Sunday, July 5, 2009

Comic-to-Movie Inspirations: Frank Miller's '300'

I am familiar with the Battle of Thermopylae, where Leonidas, a great military leader of Sparta (a nation of free men, being one of first city-states to abolish slavery at the time), gathers his personal bodyguard of 300 men to defend a narrow passage leading to their city from the oppressing Persian conqueror, Xerxes, believing himself to be a 'man-god'. Had Leonidas not been betrayed by an exiled citizen, his tactic of 'bottlenecking' Xerxes' troops into the narrow passage would have been successful, and most likely had forced Xerxes to retreat, allowing Leonidas to rally Spartan politics to give more support for harder defense for his return. Hence, was not so. Said traitor had shown Xerxes' military command a passage that allowed them to surprise the Spartan 300 from behind. Leonidas, with many other city-state armies fighting with him, bellowed them to retreat, staying behind with his own soldiers and only a handful others who refused to run. Most were killed, and Xerxes had captured the region and it's Spartan capitol, but not without cost: suffering massive losses at the hands of the Spartans, Xerxes was not able to hold control over the Greek nation, and fled to Asia with his troops, leaving the task of conquering Greece in his name to Mardonius, his leading military commander, only for him to be defeated at the Battle of Plataea. Ancient writer and modern historians have used the Battle of Thermopylae and these brave 300 Spartan soldiers as "an example of the power of a patriotic army of freemen defending native soil." (from
I confess, I haven't read the graphic novel. I am a huge fan of comics and graphic novels. My favourite so far are a tie of two: The Watchmen (after seeing the movie, I defend that the graphic novel is much better) and Kingdom Come, taking place after The Justice League abandon their protective posts of our fair cities as the public rallies behind a new 'metahuman' named Magog kills villian The Joker while on his way to trial for the massacre at the Daily Planet offices, resulting in the death of many of Clark Kent's friends, including photographer Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane. Without the guidance of role models like the classic superheroes, the new age of 'metahumans' become more violent, territorial, resulting in a complete breakdown of social systems. The government threatens extreme action, and The Justice League is called back into action under an extremely stressful condition. As with Frank Miller's 300, I just haven't had a chance to read it quite yet. The movie, although Mr. Miller didn't really give it his blessing (shame!), was rather exceptional, and gave an interesting interpretation of the heroic Battle of Theropylae.

Here's a list of materials used in the 300 necklace:
  • battle axe and helmet charms
  • silver bangles, approx. 7" in diameter
  • glass and cube beads, black
  • carnelian chip beads
  • silver chain
  • eyepins, jumprings, lobster clasp
The idea originally came to me when I was sorting through my current inventory, trying to minimize space. Minor resorting sometimes gets the imagination stirring for me, especially when you're physically handling your beads and whatnot. Sometimes ideas come to me by necessity or frustration. This particular instance, I had tooooooo many silver charms that I had collected, and I was trying to find a larger container to keep them in. I had a battle axe amongst them, and while trying to fit these warrior helmets into said container, I had simply decided to take the axe and one of the helmets and make something with them so that I wouldn't have to deal with cramming them in. Nick (my boyfriend) and I were watching 300 at the time, spawning conversation about its graphic novel, to other graphic novels, to a novel idea with what to do with that battle axe and helmet!
Amongst other things that were 'taking up space' were a collection of colourful bangles worn traditionally by Indian women I had purchased at a local Value Village by the bagful. (More about this awesome discovery in the next blog, 'Repurposing Bangles!') Remembering a few smaller silver bangles in the bag, I snagged them to use in this idea, figuring they would be a great representation of the Spartan shield.
Now, the necklace itself. What beads to use? What colours would be appropriate? The impression from the movie gave me a lot of 'violent blood splatter' images, which I thought would tie in with the battle axe and helmet. I had some extra carnelian chips that had some great depth in its red tints. The black beads were for colour reference to the art, using cubes and pebble-like black glass beads. The necklace length is shorter than I usually make, so that the bangles rest just below the collar bone, for the feeling of 'armour' upon your skin. I have worn this necklace in its current state, but feel that it might be a bit 'incomplete'. I may experiment (on practice pieces first!) and try to recreate the 'V' etching in the Spartan shields, as represented in both graphic novel and comic. What do you think?
The scene today in Greece, where the battle took place.
Ancient history has always fascinated me, to see where we have come from and where we are now. The history of ancient Greece and its mythology had started with the research of the origins of my own name. I had discovered that Cassandra was once a princess of the city-state of Troy, and was loved by the sun-god Apollo, who had blessed her with the gift of prophecy. Cassandra had refused Apollo's advances, so he had cursed her gift, whereas not being able to take it from her. The curse was that she would only forsee destruction and despair, and no one would heed her premonitions. Pretty crazy, huh?
Since then, history of all ages has been a passion of mine. History provides much interpretation, depending on its source, and allows for a richer understanding of how we view ourselves and those we're not accustomed to. With an appreciation of our world history, as well as an open mind for interpretation, we can begin to see how our cultures and perceptions can begin to be the same.
Photography credit: Cassandra Watsham

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