Initially published, starting in , in black-and-white as an ongoing serial in the short-lived UK anthology Warrior , it morphed into a ten-issue limited series published by DC Comics. Subsequent collected editions have been typically published under DC's more specialized imprint, Vertigo. The story depicts a dystopian and post-apocalyptic near- future history version of the United Kingdom in the s, preceded by a nuclear war in the s that devastated most of the rest of the world.
The white supremacist ,   neo-fascist ,     outwardly Christofascistic , and homophobic fictional Norsefire political party has exterminated its opponents in concentration camps , and now rules the country as a police state. DC Comics sold more than , copies of the graphic novel in the United States by The first episodes of V for Vendetta appeared in black-and-white between and , in Warrior , a British anthology comic published by Quality Communications. But with five or six strips an issue, regular [readers] only needed two or three favorites to justify their buying the title.
When the publishers cancelled Warrior in with two completed issues unpublished due to the cancellation , several companies attempted to convince Moore and Lloyd to let them publish and complete the story.
In , DC Comics published a ten-issue series that reprinted the Warrior stories in colour, then continued the series to completion. The first new material appeared in issue No. Tony Weare drew one chapter "Vincent" and contributed additional art to two others "Valerie" and "The Vacation" ; Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds worked as colourists on the entire series. A new hardback edition was published in featuring improved printing and coloring.
David Lloyd's paintings for V for Vendetta in Warrior first appeared in black and white. In writing V for Vendetta , Moore drew upon a comic strip idea submission that the DC Thomson scriptwriting competition rejected in Years later, Skinn reportedly invited Moore to create a dark mystery strip with artist David Lloyd.
Then V for Vendetta emerged, putting the emphasis on "V" rather than "Vendetta". David Lloyd developed the idea of dressing V as Guy Fawkes  after previous designs followed the conventional superhero look.
During the preparation of the story, Moore made a list of what he wanted to bring into the plot, which he reproduced in "Behind the Painted Smile":. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison 's "Repent, Harlequin! Vincent Price 's Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Night Raven.
Fahrenheit The writings of the New Worlds school of science fiction. Max Ernst 's painting " Europe After the Rain ". Thomas Pynchon. The atmosphere of British Second World War films.
The Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin The influence of such a wide number of references has been thoroughly demonstrated in academic studies,  above which dystopian elements stand out, especially the similarity with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four in several stages of the plot. The political climate of Britain in the early s also influenced the work,  with Moore positing that Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government would "obviously lose the elections ", and that an incoming Michael Foot -led Labour government, committed to complete nuclear disarmament , would allow the United Kingdom to escape relatively unscathed after a limited nuclear war.
However, Moore felt that fascists would quickly subvert a post-holocaust Britain. Moore's scenario remains untested. Addressing historical developments when DC reissued the work, he noted:. The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our roles as Cassandras. On Guy Fawkes Night in London in , a financially desperate year-old, Evey Hammond , sexually solicits men who are actually members of the state secret police , called "The Finger".
Preparing to rape and kill her, the Fingermen are dispatched by V , a cloaked anarchist wearing a mask, who later remotely detonates explosives at the Houses of Parliament before bringing Evey to his contraband -filled underground lair, the "Shadow Gallery". Evey tells V her life story, which reveals her own past as well as England's recent history. During a dispute over Poland in the late s the Soviet Union and the United States , under the presidency of Ted Kennedy , entered a global nuclear war which left continental Europe and Africa uninhabitable.
Although Britain itself was not bombed due to the Labour government's decision to remove American nuclear missiles , it faced environmental devastation and famine due to the nuclear winter. After a period of lawlessness in which Evey's mother died, the remaining corporations and fascist groups took over England and form a new totalitarian government, Norsefire. Evey's father, a former socialist , was arrested by the regime.
Meanwhile, Eric Finch, a veteran detective in charge of the regular police force—"the Nose"—begins investigating V's terrorist activities. Finch often communicates with Norsefire's other intelligence departments, including "the Finger," led by Derek Almond, and "the Head," embodied by Adam Susan : the reclusive government Leader, who obsessively oversees the government's Fate computer system.
Finch's case thickens when V kidnaps Lewis Prothero, a propaganda-broadcasting radio personality, and drives him into a mental breakdown by forcing him to relive his actions as the commander of a "resettlement" camp near Larkhill with his treasured doll collection as inmates. Evey agrees to help V with his next assassination by disguising herself as a child prostitute to infiltrate the home of Bishop Anthony Lilliman, a paedophile priest, who V forces to commit suicide by eating a poisoned communion wafer.
He prepares to murder Dr. Delia Surridge, a medical researcher who once had a romance with Finch. Finch suddenly discovers the connection among V's three targets: they all used to work at Larkhill.
That night, V kills both Almond and Surridge, but Surridge has left a diary revealing that V—a former inmate and victim of Surridge's cruel medical experiments—was able to destroy and flee the camp, and is now eliminating the camp's former officers for what they did. Finch reports these findings to Susan, and suspects that this vendetta may actually be a cover for V, who, he worries, may be plotting an even bigger terrorist attack. Four months later, V breaks into Jordan Tower, the home of Norsefire's propaganda department, "the Mouth"—led by Roger Dascombe—to broadcast a speech that calls on the people to resist the government.
