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Netflix’s Nimona movie adds backstory ND Stevenson always wanted to put in the comic

Nimona’s creator on how the movie evolved, and what changes worked best

Ballister Boldheart, a dark-haired, big-eyed, goateed man, and his sidekick Nimona, a red-haired girl, stare directly into the camera, with him looking astonished and her smiling wistfully in a scene from Netflix’s animated movie Nimona Image: Netflix
Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

After being shut down by Disney and resurrected by Netflix, the animated movie adaptation of ND Stevenson’s webcomic-turned-graphic-novel Nimona is now available for streaming — and fans of the comic will immediately notice story and tonal differences. They’ll also notice some new backstory added in, in a story arc that Stevenson says dates back to the 2012 creation of the comic.

“There’s one thing I really loved seeing in the movie, because it was a seed of an idea I had with the comic that didn’t really fit in the comic itself,” Stevenson tells Polygon. “That’s the story of Gloreth, and her backstory with Nimona.”

In the comic version of Nimona, Gloreth is a legendary figure who fought a terrible monster, and when the shape-changing, anarchic monster-girl Nimona (crucially voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) appears and joins forces with the shamed knight-turned-supervillain Ballister Blackheart (Boldheart in the movie, where he’s voiced by Riz Ahmed), Ballister looks back at that history as he tries to understand what Nimona is. In the movie version, Gloreth looms much larger — literally, given her gigantic statue at the center of Ballister’s hometown. Ballister’s entire society is based around Gloreth’s history as a knight and a monster hunter. But flashback sequences reveal a different truth, while giving Nimona much more of a concrete backstory than she had in the book, particularly in relation to Gloreth.

The golden statue of Gloreth in Ballister’s kingdom — an immense stone rendition of a woman with armor, a shield, and long, flowing hair, fiercely pointing a very long, sharp sword out toward the camera in Netflix’s animated movie Nimona Image: Netflix

“[That backstory] was something I thought about for the comic, so I talked to the filmmakers about it,” Stevenson says. “To see it unfold in such a beautiful way in the movie was really amazing. I love being able to see different shades of this story, which I know really, really well, being expanded in different directions, and evolving into something new.”

Asked about changes to his original story that surprised him in the film, Stevenson pointed to the movie’s action climax, where Nimona gives in to despair and rises up as a vast, seething monster.

“I really love the final act, this rampage Nimona goes on,” Stevenson says. “It was something I really wanted to see, but I wasn’t sure if we were going to, because it’s hard to get right. She becomes the monster everyone has been saying she is, and that’s hard to watch. I was really curious about how they’d pull it off, because it is pretty dark in the book.”

Ultimately, while Nimona was an extremely personal story for Stevenson, he approves of the way the story evolved in its animated form. “[The filmmakers] found something so beautiful — they really spotlighted her loneliness and her grief and her betrayal, and made it so touching,” he says. “It is family-friendly, but her emotions are front and center, and it’s like her emotion is becoming real through the expression of her powers. I was just so happy to see that represented, and so pleased with the angle they found into that story.”