By Tim Batiuk
Nasrudin was a real historical figure (maybe) who lived in the thirteenth century (probably) in what is now Turkey (possibly). Since then he’s become legendary figure, famous around the world, with thousands of stories being attributed to his life.
So of course I’ve never heard of him before.
The stories about Nasrudin are usually told as a satirical form of folk wisdom style, comedic but with a moral. Not all of the stories are long, and many of them are quite short, more like anecdotes then full on fables. In them Nasrudin pokes fun at people, frequently giving a voice to rebellious feelings people held against the ruling class, but the stories also tell how you should live your life in a better way.
In this comic Batiuk combines a number of different tales about Nasrudin into one continuous narrative. Several of the pages could work entirely by themselves as one page strips, but the way in which Batiuk weaves the different stories together is quite effective.
Nasrudin walks around his village telling stories and making fun of the people that he meets. However, as he is an old, respected man, and his comments are usually both true and told in a light hearted matter, he generally gets away with it.
I’m reminded a little bit of The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfaar (though probably just by being a humourous comic set in desert with a cat), and perhaps more so by Groo the Wanderer by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier. This second comparison may seem a little weird, but Nasrudin is about a man who wanders around saying things that other people don’t want to hear (though in his case for educational purposes instead of Groo’s stupidity), and is usually accompanied by an animal who can think (a donkey for Nasrudin, a dog for Groo). If Nasrudin got into a fight and killed everyone by the end of the issue they’d be more or less the same character. (Or maybe I just have read any Groo comics recently.)
Batiuk says that he had intended on painting this comic, but because of time constraints wasn’t able to. He asks people if they’d like to see a painted version in the future and I’m not sure. I have no idea what a painted version would look like, but I think the art here does its job in presenting the story. It’s not super flashy, but Batiuk’s grasp of facial expressions and body language helps to get the various characters personalities across to the reader. However, I’m not as keen on his hand drawn panel borders.
Anyway, it’s good stuff, and well worth picking up.