V escapes using an elaborate diversion that results in Dascombe's death. Finch is soon introduced to Peter Creedy, the new head of the Finger, who provokes Finch to strike him and thus get sent on a forced vacation. All this time, Evey has moved on with her life, becoming romantically involved with a much older man named Gordon. Evey and Gordon unknowingly cross paths with Rose Almond, the widow of the recently killed Derek. After Derek's death, Rose reluctantly began a relationship with Dascombe, but now, with both of her lovers murdered, she is forced to perform demoralizing burlesque work, increasing her hatred of the unsupportive government.
Evey attempts to shoot Harper, but is suddenly abducted and then imprisoned. Amidst interrogation and torture , Evey finds an old letter hidden in her cell by an inmate named Valerie Page, a film actress who was imprisoned and executed for being a lesbian. Evey's interrogator finally gives her a choice of collaboration or death; inspired by Valerie, Evey refuses to collaborate, and, expecting to be executed, is instead told that she is free.
Stunned, Evey learns that her supposed imprisonment is in fact a hoax constructed by V so that she could experience an ordeal similar to the one that shaped him at Larkhill.
He reveals that Valerie was a real Larkhill prisoner who died in the cell next to his and that the letter is not a fake. Evey forgives V, who has hacked into the government's Fate computer system and started emotionally manipulating Adam Susan with mind games.
Consequently, Susan, who has formed a bizarre romantic attachment to the computer, is beginning to descend into madness. Creedy's men and Harper's associated street gangs violently suppress the subsequent wave of revolutionary fervor from the public. V notes to Evey that he has not yet achieved what he calls the " Land of Do-as-You-Please ", meaning a functional anarchistic society, and considers the current chaotic situation an interim period of " Land of Take-What-You-Want ".
Finch has been mysteriously absent and his young assistant, Dominic Stone, one day realises that V has been influencing the Fate computer all along, which explained V's consistent foresight. All the while, Finch has been travelling to the abandoned site of Larkhill, where he takes LSD to conjure up memories of his own devastated past and to put his mind in the role of a prisoner of Larkhill, like V, to help give him an intuitive understanding of V's experiences.
Returning to London, Finch suddenly deduces that V's lair is inside the abandoned Victoria Station , which he enters. V takes Finch by surprise, resulting in a scuffle which sees Finch shoot V and V wound Finch with a knife. V claims that he cannot be killed since he is only an idea and that "ideas are bulletproof"; regardless, V is indeed mortally wounded and returns to the Shadow Gallery deeper within, dying in Evey's arms.
Evey considers unmasking V, but decides not to, realising that V is not an identity but a symbol. She then assumes V's identity, donning one of his spare costumes. Finch sees the large amount of blood that V has left in his wake and deduces that he has mortally wounded V. Occurring concurrently to this, Creedy has been pressuring Susan to appear in public, hoping to leave him exposed.
Sure enough, as Susan stops to shake hands with Rose during a parade, she shoots him in the head in vengeance for the death of her husband and the life she has had to lead since then.
Following Rose's arrest, Creedy assumes emergency leadership of the country, and Finch emerges from the subway proclaiming V's death. The power struggle between the remaining leaders results in all of their deaths: Harper betrays and kills Creedy at the behest of Helen Heyer wife of "the Eye" leader Conrad Heyer, who had outbid Creedy for Harper's loyalty , and Harper and Conrad Heyer kill each other during a fight precipitated by Heyer's discovery that his wife Helen had had an affair with Harper. With the fate of the top government officials unknown to the public, Stone acts as leader of the police forces deployed to ensure that the riots are contained should V still be alive and make his promised public announcement.
Evey appears to a crowd, dressed as V, announcing the destruction of 10 Downing Street the following day and telling the crowd they must " Lives of your own, or a return to chains" , whereupon a general insurrection begins.
Evey destroys 10 Downing Street  by blowing up an Underground train containing V's body, in the style of an explosive Viking funeral. She abducts Stone, apparently to train him as her successor.
The book ends with Finch quietly observing the chaos raging in the city and walking down an abandoned motorway whose lights have all gone out. The two conflicting political viewpoints of anarchism and fascism dominate the story. Moore stated in an interview that V is designed as an enigma, as Moore "didn't want to tell people what to think" but wanted them to consider some extreme events that have recurred throughout history.
In December Warner Bros. Alan Moore distanced himself from the film, as he has with other screen adaptation of his works. It's a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neoconservatives — which is not what the comic V for Vendetta was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about England. He later adds that if the Wachowskis had wanted to protest about what was going on in the United States, then they should have used a political narrative that directly addressed the issues of the US, similar to what Moore had done before with Britain.
The film arguably changes the original message by having removed any reference to actual anarchism in the revolutionary actions of V. An interview with producer Joel Silver reveals that he identifies the V of the comics as a clear-cut "superhero Co-author and illustrator David Lloyd, by contrast, embraced the adaptation.