DRAWN THAT WAY
The man behind the mask
David Lloyd may have done more to conceal the identity of street protesters and Anonymous activists than anyone in the world.
The British artist behind the white pointy-chinned Guy Fawkes mask made famous in the V
For Vendetta graphic novel and film, Lloyd has seen the mask he designed in the 1980s become a symbol of antigovernment resistance from Bangkok to Brasilia and beyond.
“It’s good to have a symbol that unifies. So if you’re wearing something as a mask that unifies and actually says something — says what you are doing, and is in sympathy with some sort of concept — that’s good because it’s a unification,” said Lloyd, 65, who was in Bangkok last week for a recent exhibition of his work at Chulalongkorn University.
“But any mask is quite acceptable. Everybody has the right to go out on the street as an individual citizen, masked or otherwise, to protest.
“Your identity is not important. The fact that you are there as a citizen on the streets, that’s what’s important.”
In the early 1980s, V For Vendetta began as a graphic novel when illustrator Lloyd collaborated with writer Alan Moore, also famous for his creation of Watchmen and Constantine.
In 2006, when V For Vendetta became a Hollywood film success starring Natalie Portman as Evey who is recruited by the anarchistic V character (Hugo Weaving), Lloyd’s iconic mask began inspiring people in real life struggling for freedom and other causes.
“The only thing that the anonymity is important to are the police and the people who come out and film all the [protest] crowds, because they want somebody they can identify and target and — in certain police states — can intimidate and grab and torture and disappear if they wish to,” Lloyd said.
Wearing a mask while protesting is “the old simple honest value of being able to protect yourself from identification. That is not part of the crime concept. It’s part of being an individual with a right to guard your identity,” Lloyd said.
The Warner Bros movie was promoted as being “set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain” which originally appeared in the graphic novel as stark, black-and-white ink drawings by Lloyd.
V sparks a revolution when he detonates two London landmarks and takes over government-controlled airwaves, with his fellow citizens rising up against tyranny and oppression.
Moore reportedly said while collaborating with Lloyd, “I didn’t want to just come into this as a self-confessed anarchist and say ‘Right, here’s this anarchist. He’s the good guy. Here are all the fascists. They’re the bad guys.’ That’s trivial and insulting to the reader.
“I wanted to present some of the fascists as being ordinary and, in some instances, even likeable human beings.”
Lloyd and Moore also decided the V character’s costume and behaviour would echo England’s notorious Guy Fawkes, who was hanged in 1606 for participating in the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in London.
Though Lloyd is protective of anti-government protesters’ rights, he does not oppose England’s extensive use of public closed-circuit television cameras monitoring people on streets, public vehicles and in some buildings.
“Surveillance helps to actually find the identity of criminals. It doesn’t actually stop the crime from happening, that’s the big problem of surveillance,” Lloyd said.
“I think the individual’s right to privacy is important. But it doesn’t overtake the need to examine what people are doing, whether they are doing something that you can actually see is against society or is going to cause harm to people.
“We have lots of CCTV cameras in England. I think we have the most in Europe. But they are all doing what they are supposed to be doing, which is looking after the streets. >>
We are moving towards an Orwellian society because we’re moving into a situation where whatever you do, you can’t change anything
>> “I think the line stops when it’s actually in your private abode.”
Instead of cyberspace, he fears Orwellian corporations controlling the planet’s population, resources and laws.
“We are moving towards an Orwellian society because we’re moving into a situation where whatever you do, you can’t change anything. The government, it seems to me, more and more of the government is a kind of front. It’s a kind of fake.
“And the world, especially the global system, is run by corporations. And you can’t do anything with the corporations. You can’t vote the corporations out of power. The corporations run all these trade agreements that they are setting up, just so that you can’t do anything against them.
“The corporations are running the show. I think that is Orwellian. Because in a situation like that, you have enemies being made so that they serve the purposes of the ruling powers. So if there are no enemies, then they will make an enemy so the people will have something — or something to distract the people from the real criminals.”
Lloyd, based in Brighton, England, said if he were an American he would vote for Bernie Sanders to be the next US president.
“Bernie Sanders obviously. Because he is obviously a man of conviction and he’s offering something that hasn’t been offered by a politician before,” Lloyd said.
“And while I am watching with grim fascination what is happening in politics in the US, I hope it doesn’t work out as badly as it looks like it might.
“Donald Trump ... he seems to be pressing all the wrong buttons in order to get a society that is a cohesive and smoothly running machine. Everything that he’s doing seems to be divisive in some way.
“I can certainly understand his appeal. And he is an
admirable character, from the point of view of watching him operate. But then you know, Hitler was an admirable speaker and orator and you could admire him, but it’s that same thing.”
Lloyd now spends much of his time running his online publishing venture www.acesweekly.co.uk which attracts paid subscriptions to comics drawn by more than 100 artists.
Anonymous activists and critics meanwhile debate the V mask’s strengths and weaknesses, especially when it is sometimes worn by neo-Nazis and others who they perceive as enemies.
For example on Tuesday, Anonymous @blackplans posted a photo on his Twitter account which he described as “in #Belgium a bunch of neo-nazi skinheads stormed a memorial, yup many of them wearing the goddamn Fawkes mask.”
In response, Andrew Kelly @Andrew84Killy wrote: “the mask means nothing anymore, it’s a generic symbol of protest now. Such a shame.”
Anonymous @blackplans, who has more than 26,000 followers, replied: “The mask was always a convenience, V For Vendetta was a popular movie and the masks were easy to get a hold of.”
He said his Twitter account “will champion the three basic tenets of #Anonymous, defending the right to #anonymity, opposing #censorship and providing #lulz in liberal doses.”
Jack @GeekyJack20 said: “I think it makes anonymous look weak hiding behind masks.”
Anonymous @blackplans advised him: “Don’t ever break the law kiddo, you don’t have the right mindset.”
Lloyd’s exhibition at Chulalongkorn University was organised by Faculty of Communication Arts lecturer Nicolas Verstappen.
Mr Verstappen, from Belgium, teaches Graphic Writing through History and Aesthetics of Comics Art and Comics Composition exercises, plus other courses including Imaginative Media Studies, and Aesthetic Communication Theory and Criticism.
“I suggested inviting David Lloyd as a distinguished guest, to mark the growing scholarly interest in the comics art form here at Chulalongkorn University, in Southeast Asia and abroad,” Mr Verstappen said.
“Having known David Lloyd for many years — through interviews and events organised with him in Brussels at Multi BD comics bookstore where I was working at the time — he kindly accepted the invitation to hold a public talk and various workshops.
“A master class and a portfolio review roundtable were designed for Thai artists [who are] debuting or professional cartoonists and illustrators. A second master class was aimed at the students of the Graphic Writing course of our faculty,” he said.
“The invitation of David Lloyd to hold a public talk and to present his works in an exhibition at the Faculty of Communication Arts was of great interest to the students through the first-hand discussion about the essential graphic novel V For
Vendetta, its movie adaptation, the designing, meaning and popularity of the iconic Guy Fawkes mask” and other topics, Mr Verstappen said.