V for Vendetta: how a worldwide protest icon was born

V for Vendetta masks are seen around the world

As the symbol of the anarchist movement, perhaps it’s fitting that the V for Vendetta mask was only created by sheer chance.

The cover of the V for Vendetta graphic novel

The cover of the V for Vendetta graphic novel

Artist David Lloyd wanted to buy a regular Guy Fawkes mask to use as a model for the comic book hero V’s disguise.

“The original plan was to use one of the Guy Fawkes masks like you can get in the stores around November but it was summer and we couldn’t find one, “ Lloyd told MSN. “We looked in costume shops and everywhere but we couldn’t find one, so we made one up.”

You wouldn’t have that problem today - the pointed chin, carefully cultivated beard and moustache and arched eyebrows have become a defining image of the decade so far. And the ironic, mocking smile.


Lloyd sees that as his biggest contribution to the recreation of the notorious Catholic plotter, albeit again accidental: “The smile turned out to be an accident because I remember the mask and the moustache and it suggested to me a smile,” he said.

The character was born in 1982 as Thatcherism was rising to its peak and there was no doubt about the symbolism embodied by V’s vicious battle against a ruthless police state. The economic crisis that has ignited a global protest movement has given the themes relevance once more.

The mask has unified demonstrators with wildly different agendas, from anti-G8 campaigners in Northern Ireland to free speech supporters in Turkey to opponents of the World Cup in Brazil

V for Ventetta image

“It’s politically neutral, “ Lloyd said in an interview via Skype. “The closest thing to it in recent decades is Che Guevera but of course Che Guevera was a marxist but V stands for freedom without any political message. Anyone can use it as a symbol of resistance against any tyranny you happen to be facing or you think you are facing.”


The mask has empowered protestors by allowing them the anonymity to become representatives of a cause, rather than individuals who can be arrested and persecuted, according to the artist.

But would he ever wear one?

“I don’t think there’s any point in demonstrating,”

“The way the world is now, whatever government you have you are still ruled by oppressive corporations and power structures.”

  • David Lloyd’s latest project aims to recreate the creative freedom that gave birth to V for Vendetta by allowing writers and illustrators to tell stories without restrictions at www.acesweekly.co.uk. You can contact him on Twitter @LforLloyd

Aces Weekly

An Image from Lloyds new project, Aces Weekly