The Middle East and Comics

Art reflects life.  As such, art often portrays times of unrest, upheaval, times that impact all people regardless of geographical location.  The current ongoing protests and conflicts in the Middle East are so profound (and often tragic) that the work that will come out in the coming years will be, well, incredible.  In most cases, that will be the only silver lining to a cloud of unnecessary deaths, destruction and corruption.

Comics have largely been reluctant to mention anything that doesn’t happen on North American soil.  Aside from the occasional mention of the Afghan or Iraq Wars (Flash Thompson comes to mind), conflicts across the Atlantic usually don’t make their way past England.

The one exception is Joshua Dysart’s brilliant opus Unknown Soldier, the first comic to explore with a keen, unflinching eye the conflicts in Africa, specifically Uganda.  Sadly, it never caught on with enough comic readers, and was cancelled after the 25th issue.

It’s Not Cowardice…

So what is stopping writers from exploring the issue?  While it could be a simple lack of complete knowledge preventing writers from diving into the issues, it may also be fear – fear of a backlash, or being labelled an outsider with no real understanding of the issues at the heart of the conflicts.

Certainly it can’t be that nobody has been inspired by the events in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, and the others.  Any writer can’t watch the news coverage of children shouting anti-government slogans without being inspired.  Just watching the footage from Tahrir Square, one can practically feel the electricity in the air.

Or the Middle East may not be viewed as “sexy” by many publishers, especially major ones concerned with the bottom line.

It could be that there are works that are being created that may never see this side of the ocean.

What’s Out There?

That said, here are two works out today that deserve to be checked out.

The first of which is Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, both in graphic novel and feature-length animated film formats.  The autobiographical work follows the author`s experiences post-1979 Iran, from a bratty little kid to an adult living in France.  It’s a moving, eye-opening account of a world that doesn’t make any sense to child or adult.  For anyone who likes comics and politics, it is worth checking out.

Another is Zahra’s Paradise, an ongoing web comic, due for print publication later on this year.  After the 2009 Iranian protests, a student named Medhi goes missing.  Zahra’s Paradise follows his brother and mother as their search leads them through a maze of bureaucracy, abuses, and secrecy.  It’s a fascinating trip, made all the more powerful by the insane level of creativity shown by the team of Amir and Khalil.

Both of these works are worth checking out, as they give insight into a world that we may never know otherwise.  Hopefully, in the coming years, more and more works will come out of the Middle East, reminding the West of what is happening, and proving to the lifetime dictators that art cannot be stifled.  Comics are just one of the many mediums that can and will shed light on issues that may otherwise go unnoticed by many.

Alright.  Wednesday will be funny, I swear.

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