It’s not often we get a announcement involving a U.S. Congressman. Nice to see them doing something positive involving comics.
Nearly sixty years after Estes Kefauver and Fredric Wertham held up comic books for condemnation by the 1954 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency — leading to the adoption of the restrictive Comics Code and the collapse of respected publisher EC Comics — a new chapter is being written in the US government’s understanding of comics.
Yesterday in a Judiciary Committee hearing on the Voting Rights Act, committee chairman Senator Patrick Leahy held up a copy of March: Book One, the new graphic novel co-written by Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell, thanking him for writing the book and stating, “it will be seen by all five of my grandchildren.”
Congressman Lewis was testifying before the committee about his experience as a civil rights activist in the 1960s, including leading the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March for voting rights, during which Alabama state troopers violently attacked peaceful demonstrators on Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, on a day known as “Bloody Sunday.” That attack, reported in media worldwide and movingly depicted in the opening pages of March: Book One, helped hasten passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. The Act was subsequently renewed multiple times, most recently in 2006, again with nearly unanimous support from Congress. Then, three weeks ago, the Supreme Court struck down significant portions of the Act as unconstitutional.
Now, as Congressman Lewis recently told U-T San Diego, “The court’s decision makes it clear that March is needed by young people – and not-so-young people – to understand the importance of the Voting Rights Act. The book dramatizes what people went through to be able to register and vote.”
In a separate statement, Senator Leahy elaborated: “John Lewis was a leader of the march across the Pettus Bridge, and John Lewis himself is a bridge. He has helped link new generations of Americans to the story of the struggle to make America’s promise more of a living reality.” Senator Leahy, a co-author of the 2006 VRA renewal, continued: “To me, and to millions of others, John Lewis is a personal hero — for our time, and for all time. He has lived and he has led the long struggle for justice and equality that includes the Voting Rights Act and other pillars of civil rights law.”
This show of support for Congressman Lewis’ graphic novel comes as he prepares to visit San DIego for the industry’s biggest weekend: Comic-Con International. He will speak about the book on Saturday at 10:00 AM with co-creators Aydin and Powell, followed by signings throughout Saturday and Sunday hosted by their publisher, Top Shelf Productions.
Following this special Comic-Con advance launch, March: Book One will be released in stores everywhere on August 13th — also the date when Congressman Lewis will discuss the book on Comedy Central’s late-night smash The Colbert Report.
Senator Leahy’s support joins the previously announced endorsement from President Bill Clinton (featured on the back cover of March: Book One), as well as overwhelming acclaim from industry journals Booklist (“dazzling”), Publishers Weekly (“superbly told history”), Library Journal (“Lewis’s remarkable life has been skillfully translated into graphics”), and Kirkus Reviews (“a powerful tale of courage and principle”). A teacher’s guide for grades 6-12 is also available from the publisher.