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Comic Review: Rostam: Tales From The Shahnameh

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I guess it's only fitting that as a guy who edits a site called Epic India Magazine that I'm fascinated by epic poems and stories. I can date it back to the first time I read a version of Beowulf when I was a kid, and I've been hooked on them ever since. After that it became a matter of simply discovering them in order to read them.

First of course was Homer and the Odyssey, and that was followed by reading Virgil's Aeniad (in Latin – not because of any great ambition but solely because I was taking Latin in high school as I had no other course options left if I wanted to collect enough credits to get into university without taking any math or science). Then there was Sir Gawain And The Green Knight, in translation, because Old English is pretty much indecipherable as far as I was concerned.

Of course there have been all the modern equivalents as well that started cropping up in the fantasy genre with The Lord Of The Rings and Narnia for openers and continues today with Steven Erikson's Malzan Books Of The Fallen and of course Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. Just as I was starting to lose interest in the genre, there's only so many good versus evil Judeo/Christian-based myths you can take, I stepped outside the shelter of Western culture to discover another world.
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In 2005 I began reading Ashok Banker's modern adaptation of Valmiki's 3,000-year-old epic poem The Ramayana that told the story of the great Indian hero Rama. Since then I've been keeping my ears open for word of other stories from other cultures that I could sink my teeth into. I've always been a firm believer in the theory that you can learn more about a people by reading their stories than through a history or other text book. So when the opportunity to read excerpts from the Persian epic The Shahnameh (The Epic Of Kings) by Hakim Abdol Qasem Ferdowsi Tousi (935 – 1020 CE) arose I was very interested.

Hyperwerks a newish graphic novel group, has just added to its titles listing Rostam: Tales From The Shahnameh. Since I knew next to nothing about the The Shahnameh I decided that before reading the adaptations that Hyperwerks were offering it would probably be a good idea to read some of the original poem to get a feel for the style and to understand the context which these excerpts were being taken from. There are plenty of good translations of The Shanameh on line and I read the chapters that preceded Rostam's entrance into the story at the link above and also at the Iran Chamber Society's website.

In the first four chapters the reader is introduced to Iran and how its leadership evolved, and the countries in the surrounding area. Once the kingdom is settled and established the reader is told of the coming of the first hero of Iran Zal – who will marry Rodabeh and father Rostam.

The first tale of Rostam that the Hyperwerks recounts is actually one that takes place a little latter on in his history, but is also one of the most tragic; the story of Rostam and Sohrab. To tell you any of the details from that story would be to spoil it, and I'm not going to do that. What I will say is that the people of Hyerwerks have done their best to remain faithful to the original story in both issues of Rostam: Tales From The Shahnameh that have been published so far. It's not just in content that they have taken care, but in the graphics as well, for they have carefully reproduced not only the style of dress and armour that was used by at that period in Persian history, but all visual aspects including architectural and decorative arts.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://www.theshahnameh.com Rostam Comics

    Richard,

    Thank you for your intelligent and insightful review. The Rostam project has been a labor of love for us for a number of years and it is satisfying to see that it is indeed finally taking off. We were very pleasantly surprised to see this review and hope that you continue your fine work.

    Please note that we are about to launch Issue three (Battle with the Deevs) by the end of May 2008.

    Best regards,

    The Rostam Comic team members