Smash Pages Q&A: Pan S. on ‘Loving Iran, Loving Me’

The comics creator discusses her contribution to ‘Habibi,’ an anthology featuring Muslim women telling stories about love.

Habibi is a new anthology of comics and prose from Bedside Press. Edited by Hadeel al-Massari and Nyala Ali, the book collects the work of Muslim women telling stories about love.

One of those creators is Sugarpun, or Pan, as she goes by. Her contribution to the anthology “Loving Iran, Loving Me,” a beautifully drawn and beautifully designed comic. She admitted that comics are something she’s only gotten back into doing recently. Primarily an illustrator, she answered a few questions about the anthology and her own work.

How did you come to comics?

Honestly I haven’t done many comics in the past. Well, not in a while at least. I used to make a LOT of them when I was younger but I sort of drifted off of them and went towards illustrations as I got older. For this topic though I just really wanted to a tell a story and I felt like one illustration wouldn’t cut it.

For people who don’t know, what is Habibi?

Habibi, the word means “My Love”. The anthology itself is a collection of stories by Muslim creators with stories that celebrate love.

How did you get involved in the anthology?

I followed Hadeel al-Massari on twitter and when I saw her post the application I thought it was a really great idea and a chance for me to get my story out as well.

Tell me about your piece “Loving Iran, Loving Me”

Growing up we moved from Iran to Canada to Dubai and finally to the US. I had a lot of change to get used to and kids can be cruel sometimes which made the entire process of growing up a lot more difficult than it already was. I wanted to fit in really badly so, unfortunately, that translated to me not wanting to be me, anymore. I decided to make my comic about that – the process of growing to like myself and where I was from.

Can you talk a little about how you wrote the piece and how you set about designing the page, because those two aspects feel very connected.

Thank you for noticing! I really wanted the process of growth to be clear and when I think growth, I think of the process of plants growing, etc. Hence, the symbolic imagery of the flowers wilting and dying and then blooming once again showed that although I had shed my identity before, by learning to love myself I was letting that part of me “grow” again. I also really wanted the concept of a cycle to be clear because I believe that no matter what happens in life, you can always pull yourself out of it.

For those of us who don’t read Farsi, I have to ask, what are the two words in the fourth row of panels?

Oh, on the right side it says “Pride” and on the left it says “I’m Iranian”.

Have you gotten to see the book?How you think your piece interacts with the others and how they’re in conversation together around these issues?

I’ve gotten to see the PDF, yes! I think it’s beautiful and I’m so excited to see the physical book in person. It was really nice to see everyone’s stories of acceptance and love and being able to relate to it some way or another.

So what else are you working on or planning?

Currently I’m working on building my brand of “SNOOFS” – goofy looking little borzois I draw. I’ve also been hoping to open up my own store with original merchandise and have been working on building that as well. All in all though, I’m improving my craft and hoping to have my #1 passion in life (art) pan out to be more than just a hobby and hopefully have it be something I can pursue full-time.

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