Books to films: V for Vendetta

This month we have another book to film review.  David from Brompton Library gives us his views on the dystopian, political thriller V for Vendetta

The book 

This is a classic fantasy-political thriller in graphic novel form, written by the titan of comic writing, Alan Moore, with drawings by David Lloyd. Written in 1983, the book is set in the then near-future of 1997. A dystopian Britain emerges after a nuclear war, but where Britain is spared (the hypothetical Labour Government of 1983, got rid of American Nuclear missiles).

As the world around them is collapsing, society begins to fall apart, and out of the power vacuum fascism takes over with the promise of security and order- but as you can imagine, the new authoritarian society isn’t for everyone. Hence, the book’s anarchist protagonist, ‘V’- a unique and nuanced (anti) ‘hero’ character, comes into the classic narrative of the underdog fighting for justice and truth, and isn’t afraid to use violent means to obtain it. V symbolically wears a Guy Fawkes mask (“the only person to enter parliament with honest intentions”) and wig while on operations- and there he rescues Eve, the other main character, a naïve young girl who suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of the law.

The book really captures the feeling of foreboding political despair of nineteen eighties politics, of the Cold War, and of authoritarian conservatism tightening its grip on society. Another character- a police detective, is hired by the government to stop V and his misdemeanours, but while doing so starts to question the morality of the government he has sworn to serve. What makes the book so captivating, is that it has an entertaining narrative but within a thought-provoking context. The drawing is great of course, although I didn’t like all of it and some of the colour choices were awkward. Nevertheless, this is a great introduction to more sophisticated graphic novel fiction.

The film

It’s not often that films match up to the books they are based on, but the movie does a pretty good job in my opinion. It’s unfair to say which is better as they are quite different in style- the film is set in the near future from when it was made; in 2006. Of course, then as it is now, the major threats to the world had changed, and the film absorbs them. In this changed narrative, the United States has fallen apart into chaos and civil war after stretching its empire too thin (of course, 2006 was when the Iraq War was still ongoing), and in Britain and Europe, jihadist militants are alleged to have committed a mass atrocity by poisoning the water supply, leading to the landslide election of a fascist party in Britain and the end of parliamentary democracy.

Other than the context, the main story doesn’t differ too wildly to the book, although there is more play on V’s fighting skills and swashbuckling action, which is done well and obviously adds to the entertainment value and mainstream appeal. There are also a few characters and side stories that have been cut out, probably for practical reasons- but the film doesn’t suffer too much as a result. In a political sense, V’s character has been a little watered-down for Hollywood, with liberalism replacing anarchism as V’s portrayed ideology.

Author Alan Moore, who rejects all film adaptations of his books, said of the script: “there wasn’t a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. The fascism had been completely defanged. I mean, I think that any references to racial purity had been excised, whereas actually, fascists are quite big on racial purity.” The only actual blatant reference to ‘anarchy’ in the film is when V manipulates chaos into the general population in order to overthrow the regime- a man robs a shop wearing the (now ubiquitous) Guy Fawkes mask, shooting his gun into the air, and referencing the Sex Pistols, shouts: “Anarchy, in the UK!”. So it seems the wider political themes were indeed a little ‘dumbed down’.

I enjoyed the film but that bit did make me cringe, because as explained by a politically informative line in the book, V states: “Anarchy means ‘without rulers’; not ‘without order’- with anarchy comes an age of ordung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order… this is not anarchy eve… this is chaos”.

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Our graphic novel reading group

On the second Monday of every month, our graphic novel reading group meets at Brompton Library.

The group is run by David at Brompton Library, and he spoke to three of its members to find out what they like about the group and their favourite graphic novels.

Mike 

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

In this my first year , what impressed me was the range of the graphic novel form. I started reading comic books as a kid and then came back in the 1990s by discovering the subculture with its fairs and cons, trying out books like Joe Sacco’s Palestine and manga like Akira. The diversity I discovered through the group is reflected in members’ choice of works and how we discuss them. Other readers’ focus on imagery has certainly advanced my appreciation of how to discuss sequential art.

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My joint favourite works this year were both mentioned in the group: Democracy by
Alecos Papadotos, Abraham Kawa and Annie DiDonna, which is historical fiction, and
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, a teenage novel.
Democracy tells the story of one turning point in the history of ancient Athens. It satisfies both as a story and as an introduction to the subject. It has an art of strong colours with an edge of blackness but it’s no lecture. Ghost World is a narrower canvas with smaller panels and is the tale of a friendship in a small town – two girls growing up and growing apart. It seems that as well as mind-challenging futures, like Ghost in the Shell, a ‘graphic’ can tell a simple story like this with all its resonance in pictures and character. Reading it on the tube seemed more involving than sheer prose, even though it’s not fantasy as such.
Lastly, my time in the group has convinced me that the ‘graphic’ still has great possibilities which haven’t yet been fully explored.

