Nimona is a fantasy graphic novel by ND Stevenson, an American cartoonist. The story follows Nimona, a shapeshifter who joins the villain Ballister Blackheart in his plans to destroy the over-controlling Institute. Blackheart tries to operate under his code of ethics, while Nimona has no problem with killing. The setting mixes magic and technology.

Nimona
Nimona cover.jpg
Cover of the print edition
Author(s)ND Stevenson
Current status/scheduleConcluded
Publisher(s)Print: HarperCollins
Genre(s)Action-adventure
Science fantasy
Comedy drama
Thriller

Stevenson began work on Nimona while studying at Maryland Institute College of Art, revisiting a character he had created while at high school. Stevenson published Nimona as a webcomic from 2012 through 2014, initially through Tumblr, developing the story and the art style as time progressed. The finished work ultimately doubled as his senior thesis. After an agent reached out to Stevenson, HarperCollins printed Nimona as a book in 2015. It has been translated into at least 16 other languages and adapted into an audiobook.

The comic won an Eisner Award, a Cybils Award, and a Cartoonist Studio Prize. Reviews and academic analyses have highlighted themes of queerness and fluidity of identity, and how they oppose and subvert traditional controlling institutions and exclusionary systems.

An animated feature film adaptation was first announced in 2015 by 20th Century Fox Animation. After Disney bought Fox, it cancelled the film, but it was revived by Annapurna Pictures and is scheduled to be released on Netflix in 2023.

PlotEdit

Nimona is a shapeshifter, usually a human girl but able to grow and shrink and take any human or animal form. She insists on being the sidekick to Ballister Blackheart. Blackheart was once a knight for the Institution, but lost an arm in a joust with Ambrosius Goldenloin – now the Institution's champion – so was kicked out. Blackheart seeks to destroy the Institution, but operates under his own code of ethics. Nimona pushes to make his plans more violent and often kills people. They discover the Institution is using jaderoot, a poisonous plant used for dark magic. Blackheart has Nimona impersonate a TV news anchor to publicize this, and plant poisonous, but non-fatal, apples in markets to spread fear. The Institute's Director orders Goldenloin to kill Nimona; instead, he meets Blackheart in a tavern, begging him to send Nimona away instead.

Blackheart meets Dr. Meredith Blitzmeyer, who has made a device powered by "anomalous energy". When Nimona is near the device she cannot transform. Goldenloin continues to refuse orders to kill him; it is hinted that Blackheart and Goldenloin were more than just friends. He agrees to kill Nimona and capture Blackheart. At a public event, the two spread more poison and while people panic about its effects, Blackheart speaks and convinces people to rebel against the Institution. He is captured by Goldenloin and used as a trap to lure Nimona. Her head is sliced off during the fight, but she lives and they escape. Blackheart questions her powers, and she lets slip that her earlier story – that a witch cast a spell on her as a child – was made up. They argue, and Nimona leaves Blackheart.

Blackheart learns that his poison has caused deaths. He sneaks into a hospital to treat poison victims, but is captured. Goldenloin guards him, having been demoted from champion. The two talk and Goldenloin admits that the jousting incident was not an accident. The Director offered him the position of champion, on the condition that he win the joust against Blackheart; after losing the fight he used the explosive lance in desperation. Blackheart is brought to an Institution laboratory, where the Director reveals their occult experiments to develop weapons. Nimona is imprisoned there; she attempted to rescue Blackheart, but was captured in a self-repairing vessel built to contain jaderoot. They take a blood sample out, but Nimona has control over those cells and they turn into a colossal beast that escapes to kill the Director and ravage the city. A flashback shows Nimona trapped by villagers. She claimed to be one of their children, but they believed she was impersonating a child that died. The Institution took Nimona and experimented on her.

Blackheart tells Goldenloins about Blitzmeyer's device which he uses to fight the beast. The human form of Nimona learns that Blackheart revealed the device and turns on him. Blackheart defeats the beast, but the fight damages the lab and its automatic purge system. Blackheart escapes, carrying Goldenloin, but Nimona does not. The disasters make clear the Institution's use of jaderoot, and Blackheart becomes a hero. While watching over Goldenloin in hospital, a doctor calls Nimona a monster, and Blackheart insists she was not. When the same doctor returns moments later, Blackheart understands that the first doctor was Nimona. Blackheart and Blitzmeyer found a lab together, and Goldenloin and Blackheart become closer. Blackheart never sees Nimona again, to his knowledge, but wonders about every stranger and animal who looks at him.

