Zoran Stefanović

We shall Fight in the Shade: Miller sings Herodotus

Аfterword to the Serbian edition of the graphic novel “300“ by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley (abridged version appeared in the first HC edition, Beli put, Belgrade, 2007)

Translated by Dragana Rajkov

The Serbian edition of the graphic novel “300” is more than the average pop-culture thrill that our time is full of, and with several parallel realizations we even greet it as a cultural event of sorts. And not just any event, but a complex and dynamic one, which cannot be perceived in just one of its aspects, however great the specific cultural interest of each one of them is.

First of all, this is creation of the American artist Frank Miller, whose cult status in the former Yugoslavia has been unquestionable for a quarter of a century now, since the time that “Eks Almanah” from Gornji Milanovac published the disturbing but beautiful “Daredevil” stories. Also of great interest is the fact that this is the first time in ten years that Miller has worked in cooperation with the extraordinary colorist Lynn Varley, who has on several occasions lent a decided softness and pliability to the frequently bitter and terrifying expression of the author.

The edition is appearing in the Balkan settings of this tale, before the European audience that for two generations now has not studied in high school any of the three classical linguistic foundations of European literacy – Greek, Latin and Old Slavic – and is thus disabled in the practice of thinking and personal integrity in the very source of European civilization and spirit. But this is still an audience to which this is a local tale, almost a family tradition.

And last, but not least: the phenomenon of “300” is also an example of the symbiosis of the comic book and film media that has only recently been developed, but that will undoubtedly have significant and positive effects in the very near future.

All of these aspects are interwoven into the theme of the graphic novel itself, which deals with a great ethical problem of our times as well, but through the viewpoint of the special author and cultural personality that Miller has definitely grown into in the past years.

Due to all of the above, we feel that the social impact of “300” will be far greater even than the undisputed milestones that the same author has already given the American and global comic book industry, such as “The Dark Knight Returns”. The main argument for this opinion is the global conquest of Snyder’s film, which will recruit en masse the next circle of those that have at least for a moment identified themselves with the heroes of Hot Gates, on bloody 11th August of 480 BC.

Race of Steel: The Spartan Roots

The stand of the Hellenic defenders of Thermopylae before the largest army of the Ancient world – the Persian army, containing “a hundred peoples” – is impossible to understand correctly except through the Spartan mentality and spirit, as well as their Dorian roots. They were a nation forged in steel through the blazes of war since the earliest days of their history.

According to Greek tradition, the final wave of settling of Hellenic tribes, the Dorian wave, took place two generations after the Trojan war (which is differently set from 1334. BC to 1184 BC). The Dorians probably came from what is today the Greek north, Macedonia and Epyria, or from even further north, from the central Danube, for archeology shows their connection with the Illyrian-Pelasgic population, as well as with Central Danube population. Indeed, this connection was the determining moment causing classical Sparta to differ so visibly in mentality and culture from the Ionian peoples, and especially from its rival-ally Athens.

It is interesting that the Greek tradition considered the so-called Dorian migration to be the “return of Heraclites” which in principle coincides with the latest theories of ethnic continuity (from the Upper Paleolithic era until our times) which genetics, paleo-linguistics and to a degree archeology have been heavily supporting of late.

The very term “Dorians” is linked in Greek classical etymology to the city of Doris, and Julius Pokorny, the famous Indo-Europeanist, interpreted both expressions in connection with the Indo-European word *deru, “wood”. According to this interpretation the Dorians are literally the “Wood People” (“People from the Woods”, “Foresters”), which is not an isolated parallel in the Indo-European world, where we have the same name, in other parts of Europe, for the Slavic Derevljani as well.

Indeed, we have archeological proof throughout Aegea for the spectacular fall of the entire system of Mycenaean palaces in the Late Helladic III b-c period (or more precisely 1250-1050 BC) when tradition approximates the arrival of the Dorians to the south of the Balkans. But in science there is still heavy deliberation as to whether the series of disasters took place for a single reason, such as an invasion, or there were several climatic, external and internal reasons. Considering the fact that the northern regions — Thessaly, Epirus and Aegean Macedonia, and partly former Yugoslavia and Albania as well — are still archeologically white blurs regarding the period of interest to us, it seems obvious that the question of the origin of the Dorians will have to wait for new and much greater explorations in the decades to come – both in the region of today’s Greece, and of the whole area of the Balkans.

