V for Vendetta was the first comic I read. Well, almost. I remember having some Muppet Babies comics when I was very young, but to be honest I mostly colored in them (I was like four!).
I’d watched and liked the movie, and I wanted to know more about the story that inspired it. That’s why I tend to get twitchy about geeks criticizing people who discover comics through mass media. I was one of them, and I’m still here seven years later. It can be a good thing.
I didn’t have a clue about where to find comics. My gaming store didn’t have them, and none of my friends ever talked about shopping for them and I was shy about asking. I had a hunch that maybe I could find graphic novels at Barnes and Noble, and I was right. They were even in my normal aisle. I frequented the science fiction and fantasy section for Star Trek novels, the latest Wheel of Time book, and more for years but always glossed over the section with comic trades and graphic novels. And they filled several shelves. I scanned the titles until I found V for Vendetta, and I couldn’t get home fast enough – I just wanted to curl up and dive into this new format of storytelling.
I had no idea I picked up a book that was considered a modern classic or must-read for comic book fans. I didn’t know who Alan Moore or David Lloyd was. I’d never heard of Watchmen.
It was an interesting way to come to comics. There was no one telling me the 5,000 reasons why they loved Batman and why I HAD to read books x, y, and z. I don’t mind that enthusiasm and now feel that way about more than a few characters, but it can be intimidating. I stumbled into it and though I sought out recommendations soon thereafter, it was a nice way to begin.
As you can probably guess, I enjoyed V for Vendetta. Besides being a solid, emotional, and important story, it was suited for a person learning to read comics. I remember taking several pages getting used to how to read word bubbles and how to track the flow of dialogue so that the conversations made sense. It’s as natural as breathing now, but then, it was a new way of seeing a story.
And I loved it.
V opened the door to a different world. I knew about superheroes like Superman and Spider-Man (though I didn’t know the correct way to spell it back then), and I just sort of assumed that all comic books had to be focused on characters like that. It surprised me that they could and did tell stories about people, about society, and about government. V would fit into any high school English class curriculum with its themes about a totalitarian government, terrorism, and a dystopian future.
It blew me away.
Besides it being dear to me for the milestone factor, V is one of the most excellent comics I’ve read. It has been a story that has stuck with me over the years – particularly Valerie’s letter. Even thinking about the words almost brings me to tears. The story of her life, related through a letter on toilet paper to Evey and flashbacks, only makes up a scant few pages of the 200+ page story but they pack a punch. Valerie’s words are pivotal in pushing Evey forward and crucial to her transformation.
“An inch. It’s small and it’s fragile and it’s the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.
I don’t know who you are. Or whether you’re a man or a woman. I may never see you or cry with you or get drunk with you. But I love you. I hope that you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better, and that one day people have roses again. I wish I could kiss you.
The description of her life was key to the book, but more importantly, it taught me that comics could make me feel and feel deeply.