Search Richmond comic book on Iranian revolution set to conclude

Richmond comic book on Iranian revolution set to conclude ... 01/06/2017 Arts

Keywords:#2015, #Ayatollah, #Ayatollah_Ruhollah_Khomeini, #Culture, #Iran, #Iranian, #Islamic, #Khomeini, #Media, #Muslim, #Persian, #Persian_Gulf, #Red_Fish, #Ruhollah_Khomeini, #Times, #University, #Virginia

By MICHAEL O’CONNOR Richmond Times-Dispatch
An animal-driven Richmond comic book series that takes a leftist perspective of the Iranian revolution of 1979 is coming to an end Friday, June 2.
The fifth and final installment of “The Little Red Fish” will be released this week at Velocity Comics in Richmond. Writer James Moffitt and artist Bizhan Khodabandeh released the first installment of their political allegory in 2015.
The story of “The Little Red Fish” focuses on the struggle between a humble community of fish somewhere in the Persian Gulf and the herons that oppress them from above the water. The characters and events in the book are inspired by the events of the Iranian revolution, a conflict that pitted the Iranian monarchy against dissatisfied secular and Muslim groups.
After overthrowing the monarchy, Iran voted to establish an Islamic republic led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The activities of the secular left in the Iranian revolution aren’t as well-known in the U.S., and part of the intent of “The Little Red Fish” is to bring attention to the left’s role in the event, Khodabandeh said.
“At the heart of it, the story is about dissent and a warning of what can happen in a revolution,” Khodabandeh said.
In researching for the book, Khodabandeh, whose father was born and raised in Iran, interviewed family members and other people who participated in or had secondhand knowledge of the events represented in “The Little Red Fish.”
With its cast of fishes, herons and eels, “The Little Red Fish” operates in the vein of George Orwell’s seminal political allegory, “Animal Farm.” Khodabandeh also took inspiration from “The Little Black Fish,” a children’s book that was banned in Iran at the time of its publication in the late 1960s.
For Khodabandeh, an instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture, art and politics are deeply connected.
“I think they’re the same,’” Khodabandeh said. “Art is supposed to reflect society and be a tool for social interaction.”
A theme that emerges in “The Little Red Fish” is the tension between what’s best for the group or movement and an individual’s self-interest. Moffitt said that the concepts of sacrifice and resistance fit closely together.
“You can’t have one without the other,” Moffitt said. “To create a successful resistance you have to shed personal desires and work toward actual good.”
Moffitt is a prose writer and a content strategist for a local marketing agency, as well as the founder of Sink/Swim press, which published “The Little Red Fish.” Khodabandeh approached Moffitt about working on the project because both have an interest in magical realism.
Moffitt said the biggest challenge when it came to “The Little Red Fish” was the amount of research that went in to it. Then there was condensing a historical event into five comic books.
“The real art in comic book writing is learning how to work with the artist,” Moffitt said.
Moffitt said comic book writing requires more holding back and thinking about how the pictures interact with the work. The first book was the hardest to do because the rules of the world in “The Little Red Fish” had to be established and the different factions of the revolution introduced.
Moffitt and Khodabandeh see themselves as part of a cohesive local comic scene with creators working in a variety of styles as they support one another. Moffitt cited James Callahan, Rick Spears and Pat Godfrey as some of the influential figures in his experience with Richmond comics.
Moffitt and Khodabandeh said the response to “The Little Red Fish” has been mostly positive and has gotten more interest than they expected. Praise from an Iranian family who drove more than hour to an event that featured “The Little Red Fish” was particularly validating.
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