We should not forget that perhaps the determining advantage of Dorian tribes in the settlement of the south of today’s Greece, apart from their legendary militancy, was a technological one. It was a discovery comparable to the invention of the atomic bomb in our days: the newly discovered technology of iron was developed in those days by the Dorian neighbors themselves, as shown by the recently discovered 14th century B.C. workshops at Hisar hill near Serbian city of Leskovac, attributed to the Triballi (Triballoi) tribe.

The technology of iron, coupled with possible climatic changes and chain migrations, shook the Eastern Mediterranean of those days in many ways, including the traumas that the Egyptian empire suffered due to the coalition named “Sea People”. The vibrations of these quakes concentrically shook all of Eurasia for generations to come, perhaps with crucial influence on the entire further history of the planet, marked by the spreading of Indo-Europeans to our days.

The Dorian migration, the conquest of Laconia (where the Dorians came across autochthon Pelasgian and Illyrian population) and the founding of classical Sparta thus becomes but a chapter in one of the greatest shocks that marked the end of the Bronze Age in the cradle of Europe: the Balkan Peninsula.

However, once the Dorians had set foot on a piece of Laconic land, they defended it and lived on it in a manner well remembered and deeply imbedded into all of European culture.

Classical Sparta: The Rigid Free Spirit

References and metaphors of the Dorians and Sparta are commonplace in the European cultural heritage, even in colloquial speech: Spartan discipline, laconic speech, Thermopylae, Leonidas, the Dorian style, the Dorian mode, “with your shield or on it”…

But in its day, Sparta, that formidable rival-ally of democratic Athens, did not nearly have the spectacular wealth of Ionian cities. Thucydides even pointed out that if Sparta were to fall, nobody would understand from its modest ruins wherein had lain its power.

Yet its power was in its people, in that strength of iron will that through the centuries kept together a rigid and harsh society, strictly divided by the class, gender and ethnic principles. In peacetime this was an oligarchy, with bodies consisting only of those that were free, and in times of war the dual kings took over rule and turned from priests into military leaders. Manufacture and agriculture was prohibited for the citizens, and these activities were intended only for the oppressed helots and perioeci.

After selection at birth and home training in early years, citizen children attended agoge from the age of seven: a public training system, which was throughout their childhood harsher and more demanding than many military trainings of today – like the cruel ritual of Krypteia (Secret), in which thirteen-year-olds were turned out into nature to survive.

Through the example of Leonidas, Millers graphic novel clearly portrays the harshness of growing up for men in that culture, and we need not illustrate it with further detail. It is completely natural that the young men turned into war machines, and recent experiments on galleys have scientifically proven that the average physical strength of the classical population of the Balkans was greater than the average strength of the top sportsmen of today.

But we feel that the image would be unjustly simplified and very incorrect if we failed to draw attention to the second strong pillar of this society for which there was no place in this graphic novel. Here we refer to the Spartan women, those that raised and sent off the warriors to the Thermopylae.

The Spartan society differed from the Greek communities of the times by the important role of the women, who were no weaker than their men in will, strength of spirit, intelligence, and political influence as well.

Not counting Fair Helen, the most famous of all the Spartan women was Leonidas’s wife, Queen Gorgo, who even as a girl gave her father political advices and on several occasions during the crises to come showed cunning and determination. Facts about her have been well documented by Herodotus, who showed surprising fear and respect towards all Spartan women, even those with faults. We know for amazement of a guest from Attica that Laconian women are the only ones in the world that can rule over men, to which Gorgo replied: “Because we are the only ones that give birth to men.”

It is believed that Laconian women were the most educated women of their times, and probably literate as well because we know of their female poets: Megalostrata and Kleitagora. Women competed in sports competitions as well, and at one time they may have personally owned as much as two fifths of Laconia. This female power was so expressed that Aristotle somewhat accused them for the fall of Sparta, the political system of which he even called “female rule”.

