Interview with the British man who designed the Anonymous (V for Vendetta) mask, what he thinks of how it’s being used

David Lloyd, British comic artists says the mask he designed is now a 'universal symbol of resistance to any group opposing perceived tyranny' and that there is 'no shortage of tyrannical powers to express opposition to in the world' - and on the perceived irony in wearing the mask which contributes to the profits of Time Warner group - 'It has a degree of irony but it's hardly an issue. And I'm no fan of corporation-bashing - it's thick-ear simplification, when what we need is reasonable political discussion.'

Anonymous Mask V for Vendetta

The man behind the now (in)famous ‘anonymous’ mask is in fact David Lloyd – who started working in comics in the late 1970s, drawing for Halls of Horror, TV Comic and a number of Marvel UK titles. With writer Steve Parkhouse, he created the pulp adventure character Night Raven. Dez Skinn set up Warrior magazine in 1982, he asked Lloyd to create a new pulp character. David Lloyd and writer Alan Moore created V for Vendetta, a dystopian adventure featuring a flamboyant anarchist terrorist fighting against a future fascist government. Lloyd, who illustrated in cinematic chiaroscuro, devised V’s Guy Fawkes-inspired appearance and suggested that Moore avoid captions, sound effects and thought balloons.

We asked David about where the inspiration from the mask came from, what is was designed to represent, what he thinks of how it’s being used now – and on the perceived irony which was first picked up on by The New York Times back in August – where they ran a piece exposing how it buying the mask ‘aids the profits’ of multinational corporation Time Warner.

Where did inspiration for the mask come from?

Our basic character was an urban guerilla fighter against a tyranny, but we needed him to be more theatrical and flamboyant and eccentric. It had been established that he would be an escapee from a medical experiment lab and mentally affected by that, so the craziness of having him adopt the persona the costume and the mission of the historic thwarted revolutionary, Guy Fawkes, seemed like a good way of giving us what we wanted for V. It was an insane brainstorm of mine that just fit into to what we needed. And I wanted his mask to be an ordinary one you could get in any store around November the 5th but we created V in the Summer so I couldn’t get one anywhere, so I invented my own.

What was the mask originally designed to represent?

A resurrected Guy Fawkes.

What is the meaning behind the expression on the mask?

The smile was an accident caused by my memory of the moustache on the regular masks that I couldn’t find. But it was a happy accident. Meaning? Resonance, more. Smile on the face of the tiger. Smile in the face of adversity. Smile though your heart is aching. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Immovable, inviolable optimism…

Why do you think the mask has become so popular since it’s first use in a protest against scientology on 2008 – what is it about the mask that makes it so appealing amongst those in the global protest movement?

The character of V is an Everyman who represents individualism in the face of conformist mass submission to authority, and – in the movie – became a united front of individuals resisting oppression, so the mask is a useful symbol to use to represent such rebellion against any perceived tyranny.

What do you think those who wear it in anti-establishment/anti-capitalist demonstrations see the mask as symbolising – and does it differ from what it was originally created to represent?

As answered above, but I don’t know how many of the protestors have seen both the book and the movie or just one of them, so what they individually feel the mask signifies for them perhaps varies, but I’d guess that’s not to too a large degree.

Why do you think they feel the need to hide behind such a mask – why do they use it? Some might say  ‘…surely if they truly believed in their aims they wouldn’t feel the need to hide behind a mask’?

It’s a placard – a banner – a symbol that unites them behind one universal message, a message not available and as flexible or as powerful as might be similarly used if it were an actual banner or similar.

Anonymous Mask Occupy London

When did you personally first become aware of its widespread use and what do you think sparked it all off?

Can’t recall – but the movie sparked it off, I’m certain, perhaps in concert with the more profound message of the book, which found buyers amongst those movie-goers and others who were introduced to it later on. The book on it’s own would not have produced such an influence, although I say that with sadness because the medium I work in deserves much wider recognition and respect for the power it has to reach people. The reason it doesn’t get it’s due in that regard is because most of it’s best product never reaches an audience as widespread as a general movie-going one.

What do you personally think of its use by groups like ‘anonymous’ and also ‘occupy’?

Fine. Like I said it’s a universal symbol of resistance to any group opposing any perceived tyranny. And there is no shortage of tyrannical powers to express opposition to in this world.

Do you see it as ‘ironic’ that the mask is worn in anti-capitalist, anti-establishment or pro-piracy demonstrations, yet a share of the profit on sales of the official licenced mask goes to Time Warner? Is this an issue?

It has a degree of irony but it’s hardly an issue. And I’m no fan of corporation-bashing – it’s thick-ear simplification, when what we need is reasonable political discussion.

What do you think of the use of the mask as a ‘universal symbol of resistance to any group opposing any perceived tyranny’, of what it represents now, and of David Lloyd’s responses?