V is a fictional character from the comic book series V for Vendetta, created by Alan Moore. He is a mysterious anarchist terrorist easily recognizable by his Guy Fawkes mask and dark clothing. According to Moore, he was designed to be both a protagonist and antagonist, so that readers could decide for themselves whether he was a hero or simply insane. A film adaptation of the graphic novel was released in 2006, with Hugo Weaving portraying V.
V's background and his identity are largely unknown. It is known that V was an inmate at the infamous "Larkhill Resettlement Camp", which was actually one of many concentration camps where political prisoners, homosexuals, Jews, Blacks, Hindus and probably all non-caucassians were exterminated by Britain's new fascist regime, Norsefire. While there, he was part of a group of prisoners who were subjected to horrific medical experiments conducted by Dr. Delia Surridge, which involved artificially designed hormone experiments (possibly research into creating super-soldiers). A lecherous priest, Lilliman, was at the camp to lend "spiritual support". The dozens of prisoners injected with the serum all died horribly, all except for one man: the man in room five ("V" in Roman numerals). Physically, there was nothing wrong with him. However, Dr. Surridge felt that his mind had been warped by the experimentation and that he had become clinically insane. Still, his actions seemed to maintain a warped logic to them. The experiments actually yielded some beneficial results in the man; he developed near-superhuman reflexes, increased strength, and incredibly expanded mental capacity.
Over time, the man was made to work in the camp's vegetable gardens, which provided food for the guards and the runner of the camp, Commander Prothero. He proved to be quite good at it. The man eventually started taking nitrogen-based fertilizer back to his cell, and arranging them in bizarre, intricate patterns on the floor, and soon after a large amount of grease solvent from the gardens also went missing. In secret, the man was using the fertilizer and solvent make mustard gas and napalm. On a stormy night, he detonated his homemade bomb and escaped his cell. Much of the camp was set ablaze, and many of the guards that rushed in to see what happened were killed by the mustard gas. The camp was evacuated and closed down. He adopted the new identity, "V", and donned a Guy Fawkes mask and costume. V then spent the next four years planning his revenge on the Norsefire government, building his secret base which he called the "Shadow Gallery", and killing off most of the over 40 surviving personel from Larkhill, making each killing look like an accident. However, he saved Prothero, Surridge, and Priest Lilliman for last.
V's true identity is a mystery, and he never takes off his mask during the entire story. He doesn't even consider "V" his "name", saying "I do not have a name. You can call me V". The only explanation we are given of V's past is a secret diary kept by Dr. Surridge, that V leaves out in the open for the police to find after he kills her. Inspector Finch reads through the diary, but points out that V wanted them to read it, and V also tore out many pages, which possibly left clues to his true identity before arriving at the camp. Finch further speculates that it's a possibility that V fabricated the version of Surridge's diary which he left with her body, just to confuse the police. It does seem to be confirmed that V was actually at Larkhill, but anything the police found out about it from the diary is what V wanted them to know.
V was somewhat disfigured by the experiments, so his appearance under his mask was drastically altered from what it was before he came to Larkhill. Evey Hammond speculated in the comic that V might be her own father, who was arrested years ago as a political prisoner, though V denies it. Indeed, Alan Moore has confirmed that V is not Evey's father.  There is also some speculation that V could actually be Valerie, the prisoner in the cell next to his whose autobiographical letter inspired V not to give up (and which he later passed on to Evey). Conceivably, V might actually be a woman whose appearance has been so drastically altered by the hormone experiments that it is impossible to tell while wearing the Guy Fawkes disguise. However, the characters that worked at Larkhill, Prothero and Surridge, both describe V as the "man" from room five, which would seem to dispell this theory.
V's true identity is never revealed even by the end of the story. As Finch comments on the pages V tore from Surridge's diary, "What was on the missing pages, eh? His name? His age? Whether he was Jewish, or homosexual, or black or white?". He later describes himself to Finch as "an idea". That Evey genuinely takes over the persona upon the death of her predecessor suggests V is something transcending the individual physically donning the mask. Late in the story, V also appears to consider herself "anarchy" incarnate. In effect, V is an Everyman: potentially, anyone oppressed by their government could become a revolutionary avenger like V.
A 2006 film, V for Vendetta saw the character of V portrayed by Hugo Weaving. V was originally going to be portrayed by James Purefoy, until he left during production. The film was released in March of 2006.