Andy Diggle: First off - why comics? What was it that initially
drew you to the medium?
I can’t pinpoint that one specific thing. If you’re an artist
or writer or whatever and need to express yourself in some
way as we all do, then we become lured by the various mediums
of expression - or the one - which we encounter in our formative
early years. Despite my enthusiasm for painting and writing,
and all the attraction of cinema and TV, comics just took
a hold of me. I started drawing and writing them
from the age of 13. It may well be that because the craft
of comics combines a lot of the elements of those other things
I was into, it had the edge in dragging me to its heels more
effectively than anything else. Anyway, that’s how I got here.
defines a good editor? What defines a bad one?
that depends entirely on whether he’s working for himself
on an independent basis as editor/publisher; editor/publisher
attached to a bigger publisher; editor in a big publishing
house; or editor in a little publishing house. They’ve all
got different kinds of demands on them, as you know.
But if your
question is just about how they interact with creators, and,
for the moment, you’re talking about editors in a big publishing
house, I’d say they have to know what the people they hire
are capable of and get the best out of them by using that
knowledge. That’s reasonably easy if you’re hiring people
you know of, and who you know to be reliable. More difficult
if you’re in the position of giving someone a break. Good
editors have to take chances on someone new or something new
if they value themselves as creative forces in their own right.
But they can be good if they’re just holding the fort, too.
The important thing, though, is to know when to keep your
hand off the tiller. If you hire good people to do the work,
let em get on with it - and don’t
stick your fingers in it during or afterwards unless something’s
gone drastically wrong with what you expected them to come
How much of an influence was your work on Marvel UK’s Night Raven on V For
DL: A direct
influence and an indirect one. If you’re unfamiliar with the
history of V detailed in the collected edition, I’ll
run over the initial circumstances of its birth...
was drawn for Dez Skinn,
when he was editing British comics for Marvel UK, and, laudably, commissioning original art and stories
for them when previously only packaged reprints of US work
had been published by them. Dez
initiated a whole bunch of story types for these books - a
fantasy thing, a science fiction thing, a masked vigilante
thing and suchlike. Night-Raven (it had a hyphen once...)
was the masked vigilante thing. When Dez left Marvel and later decided to set up his own comic
magazine, Warrior, he wanted a similar range of story
types in his book. So he hired a lot of the creators he’d
worked with at Marvel to create these things for him. He asked
me to do a masked vigilante thing along the lines of Night
Raven, and invited me to write and draw it. Frankly, I
was not attracted by the idea of writing it at the time, but
Alan was on board Warrior already with his update of
an old British comic character called Marvelman.
I’d worked happily with Alan on stuff before, and he was a
great guy - so I suggested Alan write it instead of me. Dez
had no objections, so off we went and did it.
influence comes from the fact that, had it not been the case
that I was fed up to the back teeth with having to get period
detail correct in Night-Raven, which was set in Prohibition
America, V - or whatever it might have ended up being
called - could have been much more like Night Raven
and nothing like V became.
V For Vendetta was very much
a product of its time - namely Thatcher’s Britain of the early 1980s. How well has it aged?
DL: I don’t
think it’s aged at all. Its theme is universal. It sells all
over the world - or over lots of it, at least. It’s about
tyranny, the right of the individual to be individual, it’s
about terrorism... I think the only thing that dates it in
the way that you mention, is the fact that Alan’s introduction
to the collection refers to that Thatcher period. I guess
my foreword to the collection will date it eventually in a
similar way, but not quite yet, because 15 years after I wrote
it, British TV is still airing Porridge, EastEnders
and A Question of Sport...
was it like working with Alan Moore? Were his scripts very
prescriptive, or did they leave plenty of room for your own
DL: Ah, this
is the “legend of Alan’s scripts” question I am always asked,
and you haven’t disappointed me, Andy...
I have no
stories of excessively detailed scripts to report
concerning my work with Alan, though I did see him start to
embroider his descriptions as time went by. We joked about
it. ‘Me, squire? Wordy?’ is a reasonable
paraphrase of his response. I think what you have to remember
is that myself and Alan hadn’t been in the business for very
long before we began to work together. I’d become a full-time
professional in ‘77, Alan about two years later, I think -
and we created V in 1980. As a writer in a collaborative
environment, he was still developing.
it’s true that Alan has been writing lots of very detailed
scripts for people, I think it’s partly because he was once
an artist/writer and, consequently, must often see exactly
what he believes will work best in his mind’s eye as he writes
and is unable to stop himself describing it. Also,
and I think as importantly, Alan is much more of a prose writer
at heart than a kind of screenwriter-type as many people
who write comics are. It’s probably much more difficult for
him to restrict his directions because of that.
