Phoenicia through comics
© Your Middle East
Phoenicia through comics
Last updated: April 20, 2014

Lebanon’s history retold in comic bubbles

Banner Icon A pensive man and his grandson watch the sunset in Byblos: a common sight in the seaside city, but also the opening scene of the first volume of “Histoire du Liban en BD”, a French-language children book series that tells the history of Lebanon in comics.

“Is what dad said true? That we’re descendants of the Phoenicians?” asks the grandson.

After explaining that the truth is much too complex, the grandfather comes up with a rather generous offer: “I’ll tell you the story of our country – and you can decide for yourself,” he proposes – launching a fifty-page, multicolor account of Lebanon’s ancient history. 

The author of the comic book, who writes under the name Rebas, describes himself as an avid comic fan and a history buff. In collaboration with illustrator Noura Badran, they set out to panel the history of Lebanon.

The first volume (and the only one thus far) was introduced this past November at the annual Francophone book fair and exclusively focuses on the ancient roots of the country.  The second volume of “Histoire du Liban en BD,” covering the Roman Period, will launch at the 2014 edition of the fair, directing the story into what Rebas predicts will be a series of over twenty volumes – telling the history of Lebanon via caption, comic bubbles and familial banter up until the events of the 2005 Cedar Revolution.

“We can expose different points-of-view through creative methods

The introductory pages of the first volume describe the originating cities of Lebanon to be Byblos, Tyre and Saida. The likes of Hannibal and Alexander the Great make appearances throughout the narrative, signifying their role in ancient Phoenicia, its conquests and trade.

Though the Phoenician origins of Lebanon have repetitively been studied, archived and published, there have been few creative attempts to communicate them to children.

In one noteworthy scene in the comic, Phoenician prince Cadmus teaches his language to the inhabitants of the Greek city of Thebes. Comprised of twenty-two consonants, it progresses into the Aramaic alphabet and then into the Greek (and eventually, into Latin, and much of the languages actively used today.) The evolution is illustrated in a colorful chart, a change-of-pace from the historical storytelling and reimagined dialogues.

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The chart is one of the few quirky supplements the book provides and is based on the collaborators’ exhaustive research on the period. In another scene, the various ancient coins of the different cities are illustrated using archaeological evidence from the region. 

Though historians notoriously conflict on the validity of modern events in documenting Lebanon’s history for schoolchildren, Rebas is confident that the incongruences will not be an issue when scripting the final volumes of the series.

“We can expose different points-of-view through creative methods. Of course, the advantage of comics is that the details are not as necessary as the big picture.”

At a rate of one volume published per year, the series will take up to twenty years to complete.

“Histoire du Liban en BD, Tome 1” is published by Dar Arcane and is available on Antoine Online.

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Bana Bissat
Bana is a Beirut-based regular contributor to Your Middle East. Visit Bana's website www.bananapook.com.
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