Lara

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

I’ve really enjoyed being a club member for exactly that reason; it’s helped introduce me to great reads that I would have never have investigated on my own, as well as giving me access to comics I’ve wanted to read for a long time. Plus, it’s been really fun getting to know the other members too. Before I joined, I was apprehensive about not being accepted, as I didn’t have much knowledge about certain comics. But now, I really look forward to and enjoy spending at least an hour a week discussing our thoughts on the comics we’ve read together, especially because we’re all from very different comic-reading backgrounds so everyone can have very different perspectives and opinions.

I was also happily surprised at just how many graphic novels and manga titles the library has to offer. I can really recommend a lot of the available manga, but one in particular that we read with the group was, 20th Century Boys written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa; This was a series I had really wanted to read for a while. It’s an incredibly gripping conspiracy drama with cleverly thought out engaging characters and a cliff-hanger ending with every volume so it was great to get the opportunity to read a lot into the series using the library’s copies.

All in all, joining the group has been one of the simplest, most rewarding things I’ve done in 2017, and I really recommend to anyone interested in comics or graphic novels, to join us in 2018!!

20th Century Boys

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My favourite read this year has been Transmetropolitan written by Warren Ellis and co-created and designed by Darick Robertson. I usually read manga/Japanese comics, and joined the library’s graphic novel group to expand my reading into more western-style comics. Transmetropolitain is a great mix of weird, surreal, pseudo-political, futuristic sci-fi that I really enjoy. I think it has a great script, strong and funny characters and fabulous artwork to give depth to the whole universe, and I probably never would have discovered it without the group.

Transmetropolitain

Tari

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

What I like about attending the reading group is that we get read things I wouldn’t necessarily want to read myself, but it allows me to hear from from other perspectives what resonates with them about the books. Because there is no standard format for comics in terms of art style or presentation, people tend to gravitate to different elements of a graphic novel, and it’s nice being able to see what types of art have the most impact on people. I like that a couple members of the group are also interested in other social events related to comics and it’s a good opportunity to learn more about what wider comics events are happening around London, and who is involved. It’s a great starting point to open you up about the possibility of involving yourself with other comics events.

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My favourite graphic novel that we read at the library’s reading group this year was Miracleman by ‘the original writer’ aka Alan Moore. The story really drew me in as it explored some ideas I didn’t expect to see come up. I could see the beginnings of how Alan Moore would approach deconstructing the concept of the superhero and the world they live; an idea that he would take even further in Watchmen. But honestly I felt that of the two books, Miracleman was the easier to digest. It was more of a personal journey and transformation of one guy discovering what it means to be a superhero in the real world. Delving into the toll that the title of ‘supehero’ would take on you and the ones around you. Including the sacrifice of one’s humanity, and being forced to ascend into something more. Which came with its own questions of how the world would regard such a being. I read ahead onto the further volumes and appreciated how the story evolved into something grander each time. It focused on the progressively wider circle of influence Miracleman had on people in life, the world around him, and the possible utopian or dystopian futures he could bring about.

Miracleman

Many, many thanks to Mike, Lara and Tari for sharing their thoughts with us. They’ll next meet on Monday 12 February at 6.30pm and they’ll be discussing The Flintstones by Mark Russell. Like to get involved? Email david.bushell@rbkc.gov.uk for more info.

We’d also like to thank Gosh Comics and the London Graphic Novel Network for their support.

Brompton Library Graphic Novel Reading Group – July

For July’s session (Thursday 7th, 6pm), we will be discussing the graphic novel behemoth that is ‘WATCHMEN’ by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons:

WatchmenGN

“In an alternate world where the mere presence of American superheroes changed history, the US won the Vietnam War, Nixon is still president, and the cold war is in full effect. ”

Watchmen begins as a murder-mystery, but soon unfolds into a planet-altering conspiracy.

In the mid-eighties, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created Watchmen, changing the course of comic history and essentially remaking how popular culture perceived the genre. Popularly cited as the point where comics came of age, Watchmen’s sophisticated take on superheroes has been universally acclaimed for its psychological depth and realism.”

If you have any other suggestions for the reading list then please let me know and we’ll try our best to accommodate.

So far we have the following for consideration:

  • Ghost World
  • Transmetropolitan
  • Sandman
  • 20th century Boys
  • Promethia
  • Fight Club
  • Swamp Thing
  • Democracy
  • Trees
  • Diary of a Teenage Girl
  • Miracleman
  • Hip Hop Family Tree
  • Pride of Baghdad
  • The Bad Doctor
  • Y: The Last Man

The reading group takes place on the first Thursday evening of every month.

See you there! Bring snacks!

David Bushell
Customer Services Assistant
Brompton Library