Sept152019: Encountering Alexander

“( can I ask a question about your Alexander comic? feel free to ignore this of course!) For me, he was barely on my radar until that one recent (YA?) book got popular in fandom; we definitely didn’t spend much time on him in school. IME he’s a vague jumble of anecdotes (Gordian knot,Elephants, Weeping at the edge of his empire), and it sounds like you’ve been exposed to him a lot more, so I’m curious when & how you first sort of encountered the whole Alexander mythos?”

Asked by pilferingapples

Which YA book? Is it the Dancing with the Lions one? OR, is it The Song of Achilles?

Heh I knew nothing about him either. Until Dec 2018 (the day I first drew him) he was a nobody to me. I didn’t learn about him in school. Plus my historical focus has always been between the Georgian – Edwardian eras, so I never encountered him organically in my internet travels.

The first time I was both exposed to him AND the Alexander Romance was in a book, a collection of short stories, Swimmer Among the Stars by Kanishk Tharoor. Tharoor has this whole section in the middle of the collection that consisted of selected retellings of the Persian tradition of the Alexander Romance: the mirror in the lighthouse in Alexandria, the glass submarine under the sea, the art competition between Greek and Chinese painters, the destruction of Thebes, the Water of Life…

After I read his introduction (”The Alexander romance was global literature before global literature…”) and his retellings, my mind was buzzing. I was pretty shook because I had no idea there was this rich world-travelling legacy attached to Alexander. If you were to ask my opinion about him before then, I would have told you he was just the typical Great Man military king, yawn, same old same old. To be honest, if it were not for the Alexander Romance I wouldn’t have bothered caring.

Anyway, I looked it up and found there was even more to this Alexander thing. It’s not just the Persian Alexander. There were also Quranic and Christian European and Jewish Alexanders. It was like stumbling upon a 2000 year old time capsule, or maybe a collaborative diary, shared by the hands and minds of hundreds of artists, writers and translators who each added their own retelling, passing this diary on to the future.

Not surprisingly, I wanted in on it. But I didn’t know it consciously at the time. It just seized me, with this one image of Alexander and his Servant going on a quest to find the Water of Life. It lasted as an idea in my head for a year, which means it’s serious. It lasted even as I was saying, “man I am done with historical GNs for now”. It’s very obviously a calling; I know what that feels like – TCM was one of those. Besides, it’s been 300 years since the last retelling. It’s time to make an Alexander Romance for our era.

So yeah here I am being a new voice to this diary (as the first female voice!) It’s exciting, because it’s a graphic novel, and it’s going to have this 21st century approach. Hope yall enjoy this ride; it’s going to be a long one.

Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.

She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.

Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.

Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur

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