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Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography

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Assassinated at age forty in 1965. Malcolm X battled the horrifying legacy of African American slavery throughout his short life. Malcolm's passage from troubled boy to influential, outspoken man and finally to tragic hero is captured in the drawings of the award-winning graphic artist Randy DuBurke, and the heartrending history of the era is distilled to its essence by An Assassinated at age forty in 1965. Malcolm X battled the horrifying legacy of African American slavery throughout his short life. Malcolm's passage from troubled boy to influential, outspoken man and finally to tragic hero is captured in the drawings of the award-winning graphic artist Randy DuBurke, and the heartrending history of the era is distilled to its essence by Andrew Helfer, editor of two Eisner Award-winning books. This is American history as you've never seen it before.


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Assassinated at age forty in 1965. Malcolm X battled the horrifying legacy of African American slavery throughout his short life. Malcolm's passage from troubled boy to influential, outspoken man and finally to tragic hero is captured in the drawings of the award-winning graphic artist Randy DuBurke, and the heartrending history of the era is distilled to its essence by An Assassinated at age forty in 1965. Malcolm X battled the horrifying legacy of African American slavery throughout his short life. Malcolm's passage from troubled boy to influential, outspoken man and finally to tragic hero is captured in the drawings of the award-winning graphic artist Randy DuBurke, and the heartrending history of the era is distilled to its essence by Andrew Helfer, editor of two Eisner Award-winning books. This is American history as you've never seen it before.

30 review for Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    Not too long after finishing Americanah, I chanced upon this graphic novel when perusing my local digital library. Conceptually, I love the idea of a graphic biography and (this is where the Americanah thing becomes relevant) was particularly interested to see how one might take on a racially-charged discourse. Given the amazing, iconic images of the Civil Rights movement, my expectations were pretty high. As you may have guessed from my dearth of stars, I was a bit disappointed. First of all, I Not too long after finishing Americanah, I chanced upon this graphic novel when perusing my local digital library. Conceptually, I love the idea of a graphic biography and (this is where the Americanah thing becomes relevant) was particularly interested to see how one might take on a racially-charged discourse. Given the amazing, iconic images of the Civil Rights movement, my expectations were pretty high. As you may have guessed from my dearth of stars, I was a bit disappointed. First of all, I don't know how 112 pages could feel so long, but they did. If it weren't for library due dates, I might still be trudging through this. The author begins by challenging the veracity of Malcolm X's autobiography, which is fine (I don’t exactly have a PhD in Mr. X), but things just felt "weird" (for lack of a better term). There was a way in which the narrative seemed couched in certain racial clichés which, again, is fine (I'm no expert, and facts are facts- I found this review to be much better informed than anything I could produce), but there seemed to be a lack of nuance. Malcolm's mother is the black woman, too proud to take handouts; willing to see her children suffer to such an extent that the "safety net" of the state had to swoop in to take control. As Malcolm moves to the next stage of his life, he learns to live the life of the hustler which, among other things, involves getting your hair straightened- a moment that comes off as being clownish in manner. It was also at this point that i lost all ability to discern characters visually. I get it, Malcolm was evolving, but it was downright confusing. For example, in the montage cell below, is that supposed to be Malcolm three times? If so, which one(s) is/are he/him? The story arc I enjoyed most, visually speaking, was Malcolm's becoming disillusioned with Elijah Muhammad (of the Nation of Islam- NOI). Here, the illustrations give the reader a hook to just how different a person can seem as one's understanding evolves.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Miroku Nemeth