Spartan girls also received extensive education and training. They grew into free and respected women, unburdened by many of the oriental taboos that existed in Ionic cities. There was also a specific, purely female relationship between ladies and girls, which could have been both erotic and educational at the same time. (The issue of the interpretation of similar male relationships in classical works, particularly in Sparta, is subject to a certain revision today, especially because of the 19th century English translations that have proven tendentious.)

Nudity of the entire body i.e. the well-known openness of Spartan dresses was not considered shameful in Sparta, nor did it bother these free people, and the concept of adultery was considered weakness, and illegitimate relationships for the purpose of securing finer offspring was thought of as a normal occurrence. Motherhood and the bearing of healthy children were a sanctity in Sparta, even a sanctity that went to the point of planned eugenics, letting handicapped or weak offspring die or even killing them.

Practically speaking, there were only two ways to ensure your name on a tombstone in Sparta: death in battle or in childbirth.

There was probably no other human community in history that was such a mixture of rigidity and freedom, true morality and extreme brazenness, puritanism and liberality as Sparta.

According to contemporary standards, in classical Sparta we can see faults that were reflected in newer history as well: in the eugenic ambitions of the Third Reich, the communal totalitarism of the Soviet Union or the greed of modern America for resources.

But we cannot dispute great virtues of Spartans as well, or remain indifferent to their charisma that had just as great an influence on European culture as the democracy of Athens.

Classical sources reflect this fascination in contemporaries as well, so much so that even Plato was wont to see in element of the Spartan constitution a good model for his “ideal state”.

Thermopylae: The Hot Gates of Europe

Just like the Spartan spirit, in a very particular and strange way, Miller managed to represent in the graphic novel the very psychological, dramatic and ethical core of the battle of Thermopylae. Still, the pop-culture audience would do well in reading the spectacular history of Herodotus to see the whole picture of the world war at the time, for its broader context is also revealing and relevant to the grasping of the depth of the drama at Thermopylae.

Persia started becoming a super-force somewhere around 550 BC, beginning with Cyrus the Elder, going on to conquer, in two generations, through the autokrators Darius and Cambyses, to Xerxes, regions of vastness unfathomable to this day. They took Babylon, Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, entered Europe conquering Thrace and Scythia at a very dear price, but losing to the Greeks at Marathon. The manner in which the war decision of Xerxes, heir of Darius, matured, to trace his steps to Greece ten years later, was exciting in itself, and his million army of “a hundred peoples” performed one of the greatest logistical feats in the known history of the world.

The drama of the possible end of Greek history is well portrayed by Miller, and we can but imagine how traumatic it truly was. According to Plutarch, queen Gorgo expressed to her husband Leonidas her expectations that he would at least prove to be a worth Spartan at the Hot Gates. But she also asked him what she herself was to do.

Leonidas replied: “Marry some good man and bear children from him.”

This testifies that neither of them had the least doubts as to the outcome of the battle for the king and his men, and that each decision made during the deciding battle was made by Leonidas with full awareness, and not by instinct.

The wondrous and terrible recanting of Herodotus still rings out today:

The various nations had each captains of their own under whom they served; but the one to whom all especially looked up, and who had the command of the entire force, was the Lacedaemonian, Leonidas. Now Leonidas was the son of Anaxandridas, who was the son of Leo, who was the son of Eurycratidas, who was the son of Anaxander, who was the son of Eurycrates, who was the son of Polydorus, who was the son of Alcamenes, who was the son of Telecles, who was the son of Archelaus, who was the son of Agesilaus, who was the son of Doryssus, who was the son of Labotas, who was the son of Echestratus, who was the son of Agis, who was the son of Eurysthenes, who was the son of Aristodemus, who was the son of Aristomachus, who was the son of Cleodaeus, who was the son of Hyllus, who was the son of Hercules.

The twenty-first in this magnificent line, the one whose name is “Lionson”, carved his name above them all in the minds of the generations to come. He was the sole reason that the names of all his preceding antecedents were preserved, down to the mythical founder of the family tree.

Leonidas is one of the rare cases of great fighters, fighters strewing death, to which we can apply the words of the Poet that he “had cause to be born”.

