WINDOW HORSES by Ann Marie Fleming with art by Kevin Langdale
Ann Marie Fleming's comic WINDOW HORSES is a beautiful exploration of poetry, identity and art. Lead illustrator Kevin Langdale's work in this Bedside Press comic balances humor with sincerity.
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WINDOW HORSES: THE POETIC PERSIAN EPIPHANY OF ROSIE MING is a gorgeous multimedia work by Ann Marie Fleming. Lead illustrator Kevin Langdale beautifully captures the life of Rosie Ming and her travels to Iran for a poetry festival. While there, she explores her origins and the history of poetry. Based on the feature animated film, this Bedside Press comic looks at personal and national histories through image and poetry. 

Image courtesy of Bedside Press.

Rosie is a Persian-Chinese Canadian poet who loves horses and France. From the beginning, WINDOW HORSES looks at Iranian culture alongside family bonds. For though Rosie wants to visit France, her first work of poetry leads her to Iran. There, she finds information about her missing father. Fleming combines sweet storytelling with poems by internationally renowned poets: Sean Yangzahn, Taylor Mali, Rumi, and Hafiz. Kevin Langdale illustrates Rosie’s travels, but other artists contribute as well.

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WINDOW HORSES: Exploring History

As Rosie begins her journey, she knows little about her family. Rosie’s Chinese grandparents raised her in Canada. As a result, Rosie’s Iranian roots are a mystery. Additionally, Rosie is unaware of her father’s complex relationship with Iran. Alongside Rosie’s personal story, the comic dives into Iranian history with beautiful artwork by Sadaf Amini.

Image courtesy of Bedside Press (artwork by Sadaf Amini).

The text navigates Iranian cultural expectations. For example, Rosie wears a chador, even though she is not Muslim. Fleming shows some Iranian characters’ surprise at Rosie’s choice. As a result of Fleming’s skilled writing, readers feel Rosie’s culture shock. Awkward moments gradually make way to friendships. In the end, Rosie’s appreciation for Shiraz shines through.

It is exciting to follow Fleming’s creative heroine as she travels abroad. It is even more exciting to see such a genuine portrayal of Iran. The country’s rich artistic history is worth studying. Persian poetry is particularly central to the comic. But Fleming also highlights Iranian politics and arts ranging from mosaics to music. 

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One could easily compare WINDOW HORSES to Marjane Satrapi’s classic PERSEPOLIS. Both comics present complex looks at Iranian culture. Despite Iran’s rocky history, WINDOW HORSES lovingly shows the language, artwork, and people. What’s more, non-Persian characters dance around topics they assume are too political for Iranian taste. However, Rosie boldly sings her poetry, an act considered improper for women. While she doesn’t receive high marks at the festival, she learns more about Iran and taking risks for art. Moreover, she earns the support of other women in the festival. 

Image courtesy of Bedside Press.

Rosie Ming: Iterations of “Stick Girl”

One fascinating aspect of WINDOW HORSES is the mix of poetry and comics. Fleming writes her own diverse poetry. But she is also well versed in French, Persian, and Chinese poetry. Rosie adores French poets like Baudelaire. However, as she tours Shiraz, she learns more about Persian poetry, including the Sufi poets Hafiz and Rumi.

Each poem is accompanied by beautiful artwork. Images from different artists blend with the poems. As Rosie comes into her own identity, her poetry flourishes. Likewise, the diverse artwork in WINDOW HORSES breathes fresh life into the words.

Image courtesy of Bedside Press.

Fleming’s original character “Stick Girl” (as Rosie) is the only stick figure in WINDOW HORSES. Kevin Langdale’s fluid linework and detailed backgrounds contrast with Rosie’s stick body. In spite of the unusual style, the artwork is affective. Rosie’s body is undeveloped as she learns about her origins. Meanwhile, the other characters’ geometric faces are highly expressive. The bright colors and textures tie everything together, setting the mood for each frame.

Animated Film to Graphic Novel

Fleming’s original film won numerous awards in animated and international competitions. The graphic novel is just as worthy of praise. Rosie starts her career with a self-published text of her poems. It seems fitting that the story takes its turn as a comic, a media with a rich history of self-publication.

Additionally, the story of Rosie Ming treads the line between many media and identities. The format of WINDOW HORSES takes on many different forms as well. Chinese and Persian poetry serve as perfect backdrops to Rosie’s personal experiences of her Persian-Chinese identity.

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The Poetic Epiphany

WINDOW HORSES is a fantastic example of how art can illuminate humanity. Rosie Ming’s adventures in WINDOW HORSES are heartwarming. Fleming creates a lovable character and sends her off to explore her ties to art and the past. Blending poetry, comics, and history, WINDOW HORSES is a powerful journey.

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