In preparation for the September release of a hardcover edition for “V for Vendetta,” DC’s Bob Wayne brought artist David Lloyd out for a candid conversation on style and substance.
The first question Lloyd was asked was about his current work and “is Alan Moore as crazy as everybody thinks he is?” After a ripple of laughter from the somewhat sparse audience, he brought out “Kickback,” which he described as a 46 page hardcover for the French market, which he has drawn and written (and to be released domestically by Dark Horse in a collected edition in 2006). Published in two volumes, Lloyd applauded the greater creative freedom afforded by the comics industry in Europe, and said he enjoys working there.
As for his legendary collaborator, Lloyd said, “Alan is a great guy, a terrific guy. We haven’t worked together since then, and he’s always working with different artists. I think he sees different dimensions he can see from different guys. He’s what they call a practicing magician, I don’t know what that means. Everyone says the stuff he’s done for Wildstorm, ‘Promethea,’ it tells you everything you need to know about magic. It’s not magic like pulling rabbits out of hats or supernatural stuff. When I’m asked about Alan, this thing about him being a magician comes up. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t think he’s crazy, I think he’s very committed to what he believes. He’s a very uncompromising person. He’s a very unusual, unique genius. They say about anybody who’s a genius, that they’re kind of crazy.”
“We were both working at Marvel’s UK division,” Lloyd reminisced. “I did stories based on the Dr. Who characters characters [like] Ice Warriors. The first thing I did with him was called ‘Black Legacy.’ I called him up to talk on the script, and we’d both worked on the same fanzine, called Shadow. He wrote for it, and I drew pictures. We both knew each other from that, and we clicked pretty easily. He was a great writer, and his scripts were good, and that’s how we sort of worked together. It was great stuff, I enjoy looking back on it.”
“There’s this legend that he writes this incredible detailed script,” Lloyd continued. “Alan did not have this detailed style, and as we got closer to the end, I used to joke it got kind of wordy. Alan wasn’t writing that sort of stuff, and if he had been, I would not have wanted to work with him. If he can tell you exactly what to do, what the hell are you doing there? If you’re working as a team, not just as an individual artist, you need to both have your creative freedom, it’s very important. We both thought the same way, me and Alan. You need to have your creative territory. With other writers, I’ve worked with Garth Ennis, he’s a great writer. The only problem I had with Garth was that he writes war stories that are very realistic, so you have to be realistic with the drawing. I had to get every nut and bolt right on those ships. I got ictures from the Imperial War Museum. Garth gave me a model book, with actual photos of a Lancaster bomber, inside and out.
“I do like to work on a Marvel method, so if I’ve got the opportunity, and the writer is happy to do it, I like to have a writer detail what happens on a page, but not saying what happens in every scene. I’ve done it with Jamie Delano, and I was surprised he wanted to do that. What happened was that he wrote the breakdown of what happens on every page. I would do full layouts in pencil, which I would send to him, and he would write the final script to that. When you do [full script], you have real control. I never really thought you could do a deep and political story in that way. But in ‘The Horrorist,’ you’ll see you get exactly what you need from that, and Jamie was very happy to work like that.
I suggested I do that with Garth, and he ran a million miles away from it. He ran scared because he wanted complete control of what he was doing. I think that’s bad, you should try it at least once. Garth writes long conversation scenes, and some of them are like TV, he doesn’t keep in mind that pictures are stuck together. In ‘J For Jenny,’ he wrote a long conversation in the park. In TV, actors can make that live, so you have to choreograph it and make it interesting without losing the integrity of what the dialogue is saying. It’s a preference, and you’ll find that any artist who can write, or who thinks they can write, wants to do their own thing. It grew very organically. In France, you tell them the story and they let you do it. I don’t say this as disrespect, Bob. They do for the sake of structural reasons, they like a full script. Some of the sequences that are my favorite just came up.”
“I’m very happy with what I’m doing [writing and drawing]. But there’s nothing more pleasurable than working with great writers. Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Jamie, they’re all great stories. It all depends on the circumstance. The war stories, it was so hard putting in all the reference. Taking a book the size of a phone book, with pictures of the Lancaster Bomber, and balancing it on your knee while you’re drawing. It takes away a lot of the pleasure.”