Like the fallen king, Thermopylae is one of the always fresh metaphors of the Western civilization, even in our times. Every battle with disproportion of strengths and conscious sacrifice is on occasion a metaphorical Thermopylae, Alamo, Gallipoli, Guadalcanal (interesting to our readers because of the main protagonist Mitch Page, of our descent), Stalingrad, Berlin…

However, in the Dorian cradle, home of the Dinaric anthropological type spreading from Thessaly through former Yugoslavia, following the Dinaric mountains, tradition has remained undisputable and lifelike in each individual case. Almost without exception.

When we note that the sayings of the Spartan women in the works of Plutarch or the behavior of the Spartans in Herodotus’s writings are identical down to the last detail to what we find in our own oral tradition, the mentality of our epic poetry, in the words of Njegoš or Marko Miljanov, it cannot be a case of reading classical Greek sources in the mountainous backwaters of Herzegovina, the Drina region, Brda or Old Montenegro.

It is the question of an autochthon cultural and ethical system developed with precision and preserved by the people in the Illyrian territories. That has long since been known to European science, but it was only recently that our great scientist Aleksandar Loma showed that this system is older than any individual historical nation. It is a question of social and ethical values that were established as far back as the (proto)Indo-European times, and new heroes merely step into their mythical roles at critical moments.

That is the reason for the numerous and eternal amount of “Thermopylae” in local history, many of which are of European significance: The Battle at Kosovo in 1389, the Battle of Čegar in 1814, Mačkov Kamen in 1914, the Defense of Belgrade in 1915, fighting Nazism on March 27th 1941.

But in this we are no exception. The issue of individual and collective freedom is without doubt the most important and central issue of the entire European civilization, thus of its oldest branch as well. For Leonidas and antecedents of the Balkans this question was undisputed, for Miller as well, and the great American expert on classical Balkans, Victor Davis Hanson, said the following:

If critics think that “300” reduces and simplifies the meaning of Thermopylae into freedom versus tyranny, they should reread carefully ancient accounts, and then blame Herodotus, Plutarch and Diodorus – who long ago boasted that Greek freedom was on trial against Persian autocracy; free men in superior fashion dying for their liberty, their enslaved enemies being whipped to enslave others.

To the sources!

Miller’s graphic novel is not the first on the battle of Thermopylae. The masterpiece of world comic art, the “Mort Cinder” series by Hector Oesterheld and Alberto Breccia is dedicated to this subject in one important episode; we also have “Lions of Sparta” (a conventional American adaptation of the movie classic from 1962), then the short piece by Crandall and Goodwin from 1966, as well as a parody in the series on “Alan Ford” by Raviola and Secchi. To the best of our knowledge, the motif of Thermopylae was also used several times in Greek comic books of late.

For various reasons, with the arrival of Miller’s graphic novel, the above examples will never be as influential, or will mostly remain mere footnotes in the history of the medium.

It is ironic that we said in the early 1990’s that “Frank Miller is the Homer that has told of the Fury of contemporary America [...] more accurately and spectacularly than any other comic book or film known to the signatory of these lines”, but with the note that his opus is characterized by nonexistence or even revulsion towards all cultural traditional references of the “Western civilization”.

At the time we called it “Individualism with no ancestors”.

Therefore the publishing of “300” – a classical Balkan and European tradition par excellence – was in a way a surprise for many of Miller’s fans. The public was not aware of the fact that the author had been carrying his obsession with the battle of Thermopylae, that “best damn story he ever got his hands on,” since childhood, watching the movie “300 Spartans” (1962). The boy heard from his father that all the good guys in the movie – would die. At moments like those many young characters are prone to alteration.

The graphic novel, published by the so refreshing “Dark Horse Comics”, first appeared in monthly episodes, beginning with May of 1998, and even the titles of the issues were laconic. Honor, Duty, Glory, Combat, Victory.

The tempo of Miller’s storytelling is forceful, and the narration compact and focused only on the period related to the battle, to but a segment of the world war of the time. This decision to avoid the broader context of the conflict in the graphic novel, which context Herodotus described on dozens of fascinating pages, was the correct one and it contributed to the compactness of the plot. (Victor Davis Hanson says with good reason that “each segment of the graphic novel is formalized as if following the protocols of the classical drama of Athens or the Japanese Kabuki theater.)

