In its latest effort to creatively combine print anddigital editions in one project, First Second, the graphic novel imprint ofMacmillan Publishing, is launching Zahra's Paradise, an unusual project that combinesa real-time nonfiction narrative in a fictional setting. Zahra's Paradise is a graphic novel about the current political andsocial situation in Iran, written by Amir, a human rights activist, andillustrated by Khalil, an artist who works in a variety of media. It will be serialized as a Web comic atwww.zahrasparadise.combeginning February 19 and will be published as a book collection by FirstSecond in 2011.
The Web comic will be published simultaneously in English,Farsi, Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch, with other languages to come.Mark Siegel, editorial director of First Second, said the comic is about a blog called Zahra's Paradise and tells the story of the blogger's brother, a 19-year-old Iranian political activist who disappears after the politicaldemonstrations in Tehran in June 2009. In their effort to locate the missingactivist, the blogger and his mother, Zahra, come face-to-face with thebrutality of the Islamic Republic and the fate of other missing Iraniandissidents. While the characters are fictional—the full names of the creatorshave been left out to protect them—Siegel said the events are real, and he calledthe comic "a roman à clef of history as it is happening."
"Some say that for the truth of history, look tofiction," Siegel said. "As the world witnessed what could no longer be keptfrom view, through YouTube videos, on Twitter, and in blogs, so this project wasborn. The blogger as citizen-journalist is at the center of the story."And along with the serialized comic there will be blog entries by the comics creatorsas well as by real and current Iranian political activists and expatriates.
Zahra's Paradiseis the latest effort by First Second to combine online and print publication. Siegel,an acclaimed comics artist himself, is serializing his own strip, Sailor Twain or the Mermaid in the Hudson,as a Web comic, and it will be published as a book collection by First Secondonce it is complete.
However, Zahra'sParadise is very different and combines real-time reporting with fictionalinvention and illustration to tell a story as it is happening. "Sometimes aproposal comes along that leaves you no choice: it must be told, it must getinto the world. Zahra's Paradiseis one of those," Siegel said. "The story's complex loom weaves togethermany topical threads, from the social media and technology element, to the roleof women at the heart of Iran's freedom movement, the political, legal, andhuman rights issues. And by returning the focus to human rights, art becomes aplayer, a participant, a voice adding to the chorus of voices in the streetsand on the rooftops of Iran."