Marjane Satrapi

Read It: Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is the better-known work and deserves all its praise (and I also highly recommend it), but I want to spotlight one of Marjane Satrapi’s other works that is just as moving.

Chicken with Plums is a graphic novel about the last eights days of her great uncle’s life in November 1958. Nasser Ali Khan was a well known musician in Iran but when his instrument (a tar, a lute or guitar-like instrument) gets damaged, he’s unable to find a replacement good enough and falls into a bed-ridden depression. The story is tragic but there are moments of humor and hope that prevent it from feeling like a dirge. Anyone who feels a connection or longs for a connection to creativity of some kind should get something out of this. Ali Khan essentially loses his muse, and the reveal of the whys and wherefores behind that loss is heartbreaking. In other words, yes I cried.

Satrapi once again masterfully depicts Iranian culture of the time, and in that respect it serves as a great companion to Persepolis. For sheltered Americans like myself, these kinds of glimpses into countries not are own are so valuable. From simply watching or reading the news, reading about names and events can start to have a dehumanizing effect. Things just seem to happen on a broader scale, all defined in simplistic terms of “good” and “bad”. This country did something. Oh, well is that good or bad? Zooming in, you discover that the Country didn’t do anything. Many human beings within the country are doing lots of things. And a lot of those things might be really familiar to a lot of the things that I do. It doesn’t mean there aren’t differences, it just means they are human differences. Families and friends, and the love and heartache between them, exist everywhere.

As with Persepolis, Satrapi has turned Chicken with Plums into a feature film directed by herself and comics artist/filmmaker Vincent Paronnaud. Unlike Persepolis, the movie is live action, although some animation is used as visual effects. The French-language Proulet aux Prunes replaces the tar with a violin but otherwise appears very faithful to Satrapi’s graphic novel. The movie debuted last month at the 68th Venice Film Festival and will screen throughout France next week. No plans yet for an English subtitled version but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. Here’s the trailer so you can practice your French. It looks good.

My List of the 10 Favorite / Best / Most Significant Comics Works

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (the arrival of non-fiction graphic novels)

Yesterday morning, the Hooded Utilitarian posted my list along with 21 others who contributed to a giant survey of comic book creators, retailers, publishers, educators, commentators (like me) and other industry folk from all over the world to determine the 10 Best Comics. In total, 211 people responded.

I sent my list on June 15, in response to the question, “What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant?” I started my email response to the Hooded Utilitarian with the following: “I want you to know, this is IMPOSSIBLE.”

And it is. But despite that…

My list:

Start clicking and see if something interests you.

There are plenty of comics that are just as good as the above that deserve to be listed, and even some that are better. But I had a few guidelines to help focus my list down to a manageable size.

First, I had to have actually read the material. Of the above, only Peanuts has material that I have never read. But I’ve read enough of it that what I haven’t read would have to be an absolute bomb for it to tarnish the goodwill. That means there was some material that I am fully expecting to love and that I love for its mere existence and concept that I had to leave out. I really wanted to include Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know on my list. It sits by my desk in my to-read pile from last year‘s Comic-Con.

Second, I leaned much heavier on the “most significant” portion of the question. As some have pointed out, the question asked by The Hooded Utilitarian is really three different questions which could result in three very different lists. Because what interests me is comics’ efforts to find new audiences, I interpreted “most significant” as the comics that have been most successful in winning over new readers. That was probably my biggest barometer. Each of the above have helped establish a genre or publishing strategy or level of skill that has expanded what comics can be and are today. In retrospect, I might’ve leaned a little too heavy on modern material but I think some of the most innovative and inclusive material is being made now (if you know where to find it).

OK, so let’s hear it. What did I miss?

(More random thoughts after the jump.)