Blame it on Warner Brothers.
The company’s anarchist blockbuster V for Vendetta (based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore) came out just in time to guarantee that its iconic Guy Fawkes mask would be available in every major city right before Anonymous called for its first major in-person operation, a series of worldwide protests against the Church of Scientology.
Anonymous’ public “face” was once a faceless stick figure cartoon known as Epic Fail Guy, a self-deprecating identifier for 4chan members, a group which at the time largely saw itself as basement dwelling wankers. But awesome basement-dwelling wankers. Anonymous emerged from 4chan, essentially evolving into its internet pranking arm. Not long after his creation, Epic Fail Guy stumbled across a Guy Fawkes mask, put it on, and the rest is history.
In 2008, while gearing up for OpChanology, the in-person protests against Scientology, Anons needed a way to identify themselves as such while still hiding their faces. The Guy Fawkes mask was chosen because it was both affordable and ubiquitous worldwide. Revolutionary echoes handed down from Fawkes himself certainly added to its appeal.
However, the semiotics of the mask were actually directed at Scientology, intended to brand it a failure. Fawkes, after all, had to replace his gunpowder stock when the first stash deteriorated, failed in his attempt to get Spain to invade England or support his revolution, and failed at this ultimate attempt to take out Parliament. He at last succeeded in killing himself.
Instead of registering as a symbol of failure, the heroic/outsider aspects of the mask were taken to heart by the public at large (who had no knowledge of 4chan’s history) and ultimately by Anonymous itself, which is not immune to the warm fuzzies given to our cultural icons.
In honor of Halloween and the upcoming Million Mask March, I've rooted through my extensive collection of adapted Anonymous masks. The image that sparked the collection has long since fallen off Google: It was a standard-issue Fawkes mask painted over to turn it into No-Face, the misunderstood monster from Hayao Miyazaki's animated masterpiece Spirited Away.
Here’s an entirely arbitrary scrapbook of the most interesting variations on the Guy Fawkes mask over the past couple of years.
Matthew Borgatti's Anonymous Bandana is still available on Etsy.
The Origami Fawkes
Photo and instructions via Instructables
The print your own version as worn by the Polish parliament
Photo via Marian Hurducas
A First Nations/Idle No More variant from Anonymous Art of Revolution
Photo via Wordpress.com
An assortment of polycarbonate masks by Stoekley, available for sale or new commission on his website.
An impact resistant Commander Anarchist mask by Cookielecroix on Etsy
Animal New York's panoply of ethnically diverse anons
Stephen Colbert's mysterious Anonymous shadowcast mask
Photo via Leaksource
SyriAnon at Toronto's Free Syria protest
Photo Jason Cook/Flickr
Artist Molly Crabapple's personalized Anonymous mask
Photo via Audrey Penven/Flickr
And some amazing pictures that came via Twitter:
Another great iteration of the First Nations theme.
Absolutely, bar none, the best makeup Fawkes out there. Challenge accepted?
A custom variant in the style of the traditional makeup of the Guarani-Kaiowá people of Paraguay.
A unique combination of the Headless Man and Guy Fawkes anon identifiers.
A poignant iteration from IdleNoMore.
Back to basic binary for this faceless Guy.
The best of both worlds with this AnonyMiss.
Of course this Gay Pride iteration is nothing less than fabulous!
Шахайайайхахааййййй!!!! pic.twitter.com/lFo7YrYl6g— Lex Valeria-Horatio (@subverzo) October 9, 2013
Subverzohas always favored a Plague Doctor mask. A rebel? In Anonymous? You don't say!
A slightly psychedelic version with a prominent third eye. (Does anybody else remember Ethersec?)
Photo via dr3amsinfinit3/Instagram
Happy Halloween, everyone! and always remember, remember…