The man be­hind the mask

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Richard S Ehrlich

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.

THE MAN BE­HIND THE MASK: Bri­tish artist David Lloyd, in Bangkok for an ex­hi­bi­tion of his work at Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity, says ev­ery­one has the right to protest.

PEN­CIL-THIN MOUS­TACHE: David Lloyd au­to­graphs a copy of his graphic novel for a fan at his Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity ex­hi­bi­tion by spon­ta­neously draw­ing a crayon sketch of the story’s an­ar­chis­tic V char­ac­ter.

GUN­POW­DER PLOT: The V char­ac­ter’s cos­tume and be­hav­iour echoes Eng­land’s no­to­ri­ous Guy Fawkes, who was hanged for at­tempt­ing to blow up Par­lia­ment in Lon­don in 1605. This en­grav­ing by Ge­orge Cruik­shank was on show at Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity.

EARLY IN­CAR­NA­TION: David Lloyd’s first sketches in the early 1980s of V wear­ing his Guy Fawkes mask and cloth­ing, along­side the artist’s hand­writ­ten notes to the graphic novel’s writer Alan Moore, were dis­played at the Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity ex­hi­bi­tion.

VENDETTA TO THE LET­TER: The cover of the Bri­tish monthly comic mag­a­zine ‘War­rior’ in June 1984, il­lus­trated by David Lloyd with a de­faced pro­pa­ganda poster from ‘V For Vendetta’, was among the items on show at Chu­la­longkorn Univer­sity last week.

SE­CRET IDEN­TITY: Masks fash­ioned af­ter David Lloyd and Alan Moore’s V char­ac­ter now dis­guise anti-gov­ern­ment pro­test­ers, Anony­mous hack­ers and oth­ers world­wide.

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