October 15, 2012

The Simplistic Beauty of Comic Book Art & Narrative

Before reading Persepolis, we read McCloud's The Vocabulary of Comics, which contained an important theory claiming that the less detailed the comic book characters facial structure is, the easier it is for the reader to recognize themselves in the structurally abstract faces. The simplicity of comic art is a key part in bringing the reader into the reading and putting themselves in the shoes of the protagonist. Because of the comic book strip, the story must be told in one long narrative by the protagonist,  largely through conversations. The comic strip allows for 2-3 small pictures per row, meaning the ideas and conversations as narrated by the protagonist must be direct and effective.

Persepolis encaptures these key concepts of the comic book beautifully. The complexity of an Islamic revolution is enormous, and Marjane (the protagonist and actual author) tells the delicate story through the eyes of her own former self, recounting the dark years through childhood to adolescent ages. Because of the simplicity of cartoon art, Marjane is able to create humor in her strips because of her ability to bring a comic effect to each of the terrible situations that Marjane encounters. The Islamic soldiers are drawn with a simple look of cartoon fury:  >:{ and always say something ignorant and negative and then refer to the power of God. When Marjane walks through the street in her hip outfit, the nuns appear as a mangle of giant black dress and several disgruntled faces. When the protestors are burned to the ground in the movie theatre,  the horror is exemplified through ghosts with simple frowny faces descending to the sky. While the hundreds of ghosts fly up into the sky, the soldiers continue to bark orders and point their guns at those outside. The simplicity here is key. 

Being narrated through the eyes of a child, simple pictures accompany simple sentences that allow the story to tell itself. Marjane writes the story as an adult who knows of the ignorance of these heinous acts, but stays committed to detailing the story through the eyes of a child. It pays off brilliantly, as these images depict the senselessness of the crimes. By not sounding overly-biased but still writing as a child who knows something is wrong with all of the oppression around her, it is easy to fall into the life of the child and see with overwhelming simplicity the repugnant idiocy of the systems in place in many countries around the world. Using simplistic art forms and a matching simplistic narrative, Marjane effectively uses the comic book strip art as discussed by McCloud to capture and pull the reader into the life of Marjane Satrapi. 

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