January 14, 2005
years ago as part of client project I saw a comic book
character and something in me stirred. The idea of adapting
the Shahnameh and Rostam as an American comic book jumped
out of the air.
artist was Karl Altstaetter, a young comic book illustrator
who had just launched his own comic book Deity and a fledgling
publishing company called Hyperwerks. We had hired Karl
as an artist for an anti-smoking campaign aimed at teens
commissioned by the Chinese American community in San Francisco.
Through the medium of a comic book story line we were trying
to convince kids not to smoke. It was an excellent project.
we worked, I mentioned to my partners Jamie (Jamsheed)
and Cameron (Kamran of course!) Douraghy that we ought
to do our own comic book one day. We laughed. Although
we had grown up reading piles of American comic books in
Iran during the Seventies, we were after all, in our late
thirties and the the dot-com boom was taking up our free
time those days. In Farsi class, I had read parts of the
Shahnameh, and I remember promising myself to one-day read
the whole book.
couple years ago, after the boom had...well, gone boom,
Jamie resurrected the idea with me one day, and he started
to talk seriously about the concept. So we talked about
it. A lot. He then asked me to write up an outline so he
could show Karl. So I grabbed some scans of traditional
Shahnameh art, you know the ones I am talking about, those
traditional miniature paintings with the small fat bellied
horses, the odd perspectives, and the over rouged cheeks
and eyshadowed Rostam.
couple of weeks later Karl had drawn some rough
sketches and we were speechless. And we were hooked
on the idea.
began concepting weapons, armor, architecture and stylization,
while Karl refined the characters. This took almost a whole
year to finalize the look of everything. Meanwhile, I began
to tweak and fine tune the story.
wanted to pick a tale that was hard hitting and decided
to begin the book in the middle of the Shahnameh, rather
than at the beginning. It was kind of an obvious Star Wars-esque
approach, but fitting, given the huge risk we were taking.
I re-read the story of Rostam and Sohrab in both Farsi
as well as several English translations and felt I had
my basic storyline.
of the format, story, and character rules of the American
comic book genre, we decided we had to take some creative
license and might not be able to stick to the literal story
exactly. As it turned out, we are pretty close, but it
is virtually impossible to match Ferdowsi's brilliance.
So the disclaimer was written early on! This is an adaptation.
goal was to write a book that young primarily English speaking
Iranians could read, and easily get the gist of the Shahnameh,
and one that was overview enough so that parents would
be forced to fill in the blanks. Hopefully a healthy dialogue
would ensue and we would all be one step closer. Tighter.
seems to have worked, when I showed the book to my 12 year
old son, he has since asked me about the other stories
of the Shahnameh, and we have been discussing it regularly.
we have done now is to set the stage for a full comic book
series, based on the many stories in the Shahnameh. But
first things first!
now we are happy to introduce you to the newest American
comic book hero, Rostam! We sincerely hope you enjoy it.
We love doing it, and hope we can produce more of the wealth
of stories of the Shahnameh for the readers in the future.