Development and publicationEdit

 
ND Stevenson, the creator of Nimona, in 2019

In a course as Maryland Institute College of Art, ND Stevenson received an assignment to create a new character, and revisited an idea from high school of a female shapeshifter. According to Stevenson, he created Nimona by combining this shapeshifter with a Joan of Arc-inspired character that he was drawing at the time.[1] Nimona's look was based on his own experiences with cosplay; Stevenson preferred cosplaying as male characters rather than female characters, and wanted "to do a costume that people who weren't interested in looking particularly buxom or sensual might want to dress as".[2][3] Other characters and a story followed as Stevenson revisited the concept several times over his junior year, and later received approval for the comic to be their senior thesis.[1]

Stevenson initially published Nimona online on Tumblr.[1][2][4] The comic began as a collection of one- and two-page comics. Stevenson says that he "had no idea what Nimona was when I started it" and that it was experimental, but that he knew very early how it would end.[5] According to Stevenson, an agent reached out to him shortly after he had posted the first few pages. Stevenson was still at school when he learned his agent had sold Nimona to the publisher HarperCollins.[1]

The webcomic ran from June 2012 to September 2014.[6] Stevenson described completing Nimona as both satisfying and "a little sad".[5] HarperCollins published the completed comic as a young adult graphic novel in May 2015.[1][7][8] The work has since been translated into several other languages, including Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, and Turkish.[9]

In August 2016, an audiobook version of Nimona was published through Audible. It features voicework by Rebecca Soler, Jonathan Davis, Marc Thompson, January LaVoy, Natalie Gold, Peter Bradbury, and David Pittu, has a runtime of two hours and seventeen minutes, and is unabridged.[10]

AnalysisEdit

Queerness, identity, and challenging powerEdit

Reviews and academic analyses have presented Nimona as a depiction of identity, particularly fluid identity. Nimona's form is unsettled and indefinable, though Mihaela Precup said that Nimona's queerness was mostly hinted at through linguistic markers and fashion choices. Precup noted the "subversive potential of a specific kind of queer cuteness", while James J. Donahue said that Nimona showed the fluidity of identity construction to a young-adult audience along with empowering moments. Ballister's perceived identity also shifts from a supervillain to a hero, challenging clichés around good and evil. Nimona has been highlighted as promoting alternate perspectives on gender and allowing readers to come to terms with their own identities.[11][12][13][14][15]

Nimona's monstrous nature has been discussed as representing how institutions perceive queerness as the "ultimate other" that threatens stability. Multiple analyses have viewed the Institution as one that persecutes queerness and establishes heteronormative hegemonic ideologies through structural violence. Nimona presents a potential to challenge and abolish these systems. In this way, the comic has been compared to The Legend of Korra and Steven Universe. One paper on the work concluded that it is "the blurring of boundaries", especially when it comes to institutions, bodies, and motivations, that allows for these institutions to be undermined.[11][12][13][14][16]

ReceptionEdit

AwardsEdit

Nimona won an Eisner Award,[17] a Cybils Award,[18] and a Cartoonist Studio Prize.[19] It was also nominated for another Eisner Award and a National Book Award.[20][21] The hardcover collection of Nimona became a New York Times bestseller.[10]

Award nominations for Nimona
Year Category Institution or publication Result Notes Ref.
2012 Best Web Comic Cartoonist Studio Prize Won [19]
2015 Young People's Literature National Book Awards Nominated Stevenson, at 23, was possibly the youngest NBA nominee in any category this year. [22][1][21]
2015 Young Adult Graphic Novels Cybils Award Won [18]
2015 Best Digital/Webcomic Eisner Awards Nominated [20][17]
2016 Best Graphic Album—Reprint Eisner Awards Won Reprint by Harper Teen [17]

ReviewsEdit

A reviewer for io9 rated Nimona as one of the "Best New and Short Webcomics of 2012",[23] while Paste Magazine called Nimona the best webcomic of 2014.[24] A review for CNN recommended Nimona specifically for teenage readers.[25] Reviewers noted the science fantasy setting which mixes magic with technology[26][25] and highlighted the conflict between Blackheart's code of honor against Nimona's desire to kill and steal.[24][26][27] Iain A. MacInnes, a scholar who focuses on U.S. popular and youth culture, said that Nimona added to the varieties of medieval aesthetics in modern media.[28]

The artwork has been described as light and sketchy and compared to that of Kate Beaton, Eleanor Davis and Faith Erin Hicks.[26][29] Stevenson produced Nimona a page at a time, resulting in a development of art style over time; one reviewer said that while the initial art was "clunky", a reader could see Stevenson's technique improve as the work went on, and it was excellent by the fifth chapter.[6]

Film adaptationEdit

In 2015, 20th Century Fox Animation acquired the rights for an animated feature film adaptation. It was being produced by Fox's subsidiary Blue Sky Studios, with Patrick Osborne to direct and Marc Haimes to write the script.[30][31][32]

