Persia Blues named one of 25 Essential Columbus Comics

As part of their coverage of the 2nd annual CXC – Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, the Columbus Alive has compiled a list of 25 Essential Columbus Comics. These are comics and graphic novels created by Columbus writers and artists, and I’m proud to have Persia Blues (by yours truly and artist and fellow Columbusite Brent Bowman) be part of the list!

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“Dara is a wonderful storyteller, and his Persia Blues trilogy is a great story with a strong female lead.”

The list was compiled with the help of 11 local creators and comic book fans, of which I was a member (and no, we did not vote for our own books). Go check out these books, and be sure to read the Alive’s other reports about CXC.

Persia Blues: spotlighted by the British Council website

I recently ran across the website of British Council Iran, which describes itself as such:

“The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work in three key areas: Arts, English and Education and Society…Art continues to flourish in Iran, with a strong two-way appreciation and profound interest between UK and Iranian artists. We facilitate platforms for the manifestation of this shared interest through promoting understanding of the different arts sectors in both countries…”

In an article titled Images & Words: Weaving Together a World of Iranian Stories, writer Homa Naraghi (no relation, as far as I know) recounts her experience with the graphic novel (and subsequently, the animated movie) Persepolis. She goes on to say:

“No other graphic novel about Iran has been as widely talked about as Persepolis, but there are a few others out there using the opportunities offered by the genre that are worth taking a look at here:”

Among the graphic novels she names are some truly great reads, including my personal favorite Zahra’s Paradise. And she also kindly includes my humble GN, Persia Blues.

“Persia Blues (Vol I & II) Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman. The books take us along on the adventures of its character Minoo as she lives life in three worlds: the mythical and fantastical world that brings together elements of ancient Persia with those of the U.S., the modern day Iran, and the modern day Ohio, U.S. The book won the 2014 SPACE (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) prize for best graphic novel and was nominated for two other awards in 2014.”

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It’s a thrill to be listed alongside so many great graphic novels created by the Iranian Diaspora.

Bustle gives Persia Blues a shout out

Bustle is a popular news, entertainment, lifestyle, and fashion site for young women.

In an article titled Wonder Woman In ‘BvS’ Is A Huge Step, But Not Enough, KT Hawbaker-Krohn argues that while Wonder Woman’s live-action debut is a great start, “There are so few woman superheroes seen in movies and on TV, and practically none who aren’t white, straight, and cisgender.” So she goes on to give Hollywood “17 amazing women superheroes who deserve their own time on-screen.”

Minoo Shirazi, the protagonist of our own Persia Blues graphic novels, makes the list! And she’s in good company, alongside Batwoman, Martha Washington, Black Orchid, and many other great female characters.

Thanks KT, I couldn’t agree more!

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If you’re new to the world of Persia Blues, drop by the official website to check out over 30 pages of previews, behind the scenes stuff, and more.

Persia Blues book giveaway winners

Brent and I gave away 2 copies of Persia Blues vol. 2 via the website Goodreads. Each copy was signed by both of us, and included an original pencil sketch by Brent.

During the two week period of the giveaway, 407 people entered for a chance at the books. Congrats to Rhonda F. and Pamela C. on their win. We hope they enjoy the books, and look forward to possibly seeing their review on Goodreads.

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NBM turns 40, debuts new logo

NBM Publishing, the folks putting out my Persia Blues graphic novel trilogy, are turning 40! That’s 40 years of publishing graphic novels in the US, way before anyone had even heard of the term.

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NBM Publishing Celebrates 40th Anniversary; Debuts New Logo and Updated Website

“This year, NBM will release work from such talented artists and writers as Lewis Trondheim, Joann Sfar, David Prudhomme, Jirô Taniguchi, Sean Michael Wilson & Michiru Morikawa, Annie Goetzinger & Rodolphe, Stanislas, Nicolas Keramidas, A. Dan, and Maximilien Le Roy, joining other recent creators as Rick Geary, P. Craig Russell, Dara Naraghi, Brent Bowman, Margreet de Heer, Kerascoet, Etienne Davodeau, Patrick Atangan, Jim Benton, Ted Rall, and Julian Voloj.”

I really like the new logo, it’s clean and effective.

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Here’s to another 40.

Talking Persia Blues and more on the Comics Alternative podcast

Derek Royal from the The Comics Alternative podcast conducts an insightful and lengthy interview with yours truly and artist Brent Bowman about Persia Blues vol. 2.

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We discuss everything from our collaborative process, to representations of Iranians in the media, writing a female protagonist, the Ohio State University campus, and much more. Click the link above to listen to our talk, and be sure to check out all the other great interviews and reviews at The Comics Alternative.

Talking Persia Blues and more on the PVDcast podcast

Have you ever wondered how the writers and artists of the books you read sound like? Of course not. But that didn’t stop us from sitting down with John Orlando for his PVDcast podcast!

Brent Bowman and I talk about Persia Blues vol. 2, our process for collaborating together, sources of inspiration, what took so long on my part to complete the script for the second book, and much more.

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Head on over to the home of the PVDcast to hear our episode.

