Kurt Cobain is one of the most celebrated musicians in recent history. His sudden death was mourned by the whole world. But moreover, the mysteriousness surrounding the circumstances of his “suicide” are still baffling law officials and fans everywhere.
Dozens of documentaries, write-ups and movies have tried to explore the tragedy of Kurt Cobain. Though “Who Killed Kurt Cobain” is the first to offer a special perspective into the troubled mind of one of the greatest musical artists of recent history.
The Graphic Novel Format
The graphic novel format is often seen as an inferior medium for real-life storytelling, compared to movies or even documentaries. The reason for this is because of the amount of depth that can be portrayed by actors, or archived footage, of the actual people themselves.
Another good reason is that sometimes, illustrations do not represent events or emotions well. After all, they’re drawn by how the artist perceives how they happened. And sometimes that does not translate well with readers who enjoy forming their own opinions.
I personally think that memoirs or books are the best possible medium for stories like this. While it’s somewhat impossible to completely grasp the minds of people we admire such as Freddy Mercury, Kurt Cobain, or even Carrie Fisher, reading from their point of view is definitely an exhilarating experience as a fan or even as someone who was just curious.
What sets “Who Killed Kurt Cobain?” apart however, is that it does not presume to actively speak through Kurt Cobain’s perspective. The narrative is done through the thoughts and emotions of Kurt Cobain’s imaginary friend Boddah. Most of the stories presented in the graphic novel are still based on reality though. And we even get to see some of Kurt Cobain’s letters and diary entries.
These fragmented, often cryptic thoughts are given life through the fictionalization of Boddah. In short, the graphic novel takes full advantage of its medium. It transcends its limits by framing the narrative through a completely fictional character. And I think that’s genius.
The Art & The Artist
While the storyline is based on Le Roman de Boddah by Heloise Guay de Bellissen, it is the art that truly realizes the full potential of Kurt Cobain’s life. And that’s only because it was drawn by a real fan who was touched by Nirvana’s impact back in his teens.
Nicolas Otero states that he first saw Nirvana perform in Paris when he was 17. Ever since Kurt’s suicide in 1994, he has thought about illustrating Cobain’s life through Boddah’s eyes. He thought that Nirvana was “…explosive, mind-blowing, sonic and so powerful”, and his impression lasted for 10 whole years until he realized his dream. Meaning that that’s when “Who Killed Kurt Cobain?” was released.
The art style is distinctly unique. It’s obviously cartoon-ish, if not somewhat macabre. It perfectly fits Nirvana’s grunge style, though it’s not the first to do that. I believe that a similar effect was achieved in the documentary “Montage of Heck” back in 2015.
What I love about the art here though, is that it is obviously illustrated by a Nirvana fan. Kurt Cobain is drawn in a way that you can almost relate to the tragedy that was his brilliant mind, as it slowly collapsed in upon itself.
Kurt Cobain and His Impact
I have never understood Kurt Cobain’s mindset, but this graphic novel made me feel sympathy for the man who thought himself to be ugly the most. That may sound a little off-putting, but I loved every moment of the graphic novel. Some of the scenes were meant to be disgusting, or at least appalling, but they are all just so beautifully illustrated. Even some of the more carnal scenes became symbolism of something… more.
I must admit that I’m a huge Nirvana fan, but I still read this graphic novel with zero expectations. I was prepared to be brutally honest, but I never expected that I’d enjoy it even with that mindset. “Who Killed Kurt Cobain?” is simply too damned good to pass up.