The MSU Comics Forum, and if I’m being serious really any comic con, reinvigorates my drive to write critically about comics. This year I answered ROMOCOCO’s (Rocky Mountain Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels) call for papers. The theme for the conference is violence, and they were specifically looking for essays “that investigate the representation of violence in comic books and graphic novels.” I’d like to applaud ROMOCOCO for embracing this topic given the tragedy in Aurora and for contributing to this national debate in such a potentially rewarding way. Really, my hat is off to the coordinators of the conference.
In light of this I dusted off an idea that I’ve been nurturing off and on for a couple of years. It’s based on a book very close to my heart, the one tale that has undoubtedly had the most profound effect on my understandings of comics and the potential for the medium, Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta. I read it every 5th of November and just talking about it still gives me goosebumps. It’s gorgeous, visceral, and thought provoking and I could go on and on about why I love V, but I’ll try to focus on just what I want to talk about at the conference should I get accepted.
The threat of brutal violence permeates every page of V for Vendetta. The majority of the characters aren’t actually living their lives, but rather merely reacting to the terrifying society that surrounds them. V aims to change all that, and in doing so free dystopian London from the government’s heavy hand. He fights fire with fire, murdering and torturing his enemies and former tormentors. Violence is intrinsic to Moore and Lloyd’s crumbling London, but it is also the path to freedom for V, Evey, and Eric Finch. I’ve included my abstract below:
“Violence is rife within the pages of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta. Set in a dystopian future England ruled by a brutal and corrupt government, the titular character, a Fawksian-masked vigilante known only as V, embarks on a quest for vengeance. Evey Hammond, a young girl intimately familiar with the vicious world around her, and Eric Finch, the inspector tasked with tracking down V, are swept into the veneered terrorist’s wake and yet, unlike so many others, they do not drown. No, instead they surface from their trials born again, freed from the bonds of fear and society’s heavy chains. In the cases of V, Evey, and Eric, violence is never just violence for its own sake, but rather a complex series of motivations, interactions, and repercussions that lead each character on their own path to a unique type of freedom.
This paper will focus on each of these character’s intricate journeys through brutality, murder, torture, and eventual freedom. It will draw upon visualizations of specific pages and panels to explore the complex, multifaceted nature of systemic societal violence found in V in an attempt to understand the ways in which horrendous acts can be horrible, but also liberating, both physically and psychologically.
Alan Moore and David Lloyd have crafted a brilliantly dark and horrifying thriller in V for Vendetta, one that defies simple black and white, good or bad, notions of violence. Instead the pain and anguish is compellingly complex and morally ambiguous, showing that while acts of murder and terror are absolutely deplorable and oftentimes terribly tragic, they are sometimes necessary vehicles for change. V for Vendetta, through its use of explicit violence, glorifies the strength of the human spirit and lays bare a simple unavoidable truth – Freedom is not free.”
There’s just so much to focus on there. Really there is! If I get accepted expect a full rundown after the gig. If not, I’ll likely be posting up a long write-up of my ideas here. I can’t wait either way!