Civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia can now add “graphic novel author” to his resume. Lewis spent the weekend at Comic-Con in San Diego, Calif., where he signed copies of March, the graphic novel series he co-authored about the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The three-part series is based on Lewis’ involvement and leadership during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, now known as “Bloody Sunday.” “I wanted to share this story with another generation—with young people, children, teachers—to show that through peaceful, non-violent action, we can change America,” Lewis told NBC Nightly News.
The idea for March came in 2008 when Andrew Aydin, Lewis’ campaign press secretary at the time, mentioned to fellow staff members he was planning to attend a comic convention—a comment that drew teasing from his colleagues. “But Congressman Lewis stood up for me,” Aydin said in an interview with msnbc.com. Lewis mentioned there had been a 1958 comic book about Martin Luther King, Jr. that educated and inspired a new generation to become involved in the civil rights movement. After researching the 1958 comic and listening to Lewis discuss his own experience during the ’60s, Aydin proposed an opportunity to share the story of the civil rights movement beyond the bus boycotts with a new generation. ”I asked Congressman Lewis, ‘Why don’t you write a comic book?’” Aydin, who now handles telecommunications and social media for Lewis, recalled. The congressman was initially hesitant, but came around a couple of weeks later—agreeing only if Aydin would write the graphic novel with him. Lewis and Aydin spent five years on the March trilogy, and presented the first volume at the annual California convention this past weekend. San Diego Comic-Con is one of the largest conventions showcasing comic books, graphic novels, video games, and works of science fiction/fantasy. The convention draws hundreds of thousands of fans over the course of four days.
Aydin described the experience and the response from the crowd as both moving and unbelievable. “People were so excited and so kind,” he said. “It was really special.” March puts Lewis in the history books as the first congressman to write a graphic novel. The first volume of March will be released in August on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 1963 historic event that Lewis himself spoke at.