    First off, Helfer basically attacks Malcolm's own narrative of his life from the first page—even the first paragraph--of the "Autobiography" by asserting that Malcolm's "mother, for her part, had no memory of the events" of her being threatened by the KKK at their Nebraska home when he was in the womb(7). In a further thinly veiled attack on Malcolm's credibility, he tries to undermine Malcolm's assertion that his father was murdered by adding in an alternative possibility that he slipped and fe First off, Helfer basically attacks Malcolm's own narrative of his life from the first page—even the first paragraph--of the "Autobiography" by asserting that Malcolm's "mother, for her part, had no memory of the events" of her being threatened by the KKK at their Nebraska home when he was in the womb(7). In a further thinly veiled attack on Malcolm's credibility, he tries to undermine Malcolm's assertion that his father was murdered by adding in an alternative possibility that he slipped and fell trying to catch a trolley. The portrayal of the family is almost entirely one of an abusive father (who is illustrated, oddly enough, as a small balding man who looks much like a grocer, which is contrary to all accounts of Earl Little and his appearance), and an abused mother, who always looks disheveled, not anything like what has remained of the images of her. They also censored the very important moment when Malcolm’s eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Ostrowski, told him that being a lawyer was no realistic goal for a “nigger”. At first I thought that this was because they wanted to market this “graphic biography” to schools where that word would be objectionable, but you have the word used a few pages later by Malcolm himself when he cons the Army psychologist to avoid the draft. (30) The Charleston State Penitentiary is covered in less than two pages, and, much like Spike Lee’s movie adaptation of Malcolm X, there is no mention of the great influence that the eloquent autodidact convict and commanding speaker Bimbi had on Malcolm’s intellectual transformation. As someone who has taught The Autobiography of Malcolm X to perhaps 30 classes of students over the last decade and a half, I have many problems with aspects of the narrative of Malcolm’s life that Helfer provides. This said, there is some very important African American and American history in this graphic biography. It mentions the April 27,1962 murder of Ronald Stokes by the LAPD, for example, which is an incident that is seldom even mentioned in mainstream histories of the period. It also dealt well with the justifiable disillusionment that Malcolm felt with the NOI after learning of Elijah Muhammad’s predatory affairs with young women. In fact, I feel that the art and writing seem to start to flow much better as the graphic novel progressed. They do an excellent job of illustrating the many attempts on Malcolm’s life and conflicts before his assassination that are rarely dealt with as well. Far from perfect, problematic in areas, but well-worth reading, especially in conjunction with other works about Malcolm—though there is no substitute for “The Autobiography.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Kotkin

    Text: 3 stars Art: 3 stars Black-and-white graphic biography about Malcolm X, aimed at teens. It's rather difficult to make out who is who in the illustrations. The book is very text-heavy and the illustrations seem rather static. I'm a big fan of graphic biography as a genre; unfortunately this one has some issues. But it does provide an overview of Malcolm's life and struggles.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Black Bibliophile

    I learned a lot more than I thought i would, strangely enough.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mariah

    This was not the worst biography that I have had to sit myself through, but it was the hardest 102 pages of my life. This may have been because I read this while I was on my youth group's annual 30-hour famine...so maybe my hunger was blinding me from the greatest biography of my life, but maybe not. Everyone should know the story of Malcolm X, but if not just a quick run through, he was kind of a back slider that found religion (specifically the Islamic faith). He originally follows the Nation This was not the worst biography that I have had to sit myself through, but it was the hardest 102 pages of my life. This may have been because I read this while I was on my youth group's annual 30-hour famine...so maybe my hunger was blinding me from the greatest biography of my life, but maybe not. Everyone should know the story of Malcolm X, but if not just a quick run through, he was kind of a back slider that found religion (specifically the Islamic faith). He originally follows the Nation of Islam which is racist towards everything else except blacks, but he eventually travels to Mecca after his expulsion from the NOI and discovers the true Islamic faith. He was assassinated (Not sure if that's a spoiler? If so sorry...) I do really like how the art in this novel was all black and white which I believe dug more into the idea of racial lines, but then again I may be over analyzing. This novel also doesn't rely on symbolism for the facial expressions which I think was a key factor for relating this to a more realistic story where other biographical graphic novels I have read still have that "cartoon" feeling. The to image ration is obviously going to be more towards the text side because of this being a biography, but I still thought there were places where the text was just far to much for me. Overall, this wasn't a horrible biography, but I just didn't want it. I do recommend this to any history buffs, people that want to know more about the history of the NOI or black Islamic faith in America this is the novel for you my dears.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tony Cafiso

    Malcolm X: a graphic biography was an overview of Malcolm's life. It talks about him traveling to mecca and discovering the true Islamic faith after he was expelled from the Nation of Islam, then his assassination. The art was black and white and the text did not have much interaction with the pictures, being in boxes or bubbles the same way the entire time. I thought the book was boring but I am not a huge history buff so it might recommend it to someone who is.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah H

    Doesn't really accurately portray his life but overall, it's a good overview of it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Again, I love graphic novels to help me fill in gaps of my knowledge of history. Now I want to find a more in depth history of Malcolm X.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Desiree Brunelle

