On November 5th in the year 1605, in the United Kingdom, a group of thirteen English Catholics attempted to assassinate King James I by blowing up the House of Lords during the annual State Opening of Parliament. Guy Fawkes, one of the thirteen would-be bombers, was in charge of the explosives. He loaded the building's cellar with barrels of gunpowder, firewood and coal and was poised to blow it all to hell when, thanks to an anonymous tip, Fawkes was discovered and he and his co-conspirators were arrested, tortured, hanged and drawn-and-quartered.
British citizens have since annually celebrated the foiling of "The Gunpowder Plot" and the King's survival, on November 5th, with fireworks, bonfires and the torching of effigies of Guy Fawkes on what is now called "Guy Fawkes Night."
Roughly 380 years later, the legendary Alan Moore, he of Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and From Hell fame--among like a zillion other fantastic works--wrote the dystopian, post-apocalyptic series, V For Vendetta, with art by David Llyod and additional work from, Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds. V features...well a revolutionary fella named V who dons a mask showing the likeness of Guy Fawkes, and devotes his life to the destruction of power, greed and tyranny.
The story, in the smallest, vaguest of all nutshells, goes like this: V rescues a young woman named Evey from a vicious attack at the hands (fingers? sorry) of a group of nasty cops, called Fingermen. After they take in a tiny terrorist bombing, thanks to V, he whisks her her back to his super-secret, underground lair and attempts to woo her toward the dark(light?) side.
Evey's admittedly drawn-in but balks at V's cause and the man in the mask ditches her, only to snatch her back up in a convoluted, pseudo-kidnapping plot involving torture both mental and psychical. Evey eventually comes to terms with V's V-ness and, following his death at the hands of the detective who's been investigating him, dons his mask and cloak and blows Downing Street to kingdom come in an act of true revolutionary revolution.
And that's it, but that's SO not it. Do yourselves a favor and read this book, if you haven't already! If you're familiar at all with his work, you know that it's damn-near impossible to get the idiosyncrasies and denseness of Alan Moore's storytelling into a succinct blog post. Just know that this thing is good and it's important and you'll like it. I promise.
And its importance and influence are exactly why this post exists on this day, the 5th of November in the year 2010, 405 years following the event that inspired the work. Even you haven't read the story, V's white, creepily-grinning, mustachioed mug is fully solidified in popular culture and beyond, thanks to Misters Moore and Lloyd and in no small part to the Wachowski-scripted adaptation starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving, as Evey and V, respectively. In many ways, the classic image of the Guy Fawkes mask is now known only as the V For Vendetta mask, but the message remains the same. The image of V is the epitome of revolution, whether you agree or disagree with his methods, means, and mayhem-inducing tendencies. V is a terrorist, plain and simple. And in these times, saying that the ol' T word is touchy is an understatement. But regardless of left, right, religious, atheist, whatever...nothing can take away the fact that V For Vendetta has prevailed due to its ability to create conversation, cause controversy and most importantly, make for damn good comic.