Nina Simone in Comics HC (NBM Comics Biographies)
Publisher: NBM Publishing
Release Date: February 13, 2024
Price: $27.99
Creator(s): Sophie Andriansen (Writer); Various Artists
Format: 160 pgs., B&W, 7.5" x 10", Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-6811-2326-4
Age Rating: N/A
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

This is one of those graphic biographies that will belong on every library collection that contains graphic non-fiction.  Approachable material on the life and struggles of Nina Simone have been difficult to obtain, but she was an important figure both in music and in the Civil Rights movement.  Sadly, she faced challenges that were sometimes of her own making, in addition to the ones forced on her by society and by abusive figures in her life.

The format of this volume is interesting, in that the graphic stories and text pages often cover the same events, but are explained in different ways.  Sometimes the text pages cover things in more depth, or add details that were informational but not dramatic.  This doesn’t always work, but in general the stories pay off in one form or the other, often both.

The book doesn’t cover up Nina Simone’s flaws or her mental health struggles, but often the reader is compelled to wonder why someone in her life couldn’t have tried just a little harder to help.  Her family had largely turned away from her over her decision to pursue performing popular music, as opposed to her original goal of classical piano or her mother’s desire that she focus on gospel and church music.

The artwork, with each section of the graphic biography, varies somewhat in quality and greatly in style.  Most of the artists will be unfamiliar to American readers, since the book was originally a French publication, and all of the artists are French.  This translation came quickly, though, as the French edition only came out last year.  The book contains both suggestions for further reading on Ms. Simone, and a very large discography of her recorded work.

Written for adults, it is also suitable for older teens interested in music or in the life of a very unusual woman.

--Nick Smith