By Ramin Abhari
The one-sided narrative of the Greco-Persian Wars presented in the English-language "popular history" texts had not bothered me until I saw the graphic novel "300" by Frank Miller at a Barnes & Nobles bookstore in May 2000. There was something in this totally inaccurate portrayal of the Persians that upset me at both an intellectual and emotional level that is difficult to describe. That's when I realized how powerful images can be... the "picture" was indeed "worth a thousand words." As a comic book fan and illustrator, I swore to myself that I would one day illustrate and publish the "Persian side of the story."
But my family and my engineering career took priority, and that graphic novel project lost its importance during the subsequent years.
That changed recently when one of my children was about to start working on a World History project for school. His report was to include some "copy and paste" images from the internet to make it more interesting. Out of curiosity, I searched the key words "Xerxes" (خشايارشا) and "Immortals" (جاودان) in Google Images. To my horror, the first half dozen hits were all from the "300" graphic novels and movies. (Yes, the novel was turned into a movie, and they both generated sequels). The actual images of the Persian king and Iran's ancient elite forces that are so prominently displayed in the stone reliefs of Persepolis, could only be found among the Google images if you knew what you were looking for! Could it be that a piece of ignorant propaganda would influence the way a new generation of Westerners perceived the glory of Iran's ancient past? (Frank Miller himself used the word "propaganda" to describe his "300" graphic novel.) That's when I bought a new bottle of ink and hit the drafting board!
"Xerxes Speaks" presents the battle of Thermopylae (the subject of the first "300" graphic novel and movie) from a Persian perspective; but it also delves deeper into Iran's first 200 years to analyze the causes and consequences of the empire's rapid expansion. It is well-researched, so I hope you find it educational as well as entertaining.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR:
Ramin Abhari is an engineer with over 24 years of professional experience. He is also an artist and an inventor, and has drawn comic books for fun since his childhood in 1970's Tehran. Abhari's current graphic novels are inspired by Iranian history and mythology. He may be contacted at the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAGS: Xerxes, Immortals, Thermopylae, Hydarnes, Mardonius, Leonidas, Iran/Persia
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