The topic turned to the new Hugo Weaving-fueled adaptation, and Lloyd spoke at length about how much he admired Natalie Portman’s dedication to researching for the role. Even though, he admitted, it’s a very different Evey Hammond, a “much more controlled, together person. More of a modern woman. From what I’ve seen in the screenplay, it’s really interesting.”
“V for Vendetta continues to be one of our best-selling books, year in and year out,” Wayne chimed in, happy to let Lloyd run the show.
Lloyd didn’t work on the production proper, but said, “They used the visual style and whatever else they could get from the graphic novel for the camera work, and made it a direction. I’ve only seen the trailer. I couldn’t see anything there that was directly from me. I had no involvement in the production of it. The first time I knew was when I saw the promotion on the web, the little metallic V. One of the things I like about the film is that they’ve been true to it. What they’ve done, they’ve put their own mark on it. They’ll get the key scenes, the atmosphere, and the end. I was really impressed by the fact they wanted to use Guy Fawkes, who means nothing to everybody in America. I haven’t helped much. But when they called me up and spoke to me about it, and the one question they had was how tall to make his hat. I said follow the history. The way he dresses is the way Guy Fawkes would have dressed, with a few exceptions. I think they may have been closer to the history than I was. The gloves are the kind he would have worn, I compromised on it.”
One fan asked if concept drawings had ever been done of what V looked like under the mask, or if a sequel was possible. “It’s absolutely of no importance who or what V was under the mask. He isn’t a who or a what, he’s an idea. The thing is, you couldn’t continue it. Now and then the idea of a sequel has been raised, in vague forms, but I think it would be a bad idea. The story’s finished. What is there to say? It’s all been said. The whole point of V is that you don’t see who’s behind the mask, and you never do. I must say that I questioned Larry and Andy Wachowski, and they have the final edit. I was assured by Joel Silver that there won’t be any preview endings where they could change the ending. You will not see who’s behind it. Real fans will know, ‘that’s Hugo Weaving.'”
“The real terrorism is something we should know more about,” Lloyd noted. “I don’t know that the world today has moved to become like the world of V. Margaret Thatcher was an ultraconservative, introducing policies that were completely right wing. We thought it was a kind of sub-tyranny she was running. I don’t think the times have made the world any different. V is a terrorist, taking the only possible course he can follow. It’s an important thing to know about anybody who’s suffering. I never thought they would make the movie, after 9/11, the idea of making a movie about a guy who blows up buildings. But the script is very complex and multi layered, it’s a surprisingly political film in the current environment.”
Lloyd talked about how the project developed originally. “When we were talking about this, an idea for this master vigilante, it was an urban guerilla. One of my ideas was that he would be a member of the police force who turned on the government. We were both inspired by ‘The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ and ‘Theatre of Blood’ with Vincent Price. Alan was interested in having a very theatrical look to things. Part of the plot was a knock that V wanted to bring down the government and bring chaos. I don’t know why I thought of Guy Fawkes, because it was during the summer. I thought that would be great if he looked like Guy Fawkes, kind of theatrical. I just suggested it to Alan, and he said, ‘that sounds like a good idea.’ It gave us everything, the costume and everything. During the summer, I couldn’t get any of these masks. These masks that you could get in every shop had a smile built into them. So I created this Guy Fawkes mask with a kind of smile. It was an ideal costume for this future anarchist persona.
“The beginning of Book Three is the last one that I drew, where V’s conducting the 1812 overture. The period that I enjoyed more was the ‘Warrior’ period, because the story grew organically, a black and white monthly, 8 to 11 pages per month. Alan would write the script to the next chapter only after he saw the finished work. When it was done for DC, for reasons that were absolutely necessary, Alan wrote the last three all in one blow. Which is kind of a shame. That whole Valerie Page sequence happened almost by accident. The scene in the cinema was something that wasn’t written. The whole point that V would be anyone, and Alan said ‘put him anywhere you like’ and I suggested he could be in a private cinema, watching someone who had the same things done. I like that whole organic process.”
The panel was surprisingly personal and involved, and a real delight for the people who were able to catch it.