Artist David Lloyd is responsible for creating some of the most iconic images in comic book history – and his influence has expanded far beyond the printed page.
The acclaimed illustrator, best known for co-creating V For Vendetta with legendary writer Alan Moore, appeared at Ottawa ComicCon last Friday, leading a lively discussion on politics, punk rock, and Guy Fawkes masks.
Lloyd credited the English punk rock movement (“that kind of anarchy in the U.K.”) for influencing a wave of politically radical British comic creators in the seventies and eighties. “Ironically,” Lloyd noted, “1977 was when Star Wars was released, and it was also when the Sex Pistols first started to come out.”
“I was never part of the punk movement,” he added, although his political views were sympathetic.
He certainly saw the influence of punk and alternative rock on many of his contemporaries. “I remember Grant Morrison – he had Sonic Youth,” Lloyd recalled. “It was just part of that radical scene.”
“I was glad to be part of that scene, at least in spirit.”
Lloyd believes that this crop of British writers could have been more influential internationally had U.K. publishers recognized their potential, or the potential of comics as a mature medium. As a result, many British artists were seduced by American companies like DC.
“DC really saw what we could do for them,” Lloyd said.
It was DC that eventually published V for Vendetta, a grim 1984-esque tale about a masked revolutionary who terrorizes a near-future fascist England. Enigmatic anti-hero V was envisioned as a “resurrection” of Gunpowder Plot member Guy Fawkes, who was executed in 1605 for his role in a conspiracy to blow up the House of Lords, and is still burned in effigy to this day.
The historical inspiration was Lloyd’s idea. When he and Moore conceived the comic, they had a fairly good idea of V’s backstory and motive, but were stuck on the costume design – which struck at the heart of who V was within the story. It was then that Lloyd was inspired to re-imagine a historical villain.
Fawkes was chosen as a model because V was envisioned as “a revolutionary,” Lloyd explained, chatting with me at his booth on Saturday. “It was a crazy idea, but it worked.”
V’s costume drew directly from the historical fashions of the time. “It’s not stylized like the movie,” he explained in the Q&A. “In the book is your actual 1605 garb.”
The iconic mask was more difficult. Lloyd recalled that he planned to base the design on traditional masks used for Guy Fawkes Day, only to find them out of stock. “We created V in the summertime, and I couldn’t find one anywhere.”
Of course, it all worked out in the end: Lloyd’s sleek black-and-white design has been used by political protesters around the world, which pleases Lloyd.
“We set out to tell a story that said something, and we wanted to reach people, and we did.”
Lloyd enjoyed a collaborative creative relationship with Moore. “In the early days, he was not the Alan Moore of legend,” Lloyd stresses. “He was a really great talent who was great at writing comics.”
In recent years, Moore has become known for supplying artists with incredibly detailed panel descriptions to work from. “Alan is a good artist,” Lloyd said. “He has a visual mind. If he wants to describe the panel, if you let him describe the panel, he will.”
That wasn’t the case with V For Vendetta. “I would never have worked with him if he was doing stuff like that.”
Lloyd adds that Moore isn’t naturally hostile to collaboration, but that artists and editors are too intimidated to assert themselves. “He wanted an editor,” Lloyd revealed. “Editors are afraid of him.”
Nowadays, Moore’s fame in the comics community is at the point where he can’t even attend conventions without being followed into the bathroom by fans. That’s a shame, said Lloyd, who misses running into him at events; however, his recent inaccessibility has burnished Moore’s “mystique.”
“He’s his own best publicity man,” Lloyd laughed. “All that stuff about worshipping a snake…I don’t know how much of it’s true and how much of that is charisma-building.”
Moore isn’t the only eccentric writer Lloyd has worked with; he also illustrated a few issues of Grant Morrison’s Hellblazer run in 1990. It was a process he enjoyed, Lloyd said, although they didn’t collaborate all that closely.
Calling Morrison “a really clever writer,” Lloyd lamented that The Invisibles creator isn’t as political with his work as he could be. “Grant doesn’t have any [philosophical] direction…He likes to say different things at different times.”
That said: “If he hears this, he may correct me.”
Lloyd, for his part, prefers to have his works carry a message.
“I think it’s important to be aware of politics and its value,” he said. “Too many people are cynical about politics.”
Guest: David Lloyd
Venue: Ottawa ComicCon, EY Centre, Ottawa ON
Date: Friday, May 10/2019