The rhythm of the dramaturgy and the visual editing are so Miller-like, of the kind that sometimes causes the reader to pause with his reading and simply stay for a while in the silence of a single panel.

Miller’s drawing in this graphic novel is of the bitter kind such as “Sin City”, and the cooperation with colorist Lynn Varley once again gave a multitude of layers and a sensitivity that pure black and white would not be able to achieve.

The fact that one panel of the graphic novel covers two pages of standard format is a by no means slight formal innovation of Miller’s in the conservative environment of American comic books. When the novels were collected into a single luxurious hardcover edition in 1999, they were published in a format giving each panel as it should be, on a single enlarged page, and horizontal at that – with simply magnificent effect on the perception of the reader.

With this graphic novel Miller proved that such a horizontal enlarged format is one of the most ideal for the visual telling and editing of the panel, since it is close in proportion to the movie screen, i.e. the angle grasped by the human eye, and is far more natural than the vertical format. This format was most frequently very well utilized by Miller, even brilliantly, and there is no doubt that he will not remain the only author to have made this crucial decision.

It would be only just to more seriously study and explain the narrative and visual procedure of this graphic novel characterized by a multitude of significant passages, but due to the nature of a set-purpose epilogue this would be inappropriate, and certainly harmful for the spontaneous emerging of the reader into the world of a forceful storytelling. We shall therefore contain ourselves to a broader context of which the comic book-reading audience is mostly unaware.

One such hidden factor is Leonidas’s “hubris” – what the Ancient Greek considered to be the sin of pride and arrogance, punished by the gods – which has been shown in two scenes.

The first scene is authentic, although in reality it did not happen to Leonidas, but to an earlier Spartan king who, at the request of Persian emissaries for Sparta to give “earth and water”, the symbols of subservience, pushed the messengers into a well – to take both there. This was a sharp invasion of the sanctity of emissary work, and the gods punished for much less. In the manner of an Ancient tragic playwright, Miller attributes this event to Leonidas himself, thus setting for the king a fateful point of no return.

The other possible hubris of Leonidas in the graphic novel is the refusal of Ephialtes’ offer to be a Spartan soldier – because Ephialtes was deformed and could not be a stable part of a phalanx. This is Miller’s innovation which gives a certain rationalization to something that with Herodotus seems like simple mercenary betrayal.

However, in such innovations we get a strange picture with which we can debate for a reason that has nothing to do with political correctness, but rather imposes some justified moral dilemmas. The first is in which cases physical deformity can be reflected as moral deformity as well, which in the graphic novel is stressed by the Ephors as well, in whose leprous bribable character Miller poetically joined the local government with the Oracle of Delphi.

The second dilemma, and the one that we feel can truly be subjected to criticism, is related to the decision for Xerxes – Indo-European ruler and brother to Greeks in blood and descent – to be portrayed as a black, of the Nubian anthropological type. Therefore, portrayed as different from Leonidas not only culturally and ethically, but racially as well. This dulled the key moral difference in the various historical choices made by two Indo-European and brethren nations. The people of the Balkans chose individuality and freedom, and the Persians totalitarism and slavery. This also dulled the subject of the graphic novel itself, transferring everything to the terrain of completely contemporary reading and the actual moment of the present day. The moment in which the West is faced with mostly Arabic and Black Islam, and the successor of Persia, Iran, is the next possible rival of the West in a great war.

The author can dispute such geopolitical reading, but it is clear in the original story as well, and in the graphic novel itself the final monologue is literally spoken in the language of the media of today.

The remaining questions regarding the historical accuracy of the graphic novel can more or less be placed under the heading of normal poetic license. In reality, the Oracle of Delphi did have moral hesitations – not to use a harsher word – towards the Persian conquerors. There were no elephants in the actual battle, but they seem natural in a work of art. Leonidas’ soldiers were not “boys” but mostly men with grown sons (which was indeed the criteria for them to go to war). The greatest Spartan hero, Dienekes, who is remembered, among other things, by his wit, is not even mentioned in the graphic novel at all.

But those are nuances and an author’s right to create his own universe using an archetypical subject. In this case, this universe of the artist’s functions as a single being, which through comic book and film would even bring invaluable benefit to the new mass interest in foundations of culture.