AD: How much
input did you have into the story itself?
Well, basically, I used to just say what I didn’t think worked.
Alan would write a synopsis of what was roughly going to happen
in the story, section by section, which would cover a number
of episodes. We’d agree, and then Alan would send in a script
for one episode. We’d talk about that, agree on any changes
and frame breakdowns and then I’d draw it, and send the completed
episode in photocopy form to him at the same time it was sent
to the magazine. We were doing it for a monthly, one chapter
at a time of about 6-8 pages in length, and Alan wouldn’t
write the script for the next chapter until he got the art
for the last one, so it was like a kind of growing thing,
step by step. I’d get a great script every month, then he’d
get some great (excuse me) art the next month. It was kind
of organic... and always subject to little, and sometimes,
big changes in form. Because it took shape so slowly, I think
it gave Alan lots of room to think as it developed. Unfortunately,
this system of creativity ceased when Warrior folded,
and the last part of V - the final three issues of
the DC series - were all drawn from three complete scripts
that Alan had written in one chunk. At the time, it would
probably have been impossible for him to have completed V
in the circumstances of its earlier making because he was
very busy with lots of other work, but I always feel kind
of sad that we couldn’t have done it again that way.
The comic features a security state where ethnic, racial and
political “deviants” are arrested without charge and held
without trial in “internment camps”. Is the story more relevant
now than ever...?
DL: No. Like
I said earlier, I don’t think it ages.
you say your original V is a hero, an anti-hero, a villain,
a symbol for all of us - an everyman - so he’s like all of
us, and as capable of anything as each of us can be, given
the justifying circumstances that would enable us to do whatever
that thing was.
AD: Is he
a terrorist or a freedom-fighter? Is it possible to be both?
are both terms used by the opposing sides in a conflict to
describe the same person from differing points of view, so
you can be both, but you are not necessarily both.
seen the V For Vendetta movie.
What’s your reaction?
a terrific film. The most extraordinary thing about it for
me was seeing scenes that I’d worked on and crafted for maximum
effect in the book translated to film with the same degree
of care and effect. The “transformation” scene between Natalie
Portman and Hugo Weaving is just great. If you happen to be one
of those people who admires the original so much that changes
to it will automatically turn you off, then you may dislike
the film - but if you enjoyed the original and can accept
an adaptation that is different to its source material but equally
as powerful, then you’ll be as impressed as I was with it.
How faithful to the comic is it?
AD: No movie
can ever be 100% faithful to its original source material;
nor should it try to be. Do you feel the changes were valid?
was nothing stopping Larry and Andy making a more faithful
version of Vendetta than they made - indeed they wrote
a script that was closer to the original version eight years
ago. But I have no argument with what they’ve done now with
V, as I had no argument with the smaller changes they
made to it back then, because the movie rights were sold to
DC by myself and Alan way back in 1985, and we were both intelligent
enough to know that we were not signing those rights over
to a board of trustees whose duty was to look after our creative
property as if it were the Dead Sea Scrolls. My attitude was
always that I’d be happy to see V made into a movie
if it was a good movie. It has been made into a good movie.
In fact, I think that Larry and Andy, James McTeigue,
Grant Hill, Adrian Biddle, and Joel Silver have made an excellent
movie of it with an excellent cast. And I’m pleased to
support what they’ve done.
Are the changes
they’ve made to it valid? Well, there are those who value
the original so completely that no changes to the
story would be seen by them as valid, and I wouldn’t want
to be in the position of trying to convince anyone that any
changes that have been made to it were valid because I’m not
responsible for them being made. I really want everyone to
make up their own mind about it when they see it, and accept
or reject them then. I feel sad about the antagonism towards
the film that’s been stimulated by Alan’s view of the script
and other matters, because it seems to have caused a lot of
people to pre-judge the film - and that’s bad.
Does the movie offer us a black-and-white morality, with V
as a heroic freedom-fighter battling a villainous regime,
or does it embrace the moral ambiguity of the comic?
DL: If you’re
talking about the moral ambiguity of the characters who
figure in the story, there’s a much smaller cast to demonstrate
that with in the film, so a level of complexity in the treatment
of the denizens of V’s world is missing - but there’s little
missing in the rounded portrayal of V and his battle against
The only other
thing I’d add by way of reply to that question is
that the Leader character in the film isn’t painted with any
of those brush strokes of sympathy he was given in the original.
Considering the crimes he’d committed, I guess no-one could
stomach the idea of giving him any.