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“I’m joined on this edition of the PVDcast by the creative team behind Persia Blues Vol. 2: Love & War. Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman are the two guys responsible for this critically acclaimed graphic novel. (You may recall that Dara joined me back on episode 17 to discuss the first installment of Persia Blues). We talk about their creative collaboration, their influences, their relationship with publisher, NBM and many other topics. A must listen for any aspiring creative people!”

And while you’re there, be sure to check out John’s archive of great interviews with creative types of all sorts, from writers and artists to wrestlers and movie critics.

Belt magazine on Persia Blues

Belt Magazine is an online publication with a focus on life and culture in the “rust belt.” Since 2013, they’ve featured essays, longform journalism, op-eds, and reviews of works by creators from the industrial Midwest. And they just ran a nice article on Persia Blues, entitled Graphically Persian in Ohio: Novel Adventures from Columbus Artists.

Here’s a snippet of what they had to say about Brent Bowman’s art in the book:

This combination noir and penny-dreadful background is apparent in the pages of Persia Blues, which alternates visual styles: ancient Persia is dark and moody, as if the story is coming to us from a great distance full of smudged shadow and deep recesses of sky; modern Iran is primarily depicted in line drawings with brightly lit, page-white backgrounds, as if we are watching reality TV.

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I like the author’s theory as to the central mystery of the book’s dual settings. I won’t say whether he’s on the right track or not, but give it a read and see if you agree. Or do you have your own theories?

S.P.A.C.E. Prize winner Persia Blues returns with volume 2

I, along with co-creator and artist Brent Bowman, were honored to have Persia Blues vol. 1 win the 2014 S.P.A.C.E. Prize for best graphic novel at the Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo. And I’m even happier to announce that the long-awaited second volume of the trilogy is hitting the shelves in a week or so!

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In case you hadn’t had a chance to check out the solicitations, here’s what you can expect in volume 2:

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Minoo Shirazi’s mysterious double life continues to unfold across 2,000 years of history in the second installment of the Persia Blues series.

In the fantastical world of ancient Persia, the shock of discovering a piece of her past is overshadowed by the imminent invasion of Ahriman’s armies. Only by finding the empire’s champion, Rostam, can she hope to turn back the tide of evil.

While in the modern world, Minoo’s life unfolds in Iran and America – where she has recently begun her graduate studies – as she deals with her stern father, dying mother, lost brother, and new American boyfriend. Across myths and modern realities, we delve deeper into the truth of Minoo’s life.

Here are a few pages of art:

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For a longer preview, as well as reviews and interviews, please drop by the official Persia Blues website.

Persia Blues original art at Shadowbox Live gallery

This past October, Columbus’ own Shadowbox Live – the sketch comedy, short play, and live music troupe – presented “The Tenshu,” a unique production featuring live martial arts, magic, giant puppets and supernatural experiences, accompanied by an original rock score. The show was a collaboration between Japanese choreographer/director Hiromi Sakamoto and New York Times Best Selling author of the Kabuki graphic novels, David Mack.

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Accompanying the production was a gallery show featuring original comic book art from several local creators, including my artistic partner in crime, Brent Bowman. Several of Brent’s pages and paintings from volume 1 of Persia Blues were prominently on display:

We hope to make this the first of several more gallery shows.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the original art from the book, drop me a line via the Contact link on this site.

Pre-order Persia Blues vol. 2

Brent Bowman and I are putting the finishing touches on the second volume of our creator-owned graphic novel, Persia Blues, published by the fine folks at NBM Publishing. Volume 2, subtitled “Love and War” is currently available for preorder from your local comic book store, book store, or Amazon.

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If ordering through your comic shop, the Diamond order code is STK687411.
If ordering through a book store, the ISBN is 9781561639779.

Here’s the cover and official solicitation copy:

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Minoo Shirazi’s mysterious double-life continues to unfold across 2000 years of history. In the fantastical world of ancient Persia, the shock of discovering her royal heritage is overshadowed by the imminent invasion of Ahriman’s armies. Only by finding the empire’s champion, Rostam, can she hope to turn back the tide of evil. While in the modern world, Minoo’s life in Iran and America – where she has recently begun her graduate studies – is examined through interactions with her stern father, dying mother, lost brother, and new American boyfriend. Across myths and modern realities, we delve deeper into the truth of Minoo’s life.

I’ll be updating the official Persia Blues website with more info and preview pages soon, so keep an eye out.

PS. Remind your store that volume 1 is still available for ordering:

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IDW pitch: IT! The Terror From Beyond Space

Back in early 2010, IDW and MGM Studios had worked out the deal to re-imagine some of the cult classic MGM movies in comics form. They called them Midnight Movies. I’d had a good working relationship with IDW for a few years by then, so I was asked by Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall to send in a proposal for one or more of the properties.

The science fiction setting of IT! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) appealed to me, so I worked up the pitch, as seen below. I even included some “visual aids” in my document, to better explain my vision for the book’s look and feel.

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Chris’s response was short and sweet:

“Yeah, we’re totally doing this. This rocks.”

