Friday, 22 May 2015

Deep Sequencing: Persepolis Symbology

A look at the symbology in Persepolis,
by Marjane Satrapi; Pantheon Books

Persepolis is a pretty interesting comics artifact. It is a deeply intimate autobiography of a woman growing up against a tumultuous backdrop. It is a primary source document detailing the civilian life of an Iranian woman during the Revolution, ascension of Islamic Rule, and the ensuing war with neighbouring Iraq. Persepolis is also an olive branch document, one of those wonderful machines that communicate the common humanity of people from wildly different cultures. And it's also a really great comic that does some properly interesting things.

Specifically, I'm really interested in the way Marjane Satrapi is able to distill really complex ideas down to immediately understandable images. 

There will be *SPOILERS* of a sort for Persepolis below.

One of the awesome things about comics is that the picture elements of comics can be used to encode information in symbols. Instead of directly depicting the literal events happening, comics can instead use pictures that convey the idea of what is happening conceptually. It's a mode of comics that is maybe uncommon to see in more mainstream genre comics, but Persepolis is absolutely full of.  In the above selection we can see competing protests between modern and conservative dress for Iranian women distilled to it's simplest, most iconic form. Or below that the metaphor of a crowd tumbling off a large multi-person bicycle as a representation of a faltering revolution. A crowd of theatre goers who died in a fire are represented as horrific fire ghosts. A storyteller telling a scary story is represented as a simplified, gleeful monster. Refugees from the border between Iran and Iraq are shown driving between tongues of flame. A day spent aimlessly riding streetcars around and around a city is represented as a streetcar on a path of crazy unconnected lines. In each of these cases the comic chooses to shun the complexity of the actual events and instead present a simplified representation. This decision really distills each of these moments and presents them with an immediate understanding and a rapid emotional  reaction to what is depicted. It's great comics and a showcase of one of the most special elements of this media. 

Persepolis is a comic everyone should make an effort to read.

Post by Michael Bround

So I Read Persepolis

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