Whether you remember his early career or his recent performances, Willie Nelson will always be recognizable with his braided pig tails and his eclectic musical style. His life and music are now illustrated in NBM Graphic Novels’ latest biographical publication: Willie Nelson: A Graphic History.

This graphic novel is similar in style to The Rolling Stones in Comics and Bob Marley in Comics, where the musicians’ histories are illustrated in mini comics by a variety of illustrators. It is written and illustrated by T.J. Kirsch, along with the artistic talents of Adam Walmsley, Coskun Kuzgun, Jeremy Massie, Havard S. Johansen, Jesse Lonegran, Jason Pittman, and J.T. Yost. However, unlike the titles mentioned before, where the artists’ color scheme and language changes from moment to moment, the artists in this biography have used a greyscale scheme, relying on detailed line work and shading, as well as forgoing narrative chapters as introduction before each comic. Nonetheless, it is an informative read, perfect for lifelong fans and new ones.

Willie Nelson began his music career when he was a preteen in Texas: performing in school dances and local bars, taking up work as a disc jockey, and writing songs while on the road. Nelson loved music and worked hard to become the musician he is today. His rise to stardom was not easy. Family troubles, job losses, money woes, and creative blocks tested the musician constantly. No matter what came his way, he was able to bounce back and play the music he loves. Collaborations with famous musicians, such as Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline, aided him in his rise to stardom. His success later in life, which include his music festivals and support for legalizing marijuana use, made him a cultural as well as a musical icon. The graphic novel ends with a bibliography of books and articles about Willie and references to song lyrics that were used or mentioned in the comics.

Willie Nelson: A Graphic History is formatted with mini comics centered on the highs and lows of the musician’s career. Even though each artist uses a greyscale color scheme, they still use their own artistic style, which varies from cartoon style to photo realism. Details are included to illustrate individuals’ reactions and the country landscape that became Willie’s inspiration. The lack of a color scheme does not deter the narrative for the reader, but reminds them of the musician’s humble beginning and continued success and failures in the business. The narrative portion of the work sums up each noteworthy event very well, describing the musician’s personal feelings towards his relationships and various career opportunities and providing background information on the music scene at the time. Most comics have printed the lyrics to his songs (such as “On the Road Again” and “Healing Hands of Time”), especially during scenes where Willie is writing them or performing them. The writing and art work well together, providing readers with a perspective into Willie’s personal life and career.

Librarians wanting to include more graphic novel biographies in their collection should consider Willie Nelson: A Graphic History. It provides an informative narrative about the musician, as well as various illustrations of his life. Music lovers will discover well known songs and events in music history, along with new information about this iconic country star. Readers unfamiliar with the musician will recognize iconic country songs and singers and gain an understanding into the mind of a creative individual.


Willie Nelson: A Graphic History
By T.J. Kirsch
Art by Adam Walmsley Coskun Kuzgun
ISBN: 9781681122625
NBM Graphic Novels, 2020
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

  • Gloria

    | She/Her Children's Librarian, Elmont Memorial Library

    Gloria is a full-time children’s librarian at the Elmont Memorial Library in Long Island, New York where she runs a monthly STEAM program, a graphic novel book club, and storytime for preschoolers. During her free time, she is found reading anything and everything from the classics, to poetry, to the newest best seller. Her other interests include writing, online games, exploring new areas in her home state, and spending time with friends, family, and colleagues. She has also written articles and reviews for the website Cosplay, Comics, and Geek Culture in Libraries and on her personal Goodreads page.

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