    Malcolm X is about a man who starts off the beaten track and ends up as something more, more meaning full and has a greater influence to a greater purpose. Malcolm always was different as boy, he was lighter skinned than his other brothers and anyone in the black community.his father Earl was abusive to his mother who was a very kind women, his brothers and to him as well but less so because Malcolm believes he reminded his father of a white boy so he was lenient towards him. Malcolm s mother wa Malcolm X is about a man who starts off the beaten track and ends up as something more, more meaning full and has a greater influence to a greater purpose. Malcolm always was different as boy, he was lighter skinned than his other brothers and anyone in the black community.his father Earl was abusive to his mother who was a very kind women, his brothers and to him as well but less so because Malcolm believes he reminded his father of a white boy so he was lenient towards him. Malcolm s mother was raped by a white man, and because of that Earl did not all him to take his name because he did not think he was worthy of it since his father was a preacher that spoke out against the white man ad his power over the black man. soon after Malcolm was born there family was being forced to leave because of a KKK threat to them so " The family moved shortly after Malcolm's birth, first to Milwaukee, and then to Lansing, Michigan, where Earl continued preaching for the UNIA." there family hit hard times where there was little food to eat and there new home there father purchased was being taken from them because " This land shall never be rented, leased,sold or occupied by...persons other than those of the Caucasian race." they were forced to leave and later on his father was arrested on false reasoning's and then later found dead by what the police say was "an accident". for the Malcolm s childhood would be spent in foster homes, because his mother could not afforded to take care of her family. he did not like his first home and the second one he did like it but because he did not feel as he belonged with them. the school he attended was all white and made Malcolm feel different and sometimes angry because of the racist jokes they would say in front of him as if it was nothing. Malcolm becomes distant is put to live with his cousin Ella in Boston. He was very happy to go he loved her. as he grows up to be a young man, he find the "lower class" of black people that have the music skills, gambling skills, etc more exciting and better suited for him the pretending to be a Black " white man". Malcolm becomes everybody's friend because his skill is to be liked and finds many jobs because of it. but his luck does run out soon he hits rock bottom and is sent to jail. in jail he is angry but finds a religion that is Muslim based and it speaks to him in volumes. he becomes very devoted to his cause, he becomes an amazing speaker for the people, and is later given the X in his name to show is power placed in this religion and to show how devoted he is. his time spent with the leader of the movement was great until he finds out the truth about him and what he does. Malcolm becomes furious. and try to stop him and his sins. Malcolm is rejected by his community and by most of his followers because they do not believe him. his life is in danger and he try to stay alive as best he can. in the end he couldn't protect himself forever. I lived this book it as very good in detail, the look of the characters were very accurate, also the story line was amazing and i loved all of it, plus it kept me interested throughout. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to read a political, biography or a good tale of a man story of hardship to power but power for the people.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kylie Combs

    So I feel very torn about this one. I picked it up to get a quick but interesting bio for someone I didn’t know very much (if anything) about. I think it was very approachable and the art was great. But I don’t feel like I really did learn much. It referenced Alex Haley’s biography a few times so I think I’ll check that out soon.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrae Mcconnell

    This is the only graphic biography I have ever read, but I think that the graphic novel, as a genre, will really benefit from the sub genre of graphic biography, especially if it is goin to make a bid for a place in teacher's curriculum. I really appreciate this fresh look at the life o fone of the most recognizable figures in history. For such a brief text Helfer does an amazing job of capturing the major events in Malcolm's life as well as showing how some of the less publicized events and rel This is the only graphic biography I have ever read, but I think that the graphic novel, as a genre, will really benefit from the sub genre of graphic biography, especially if it is goin to make a bid for a place in teacher's curriculum. I really appreciate this fresh look at the life o fone of the most recognizable figures in history. For such a brief text Helfer does an amazing job of capturing the major events in Malcolm's life as well as showing how some of the less publicized events and relationships were instrumental in shaping who he was. The artwork is all in black in white. It is well done, but I would have preferred color, especially to capture all the skin tones of African Americans. I can definitely see myself using this graphic novel with my ninth graders as a gateway to looking at the masterful way Malcolm uses rhetoric in his writings and speeches.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chazzbot

    This graphic novel is primarily intended for young adult audiences, and would likely provide a good introduction to the life and work of Malcolm X. For any other reader, however, I cannot recommend this book in place of X's autobiography, one of the most important books of the late 20th century. To its credit, this graphic novel does provide a comprehensive summary of the autobiography. In terms of artistic achievement, Randy DuBurke's charcoal renderings are a perfect fit, though they are often This graphic novel is primarily intended for young adult audiences, and would likely provide a good introduction to the life and work of Malcolm X. For any other reader, however, I cannot recommend this book in place of X's autobiography, one of the most important books of the late 20th century. To its credit, this graphic novel does provide a comprehensive summary of the autobiography. In terms of artistic achievement, Randy DuBurke's charcoal renderings are a perfect fit, though they are often crowded out by text-heavy boxes. Those expecting a true graphic rendering of X's life will be disappointed, and DuBurke's art often only serves as illustration, not narrative. I like the idea of this book more than the execution, and I would urge any readers unfamiliar with Malcolm X to turn to his autobiography first.

