Comics to Read – Persepolis

Cover of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Cover of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. She grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. When things seemed to get to rough she got sent away to Europe, but eventually came back home. It was also one of the top challenged books in America in 2014.

Using a graphic novel to tell the story made it something that could cross boundaries in many ways. It is difficult to talk about a situation from another culture if you have not grown up in that situation. Visuals help to translate those cultural differences into something that can be interpreted by others. The story itself is so incredible and to see those items visually it really brings power to the story being told.

A graphic novel granted Marjane Satrapi the ability to put a face on the situation in Iran, where otherwise it could just be seen as something that is happening far away that doesn’t matter.

An Autobiography

The important thing to remember when reading Persepolis is that it is an autobiography. Someone could try and separate the story being told with the reality of the situation – but this was the real situation. One of the things that we often forget about the facts of history is that they are experienced by real people. Those people experience and view those events through the lens of their personal experience.

In Persepolis Satrapi really shows you her experience and her view on her life. She takes you from living in Iran and dealing with her world being turned upside down. Then to being the fish out of water trying to live in Europe where suddenly the culture and customs are completely different. Finally she ends up back in Iran because she wants to go – only to discover that home is a little harder to find then she thought. It gives you a unique look into a story that most people have no connection to.

Visual Storytelling

Opening panel from PersepolisThe graphic novel does a great job of giving visuals to circumstances that other cultures could not relate to. A great example of this is the very beginning of Part 1 where Satrapi is explaining about the veil. I think that other cultures have a view of what the veil is and what it means, but it is great to hear from someone who grew up in that culture. The other piece is that there is no one type of veil – there are multiple. Part of what the different types of veils tell you is about the person’s own beliefs.

It is amazing how much can be brought out of what seems like a simple piece of fabric, but there is so much more to it than you might expect. At the same time to be able visually see how the veil is represented in Iranian culture really helps to understand everyday life for Satrapi.

Heartwrenching

Marjane Satrapi’s story is not easy to hear. Persepolis gives you a look into a harrowing series of events. Panel of PersepolisShe does not shy away from talking about difficult and personal experiences in a very open and honest way. It is not about the clinical numbers that we might hear about in a history book. It is about the real people in her life who she knows and cares about.

Sometimes history can seem like just a series of numbers and the situations can be tragic, but we often distance ourselves from the real tragedy. Persepolis brings the lives of those who lived through this particular situation into focus. It is obviously only one story, but it gives a glimpse into a different life and a different world. It puts a face on the history of a nation that many of us would not know otherwise.

Ms. Marvel #18 Review

Ms. Marvel #18 cover

This is one of those covers that has nothing whatsoever to do with the story inside. Just ignore it. Spoilers below, as always.

At the end of the last issue, the Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel teamup had successfully located Kamala’s brother Aamir, who had been kidnapped by Kamala’s evil Inhuman ex Kamran. But they were too late to stop Kamran from immersing Aamir in mist in an effort to transform him into an Inhuman too.

It worked… Sort of. Aamir wakes up with superpowers, but the transformation wasn’t typical, and it seems to have made him sick. Kamran doesn’t care, and starts his speech about ruling the galaxy, but Aamir’s having none of it…

Ms. Marvel #18 Aamir

Aamir has never been so cool. He gives Kamran a spectacular piece of his mind — Aamir never wanted superpowers, he’s perfectly happy the way he is no matter what anybody thinks of it. And he will not forget what happened between Kamala and Kamran, and he may not know exactly what occurred, but he will not blame Kamala or let Kamran off scot-free just because he’s a guy. And then he tosses Kamran into a pile of junk with his superpowers! It’s my favorite scene in a good long while.

Come to mention it, I’m still a bit disappointed with the team-up. I think it’s because all of this is happening as part of the Secret Wars event. I wish Ms. Marvel had gotten to meet Captain Marvel under normal circumstances. Meh. It ends nicely, although rather predictably.

Ms. Marvel #18 Carol Danvers

The curveball is in the exposition — Captain Marvel tells Kamala that they don’t expect to win this one, leaving her at a loss, just as the rest of her family arrives.

There’s one issue left in this arc, but I don’t know yet what to expect. Will Kamran be back? I didn’t notice until my second time through the scene, but they totally just left him there. He can stand right back up and continue being a nuisance. Will Kamala engage with the larger storyline, or will it be an entire issue of family drama ending with however-Secret-Wars-ends? We shall see.

Comics You Should Be Reading: Sex Criminals

Today, my head is full of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff: I’ve been reading lots of Sex Criminals lately, as well as a fair few novels with complex timelines. And I thought, perhaps, I should say a thing or two Sex Criminals over here where we like to talk about comics and wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey things and stuff.

sexcriminals1The series, which is written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, is just shy of two years old–its first issue was published on September 25, 2013. It was named Best Comic by Time in 2013, and it was nominated for two Eisner Awards last year.

The story is predominantly about Jon, an actor whose day-job is banking, and Suzee, a librarian. The two meet at a party, go home with one another, and have some sexy times. But Jon and Suzie are different from other people–when they achieve orgasm, they freeze time. And they’re apparently not alone.

In the first story arc (issues 1-5), Jon and Suzie find one another, and the two decide to use their powers to team up and save the library where Suzie works. They decide to rob the bank where Jon works, and perhaps a few others, to get the money Suzie needs to keep the bank from repossessing the building and knocking it down. But their activities get them noticed by the Sex Police, who are apparently a real thing in this universe.

The second story arc (issues 6-10) finds Jon and Suzie in a bit of a rut, quite removed from the chaos that ended the first story arc. We move backward to see how Jon and Suzie escaped and how Jon became a ghost of his former self and then forward to see how the couple deals with this kind of opposition. We also see more of the Sex Police and begin to get a sense of how many other people like Jon and Suzie are out there.

The third story arc is in its infancy, with only issue 11 published thus far, but it seems to be moving the characters from the first two story arcs together as Jon and Suzie search for other people like them using stole records from the Sex Police. Issue 12 drops on September 16.

So why should you be reading Sex Criminals?

  • It’s original. This is not another superhero story, even if there are superpowers and villains. I can’t even think of many things that it reminds me of—–and I’ve got no idea when the last time I could say that was.
  • It’s sex-positive. There are sex tips in most issues; the characters engage in various sex acts without a judgmental gaze from the narrator or illustrator. And that’s refreshing.
  • It’s funny and honest. Especially in the first few issues, as we see our protags go through puberty and learn about their abilities through first sexual encounters, the comic manages with incredible candor.
  • There’s going to be a TV series. In February 2015, Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick (fellow comics collaborator and wife) signed a two-year deal to develop the show with Universal TV.
  • Zdarsky can render expressions beautifully. And his art is an incredible addition to the series’ story-lines.

That said, the series could certainly use some more diversity. There are precious few sexcriminals2non-CIS, non-white, non-hetero characters, and that is a disappointment. Incorporating more diverse characters can really only help a series that is so sex-positive. I do have hopes though—the series introduced Rainbow in the second story arc, a black OBGYN and Jon’s old pal, and he’s continued to be a part of the third story arc. More characters like Rainbow! 🙂

Clearly, this one’s not for the faint of heart, either. While the art is not what I would classify as pornographic, the premise of the comic insists that there be sexual images and dialogue, and there are a few groan-worthy jokes about ejaculate. But sometimes a little crassness is A Good Thing.