set in a near-future Britain in which a ruthless fascist government have taken control after a nuclear war, it follows a mysterious anarchist ‘terrorist’ named V, and Evey Hammond, the girl drawn into his scheme. It’s a complex and intelligent commentary on the fascist state, drawing on 1980s fears of what Thatcherism could have become.

Describing the England of 1988, Alan Moore says in the introduction: “My youngest daughter is seven and the tabloid press are circulating the idea of concentration camps for persons with AIDS. The new riot police wear black visors, as do their horses, and their vans have rotating video cameras mounted on top. The government has expressed a desire to eradicate homosexuality, even as an abstract concept, and one can only speculate as to which minority will be the next legislated against.”

The England of V for Vendetta is a dark and gripping extrapolation of this, one which draws comparisons to Nazi Germany. The book really does show off masterful world-building, not only through the inter-connected stories of the impoverished and paranoid, but also through its moody colour palette and its rich background details. “Strength Through Unity” posters line the walls, while a cabaret singer performs a propagandic ode to jackbooted soldiers. All of this comes together to create a powerful sense of oppression, allowing the reader to really be drawn into V’s Guy Fawkes-inspired quest for revenge, despite his questionable methods.

Alan Moore is known for taking against adaptations of his work, and I have to say I agree with his criticisms that the film is, compared to the book, muddled in its political themes. While the book explores what could have happened to Thatcher's Britain, the film is a commentary on Bush-era American politics, yet still set in England – V‘s anarchism is watered down in favour of a liberalist/neo-conservative conflict. While I can understand the reasoning for updating the politics, the film lacks the strength of political mind that the book holds.

What also struck me is the fact that the book is a lot less clear-cut than the film, which, due to short running time, isn’t able to develop many of the government characters beyond mere villains. The antagonists of the book are much more complex figures, all with their own motivations, desires, and prejudices, each affected by the plot in various ways, and each have their own fascinating stories.


The only element where the film wins out is that it has a more dramatically powerful ending. I was surprised that the scene in which thousands of people in V masks march on the exploding Houses of Parliament isn’t actually in the book. I quite like this ending – it’s a neat conclusion to V’s quest to incite people to, like him, rise up against the state, bolstering the statement that V is not a man but an idea. The book’s ending, in which V’s vigil takes him to Downing Street and only Evey becomes the new V, is less climactic. The target of Downing Street, which hasn’t been mentioned yet in the story, seems arbitrary. I’m not even sure what was meant to be there. If this is where the leader lives, then it doesn’t matter, because he and his possible successors have already been killed. If this is where Fate is, then that doesn’t matter either, because of the reveal that it was on V’s side. So it’s all a bit pointless.

Ah, well. V for Vendetta, while it doesn’t reach the pinnacle of Watchmen, is an important, powerfully charged work that is a testament to what the long form comic book can achieve.

I should probably get back to writing mine now.


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