Humanitarian. Activist. Freedom fighter. Boxer. President. Hero of a nation. Mandela seems a fit personality for a comic book character. Based on the memoir Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela: The Authorised Comic, as the title suggests, is the beautifully illustrated life story of our beloved Madiba – our very own superhero. From his humble boyhood as a herd boy in rural South Africa to his rise as a gifted political figure in the African National Congress (ANC), his unjust incarceration on Robben Island, his triumphant release and his unforgettable rise as the first black president of the country, no stone is left unturned.
“You know you are really famous the day that you discover that you have become a comic character!” —Nelson Mandela
The winner of the 2010’s Best Book for Older Readers in the Children’s Africana Book Awards, Nelson Mandela: The Authorised Comic comprises of eight detailed chapters; A Son of the Eastern Cape, Becoming a Leader, The Black Pimpernel, The Trialist, Prisoner 466/64, The Negotiator, President-In-Waiting, and Mr. President. While biographies generally tend to bore youths, this graphic novel tries to bridge the gap and provide an alternative method of storytelling – with the intention of attracting new readers. “My hope is that elementary reading of comics will lead the youth to the joy of reading good books,” Mandela expressed. “That joy has been mine all my life, and it is one I wish for all South Africans. If it is easy to read for other people like me, with eyes not like they used to be, and it reaches entirely new readers, then the project will prove to be worthwhile.”
“Hey, just look at us, which other country has a moral colossus to match Nelson Mandela? We are the envy of every single nation on earth. He has become an icon of forgiveness, compassion and magnanimity and reconciliation for the entire globe.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Most of the story is well-known. Mandela, or Rolihlahla (troublemaker) as he was known as a youth, spent twenty-seven years behind prison bars on Robben Island for his protests against apartheid. And even though it’s really well illustrated (but inconsistent), with much of the penciled and inked artwork referenced from actual photographs, the art takes second place to the inspirational story. While the story is enticing, poor dialogue and discontinuity tends to creep in now and again. Meant as both entertainment and educational intent for youth and adults alike, Nelson Mandela: The Authorised Comic finds most of its footing in the latter – even including a teacher’s guide and a space for notes.
Filled with well-known historical figures like – Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, F.W. De Klerk, and Winnie Mandela – the graphic novel does manage to explore the full-scale of Mandela’s story. Released to coincide with his 91st birthday, there isn’t a better way to celebrate a real hero… our hero… a superhero… Nelson Mandela. This is well worth owning.