‘People shouldn’t be afraid of their government…’
More than three decades after they collaborated on it, Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s graphic novel, V for Vendetta, seems as relevant as ever. Its masked vigilante V – whose look was based on Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot – has served as an inspiration beyond the realms of pop culture. When the Occupy movement that swept parts of the world, when the hackers’ collective Anonymous wanted a symbol, they turned to the iconic smiling mask that Lloyd and Moore’s anarchist character wore.
The manner in which V (and what he stood for) has endured, brings to mind another popular quote from Vendetta: ‘Ideas are bullet-proof’. Bullet-proof they may be, but Lloyd himself admits that he never expected the character he ideated to become a symbol for resistance that so many people would adopt. “You can’t imagine something like that. And it’s an accident, because it (the mask) was meant as merchandising in a movie!” Llyod said, speaking to Firstpost from the sidelines of the Mumbai Comic Con 2017; the veteran comic book artist was a special guest at the just-concluded event.
Lloyd said there’s a (possibly) apocryphal story about how V’s mask was co-opted by the Occupy protestors. “Apparently somebody found a discarded mask in a dumpster before a protest, and he/she – wanting to conceal their face – put it on. This person was the first to use it, and from there it just took off… They appreciated what it represented too, which is good because when we (Alan and I) did V, we wanted to tell an important story. For the mask itself to become a global symbol of protest – we didn’t expect that, though I’m glad to see it.”
He helped create one of the greatest anarchic heroes in pop culture, but Lloyd himself doesn’t believe in anarchy. People need leaders who’ll tell them what to do he explained. “Alan did believe that anarchy was a way of running society when we were doing V for Vendetta. I never believed that, because I think people need leaders – basically we’re sheep!” Lloyd said, laughing. “If we had nobody telling us what to do – whether it be benign or malign… everybody automatically wants somebody to lead them. So I think you need a different kind of human being for anarchy to work on a large scale. It’s been tried by different communities, but as a general way of running society, I don’t believe it’s possible. I have a liberal attitude towards things, but I’m not an anarchist.”
Llyod’s worked on a several noted characters and titles apart from V – Nightraven, Dr Who, the Wasteland series, Hellblazer, and most recently, Kickback. Yet Vendetta is what he’s best known for. Does he ever feel like it cast a long shadow over the rest of his work?
“Well, no,” Lloyd said. “Sean Connery will always be James Bond, right? I think it’s very good to have done something like that, something successful. V for Vendetta means something, it’s an important book. Having something like that is great for your credentials too; it’s like your calling card. If people know you’ve done V for Vendetta, they know you do quality work, they know you immediately. And it’s also useful if you want to sell something new. I’m publishing Aces Weekly now, and being ‘the guy who did V for Vendetta’, it’s like a brand. So it’s been really good for all that.”
As an artist, Lloyd has worked with some of the best writers. Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Steve Moore are just some of the names that appear on Lloyd’s list of collaborators. And while he speaks well of them all, it’s Jamie Delano who comes in for special praise.
“Jamie Delano is the only one of the writers with whom I worked on a specific system of scripting — which is the Marvel method,” Lloyd said. “There were two kinds of scripts you could work with: one is the full script, where every panel is described, either extensively or to a smaller degree; or you can have the Marvel method. It was developed in the early days of Marvel, when there were lots of artists who needed scripts and Stan Lee was writing them all. He couldn’t spend time doing a whole suite, so he would give an artist a breakdown of a story and they would lay it out, and he would come back with the dialogue and script later… I wanted to try that out. Every time I work with Jamie, it’s like that. He gives me a breakdown of the action page by page, I lay it out and then he gets back to me… In fact, that is the best method to produce continuity in cinema. If you have a good eye, you can tell the story much more fluidly if you’re totally in control of the action. When I work with Jamie, it’s in the Marvel method. I’ve been lucky though, I’ve never worked with bad writers.”
Having been part of the comic books industry since the 1970s, Lloyd has seen it go through quite a few ups and downs. Looking back on it, he seems to have mixed feelings about what’s been achieved in these decades. He’s glad, on the one hand, that there are more independent books now, that more strips are published in book form (originally, not just collections. On the other, he’s disappointed the industry hasn’t moved on.
“Marvel and DC are still doing the same thing, selling mainly superheroes constantly. I think they should have expanded more, explored other subjects and got a wider audience,” Lloyd rued. “The comic book world is artificially small and it shouldn’t be. A comic is a great way of telling a story, it’s as valuable as literature, and yet it hasn’t reached the people it should have because those who have the power to expand don’t want to. They only want to keep producing the same stuff. Of course there are indie comics that are doing good stuff, but the two main players should have really gone out, doing more comics for more people, with different writers and artists, for different age groups, different tastes, different subjects. But they haven’t. That’s what I think should change.”