Monday 7 November 2016

Review! (Graphic Novel Edition!) - Who Killed Kurt Cobain?: The Story of Boddah by Nicolas Otero

Title: Who Killed Kurt Cobain?: The Story of Boddah

Author: Nicolas Otero

Genre: Graphic Novels, Magic Realism, Contemporary, Biography, Non-Fiction* (*ish)

Release Date: 8th November

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

I received a free digital review copy of this book via NetGalley. NetGalley provides review copies from publishers in exchange for fair and honest reviews.

If anyone who has bipolar disorder and/or drug/alcohol addiction problems has reviewed this book, let me know and I will provide a link to your review.

This is weird. And probably needs to come wrapped in a 'trigger warning' protective plastic cover.

That said, this was interesting - so let's get down to this review, shall we?


Kurt Cobain's suicide note was addressed to Boddah.

Now, given the amount of conspiracy theories over Cobain's death, Boddah's identity and role has been discussed a lot.

The simple truth, though, is that Boddah was Cobain's imaginary friend as a kid.

This is the story of Nirvana, Kurt, Courtney, and Kurt's death - as told by Boddah.

Best bits:

Otero seems to honestly feel for Cobain - which stops the book from feeling as exploitative as I feared it would. (It still does feel disrespectful though - see next section.)

We're encouraged to empathise with a man who was, at heart, actually very childlike and lost.

I felt like the image of Kurt given here was one of an actual human being - as opposed to the caricature or legend that he's become since his death.

This book is also down-right heart-breaking. You are right there with Courtney screaming at Kurt to open the bathroom door, watching him as he slowly self-destructs, and unable to help.

The artwork is serviceable - and the boldness of the more experimental hallucinatory-type panels was sometimes breath-taking.

The way Boddah seems so realistic is impressive. He loves Kurt; when Kurt is gone... the panels where Boddah is left without him are just heart-breaking.

Not so great bits:

Things drawn graphically in this book that people need to be aware of:
  • drug-use (including heroin injection and joint smoking)
  • sex
  • child abuse (physical, emotional)
  • guns (and a suicidal fascination with them)
  • attempted suicide
  • drying-out in rehab
  • self-harm (I think... not 100%, I might be misremembering - a lot happened in this book)
  • hallucinations
  • childbirth
  • suicide - including a VERY graphic image of Kurt's dead body.
There's also swearing - but, to be honest, if you can get beyond the things listed above, swear-words aren't going to bother you.

The question of respect for both the living and the dead is a difficult one in this book.

Honestly? (And you guys know I'm always honest with you.) I found it quite disrespectful.

I sincerely doubt that anyone bothered to get Courtney Love's permission to draw her explicitly having sex with her late husband - and that's NOT OK. It's just not.

Likewise, I doubt permission was obtained from any of Cobain's family to show the final distressing panel of his dead body. Again, that's NOT OK.

I DO NOT THINK THE SHOCK-VALUE IS WORTH HURTING PEOPLE. If these were fictional characters, maybe it would be different. But they're not.

You're dealing with REAL people here - have some f**king respect, please!

I felt like Kurt's mental health problems weren't really explained. We got one or two blink-and-you'll-miss-them references to his bipolar disorder, and that is it.

Now, given that Kurt Cobain committed suicide, and there's a chance that Boddah was a hallucination brought on by the bipolar (or, indeed, a hallucination brought on by the drugs, or a combination of the two,) some attention to how his illness will have impacted on both his general mental state, and his susceptibility to drug and alcohol addiction, would have been a good idea.


It was interesting. It was readable. It was heart-breaking.

But there were also issues - and one's which can't be ignored; so give it a read if you want to, honestly, it's pretty fascinating, but do it with your eyes wide open.

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  1. It seems... interesting! To be honest I don't think I would ever read this, it seems a bit too heavy for me and I don't listen to Nirvana, but I guess for a fan of Cobain this could be very emotional! But also quite sad :(

    1. It was interesting, yes, but definitely heavy! Like I said, I also found it disrespectful in places - the balance of the heaviness of the subjects, and how much of them should ACTUALLY be graphically depicted, maybe wasn't right.

  2. I'm not sure this book is going to be one for me. Regardless of it turning out to be quite disrespectful... it just seems so angry as well, and like sympathy is running pretty low throughout the story? The drawings are graphic and there just seems to be so much violence crammed in there. I don't know, just reading this review makes me think this might not be for me... Brilliant review nonetheless!

    1. It was preeeeettty graphic! On the other hand, it wasn't all that angry - more heart-breaking, really; the sympathy was there, but I think Otero made choices on how to depict the (admittedly unchangeable) story that I just wasn't happy with.

      Thanks Liv! :)


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