To create the ultimate air of mystery at your next costume party or black-tie event, nothing creates more of an impression than a full-face mask. And what better way to get people talking than by taking your inspiration from one of DC Comic’s most controversial anti-heroes – the enigmatic V from V for Vendetta.
A character defined by his menacing full-face mask, V became an unlikely mainstream pop culture hero following the release of the film adaptation of V for Vendetta back in 2005, with his unmistakable look now considered a by-word for anarchy, rebellion, and large-scale anonymous protest. The comic is a modern cult classic too, with multiple reboots over the last three decades as its themes continue to resonate with new audiences.
Originally known as a Guy Fawkes mask in homage to the instigator of the failed 17th century Gunpowder Plot, a treasonous plan to blow up the British Houses of Parliament, V’s signature full-face white mask with a painted moustache and pointy beard creates total anonymity for the wearer – perfect for Halloween parties and masquerade balls where you want to create a real air of mystery.
Traditional in its production but ultra-modern in its symbolism, the Venetian-style mask has become the go-to costume choice of comic books fans and protesters alike.
Both the original 1988 DC Comic and film adaptation of V for Vendetta portray a futuristic dystopian world where anarchist V aims to launch a revolution through terrorist acts, all while wearing the Guy Fawkes mask. In a society where minority groups are discriminated against and ultimately exterminated in concentration camps, V leads the general population to rise up against oppression and overthrown their corrupt governments. He launches his campaign of terror by urging the public to meet him at the Houses of Parliament on November 5 – the anniversary of Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot – the following year. In the lead up to the day, he distributes thousands of Guy Fawkes masks to encourage the people to revolt. The final scenes of the movie see thousands of anonymous unarmed citizens wearing the iconic mask marching towards Parliament, which is eventually destroyed.
In the comic version, V is the victim of experimentation in state-run camps, which results in super-fast reflexes, increased strength and improved mental capacity, but spark his vendetta against the government. Imprisoned in room number five – one of the explanations behind his name – the character shares more similarities to Guy Fawkes than just his mask, dressing in long boots and a cape for an eerie 17th-century inspired look.
The film picks up after V’s escape from the camp, when he claims to remember nothing about his troubled past, but still retains the superhuman powers bestowed on him by his inhumane treatments that form the focus of the comic book narrative.
Although V is a terrorist, creator of the comic David Lloyd says he’s happy to see the iconic Guy Fawkes mask being used as a symbol of protest against injustice after he visited one of the Occupy Wall Street protests – one of the first to use the mask to symbolise large-scale anti-establishment protest. And since the film’s release, each November 5 has been claimed by ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous, organisers of the Million Mask March. Just like in V for Vendetta, the group encourages people, via social media, to don the Guy Fawkes mask and march on seats of power – whether that’s Government, banks or industry, to protest against perceived injustices. The movement has inspired marches in cities across the world, with the London event growing in size and popularity every year.
Co-creator Alan Moore is equally pleased that his story has had a lasting impact on society. In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian he said: “I suppose when I was writing V for Vendetta I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn’t it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So, when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world it’s peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction.”
If you’re inspired by V’s sense of justice and want to recreate the look for your next event, it’s a relatively simple look, once you have your mask. Like many DC Comics characters, V’s look is dominated by the mask that hides his identity, set against a dark, simple outfit that can easily be created on the high street, for minimal expense.
For a comic-inspired look, pair your Guy Fawkes mask with a jewel coloured pointed collar shirt, short cape and tight-fitting trousers, finished off with a long, fringed wig if you want to stay true to character. The big screen incarnation is less 17th century, more ninja, with all black, close fitting clothing, a flowing cloak and wide brimmed hat. Describing himself as “everyman”, V’s style is all about fading into the background and becoming indistinguishable in a crowd.
While recreating V’s look might be relatively simple, the Guy Fawkes mask does have its downside, as V for Vendetta star Hugo Weaving discovered. Despite production teams attempting to capture his lines with a microphone fitted inside the mask, it’s rumoured that all Weaving’s lines had to be re-recorded in a sound studio and over-dubbed once filming was complete, because the mask muffled his voice. So, if you’re at an event where you need to chat, you might need to remove your mask over dinner, though you might want to keep talk to a minimum if you’re trying to conceal your identity.
Whatever the occasion, a full-face Guy Fawkes mask inspired by V for Vendetta is sure to make a lasting impression.