Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book

Although created with every good intent, this is a horrible graphic novel.

Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book cover
Nelson Mandela:
The Authorized Comic Book
Buy this book

It’s much too in awe of its subject, as you can see by the authors. It’s credited to “The Nelson Mandela Foundation”, and they certainly want their namesake to be seen in every best possible light. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the result is something that’s flat and boring, almost like a textbook. That matches its intent — to educate new, younger readers about this great man.

The text is overwritten and the art takes a far second place. It’s stiff and posed, with no sense of movement, too clearly based on photo reference. When asked to create intervening panels, without models, the faces can appear deformed or otherwise badly drawn. Reproduction is often dark, making it hard to read. Most of the panels are boring, just people talking or lengthy narrative captions.

Who created this is unclear, since the artists aren’t named, just a company that “produces accessible educational comic books”. (Originally, the comics were given away free to schools and newspapers.) The series collected here was originally published in 2005, so modern times aren’t really covered. The 2000s are summarized very briefly, with only 2003, 2004, and 2007 getting a page each, and nothing more recent.

Libraries and other institutions will likely appreciate having such a book, and students will use it for book reports and biographies because comics are more fun to read than prose. But that’s about the only use I can see for it. It’s not a pleasurable read for its own sake. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)

5 Responses to “Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book”

  1. Hsifeng Says:

    I think I heard about this a few years ago when the BBC News had an article on it…lemme double-check…I thought what I’d read included a mention of the comics being available in all of South Africa’s official languages, but this is up instead:

    When I was trying to find the article, I also found these links:

    “Nelson Mandela comic book launched”
    July 17, 2008

    One photo is captioned “Comic book artists Richie Orphan, Pitshou Mampa and Pascal Nzoni with project co-ordinator Nic Buchanan” (now why didn’t Norton credit the visual artists in the U.S. edition itself too?)

    “Superman Madiba launches comic”
    November 2, 2005
    By SouthAfrica.Info Reporter

    “…To prepare himself, Buchanan read books and consulted historians, journalists and the foundation’s archives. He and five artists worked for six months to produce the first 26-page edition…” (so there are two more to credit besides Orphan, Mampa, and Nzoni)

  2. Nuremj Says:

    I’m a bit confused by this review? You say “the result is something that’s flat and boring, almost like a textbook. That matches its intent — to educate new, younger readers about this great man”. Does this mean it achieves its intentions or not?

  3. Johanna Says:

    I’d say not, because I found it a huge struggle to read. It’s hard to learn from a book that’s putting you to sleep.

  4. Nuremj Says:

    I finally got my copy, and you are right. It is a text book, but done in a graphic format so I wonder what you call this?

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