Graphic novel review: The Incredible Nellie Bly by Luciana Cimino

The incredible Nellie Bly is a comic book biography of the extraordinary contribution to woman’s emancipation of that impressive person Nellie Bly was. I will humbly admit that I knew nothing about that courageous woman before seeing this graphic novel, but I am always interested in learning and reading about strong women of the past, so I was very eager to start this read.

The graphic novel is written like an interview of Nellie Bly by a feminist activist distraught that “things have not changed”. The message to keep our chins up and keep fighting, that we might have more steps to go, but that we must keep moving our feet is a good one. I liked that the pioneer, who did the heavy lifting, keeps nudging us in the right direction. Because when you think about it, this is exactly what those role models do, even long gone, they provide a strong motivation to fight for a world they hoped one day would exist. 

Nellie Bly was an investigative journalist in a world where women couldn’t do anything without a chaperon, she did it by sheer will and talent, always having to fight, and deserving our biggest respect. I liked all the little insights we got into her life, even if some did feel much too short and I would have loved to know more: like the way she supported women workers that were seen as disreputable for no reason other than not being able to protect themselves and working themselves to the bone. Lots of anecdotes in that book remind us how far we have come, but that there is still very vulnerable people, and that the divide between classes around the world when we look at it hasn’t really improved. It is a very topical book, because many of the fronts on which Nellie Bly fought still need advocates. I am really glad I got to discover her contribution to humanity, because a step forward for womanhood means a step forward for everybody. When everyone is valued at the same level is when humanity will have finally reached adulthood and be what it should be. Everyone deserves the same chance no matter sex, gender, skin, beliefs, orientations or wallet.

The illustrations were done well, black and painted grey shades, simple, flowing and proportioned lines. Nothing extremely fancy, there is little action so there is little movement in the images, but the text is more “tell” than “show” so it’s not the fault of the artist. There is no great detail but the story comes across very clearly. There is something also very feminine about it, maybe because the lines feel curving rather than sharp, like using a paintbrush and the grey shading enforces that painted quality. I really like the organic feel of the shading. 

Overall I really recommend this graphic novel to everyone who is interested in strong women characters. It does come across as more of a listing of merits sometimes, than a real story, which I regret. I would have loved to be plunged into the action of such a life, but I learnt a lot of things and it made me want to learn more about Nellie Bly and maybe do a little investigation of my own. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will feel that way after reading that book! 

The graphic novel will be coming out in March 2021

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