  13. 4 out of 5

    John Sloan

    Really good. This was a really well put together version of Malcolm's life. Considering i knew next to nothing about him before this. Also revealed a lot of information about the struggle for black rights in the USA, specifically about the Nation of Islam. Besides this it was put together as a very compelling story from the opening just before Malcolm's death. A good starting point for me reading about these issues, but also i would say a good read for anyone as the story is in his format so its Really good. This was a really well put together version of Malcolm's life. Considering i knew next to nothing about him before this. Also revealed a lot of information about the struggle for black rights in the USA, specifically about the Nation of Islam. Besides this it was put together as a very compelling story from the opening just before Malcolm's death. A good starting point for me reading about these issues, but also i would say a good read for anyone as the story is in his format so its a slightly Unusual take on events. I would definately recommend this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    This was awful. The art is murky, and frequently poorly laid out with images visibly distorted to fir the grid. the text is verbose and dull. There is no interaction between visuals and words. The whole thing is an exercise in eye strain and boredom. Malcolm X deserves a better 'graphic biography'. Might I suggest approaching the good people at Tara Books to commission one?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This comic is used more to tell the life of Malcolm X. Since I have never been very fond of history, this was extremely boring to me. It was hard for me to read this comic. If you are a fan of history then you may like this comic, but if you don't really care for it don't pick this up. I would recommend this comic mainly to people who like history and want to learn more about Malcolm X.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sidik Fofana

    SIX WORD REVIEW: ...and it doesn't sugarcoat for kids.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Imani406

    One of the best graphic novels I've read. Highly recommended. It was extremely detailed and did not miss any details about Malcolm X's life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography is a biographical graphic novel written by Andrew Helfer and illustrated by Randy DuBurke. It is a cursory and frank biography of Malcolm X from criminal to convert to activist. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a popular figure during the civil rights movement. He is best known for his controversial advocacy for the rights of blacks who indicted white America in the harshest terms Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography is a biographical graphic novel written by Andrew Helfer and illustrated by Randy DuBurke. It is a cursory and frank biography of Malcolm X from criminal to convert to activist. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a popular figure during the civil rights movement. He is best known for his controversial advocacy for the rights of blacks who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. He was accused of preaching racism and violence and has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. The graphic novel tell the story of Malcolm X's short life and his meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the two leaders describing the opposite ideological ends of the fight for civil rights and his eventual assassination by other members of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography is written and constructed moderately well. The narration and detailed black and white illustrations are sharp as photographs in a newspaper. The portrait is frank and at times unflattering. From his slow slide into the criminal to his jailhouse conversion to Islam, Helfer and DuBurke don't shy from any part of his life. Unfortunately, as the story gets into the complicated dynamics within the NOI and Malcolm X's eventual break from the group, the narrative becomes tangled. The same drawings that make Malcolm X's youth so vivid can't portray the political in-fighting with the same clarity, giving instead a glance at the last few years of his life. All in all, Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography is an evocative biography and the racial conflict that defined and shaped Malcolm X.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Sundt

