Google image search “Xerxes” and the first thing that pops up are images from the comic book turned Hollywood blockbuster film 300. Cult author Frank Miller’s bizarre, distorted portrayal of the ancient Persian king Xerxes the Great and his battles with the Greeks in 300 is a piece of self proclaimed stylized “propaganda”. Luckily for those of us who enjoy graphic novels and accurate portrayals of history, author-illustrator Ramin Abhari has just come out with a new comic called Xerxes Speaks based on events surrounding the Greco-Persian battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, as told from a Persian perspective.
Growing up in 1970s Tehran, the author eagerly devoured comic books from around the world, despite not always understanding what was written. “Ever since I can remember, I loved to draw stories,” said Abhari in a recent interview, and that passion has followed him into adulthood. A professional engineer, in his free time he writes and illustrates graphic novels based on Iranian history and mythology. His work “offers a popularized perspective of historic episodes that have not been discussed in the West outside of academic circles, but very much impact the events of the Middle East today.”
With his new graphic novel, Xerxes Speaks, Abhari hopes to reach young Iranian-Americans who, he notes, “have grown up in an environment where nothing good is ever said about Iran, and are consequently robbed of their proud heritage.” The movie version of 300 was released in 2007 at a time when the Bush administration had labeled Iran part of an “axis of evil”. Abhari believes that in the context of the disastrous American invasion and occupation of Iraq, 300 enjoyed such great success because it allowed “audience[s] to live the narrative of ‘superior Europeans’ (played by Greeks) fighting ‘barbarian hordes’ (played by Persians), [and] believe it as history— when the real history unfolding in the daily news was so different.”
Students of Middle Eastern history and geopolitics would do well to pick up a copy of Xerxes Speaks, which delves into the first 200 years of the Persian Empire and it’s rapid expansion into a world superpower. Both educational and entertaining, this new graphic novel helps restore pride in Iran’s ancient and prominent world heritage.
Get your copy of Xerxes Speaks in time for the holidays, and check out this sneak peek below! Available now on Amazon Kindle