On May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard gunned down unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War at Kent State University. The fatal shootings triggered immediate and massive outrage on campuses around the country. It was a day that shocked the nation and helped turn the tide of public opinion against America’s war in Vietnam. Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, which published on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, is a moving and troubling story about the bitter price of dissent—as relevant today as it was in 1970.

Share This Post

Kent State Cover


By Derf Backderf

  • Original Graphic Novel 
  • Publisher : Abrams Comicarts 
  • Release : 9/8/2020
  • Hardcover : 288 pages
  • Dimensions : 7.75″ x 10.7″
  • Reading Age : 13+ years
  • MSRP : $24.99

A spectacularly conceived story that casts light on a timely and relevant part of American history.

My parents were college students in Ohio at the time of the Kent State shootings in 1970. There were protests around the country after President Richard Nixon announced on April 30 that the United States was invading Cambodia. The announcement caused widespread outrage from a nation that had been assured a forthcoming withdrawal from Vietnam and led to a nationwide student strike, with many colleges and universities shutting down in protest. After four days of protests and what can only be described as a multitude of ill-conceived blunders, the Ohio national guard would unleash nearly eighty rounds on an unarmed student body wounding nine and killing four. The Kent State tragedy is widely considered to be a turning point in the anti-Vietnam War movement that impacted the entire culture.  

Author Derf Backderf was ten years old at the time of the incident and lived a mere twenty miles away. The event left a dramatic impression on him and the book opens with him narrating. Backderf recounted the event in a recent 2020 interview by two Kent State University professors for the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics:   

"So, this really was a smack across the face. It spurred my interest in the news and other things, and that led to me becoming a journalist and going to school as a journalism major and all that stuff. I trace all of that back to Kent State. That’s my connection. And it’s weird, I mean it’s not like having bullets whizzing over my head, or seeing my girlfriend lying on the ground in a pool of blood, but that’s how history affects people; it fans out into society in different ways."

Backderf has been successful in the space with award-winning projects like “My Friend Dahmer” in 2012 and “Trashed” in 2015. Even though his cartoonist art-style doesn’t really appeal to me, it serves the story well as detailed storyboards for his cinematic vision. “Kent State” went on to win a host of awards and make every notable “best of” list for 2021. Its a hefty read at nearly 300 pages and took several sittings. As I write this review, the hardcover is on sale 50% of on Amazon (see the link above). I was also able to find this at my local library. I found this book very interesting but would enjoy seeing it on screen if it was handled similarly to 2004’s Crash or 2020’s The Trial of the Chicago 7. The graphic novel won the Eisner for “Best Reality Based Work”, the Ringo Award for Best Non-Fiction Comic Work”, and the prestigious Alex Award given to books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18 by the American Library Association. 9.5/10 

Like what you've seen so far:

Check out our free custom “Shelf Talker” for use with product marketing and display:

Kent State Shelf Talker

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More to Explore:

Button Pusher Feature Image
Award Winner


Tyler’s brain is different. Unlike his friends, he has a hard time paying attention in class. He acts out in goofy, over-the-top ways. Sometimes, he even does dangerous things―like cut up a bus seat with a pocketknife or hang out of an attic window. In Button Pusher, cartoonist Tyler Page uses his own childhood experiences to explore what it means to grow up with ADHD. From diagnosis to treatment and beyond, Tyler’s story is raw and enlightening, inviting you to see the world from a new perspective.

Batman - One Bad Day: The Riddler feature image
Award Winner

Batman – One Bad Day: The Riddler Review

The Riddler is one of Batman’s most intellectual villains and the one who lays out his clues the most deliberately. The Riddler is always playing a game, there are always rules. But what happens when The Riddler kills someone in broad daylight for seemingly no reason? No game to play. No cypher to breakdown. Batman will reach his wit’s end trying to figure out the Riddler’s true motivation in this incredible thriller!