Brief Biography of Alan Moore
Alan Moore was raised in an impoverished part of the United Kingdom. He was a voracious reader as a child, and showed a talent for drawing and writing. As a teenager, he began sending in poems and essays to local newspapers. It was also around this time that Moore began experimenting with drugs like LSD, and in 1970 he was expelled from his college (the English counterpart to American high school) for drug use. Following his expulsion, Moore worked a number of odd jobs, including toilet cleaning and tanning. He didn’t begin writing and illustrating comic books full-time until 1978, when he sent his first cartoons to the music magazine NME. For the next five years, Moore earned less than 50 pounds a week. It was during this period that Moore married his wife, Phyllis, and had a child, Leah. It was Moore’s dream to write for 2000AD, the most prestigious comic magazine in Britain at the time. In 1980, he finally succeeded in selling an idea for a comic strip in 2000AD. Moore worked as a freelance comic strip writer, often writing stories for other people’s characters. He became known as a quick and creative writer with a strong visual sense, and all in all, he wrote more than 50 stories for 2000AD. His major career breakthrough came in 1983, when he was hired by DC Comics, the most prominent American comic company, to reinvent The Saga of the Swamp Thing, an old, unpopular comic strip. Moore was widely praised for “deconstructing” the Swamp Thing character, essentially writing a satire of comic book superheroes themselves. Arguably Moore’s best-known work is Watchmen, which was released between 1986 and 1987. In 1989, Moore completed work on V for Vendetta, one of his most popular works. Since 1990, he’s worked on more than 50 graphic novels, including From Hell, a reimagining of the Jack the Ripper murders, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, an adventure comic featuring heroes of Victorian literature, and Promethea, which blends comic book conventions with Kabbalistic traditions. Moore has been honored with virtually every award given for comic books, and his comic Watchmen was included on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest works of fiction written in the 20th century.
Historical Context of V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta alludes to many historical events, some of the most important being the Cold War, the conservative values of the Reagan/Thatcher era, the AIDS epidemic, and the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot. At the time when Moore was writing V for Vendetta, the Cold War was still a reality, and was, in many ways, still escalating. (Although it would end only two years after the graphic novel was published.) The world’s two dominant superpowers, the United States and the U.S.S.R., competed with one another for economic and political control of the world. Their competition took many forms, and perhaps the most notorious was the stockpiling of nuclear missiles. For nearly thirty years, both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. increased their defense budgets and devoted huge sums of money to building more nuclear missiles. There was widespread fear that the arms race between the U.S.S.R. and the United States would result in a nuclear war, which could easily destroy the entire planet. The premise of V for Vendetta is that this war has occurred: both Russia and America have been destroyed, along with Africa. Another important event to which V for Vendetta responds is the rise of conservatism in both the U.K. and America during the 1980s. During this decade, Ronald Reagan was the President of the United States, and Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of England. Reagan and Thatcher were widely criticized for their indifference to blacks, feminists, homosexuals, socialists, and other demographic groups whose identities were said to oppose “traditional moral values.” Never was this clearer than during the AIDS epidemic. The AIDS virus killed millions of people during the 1980s, most of them homosexuals. Reagan and Thatcher were attacked for refusing to allocate federal funds for AIDS research. It was pointed out that AIDS disproportionately targeted the demographics that didn’t vote conservative (homosexuals, Latinos, and blacks), and it was even implied that Reagan and Thatcher weren’t spending money to fight AIDS because their “ideal” people—white heterosexuals—weren’t affected by it. Moore takes the Reagan/Thatcher conservatism to its ideological extreme with Norsefire: a highly conservative, homophobic, and racist regime that kills all those who stand outside the racial and sexual ideal. One final historical event to which V for Vendetta alludes is the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. A group of radical Catholics, including Guy Fawkes, plotted to assassinate James I, the Protestant ruler of England at the time, by blowing up the Houses of Parliament, the center of the English government. On the 5th of November, Fawkes was caught beneath the Houses of Parliament, surrounded by barrels of gunpowder. Although Fawkes was tortured for his act of treason, he committed suicide before English soldiers could execute him. Fawkes’s act of violent disobedience has found a welcome place in English tradition: in November, the English launch fireworks and light bonfires in recognition of Fawkes’s Gunpowder Plot.
Other Books Related to V for Vendetta
A full list of the books to which V
alludes is impossible: there are simply too many of them. Moore has acknowledged his debt to such important authors of dystopian fiction as George Orwell, author of 1984
, and Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World
. As in these two novels, England in the future is a highly repressive society, in which people are constantly being watched by an all-powerful government. Another major influence on V for Vendetta
was The Count of Monte Cristo
, in which the innocent Edmund Dantes escapes from prison and seeks revenge on the people who sent him there. Moore has also acknowledged his debt to the comics of William S. Burroughs, a writer best known for the groundbreaking experimental novel Naked Lunch
. Burroughs was an early practitioner of the “cut-up technique,” in which one group of words cuts jarringly, and sometimes comically, into another. Moore embraces the cut-up technique here (and in Watchmen
, in which a character specifically alludes to Burroughs’s technique) by cutting back and forth between multiple storylines, so that the characters’ speeches often parallel each other in amusing ways. Other works of literature to which V for Vendetta
explicitly alludes include the poem “Jerusalem” by William Blake, Macbeth
by William Shakespeare, and V
by Thomas Pynchon.
Key Facts about V for Vendetta
Full Title: V for Vendetta
Where Written: London, United Kingdom
When Published: September 1988-May 1989.
Literary Period: Postmodern Graphic Novel, Cold War Science Fiction
Genre: Postmodern Graphic Novel, Dystopian Science Fiction
Setting: (A dystopian vision of) London, England, 1997-1998
Climax: Evey Hammond’s decision to become V
Antagonist: Adam Susan, the Leader / Peter Creedy / Helen Heyer
Point of View: V for Vendetta is a comic book or graphic novel, meaning that the usual distinctions between first, second, and third person don’t exactly apply to it. At times the captions voice the characters’ inner thoughts (i.e., first person), while the corresponding panels show scenes the characters don’t have access to (i.e., third person omniscient). Elsewhere, the captions establish the date and time of the action (third person omniscient), while the panels show events from a particular character’s point of the view (first person). In this way, Moore blurs the line between the third and first person.
Extra Credit for V for Vendetta