AD: The home-grown
British fascists of the comic have been replaced in the film
by German Nazis having won World War II. But might this miss
the point that fascism, totalitarianism, loss of freedom can
happen anywhere - even here... ?
Now that question is based on believing a rumor to be true.
Because I know info gets around the web very quickly,
I figured that once someone had read the script of V
- which apparently many now have
- all old rumors would be squashed. Obviously not. The point has been kept.
AD: Is the
V of the movie a proponent of Anarchism?
DL: The V
of the original creates chaos with the personal hope, almost
a dream, of it leading to a state of true anarchy, but he
doesn’t set any wheels in motion to provide such a state with
a solid foundation because he can’t. In one sense,
you could say he’d be unable to, because to do that would
be to lead, and the essence of anarchy is that it exists
without leaders. At the end of his achievements, he has only
given the people the freedom to choose how they want to live.
V in the film demonstrates no desire to preach a particular
way of life to the people he’s encouraging to freedom, so
you could call him less of a dreamer and more of a pragmatist.
Moore’s negative reaction to the screenplay, and subsequent
squabbles with producer Joel Silver, are well documented.
Do you share Alan’s point of view to any degree, or has it
all been blown out of proportion?
DL: As I
said above, I regret all that. Alan is entitled to his point
of view, and I have my own.
Do you feel you’ve been treated fairly?
I signed a contract with DC in 1985, selling V For
Vendetta to them under certain terms and conditions. They’ve
abided by that contract to the letter. I get all that I’m
due from it.
their contract obliges DC or Warner Bros to send
me or to show me any scripts for a V movie, or to pass
comment on them, but from the very first script that was written
for one - written over ten years ago by someone whose name
I shall not grace with a mention, and which I would not have
supported in the way I support the present one - they always
on, I’ve heard you’re working on your own graphic novel, a
detective thriller called Kickback. Can you tell us
a little about it?
Sure. First, it’s from a rough script I put together about
7 years ago and kept in a side draw due to never being
able to grab the time to try to get it sold. If you’re lucky
enough to be a reasonably popular artist in this business,
finding the time and space to even write something is hard
enough without getting the time to sell it as well. It’s a
story about a corrupt policeman in a corrupt force and how
and why he gets to change the direction of his life, and I
enjoyed doing it more than anything else I’ve done in years.
AD: Is this
for the French market? Any chance of an
DL: I sold
it to France - in ‘03, eventually - because at the time I wrote
it, that was the market I considered would be ideal for it.
At that time, crime comics were not exactly a favorite subject
amongst US publishers. Apart from Sin
City, there was nothing making much money in that area.
The French market had lots of detective books and generally
a lot of time for crime. On top of that, I’d always wanted
to do something for the European market with its very particular
qualities. Having something in hardback with some kind of
reasonable shelf life was also an attraction at the time because
I was always sick of the sheer volume of product you had
to bump shoulders with in the US market every month to
get anything you’d done seen by anyone for longer than two
seconds before it became a back issue.
in two 46-page volumes, both on sale now in France. Spain is currently also publishing it,
and Dark Horse are publishing it in one hardback comic-sized
volume in Summer this year.
it concern you that there isn’t more of a market for this
kind of project in the English-speaking comics
in days gone by before spinner racks of Manga hit every Barnes
and Noble store in the US, I always bemoaned the inability
of the Anglo/American comics industry to recognize the power
of its own potential, and took whatever opportunities that
afforded themselves to suggest that expanding the market beyond
the core - or what has been made the core - readership would
be not only be a good idea but essential to survival. Publishers
were ready to accept the fact that many people who don’t
generally read comics can actually warm to them if they’re
presented to them in very specific ways tailored to their
tastes, but this knowledge was never followed
up with any large-scale attempts to benefit from it.
Somehow, the industry seemed frozen into immobility by the
weight of its own mass, waiting for the next big superhero
movie to come along and inject some life into it again, even
though it had been proved that screen success of a superhero
didn’t always mean bigger sales, or any, of the character
in the comics.
came Manga and grabbed all the girls. A
lot of other folks, too. It grabbed all the bookstores
- the coveted golden ground. It’s impossible to compete with
it now, too. Cheap, black and white reprint from a trillion-page
backlog of stuff of all kinds, sold at low prices but in nice
packages. And now - goddammit -
they’re forcing our kids to read like Japs!
(Little joke, there... no offense meant...)
Yes, I’m concerned.
Hope lots of publishers are. How much good it’ll
do them depends on their willingness to mount serious
expeditions into unknown territory.