the painted smile

Detail of the cover of 'V for Vendetta' #1
The fifth of November it is, and indeed we do remember …

The next problem was the creation of the main character and the actual setting for the strip. Since Dave [Lloyd] and I both wanted to do something that would be uniquely British rather than emulate the vast amount of American material on the market, the setting was obviously going to be England. Furthermore, since both Dave and myself share a similar brand of political pessimism, the future would be pretty grim, bleak and totalitarian thus giving us a convenient antagonist to play our hero off against. Not unnaturally, I recalled my original idea for “The Doll” and submitted a rough outline to Dave. It was a pretty conventional thing really and little more than predictable comic book fare with a few nice touches. It had the sort of grim, hi-tech world that you could seek in books like Fahrenheit 451 or, more recently, in films like Blade Runner. It had robots, uniformed riot police of the kneepads and helmets variety and all that other good stuff. Reading it, I think we both felt that we were onto something, but that sadly this wasn’t it. [...]
    One night, in desperation, I made a long list of concepts that I wanted to reflect in V, moving from one to another with rapid free-association that would make any good psychiatrist reach for the emergency cord. The list was something as follows; Orwell. Huxley. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison‘s “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.” “Catman” and “Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World” by the same author. Vincent Price‘s Dr. Phibes and Theatre Of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Nightraven. Batman. Fahrenheit 451. The writings of the New Worlds school of science-fiction. Max Ernst‘s painting “Europe After The Rains,” Thomas Pynchon, The atmosphere of British Second World War films. The Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin
    There was some element in all of these that I could use, but try as I might I couldn’t come up with a coherent whole from such disjointed parts. I’m sure that it’s a feeling that all artists and writers are familiar with… the sensation of there being something incredibly good just beyond your fingertips. It’s frustrating and infuriating and you either fold up in despair or just carry on. Against my usual inclinations, I decided to just carry on. [...]
    The big breakthrough was all Dave’s, much as it sickens me to admit it. More remarkable still, it was all contained in one single letter that he’d dashed off the top of his head and which, like most of Dave’s handwriting, needed the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone to actually interpret. I transcribe the relevant portions beneath:
    “Re. The script; While I was writing this, I had this idea about the hero, which is a bit redundant now we’ve got [can't read the next bit] but nonetheless… I was thinking, why don’t we portray him as a resurrected Guy Fawkes, complete with one of those papier mache masks in a cape and conical hat? He’d look really bizarre and it would give Guy Fawkes the image he’s deserved all these years. We shouldn’t burn the chap every Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!”
    The moment I read these words, two things occurred to me. Firstly, Dave was obviously a lot less sane than I’d hitherto believed him to be, and secondly, this was the best idea I’d ever heard in my entire life. All of the various fragments in my head suddenly fell into place, united behind the single image of a Guy Fawkes mask. (Moore 1983—hyperlinks inserted by me)

MOORE, ALAN AND DAVID LLOYD. 1982-1989. V for vendetta [graphic novel]. Warrior 1-16, 18-26.
MOORE, ALAN. 1983. Behind the painted smile. Electronic Document. Available online.
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