Lewis Authors Graphic Novel on Civil Rights Movement

Photograph by William A. Smith/AP Photo

In this April 2, 1965 file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., second from right, speaks at a news conference next to John Lewis, to his right, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, in Baltimore.

Andrew Aydin, an aide to Rep. John Lewis, has had a life-long fascination with comic books. When Aydin sheepishly revealed to his boss that he was going to a comics convention in 2008, he was surprised by Lewis’ response.

“There was a comic during the civil rights movement. It was incredibly influential,” Aydin remembers Lewis saying. (View the “Montgomery Story” comic book here.) Lewis, one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement, was a keynote speaker along with Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington in 1963.

Aydin said in an interview that he was “captivated” after learning about the comic. “We could use that to teach children about non-violence today, ” he recalled thinking.

Their conversation inspired Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, and Aydin, his telecommunications and technology correspondent, to collaborate on a graphic novel series for young people chronicling the history of the movement.

Top Shelf Productions last week published “March (Book One),” the first in a trilogy, with illustrations by artist Nate Powell.

The story begins on Inauguration Day 2009, when children are brought to Lewis’ office on Capitol Hill. Lewis gives them a tour explaining his life story, from his childhood as a poor farmer’s son in Alabama to his election to Congress.

Lewis is the perfect superhero, Aydin said.

“He never became bitter,” he said. “He never became hostile even though he was beaten and arrested.”

Human rights activist Diane Nash is the book’s Lois Lane. “She’s her own superhero, ” Aydin explained. “She’s a strong, independent woman.”

The other two books in the series are due in 2014 and 2016.

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