In May 2019, after The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Fox, the film was delayed from February 2020 to March 2021;[33][34] it was later delayed again to January 2022.[35][36] In February 2021, Disney announced that it was shutting down Blue Sky Studios and that the film adaptation was cancelled.[37] After its cancellation, and again amid the controversy of Disney's involvement in Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, several former Blue Sky staff members spoke to media about the film. They stated that, when cancelled, the film was "75% complete" and that it was to include an "I love you" scene between Blackheart and Goldenloin and a same-sex kiss. Staff also stated that they received pushback from Disney leadership, centered around the film's LGBT themes.[38][39][40][41]

On April 11, 2022, it was announced the film had been picked up by Netflix and Annapurna Pictures with a 2023 release date.[42] The film has new directors, Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, while Chloë Grace Moretz and Riz Ahmed will be returning, voicing Nimona and Ballister Blackheart respectively, along with Eugene Lee Yang as Ambrosius Goldenloin.[43]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  2. ^ a b "'Nimona' Shifts Shape And Takes Names — In Sensible Armor, Of Course". NPR. May 13, 2015. Archived from the original on September 14, 2020.
  3. ^ Mumm, Tiffany (August 2017). Girls in Graphic Novels: A Content Analysis of Selected Texts from YALSA's 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens List (Masters Thesis). Eastern Illinois University. pp. 37–38. Archived from the original on March 22, 2020. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
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  8. ^ MacDonald, Heidi (November 7, 2012). "HarperCollins picks up webcomic Nimona". Comics Beat. Archived from the original on November 9, 2017. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  9. ^ Translations:
  10. ^ a b Sims, Chris (August 26, 2016). "Noelle Stevenson Announces Full-Cast 'Nimona' Audiobook". ComicsAlliance. Archived from the original on April 2, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Precup, Mihaela (August 23, 2017). "To 'all the monster girls': violence and non-normativity in Noelle Stevenson's Nimona". Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. 8 (6): 550–559. doi:10.1080/21504857.2017.1361457. S2CID 148988511. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Donahue, James J. (September 4, 2020), Aldama, Frederick Luis (ed.), "I'm Not a Kid. I'm a Shark!: Identity Fluidity in Noelle Stevenson's Young-Adult Graphic Novels", The Oxford Handbook of Comic Book Studies, Oxford University Press, pp. 454–470, doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190917944.013.7, ISBN 978-0-19-091794-4, archived from the original on September 15, 2020, retrieved September 30, 2020
  13. ^ a b Barnewitz, Molly Clare (September 12, 2020). The Animal as Queer Act in Comics: Queer Iterations in On Loving Women and Nimona (PDF) (Masters). University of Utah. pp. iii, 50–71. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 19, 2020. Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Wright, Heather (May 2018). ""Let's Make Some Trouble for the Institution": The Pedagogy of Queer Activism in Nimona". "The Childish, the Transformative, and the Queer": Queer Interventions as Praxis in Children's Cartoons (Masters). City University of New York. pp. 24, 26–29. Archived from the original on October 15, 2020. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
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  17. ^ a b c "2010-Present". Comic-Con International: San Diego. December 2, 2012. Archived from the original on July 23, 2020. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
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  19. ^ a b "Announcing the Winners of the Cartoonist Studio Prize". Slate. March 1, 2013. Archived from the original on March 3, 2013. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
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  21. ^ a b Dwyer, Colin (October 14, 2015). "Finalists Unveiled For This Year's National Book Awards". NPR. Archived from the original on October 15, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  22. ^ "National Book Awards 2015". National Book Foundation. Archived from the original on September 24, 2020. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
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  28. ^ MacInnes, Iain (April 15, 2020). "Medieval Comics: Depicting the Middle Ages in European Graphic Novels". ComicsForum. Archived from the original on August 9, 2020. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
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  32. ^ Riley, Jennel (February 9, 2017). "Oscar Winner Patrick Osborne Returns With First-Ever VR Nominee 'Pearl'". Variety. Archived from the original on December 1, 2019. Retrieved June 30, 2017. I'm working with Blue Sky Animation and Fox on "Nimona,...
  33. ^ Lang, Brent; Rubin, Rebecca (May 7, 2019). "Disney Announces New 'Star Wars' Films, Moves 'Avatar' Sequels". Variety. Archived from the original on May 7, 2019. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
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  37. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 4, 2021). "Disney Closing Blue Sky Studios, Fox's Once-Dominant Animation House Behind 'Ice Age' Franchise". Deadline. Archived from the original on February 9, 2021. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
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  39. ^ Strapagiel, Lauren (February 24, 2021). "Disney's First Feature Animated Movie With Queer Leads May Never Be Released". BuzzFeed News. Archived from the original on February 25, 2021. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  40. ^ Laman, Douglas (February 10, 2021). "Disney's Blue Sky Shut Down Leaves Nimona Film 75% Completed". CBR. Retrieved February 16, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  41. ^ Clark, Travis. "Disney raised concerns about a same-sex kiss in the unreleased animated movie 'Nimona,' former Blue Sky staffers say". Business Insider. Archived from the original on March 17, 2021. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
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External linksEdit