In 1999 the graphic novel won three prestige Eisner Awards: for Best Limited Series, Best Writer/Artist and Best Colorist. We feel that there is justice in such a concentration of honors, for “300” really does have the qualities of a great graphic novel, to which we return from personal need and which, even with its occasional disproportion, can lead us into wondrous meditative moments with its brilliant passages.

In these meditative flashes an old label of ours, voiced merely from something sensed – that in Miller America perhaps received its “postmodern Pratt” – suddenly gains on truthfulness almost fifteen years later.

Comic book is Film: A Flowing Revolution

In the case of Millers’ graphic novels, the relation with the art of film is not a question of mere similarity, inspiration or adaptation. It is a question of a course that could partially alter the image of the film industry.

Of Miller’s Batman: Year One we said at the time that it was “written with a dramaturgical gift that the greatest film screenwriters would envy,” which could perhaps have seemed unfounded. We believe that this position has since been proven, when Miller twice came to the Rhodes of Hollywood itself and there twice shone.

Before “Sin City” Miller’s part in films was reduced to the “Robocop” series where the contribution of a very special author was “Hollywoodized”, very unlike the Miller style. This is no wonder, for the Hollywood of the day, this center of imagination, was in a retrograde phase at the time, and mediocrity was encouraged.

It is possible that his experience with “Robocop” is the main reason behind the author’s refusal of the filming of his graphic novels, although it was plain to everyone that the idiom of Miller’s graphic novels was akin to the language of film on a level deeper than visual storytelling. It is a case of deep structural ties, on the level of basic dramaturgy.

We can also recognize the reasons behind Miller’s earlier reserve in the general collective experience in the filming of comic books, where the film industry as a rule had for decades taken only the basic narration of the comic book and part of the iconography, frequently coming up with creative bastards, at a dear price, and leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of the comic book-fans, often with box-office failure.

Only in the second century of film has a new practice arisen in the business, being basic common sense: let us show on the screen the precise specificities for which a comic book has become recognizable in the first place. Zack Snyder, the director of “300” defined it as “translation” of the language of comic book, and not movie “illustration”.

Two factors were necessary for this change to take place. The first was the self-awareness of film authors of late, but also the correct attitude towards the medium of the comic book under the influence of which they had been even as children. The second factor was the advancement and increased affordability of the technology that placed high definition television, virtual studios and computer-generated imagery in the service of an entire series of adequate and even excellent movies, especially those that adapted fantasy and science fiction comics. In the business mainstream there are now many fresh examples of the marriage of comic and movie (Spiderman, Hellboy, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Daredevil, Batman, Superman, Elektra), with varying results. For some we might say that they are very good or adequate, and some could be described in words similar to Miller’s when he said that Elektra is his daughter, but that the two of them no longer speak, because she sleeps all over the town.

However, we should single out a sub-group of this trend, the one that fanatically votes for “translation” instead of “illustration”. On the European part impressive and almost faultless examples of essentially true movie adaptations – to the greatest measure possible in another medium and art – are “Immortel (Ad Vitam)“ based on the works of Enki Bilal and “Corto Maltese” based on the works of Hugo Pratt, and on the part of America “Sin City” and “300” by Miller’s graphic novels, as well as the retro-futuristic jewel “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” which – although not created from a comic book – contains in its core the entire film and comic book idiom of the 1930’s. We could even now, in the production phase, include our “Gorski Vijenac” by Lazar Bodroža and the Kosmoplovci group into this niche.

What singles out the abovementioned films from others created from comic books is the intervention in the language of film, the advancement of the stylistic and creative possibilities of an entire medium and the whole of the film industry. No less important is the huge liberating effect that this had on other artists, but also on the habits and expectations of the blasé audience.

From the viewpoint of the movie or comic book professional, there are no words large enough to express this effect, and in the future we shall frequently return to this moment when the in-depth change in the film industry was made.

