Monday, February 19, 2007

Molon Labe

As I type this little blog on my laptop in Evil Chicken’s Fortress of Solitude, I’m given pause to look around. In front of me are postcards and pictures that adorn the wall; reminders of past adventures in Maine and California and New Orleans. There’s a small framed picture of Mark Twain and quotes from some of my favorite writers. I’ve got a small shelf that’s filled with various nautical pieces most of which deal with piracy in one form or another. Above that is a chart of the Delaware Bay. To my left is a wall of autographs; Peter Laird (co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman (creators of Weird NJ), Johanna Cameron (seventies Saturday morning TV staple, Isis) and an issue number 1 of "300" signed by Frank Miller (writer and storyteller). Each one of these hangs on this wall for a reason – I won’t bore you with these reasons save to say that each is there for a purpose. The one that I’d like to discuss with you now, gentle reader is the latter – issue number 1 of “300”.

Frank Miller is one of the greats. Who’s Frank Miller? Why he’s a legend in the field of comics and graphic fiction. If this upsets you in some fashion and if you feel that there is nothing literary that can come from the pages of a comic book then please, do us both a favor and find another blog to read. As Sigmund Freud said to his nephew who told him that he shouldn’t smoke cigars (please forgive my paraphrasing), “Since you have no idea of what you are missing – I can only pity you.”

Still here? Good.

Miller injected high drama into the plotlines of Daredevil – the likes of which had never before been seen in a mainstream comic. He had a hand in retelling a tale of the Wolverine where he learns the way of the Samurai in Japan. He knocked the entire industry on its ear when he wrote “The Dark Knight Returns” (which is still one of the finest examples of graphic novel ever put to paper) “Sin City” was hardcore, hardboiled noir. He created “Robocop” and then, while touring Greece he came across the true story of King Leonidas and his army of 300 souls and the battle of Thermopylae. “300” was born.

"300" is based on a true story. Really. The Spartans drew a line in the sand and made a stand. The Persians, who vastly outnumbered the Spartans, sent a message to Leonidas saying that the king of the Persians would spare their lives if they laid down their weapons and surrendered. Leonidas knew that doing so would give the Persians the upper hand in concurring all of Greece (which would have meant the end of the democracy). Leonidas said, “Molon Labe,” concerning the Spartan’s weapons or, “come and get them.” The Spartans fought to the last man standing, took a huge number of Persians with them and bought Greece the time needed to prepare for the onslaught of Xerxes and his army numbering in the hundreds of thousands. While the 300 perished democracy survived.

Ok, so why is it on my wall? Well, I happen to love Frank Miller and I believe that there are many many lessons that we can pull from King Leonidas and his guard of 300 Spartans. They stood their ground, of course they paid the price for doing so but it was a price each man was willing to pay. Their sacrifice and their courage in the face of such insurmountable odds; who can not recognize the heroism there – the valor? Make a stand make it count. Who can’t get behind such a tale – such an example? For these reasons, issue number 1 of “300” hangs on my wall as a reminder of one of my favorite writers, a nod to courage in the face of adversity and pure righteous indignation. Having the courage of ones own convictions. “300” reminds me that making a stand is not the easy path but that history is rarely written by events that came easy. The 300 refused subjugation, intimidation and slavery – they made their stand at the pass of Thermopylae.

At what pass will you make your stand? When they come asking for your surrender and ask you to lay down your arms (be it your sword, your pen or keyboard, your opinions or even your beliefs); tell them “Molon Labe.” Come and get them.

Make the stand.

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