Persepolis conveys both the horror of the regime and the comic absurdity of living under it. In one panel young Marjane's mother warns her, "If anybody asks what you do during the day, say you pray." In the next panel, Marjane and her friends compete to see who prays the most. "Five times," says one boy. "Eleven," fibs Marjane. The kids also boast about whose family has suffered most. Those whose parents have the grimmest prison tales gain their friends' admiration; those with the most relatives killed in the Iran-Iraq war get better marks at school. Satrapi's darkest passages are leavened with wry humor. A teenage Marjane is stopped by the religious police for wearing a Michael Jackson button, a symbol of American imperialists. She tries to convince them it's a Malcolm X pin and that she supports America's oppressed minorities. "Back then, Michael Jackson was still black," she notes. By deflecting moments of abject fear with humor, Satrapi proves the best way to exorcise tyranny may be to laugh at it.