Comics, Design

Little Red Fish: Iranian Revolution as Told by Fish

The Little Red FishThe Little Red Fish #2

James Moffitt (Author)
Bizhan Khodabandeh (Artist)
Sink/Swim Press
December 2015

On the surface is danger. The fish who dare to live too close to the break between water and air are likely to be snapped up by the great bird, a heron, who resides on land. The school moves farther down, abandoning homes and stores and whole lives they’ve led in order to find just a bit of safety.

On the surface, this is a beautifully rendered story about the war between fish and birds. The hunted and the hunters. Two entirely different species. Surely there can be no resolution between these two civilizations. They’re not even made of the same stuff. The birds are meant to hunt the fish. How can they be blamed for it?

But that’s not what this story asks of us. Instead, the deaths of those fish are made very personal and deeply upsetting. A child was murdered by the Heron. A child’s death is a tragedy and the fish are desperate to find someone in their own ranks to blame. How could such a terrible thing happen, even in a time of war?

Deeper in the water there are those that blame the fish leader, an aquatic creature that can turn into a bird. While they hatch a plan to punish him for his failure to protect them, and for bringing the herons against them in the first place with his meddling, he advises a young fish on the future. The story seems to be setting this minuscule minnow up to become the next leader, but right now he knows next to nothing about leading.

Deeper in the message this story is meant to serve as an allegory for the Iranian Revolution. A lot of this was lost on me as I know only the absolute basics about Iranian history. There were some tips, as the issue begins, “1952: A reef off the Persian Gulf…” Sink/Swim Press describes the comic as “inspired by the Iranian revolution of 1979—starting with the coupe of Prime Minister Mossaddegh up to the rise of Khomeini. This first issue begins with Mossaddegh’s ousting by the Shah.”

I find the artistic choices fascinating in these comics. The art is highly stylized. The color palette is muted, but effective. It reminds me in some ways of folktale art, particularly panels like this:

The Little Red Fish

The choice of animals are also worth examining. There are the aggressors, the birds, and the victims, the fish. By choosing animals that are in a natural predator-prey relationship in the wild, it clearly shows which side of the war was attacking and which were oppressed. Since reading this comic, I’ve done a bit of research on the revolution, and though this is only Issue #2 of a six issue series, I look forward to seeing how the rest of this conflict is built out, especially in a theater limited by the actors inability to leave the water.

*Reviewed using a review copy provided by Sink/Swim Press.*