In part five of my series exploring more literary comic works,
Wait.. part 5? where’s 2, 3, and 4?
Yes. That is an excellent question. Indeed.
Persepolis was initially known to me as the movie that I didn’t want to win the Academy Award, because it was up against Ratatouille, which if you stalk my blog regularly, I named as my second favorite animated film ever, second only to my beloved Tangled, and since the other nominated film was Surf’s Up, a film from the forgotten ‘penguins doing stuff’ era of 2006-2011. All of this basically points to the fact that the Academy Award for best Animated feature is barely respected and has three nomination slots despite the fact that best picture gets 10 nominations. A 2007 Google search reveals a weak year for animation with films like Shrek the Third, Bee Movie and Robert Zemeckis’ unintentionally terrifying Beowulf, but also Disney’s underrrrrated Meet The Robinsons (Disney Animation’s first Lassater-Era gem about an orphan searching for a family and place in the world, is well worth your time, and tears), the surprisingly fantastic Simpsons Movie and the, well, they tried, animated Ninja Turtles movie.
Wait, I think I need to actually start writing about Persepolis, the comic, not re-writing my MySpace Blog entry about the 2007 Academy Awards.
Persepolis the comic was something that I knew of because I worked in a comic book store and, well, I looked at it every day. Post film people would talk to me about it, and I flipped through and found the pseudo–Madeline art style simple and fun, the story sounded interesteng (and the film had amazing animation that was right in line with the book), so at that point I added it to my mental list of ‘important’ comics I needed to read, containing Maus, Ghost World, and Youngblood: Strykeforce. There are two other important things to bring up, one, at that point, I was becoming increasingly burned out with comics, the downfall of having a “dream job”, I suppose. And two, I have giant piles and stacks and lists of things to read, and I’m always afraid I’ll never get to them.
(In a story I’m sure I’ve already told many other places, I was recently called out by on my piles of unread material by an 11-year-old girl at Denver Writes, who, very matter-of-factly said, “Kevin, if you make yourself read at least a half-hour a night, before bed, you’ll finish that stack of books.” Adorable and humbling advice.)
So, Persepolis, comic, of which I am roughly halfway through, is the story of a girl growing up in war-torn Iran, is a thematic followup as well as counterpoint to Maus (my analysis of that will be posted shortly or soon or hopefully), the story of a father and the holocaust.
The biggest draw of Persepolis is the art style (that wasn’t intended as a pun, but I’m keeping it). As I stated above, Marjane Satrapi’s style, pseudo-Madeline mixed with flat art reminiscent of Grecian urns or Egyptian hieroglyphics (aka the first comics), is simple and inviting (and translates beauuuuuuuuuuutifully to animation) and draws you right in to the story. The classical simple style helps the comic feel more historical, but at the same time, the more horrifying scene, beheadings (page 52), etc, seem that much more effective. It serves a double purpose, as it also seems more childlike, also helping to ratchet up the more gruesome scenes, (page 52, again, the dissected man seems almost doll like).
It’s important for me to note that simple style does not mean, childish or amateurish, because effective simple art is harder to pull off effectively, which Satrapi pulls off amazingly. Also effective is her use of blacks and whites and negative/positive space (page, every page, basically).
At this point I jumped to my amended history. I feel I should clarify my Madeline comparison, aside from the fact of school children in uniforms vs veils, I mean more in the sense of the style of art portrayed by the two, the feel of the art compared to the actual art.
I tried to find connections between Persepolis and the other two comics I was working on, City of Glass and American Born Chinese, and the strongest thread I could find between the three was the arc of transformation in the characters and a loss of innocence. In the Case of Persepolis, it’s the war torn horrors of her child hood that in which she loses her innocence and transforms from her more inquisitive and rebellious minded youth.
I also viewed each of the three books through the lens of The Hero’s Journey, as detailed the other two blogs, and I found Marjane’s hero journey to be incomplete, with the book ending with her at the mid point of her journey. Marjane pays a terrible price at the cost of her innocence due to the horrors of war, and leaves on her journey. It’s sequel, the aptly named, Persepolis 2: The Return completes the story circle thematically.