So, here’s the pitch that got me the gig:

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IT! The Terror From Beyond Space

A reimagining by Dara Naraghi

The Challenge

When The Thing From Another World was reimagined by John Carpenter as The Thing, it was done through a darker setting, more realistic special effects, and amped-up levels of horror and gore. But I feel that if we were to take a similar approach with It!, we’d end up with Ridley Scott’s Alien. That may be unfair, but the reality is that Alien is so ingrained in our pop culture psyche that a modern update of its precursor (and inspiration) would ironically be viewed as a rip-off. Also, a similar updating was done when Millennium Comics published an It! Comic in 1992, so there’s no sense in treading those grounds again.

The Solution

My recommendation is to forego the deconstruction/post-modern approach. Instead, I propose we embrace the B-movie sensibilities of the source material, but with a twist: the retro outer shell will be juxtaposed against modern storytelling underpinnings.

  • The look-and-feel will be that of an “idealized” retro 1950s science fiction movie, but the plot will be multi-layered, with the addition of twists, ulterior motives, and modern science.
  • A more gender/ethnically diverse cast will provide the refinement to appeal to modern audiences.

Design Aesthetics

Again, to distance ourselves from unfair comparisons to Alien, we will forego the dark tone, grungy set pieces, and horror vibe. Instead, the focus will be on action, adventure, and above all, suspense. This is the world of sleek, stainless steel rocket ships and spirited explorers, not corporate oligarchies and blue-collar space miners.

  • Spaceship/Technology – sleek and sexy retro multi-finned rocket ships and ray guns abound.
  • Costumes – again, retro-sexy. Women’s 2-piece uniforms will feature mini-skirts and go-go boots. Guys will sport jack boots and holsters, ready for action. Classic “fishbowl” helmets will be used.
  • Creature – since we have an unlimited special effects budge, we will design a truly unique, non-humanoid monster (without resorting to either rubber-suit camp or H.R. Giger psychosis).
  • Covers – done in the style of 50s science fiction movie posters, but with amped-up sex appeal.
  • Text – each issue will open with a narrative caption incorporating the hyperbole of period movie trailer announcements. But the character dialogue will be modern and conversational.

Plot Summary

First, we will simplify and diversify by reducing the cast from 10 characters to 7 (discarding Maj. John Purdue and the Finelli brothers). Col. Edward Carruthers and Lt. James Calder will be African American, while Dr. Mary Royce will be of Japanese descent (Eric Royce is her husband).

The plot will follow that of the movie fairly closely, but with the addition of several layers of complexity. Instead of sneaking onto the rocket ship through an open hatch, the creature (in a much smaller, dormant form) is smuggled in by Lt. James Calder. He is carrying out orders from a secret branch of the Pentagon to retrieve any evidence of extraterrestrial life from Mars. (A similar “sleeper” agent with the same mission was on Carruthers’ Challenge 141 ship.) In turn, Ann Anderson is a special agent for the US Space Command, Division of Interplanetary Exploration, and tasked with observing Calder. Her role will be expanded greatly, taking over as our main protagonist after Van Heusen is injured early on.

Using a key element from the original movie – that the creature extracted every ounce of liquid from the bodies of those it killed – we’ll establish that this is the source of its power. Adapted to the dry atmosphere of Mars, it begins to grow unnaturally once exposed to the humidity in the ship’s air. It continues this exponential growth after killing Keinholz, Eric Royce, and eventually Van Heusen and Calder. Attempts to kill it with weapons and radiation fail, until Ann and Dr. Mary Royce deduce the source of its unnatural resilience. They then devise a plan to use this trait against the creature, by trapping and exposing it to large amounts of water and humidity. Similar to how humans can die by drinking too much water (“hyperhydration”, AKA water intoxication), the creature essentially overdoses on water, ironically “drowning in outer space”. Ann, the doctor, and Carruthers will be the only survivors.

We will explore more fully the romantic triangle hinted at in the movie, involving Ann, Van Heusen, and Carruthers. Another subplot will be an affair between Dr. Mary Royce and Keinholz. Key sequences retained from the movie will be the daring spacewalk, and a trapped Calder holding off the monster with a blowtorch in a cargo bay.

Visual Aids

Below are some comic book covers, both vintage and modern reinterpretations, which visually summarize the look and feel I’m aiming for:

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So there you have it. Writing the series was fun, and I always love the collaboration aspect of creating comics. Sadly, the MGM projects weren’t very successful, and halfway through writing the script for the 3rd issue (of a 4-issue mini-series) I was informed that the book was being “condensed” down to a 3-issue series. So yeah, I had to fit two issues worth of plot and story into just one. Sometimes those are the breaks. On the plus side, I got to work with legendary comic book editor Bob Schreck on this project, which was a blast.

Here’s some artwork from the finished project…

The covers for the series, which were provided by Steve Mannion, totally captured the look I was going for. Mannion has a great retro “good girl” style:

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Interior art was by Mark Dos Santos. (Aside: at one point, Paul Gulacy was going to draw it, but that didn’t come to fruition.) Here are some of Mark’s character and set designs:

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And some interior pages:

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