The faces behind the V Occupy masks

It’s 1604; five men are hunched over at Duck and Drake Pub on a foggy London evening. They’ve got whispers on their lips and schemes in their minds. Their plot: to overthrow the English government by blowing up the protestant parliament building. The men were captured before their “Gunpowder Plot” was completed, but the first of them captured, a man with a distinctly curly mustache by the name of Guy Fawkes, was to become celebrated as a symbol of protest, and influenced the violent main character “V” in the renowned 1989 graphic novel “V for Vendetta.”

Now, Fawkes is influencing a new generation of anti-government sympathizers: the Occupy Wall Street protesters. From LA to New York, occupiers are donning the caricatured mask worn by “Vendetta’s” main character and taking to the streets. But the question is, how did the mask move from radical political figure to mainstream symbol?

It’s reported that the first use of the mask in a protest was during a series of 2008 rallies against the Church of Scientology by the “hacktivist” group Anonymous.

Since then, the masks have been utilized globally in protests of all sorts.

"The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny,” said V for Vendetta Artist David Lloyd in an interview with BBC News. “I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way.”

In “V for Vendetta,” the graphic novel that popularized the mask, Lloyd and “Vendetta’s” author Alan Moore created a dystopian future UK, in which an anarchist character named “V”–who wears a Guy Fawkes mask—begins a showy and violent revolutionary campaign to overthrow his government.

Therein lies one of the key differences between Guy Fawkes, “V,” and the Occupy protestors inspired by these two symbols: the former two utilized violence as a form of protest, whereas the Occupy protesters have attempted a more peaceful form of demonstration.

What makes them the ideal anti-establishment symbol is the principle of the matter; the fight against a powerful governing body.

"My feeling is the Anonymous group needed an all-purpose image to hide their identity and also symbolize that they stand for individualism,” Lloyd told the BBC. “V for Vendetta is a story about one person against the system."