The Guy Fawkes mask represents anarchy and subversiveness thanks primarily to Alan Moore and Dave Lloyd’s use of the it for the central character of 1982’s V for Vendetta (and the 2006 film). Face it, few people outside Britain and historians would know who Guy Fawkes was were it not for the comic and film. The mask has since become iconic with its wry smile and sharp lines. Even more successful is that the protagonist V never actually shows his face, making him synonymous with the mask. He is his own identity. (In that light, the film was wise in using Hugo Weaving as “V.”)
From the wonderful article, “Behind the Mask”:
The big breakthrough was all Dave’s, much as it sickens me to admit it. More remarkable still, it was all contained in one single letter that he’d dashed off the top of his head and which, like most of Dave’s handwriting, needed the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone to actually interpret. I transcribe the relevant portions beneath:
“Re. The script; While I was writing this, I had this idea about the hero, which is a bit redundant now we’ve got [can’t read the next bit] but nonetheless… I was thinking, why don’t we portray him as a resurrected Guy Fawkes, complete with one of those papier mache masks in a cape and conical hat? He’d look really bizarre and it would give Guy Fawkes the image he’s deserved all these years. We shouldn’t burn the chap every Nov. 5th but celebrate his attempt to blow up Parliament!”
The moment I read these words, two things occurred to me. Frstly, Dave was obviously a lot less sane than I’d hitherto believed him to be, and secondly, this was the best idea I’d ever heard in my entire life. All of the various fragments in my head suddenly fell into place, united behind the single image of a Guy Fawkes mask.
This interview with Moore gives great insight into the work as a whole, in particular the character of V.
Above all, dear readers, Remember remember the 5th of November.