300: Stylish and Powerful


Most of us are familiar with the story of Frank Miller’s 300 by now if only because of the beautiful movie trailers that have been showing up recently. It is the retelling in comic form of the historic Battle of Thermopylae, where 7,000 Greek soldiers led by Spartan King Leonidas and his 300 personal guard defended Greece from an army of Persian soldiers led by King Xerxes I (estimates of the size of this army range from 200,000 to 2,000,000). Although the 300 Spartans died to the man—as well as 1,200 of their Greek allies—they defended the retreat of 5,500 other Greeks and inflicted anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 casualties on the Persian army.

The pages in this book are not standard size. Each is over twelve inches wide and over nine inches tall. The large page format is from the original comic books, which had a double page spread throughout. These spreads give Frank Miller and Lynn Varley large canvases on which to tell their stories, giving 300 one of the most original styles in all of comic art.

300 is not an exact retelling of the story, but it doesn’t have to be. By focusing on King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, you can get to the meat of a story more quickly and develop it further.

Frank Miller illustrations are reminiscent of his work in Sin City: alternately detailed and minimalist. It is Lynn Varley’s paints that are very much the soul and setting of the story. While Miller’s work could have stood on its own in black and white, Varley’s subtle colors bring a sense of vibrancy and life to the characters, time and place of the story.

The movie trailer seems to capture the essence of the Eisner and Harvey award-winning graphic novel in much the same way that Robert Rodriguez captured the look of the Sin City books. You’ll find the same yellow-orange–hued skies and same dramatic use of shadow and silhouette used so powerfully in the graphic novel. I can only hope any additions or omissions director Zack Snyder decides to make don’t ruin the story. Snyder’s last major movie was 2004’s Dawn of the Dead.