Symbolically speaking, we feel that the key credit for this revolution goes to the personality of director Robert Rodriguez, who in his almost anarchistic manner managed to achieve two very serious things: first of all to conquer doubts and show that it is creatively possible, and then to fight the hegemony of conservative colleagues who did not approve of his changing the rules of the industry. To a degree, Rodriguez’s subversion with the movie “Sin City” brought Miller’s opus and difference out of a medium and pop-culture in the narrower sense and into something that we are prone to perceive as the planetary cultural mainstream. This cost Rodriguez himself his membership in the American Directors’ Guild, which did not want to acknowledge Miller as well as the director of “Sin City”.(Rodriguez chose Miller, which testifies to the personal ethical capacities of the young director.)

The movie “300” by Zack Snyder continued in a fair measure in the footsteps of “Sin City”. Although in some elements weaker than its predecessor, Snyder’s work also represents precious material for the study of the relation film-graphic novels-film, the influence of the artistic expression among the mediums, as well as a new trend of the turning of Western cultures towards their roots.

It is also doubtless that those 120 minutes of travel back in time to August 11th 480 BC will cause mixed psychological reactions in the global audience.

This is understandable because of the subject of the movie as well, which is a projection of the planetary geopolitical uncertainty of today. The reality is now persistently recycling and mutating cultural archetypes and their dialectics, attempting to rationalize them and make sense of them through pop-cultural works such as “Troy”, “Alexander”, “Kingdom of Heaven” or through whole new genres of “infotainment” and “edutainment” offered to us by television moguls.

As always in great time, Mankind is through art and pop-culture dreaming its own nightmares wide awake.

Closing Thoughts: Of a Mystery

In the world of the ancient Balkans and many other traditions, an artist could not be acknowledged unless he proved himself on classical motifs. With “300” Frank Miller modestly placed himself in that position and responded to a personal challenge with a creation subject to criticism, but not to indifference.

In the ethical, philosophical and any other sense, the motive behind conscious self-sacrifice is one of the most moving and artistically most sensitive motives. This is a problem that cannot be whittled down to simple issues of patriotism, dedication, discipline, social morale or personal ethics.

If we truly immerse ourselves into this dilemma we will find within it a core of mystery. It simply overcomes us. The Ancient Spartans knew of this limitation and in their own style made it legitimate through another mystery: a monument to Laughter.

And therefore we rightly single out Spartan vital heroism from some other forms, for only authentic untamable Life against a curtain of Persian arrows clouding the Sun can say through the mouth of the greatest hero, Dienekes:

“So much the better, we shall fight in the shade.”

(Belgrade, February 26th, 2007)

More information and further reading:

  • History by Herodotus
  • Đurić, Miloš. Istorija starih Grka do smrti Aleksandra Makedonskog: u odabranim izvorima. Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva, Beograd (several editions).
  • Đurić, Miloš. Istorija helenske etike. Zavod za udžbenike i nastavna sredstva, Beograd (više izdanja).
  • Rostovcev, Mihail Ivanovič. Istorija starog sveta: Grčka, Rim (several editions)
  • Budimir, Milan. Sa balkanskih istočnika, Srpska književna zadruga, Beograd, 1969.
  • Loma, Aleksandar. Prakosovo. Slovenski i indoevropski koreni srpske epike. Balkanološki institut SANU, 2002.
  • Oesterheld, Hektor and Alberto Breccia. „Mort Cinder: The Battle of Thermopylae“ Stripoteka, br. 793, Novi Sad, 7. 2.1984.
  • Stefanović, Zoran. „Na kauču američkog Homera: Frenk Miler“, Eterna, Beograd, 1994.


[1] ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Zoran Stefanović was born in 1969 in Serbia. A quarter of a century ago, „Daredevil“ by Frank Miller was one of his boyhood fascinations, with all its subsequent creative consequences. In his adult life he is a writer, playwright and screenwriter (Slavic Orpheus, The Tale of the Cosmic Egg, The Third Argument...) translated into Macedonian, Romanian, Slovene, English, French, Polish…, as well as publisher and producer responsible for founding “Project Rastko Cultural Network”, “Project Gutenberg Europe” and “Distributed Proofreaders Europe”. He writes for and about comic art / graphic novels frequently and with love still intact.

Први пут објављено: 2007
На Растку објављено: 2007-09-16
Датум последње измене: 2007-09-16 00:36:29
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