SERIES – PART 3 OF 3: Persepolis Boldly Illustrates the Middle Eastern Experience Before and After Iranian Revolution

Photo credit Luciano on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/30208099@N00/3297863866

The comic book medium has evolved through a plethora of era. From the Golden Age (1938-1956), introducing readers to the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman and Captain America; to the Modern Age (1985-present), where psychologically-complex characters, the rise of the anti-hero and intricate plots rule the comic landscape.

With the evolution of comic books comes the inclusion of rich and nuanced tales of character’s lives reflecting our own.

This last-in-the-series dive into multiculturalism and cross-culture in comic books focuses on Persepolis. See part two of the series here.


This is the front cover art for the graphic novel Persepolis. The book cover is from publisher, L'Association. Persepolis is shown in a red cover, and Persepolis 2 has a blue cover.
(Front cover art for Persepolis. Source: L’Association. Licensing under Fair Use.)

Persepolis is a graphic autobiography created by Marjane Satrapi, depicting life in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution through the eyes of Marji, the 10-year-old protagonist.

Marjane chronicles her experiences through Marji as she navigates the horrors of war and religious extremism on Iranian women to the freedom of boarding school with her liberal family.

A coming-of-age story set in a time and place where many Westerners know little to nothing. Marji lives in an upper-middle class liberal family, exposing herself to plenty of educational material that taught her about Western political thought.

Through her young education, Marji recognizes her class privilege while tackling her own family’s political background.

This is a photo of a scene in the graphic novel, Persepolis. It was taken on a 6.1 mm Sony Cybershot by Olga Berrios and posted on Flickr.
(Photo credit: Olga Berrios via Flickr under Creative Commons.)

But war waits for no one. As the fighting on the battlefield intensifies, Marji must deal with the very real threat of long-range ballistic missiles hitting her neighborhood, the death of her young friends and the fear of dying young.

The second issue of this series shows Marji and her family departing to Europe in search of better lives. Starting a new life in boarding school, Marjie struggles to assimilate into the new culture with her lack of knowledge on German language, and the xenophobia that plagues her at school.

This is a photo variant of the front cover of Persepolis taken by Kenneth Lu on a Fujifilm FinePix camera, posted online on Flickr. The cover is orange.
(Photo credit: Kenneth Lu via Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Author Spotlight: Marjane Satrapi

Growing up in Tehran to a middle-class Iranian family, Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian-French graphic novelist and illustrator.

This photo shows Marjane Satrapi at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. She is wearing a white dress with red artistry detailing flowers, looking past the camera.
(Marjane Satrapi at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo credit: Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons.)

Her parents were politically active and supported Marxist causes to rebel against the monarchy of the Shah. When the 1979 Iranian Revolution took place, Muslim fundamentalists who took power after the Iranian Revolution and oppressed her and her family.

The enemy of democracy isn’t one person. The enemy of democracy is patriarchal cultures. As with the family, where the father of the family decides and has the last word, so a dictator is the father of the nation.

Marjane Satrapi for Vogue.

One of Marjane’s biggest impacts on her life is her paternal uncle, Anoosh.

Anoosh had lived a portion of his life as a political prisoner, exiled to Soviet Union for some time. As a youth, Marjane greatly admired her uncle. Once Anoosh returned to Iran, he was subsequently arrested and sentenced to death.

Illustration of the character Uncle Anoosh from Persepolis. Anoosh Satrapi was Marjane's paternal uncle, and wrote this character to signify Marji and Marjane's hero. The illustration is in black and white. Anoosh is dressed in a suit and tie, looking back directly at the viewer.
(Illustration of the character Uncle Anoosh from Persepolis. Artist: Marjane Satrapi. Photo credit: Anoosh Satrapi’s Twitter.)

Growing concerned for her family’s safety, Marjane’s parents arranged for her to study abroad to live with a family friend. She stayed in Vienna, Austria, and attended the Lycée Français de Vienne.

Marjane eventually returned to Iran to study visual communication, earning a master’s degree from Islamic Azad University in Tehran.

Marjane Satrapi during a premiere of her film Persepolis on Wikimedia Commons.
(Photo credit: Rama via Wikimedia Commons.)

Now a graphic novelist and cartoonist, Marjane Satrapi lives in Paris with her husband, Mattias Ripa. She has become famous worldwide through her critically acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel series Persepolis, selling more than 2 million copies.

Persepolis was adapted into a 2007 adult animated film based on Satrapi’s written work.

(Credit: Sony Pictures Classics via YouTube.)

If you would like to see the other comic books, characters and authors in this series, here are parts one and two.

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