    Books like this should be required reading in school. Books like these can help kids understand that learning American history can be, despite popular belief, an intense and engaging experience. It saddens me that I don't think I ONCE read or heard anything about Malcolm X during my public school years... it was all about Martin Luther King Jr (huge respect to him as always) whose message tends to appear easier in the general immediacy to package and simplify. This man, though - his story is comp Books like this should be required reading in school. Books like these can help kids understand that learning American history can be, despite popular belief, an intense and engaging experience. It saddens me that I don't think I ONCE read or heard anything about Malcolm X during my public school years... it was all about Martin Luther King Jr (huge respect to him as always) whose message tends to appear easier in the general immediacy to package and simplify. This man, though - his story is complicated. His force of will is powerful, immensely so, and it feels throughout that he struggled with where to direct it, especially as his religious leader so flagrantly falls from grace and his world falls apart around him. Even with this book, I don't think I have scratched the surface of what he was about, which goes to show what reading still I need to do. This book, in this way, proves helpful for extreme beginners to the topic like myself. It's a quick read and more of a gateway piece than the be-all authority on his life's timeline. I'm fine with that for now.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    I'll admit, before reading this book, I knew only the bare-bones biography of Malcolm X. This graphic biography gave me a much more complete view and understanding of his life, from birth to death. The high contrast black and white drawings imparted surprising subtlety into the expression of the story. At the same time, the artist does not hesitate to graphically portray various acts of violence, beginning with Malcolm's father's death, continuing through police violence and other crimes, culmin I'll admit, before reading this book, I knew only the bare-bones biography of Malcolm X. This graphic biography gave me a much more complete view and understanding of his life, from birth to death. The high contrast black and white drawings imparted surprising subtlety into the expression of the story. At the same time, the artist does not hesitate to graphically portray various acts of violence, beginning with Malcolm's father's death, continuing through police violence and other crimes, culminating in Malcolm's assassination. This is a tale of human rights denied and fought for, but it is also the story of a very human man with very human relationships and motivations. I'm also horrified by how relevant and immediate these issues still are 50 years later. I wonder what his legacy would be if his life hadn't been cut short. It seems like the world still needed him after he was gone.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pheng

    An interesting book. The images synced with the text pretty well and gave interesting information about Malcolm X who I knew nothing about before reading this. The beginning of the book had me intrigued the entire time to find out more about this person named Malcolm X. His childhood was full of racism but he later found a place where he believed was right for him. He became a drug dealer, a thief and a hustler in exchange for the education he could of had. In the end he reflected about his earl An interesting book. The images synced with the text pretty well and gave interesting information about Malcolm X who I knew nothing about before reading this. The beginning of the book had me intrigued the entire time to find out more about this person named Malcolm X. His childhood was full of racism but he later found a place where he believed was right for him. He became a drug dealer, a thief and a hustler in exchange for the education he could of had. In the end he reflected about his early life and changed his way to become someone with power for the people. He worked hard to gain power even if there were people after his life because they disagree with his ways which was admirable. It was amazing how he changed from a criminal to a human rights activist to the very end of his life. This book is worth the try as it is full of images and text that contains intriguing information that many can enjoy.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kari Olfert

    3.5 This isn't the best biography that I've read but I really like the graphic novel version of biographies. The major downfall of this book is that yes it told a story, however there was also a lot of fact spewing. I knew absolutely nothing about Malcolm X and this taught me everything I am ever going to know about Malcolm x. 👌🙂🙏

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Fernandez

    Malcolm was a Afro American revolutionary that helped lead the Civil Rights movement. His life is described in detail in this book with the help of graphics which make it easier for the reader to understand his life from a gangster from the streets of Boston to be one of the greatest civil rights leader in U.S. history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Mitchell

    This is a good book but at the same time malcolm was trying to make a living and stop racism he had so much power he was reaching to the point everyone people in his country will listen to him he had a lot of power lots of people hated him. I didn’t like when they killed him he was a humble guy that went through hell and back since he was a kid to growing up.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    I really enjoyed this book it, gave a quick overview of thing apart of the civil rights movement and developed a theme that is very true to life. This book also informed me of Malcolm X's life and impact on the civil rights movements along with lots of details on his beginning which, were very surprising. Great book altogether.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Beardsley

    This graphic novel is a good introduction to the life of Malcolm X, but there were moments where I wished the author elaborated. The reader sees Malcolm X's views change several times throughout the book; however, these shifts in belief and religion happen rather quickly.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kithanna Smart

    This book, in my opinion, was very informative and it had info on Malcolm X that I've never really known before. all my life I've known him to be a civil rights activist and I would've never seen him as a bad boy or a partier. This Graphic Novel really and truly opened my eyes to things like this

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is a short, compelling snapshot of Malcolm X that is, I suspect, meant to leave the reader wanting more. Helfer doesn't try to provide an in depth insight Malcolm. I imagine he'd want you to turn to "The Autobigraphy..." for that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    Malcom X has an interesting and important story. I saw no problem with the book, format or story, yet it did not tell me anything I did not know. I have learned about him in school and we watched a movie. I got almost the exact same information from the movie.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt Kelland

    Interesting. Not much depth, obviously, but it was a good look at the man and how he came to be who he was. As with others in the series, it led me to go find out more from other sources.

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