V for Vendetta


By Barry Kavanagh, 17 October 2000

    « Comics at the present time | V for Vendetta, fascism and pop »

    To talk about some of the ones you’ve written… Can you remember
    as far back as V for Vendetta?

    Oh sure, yeah, I was reading it the other day, in fact. My daughter’s
    doing it at university, part of a degree course.

    Really? Is it a text on the course?

    Oh yeah, that, Watchmen , a couple of other things. I mean,
    that’s a “graphic novel” unit in her English course but my stuff turns
    up on a lot of different courses, you know, “postmodern literature”.
    Not that there’s anything to be that proud of, I mean they do do Spice
    Girls courses, so they do teach an awful lot of shit at university, so
    it’s probably nothing that I should be congratulating myself on that
    much but yeah, V for Vendetta , yeah sure I remember it.

    There’s an article at the back [of the book] called “Behind the
    Painted Smile” and you wrote “There were resonances being struck that
    seemed to point to larger issues than the ones which we’d both come to
    accept as par for the course where comics were concerned.” That would
    be you and David Lloyd. Was that the first time you were writing in a
    multi-layered style?

    It started to emerge out of the work, I think. With Marvelman
    there were some bits of cleverness creeping in there but with V for
    I think that was where I started to realize that you
    could get some incredible effects by putting words and pictures
    together or leaving the words out for a while. I started to realize
    what you could do with comic storytelling and the kind of – yeah, the
    layering, the levels of meaning that you could attach to the story. I
    think that certainly V for Vendetta was one of the first real
    major breakthroughs I made in terms of my own personal style.

    There’s a great kind of running theme in it about ideas being more
    powerful than the physical. The character Evey says about – or she
    thinks about – V, “Whoever you are isn’t as big as the idea of
    you,” and shortly afterwards she thinks “Your foes assumed you sought
    revenge upon their flesh alone, but you did not stop there… you
    gored their ideology as well.” So, it was like the real battle was
    between ideas, almost as if all the physical violence was

    When we started to do V, the entirety of the original idea was
    that we would have a dark, romantic, noirish adventurer and then we
    thought we’d set him in the future and then the details slowly came
    together and yeah, somewhere out of this we realized we were doing
    something about the contrast between anarchy and fascism, that there
    were lots of moral questions being asked and that yes, it was very
    much centred upon the world of ideas as being in some ways more
    important than the material world, which is I think a notion which has
    probably born fruit recently in other areas of my work, where it’s
    still something that I’m very much involved with, that notion, that
    ideas are more important, if anything, than the material.

    Did that notion occur to you while writing V or was it there

    – It probably did. I mean, it’s always difficult to remember where you
    actually came up with a thought, I mean, most of it, the thoughts only
    emerge in the writing. There’s something weird about writing. It’s not
    like you have the idea for what to write in your head necessarily, or
    you might just have the vaguest outline but none of the detail – but
    when you’re actually writing you find that words kind of suggest
    themselves and that thoughts and ideas – you tend to go into some sort
    of trance. I mean, when I’m actually writing something , especially if
    it’s something that is intricate, dense, heavy, I’m very much in a
    different state of consciousness. You notice it. It’s always difficult
    to notice when you’ve shifted consciousness but it’s like the mood,
    the atmosphere that surrounds you when you’re right down there in the
    words, in the prose, it’s a kind of trance state and I know it for a
    fact that when I used to do drawing as well, you’d get a similar kind
    of trance state, say, when you were inking, when your hand’s just got
    to follow a pencil line but your mind perhaps hasn’t got so much to do
    you drift into this kind of twilight state. And that’s where a lot of
    the ideas come from. They seem to emerge from the act of writing

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