Friday, July 1, 2022

Iphigenia Lives Again


When I conceived the idea for Age of Bronze, my graphic novel retelling of the complete legend of the Trojan War, I knew I’d be using a few plays as sources for my version of the story. After Age of Bronze began publication, I realized that I’d be able to repurpose my comics panels as illustrations. How interesting it would be, I thought, to publish illustrated versions of many of my sources, in particular the dramas.

In late 2008, I mentioned to my friend Edward Einhorn, playwright, director, and children’s author, my idea of using a public domain English translation for a new edition of Euripides’s Iphigenia in Aulis, illustrated with my Age of Bronze imagery. I was concerned, however, that an old translation would seem out of step. Edward had previously translated a version of Lysistrata, the Greek comedy by Aristophanes, and he offered the idea of translating Iphigenia himself anew. Seemed like a fine idea to me. Within a few weeks, Edward had finished a draft of his new translation.

During the next year I chose panels from Age of Bronze to accompany Edward’s text and began a rudimentary book design. Edward wanted my artwork to not simply accompany his script, but to interact with it as much as possible, to help bring the script to life. Neither Edward nor I particularly liked my attempts much. Unable to find a look that satisfied both Edward and me, I put the project aside in favor of more urgent work.

In early 2013, Edward staged a full production of his Iphigenia script, complete with music, through his Untitled Theater Company #61 at LaMama in Manhattan. In the classical tradition, the actors used masks, expertly brought to life from my Age of Bronze character designs. Graciously, Edward flew me to NYC to see a performance—which I found terrific—and to participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience afterward.

Meanwhile, the book project lay stagnant, until Edward asked another cartoonist for help with book design for Iphigenia in Aulis. He thought the work of Bishakh Som, then editor and contributor to the anthology comic Hi-Horse and cartoonist of the recent graphic novel Apsara Engine, had some resonance with my Age of Bronze artwork. Bishakh gave designing Iphigenia in Aulis a shot. In the end, Bishakh wasn’t happy with the results and bowed out of the project.

Iphigenia sat in limbo again. Finally, Edward’s wife, Connie Wu, designed the book, integrating the text and artwork with comics dialog pointers and interspersing the text with the artwork so that the elements lent each other a bit of movement. I finished eliminating word balloons from the images and drew a couple new illustrations for the book. The cover uses the image from the poster I designed for Edward’s 2013 theatrical production.

I’d originally planned to publish Iphigenia in Aulis myself, but Edward urged me to approach Image Comics, the publisher of Age of Bronze. I didn’t think Image would have any interest in publishing a play script, but I figured asking wouldn’t bring on any more rejection than I've weathered many times in the publishing business. I submitted the project to Image and heard nothing back for a few months. I figured that meant Image had no interest, but my request for Image to confirm a rejection prompted an acceptance in early 2020.

Covid-19 caused some delays and problems with paper stock accessibility, but finally Image released the Age of Bronze edition of Iphigenia in Aulis several weeks ago. It doesn’t use my original choice of paper, but the paper stock matches the Age of Bronze graphic novels. It’s available now wherever you buy books and graphic novels, and you can buy it from the Hungry Tiger Press website here:

Link to buy

I think Edward’s script of Euripides's Iphigenia in Aulis is excellent, and not just because he used my Age of Bronze spellings of names and evoked in some of the script's textual points echoes of the cultural background I present in Age of Bronze. Edward just writes lively as a matter of course. Euripides ain’t no slouch, either, I can tell you!

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