“V for Vendetta – Behind the Mask” Exhibition Preview – and a special discount for downthetubes readers for an online chat with David Lloyd

V for Vendetta - Behind the Mask (2021). Photo: Richard Sheaf

Report by Richard Sheaf

V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask” exhibition Poster 2021

Confession time. I’ve only read Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta once, just as I’ve only read Watchmen, by Alan and Dave Gibbons, once – which some might consider a pretty poor batting average for a comics fan like me. In fact, the reason for only having read them once, so far, is that there are always so many other comics to read… I just never seem to have the time to start re-reading stuff, too!

However, when I do finally get the time, it will be V for Vendetta that’s at the top of my re-reading pile – a long way ahead of Watchmen, I must add. I may only have read the story once, but I was blown away by it at the time, and would recommend it to anyone out there who hasn’t read it at all – even if they’re not a regular comics fan or reader.

If you read the episodes of V for Vendetta published in, say, Warrior, then you will have seen David Lloyd’s black and white artwork before. If you’ve only ever read the collected edition, with its iconic mask cover, a symbol since adopted by many of protest, including campaigners Anonymous, then you’ll only be familiar with the colour version of the art. London’s Cartoon Museum’s exhibition,, V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask, opening tomorrow, Tuesday 18th May 2021, caters for both entry points, containing as it does both original black and white artwork, and the coloured acetates that David Lloyd, working with colourists the work of Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds, subsequently produced for US publisher DC Comics, famously the publishers of Batman and Superman titles, who persuaded Alan Moore and Lloyd to let them give V for Vendetta a new home, initially as a ten-issue maxi series in 1988.

To step back for a moment, and to help anyone playing catch-up here, V for Vendetta first ran as a black-and-white strip between 1982 and 1985, in Warrior, a British anthology comic published by Quality Communications. It was one of the comic’s most popular strips, but Warrior was cancelled after only 26 issues due to low sales. Three years later, V for Vendetta would find a new home, and a wider audience, with DC Comics. David Lloyd’s illustrations and Moore’s story – portraying a moody and bleak futuristic vision of Britain, suffering from an almost apocalyptic nuclear destruction and the ravages of a neo-fascist state – became one of the most celebrated graphic novels of all time. It is in this setting where V wages a seemingly solo war against the totalitarian government and is eventually aided by Evey, a young woman who is victimised by the regime and decides to take action.

(In addition to Alan and David, Tony Weare drew one chapter (“Vincent”) and contributed additional art to two others (“Valerie” and “The Vacation”); Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds worked as colourists on the entire series).

In these days of government over-reach, the exponential growth in surveillance capitalism and protests on the streets it feels like an opportune moment to look again at V for Vendetta. And, even allowing for the space limitations at the Cartoon Museum, there’s plenty to look at here. In fact, for this exhibition, the walls are hung with loans of original art, mainly from David Lloyd himself, a number of colour covers, from the 10-issue DC comics reprint, movie adaptation designs, lent by Warner Bros., and the iconic cover painting from the trade paperback.

The exhibition is arranged thematically (sections include – The Villain, The Voice, Victims) with each section exhibited within its own coloured ‘area’ – using a colour palette that seeks to echo that used in the DC comics reprints.

Artistically the exhibition opens, appropriately enough, with the opening four pages of the story and, really, it’s just wonderful to see so much of David’s artwork gathered together. Not being as prolific as some of his contemporaries means that you should take the chance to savour the quality of art that’s on display here. In fact, COVID-19 restrictions may even come to your aid here, as the museum is currently restricting the number of visitors at any one time, meaning that you’ll be able to enjoy David’s beautiful chiaroscuro artwork with a limited number of other folk.

V for Vendetta - Behind the Mask (2021). Photo: Richard Sheaf
V for Vendetta - Behind the Mask (2021). Photo: Richard Sheaf
V for Vendetta - Behind the Mask (2021). Photo: Richard Sheaf

By way of experiment, why not take a copy with V for Vendetta along with you (you could even, perhaps, buy a new copy from the Museum’s shop and further help it get back on its feet after the pandemic lockdown) to compare the quality of the artwork on the walls to the quality of the reproduction in the book? You’ll also see that the page numbers quoted next to the artwork align with the page numbering in the graphic novel, rather than the actual page number in the story – so the first four pages are actually captioned as pages 9 to 12 (rather than 1 to 4).

Complemented by contemporary artefacts and images of protest, the exhibition also includes on screen images by self-taught photographer Andrew Moore, that aim to transport visitors to the time of social tension in which the story was originally written, following the election of Margaret Thatcher to power in 1979, a period marked by mass unemployment and social unrest.

V for Vendetta - Behind the Mask (2021). Photo: Richard Sheaf

A really strong re-opening show from the Cartoon Museum, hopefully the global recognition of the “Anonymous” mask will bring in a large and eager audience keen to know about the story.

Confession time… I’ve already been to this exhibition once. But I’ll be going again before it closes on 31st October.

Richard Sheaf

• Tickets for V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask which runs from 18th May until 31st October 2021, are available online from cartoonmuseum.org

The Cartoon Museum can be found at 63 Wells Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1A 3AE. Tel: 020 7580 8155

• DC Comics released a V for Vendetta Book and Mask last month – available here from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)

DAVID LLOYD IN CONVERSATION – SPECIAL TICKET DISCOUNT

David Lloyd
David Lloyd

David Lloyd in Conversation with Steve Marchant
Online – 6.30pm – 7.30pm – Friday 21st May 2021
Zoom links will be sent out closer to the time

Tying in with the exhibition at the Cartoon Museum, don’t miss a special online event with David Lloyd – illustrator of V for Vendetta and founder of the award-winning web comic Aces Weekly –  in conversation with Steve Marchant, discussing the legacy of V and the changing nature of comics over the last 30 years.

Use this link to get a special a discount for the David Lloyd talk on the 21st May 2021, courtesy of the Cartoon Museum

This link will take you to the event page with the discount automatically applied so people get the tickets for £5 instead of £10. (Please note – the link takes the money off when you get to the payment part – after you click the “Check Out” button in the process)

More photographs from V for Vendetta – Behind the Mask by Richard Sheaf

V for Vendetta - Behind the Mask Exhibition 2021

• Tickets for V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask which runs from 18th May until 31st October 2021, are available online from cartoonmuseum.org

The Cartoon Museum can be found at 63 Wells Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1A 3AE. Tel: 020 7580 8155

• DC Comics released a V for Vendetta Book and Mask last month – available here from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)


Richard Sheaf is a longtime contributor to downthetubes and has written for numerous magazines about British comics.



Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Books, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Events, Exhibitions

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