An Annotation of Literary, Historic, and Artistic References
in Alan Moore's Graphic Novel, V For Vendetta.
Madelyn Boudreaux,
April 27, 1994

Last Revised: August 13, 2004
Table of Contents
  • Introduction <- You are here
  • Book 1
  • Book 2
  • Book 3
  • Sources and Credits
  • Quotes and fanmail
  • Part 1 of 5

    Copyright 1994-present, Madelyn Boudreaux.

    Distribute links but do not modify. Send corrections, changes, and suggestions to .

    This annotation was prepared for a graduate class in Literary Research, under the direction of Dr. James Means, at the Northwestern State University of Louisiana, in the spring of 1994, and revised in the summer of 1999.

    The Graphic Novel

    V For Vendetta, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, is a work generally described as a "graphic novel." The term is used to distinguish serious works within the genre from the stereotypes of "super-hero" comic books.

    The Question of Source

    In his 1983 essay "Behind the Painted Smile," V For Vendetta's author Alan Moore discusses the issue of ideas and genesis. His opening comments refer to the typical scene from any given science fiction convention, where hoards of (usually) young fans pack hotel convention rooms to hear their icons (the writers, actors, directors, and thinkers behind science fact and fiction) speak a few words: one eager kid, voice wavering (thinking, I've been waiting my *whole life* for this moment) asks "Where do you get your ideas from?". The reaction:

    We sneer. We lampoon and ridicule the sniveling little oaf before his peers.... We imply that even to have voiced such a question places him irretrievably in the same category as the common pencil-sharpener.... The reason why we do this is pretty straightforward. Firstly, in the dismal and confused sludge of opinion and half- truth that make up all artistic theory and criticism, it is the only question worth asking. Secondly, we don't know the answer and we're scared that somebody will find out. (p. 268).

    Rather than ever find myself in such an embarrassing position, I have undertaken to ferret out the origins of Moore's ideas. The task has been unbelievably arduous, not because any of the sources were too difficult to find, but because Moore covered so much ground. I found myself walking from one end of the library to the other, consulting science dictionaries, rose-naming serials, history books, films, and musical compact discs. I even explored some of my questions on the Internet, sending inquiries about such topics Son of Sam and Aliester Crowley, and receiving answers from around the world!

    Moore has apparently learned that his questioners want to know about his ideas; at the present Moore is working on a graphic series called "From Hell" which features as its main character Jack the Ripper. I was unable to locate any issues of this work, but I am told that it is entirely annotated by Moore (Coates, personal communication). This is certainly unusual for a "comic book" but Moore is clearly addressing the issues of origin more clearly, perhaps for himself as well as for the reader.

    In developing the originalV For Vendetta series, Moore and Lloyd "wanted to do something that would be uniquely British rather than emulate the vast amount of American material on the market," (Moore 270). Both were political pessimists, and decided that the in world they wanted to portray "the future would be pretty grim, bleak and totalitarian, thus giving us a convenient antagonist to play our hero off against," (Moore 270). They played with ideas, borrowing from books like _Farenheit_451_, until Moore, in frustration, compiled a list of the elements he wanted to draw together for the piece. He writes:

    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. Farenheit 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... (270)

    Also of great import in the development of V For Vendetta was, obviously, the political climate of England and the West during the early 1980s. Moore cites that the Conservative party would "obviously lose the 1983 elections." With the Labour Party in charge, he reasoned, certain changes would follow: they would remove all American missiles from British soil to prevent Britain "from becoming a major target in the event of a nuclear war." From these assumptions, Moore claims, it was a small step "from that point up until the Fascist takeover in the post-holocaust Britain of the 1990's." Of course, the Conservatives, not the Labour party, won the 1983 elections. In his 1988 introduction to the American DC comics edition of the book, Moore addressed his earlier comments in light of actual political history:

    There is a certain amount of political inexperience upon my part evident in [the] earlier episodes. Back in 1981 the term 'nuclear winter' had not passed into common currency, and although my guess about climatic upheaval came pretty close to the eventual truth of the situation, the fact remains that the story to hand suggests that a nuclear war, even a limited one, might be survivable. To the best of my current knowledge, this is not the case. Naivete can also be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to nudge England towards fascism.... The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the 1982 General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our roles as Cassandras.

    Citing Margaret Thatcher's confidence in unbroken Conservative leadership "well into the next century," police vans with rotating video cameras mounted on top, and the circulating ideas in England of concentration camps for AIDS victims and the eradication of homosexuality "even as an abstract concept," Moore in 1988 obviously felt that, despite the fact that the Labor party didn't win the election. his other predictions were coming true.

    A Note on the Style of This Annotation

    In annotating this work, I have adopted a system that will allow the reader to follow each entry easily. The first number indicates the page on which the original entry may be found. The second number indicates the row, numbered from top to bottom; most pages have three rows of art, while some have fewer. Finally, the last number indicates the column, numbered from left to right. The prologue to Book Two is "sideways" but the same system applies if the reader turns the book as he or she would normally do to read the words.

    In formatting the file for the web, I have replaced the text-only convention of underline-spaces to indicate books, movies, and any case of underlining in a quote, and asterisks to represent bold and italics in quotes, and now use HTML-provided underlines, italics, and boldface text. In a few places, I have edited the original content slightly to provide links in context of the text.

    Additionally, some web-based content and any addendum sent in by readers is noted in grey-backgrounded text. This content was not originally included and varies from the text-only versions of this document available elsewhere online.

    What's New

    In August of 2004, following placing a link on an Alan Moore community, I edited the formatting, added a CSS style sheet to handle addenda, and added some new links.

    In July 1999, I finally settled down to HTML the annotation for the web, a project I'd begun three times before.

    Changes include:

  • Attempts to link annotations to relevant pages on the web (ongoing).
  • More viewable interface, including graphics and a more readable, HTML-delivered look.
  • A credits page, to thank and acknowledge all the people who have commented and corrected my work (under construction).
  • Changes which have been submitted by the people in the credits listing (under construction).

    Introduction | Book 1 | Book 2 | Book 3 | Sources and Credits | Quotes and Fanmail