IS THE HILL’s newest graphic novelist also its biggest comics fan?

Rep. John Lewis made his graphic-novel debut on Tuesday with “March: Book One” (Top Shelf), his compelling and beautiful civil-rights memoir that kicks off a planned trilogy. The book traces the Georgia Democrat’s rising involvement and leadership in the movement, as he employs nonviolent protest while enduring beatings, tear gas and at least 40 arrests.

A key path to his understanding nonviolent protest, Lewis tells Comic Riffs, came through comics.

First, reading them began as a boyhood passion:

“I read comic books and the comic strips, and my brothers would read the newspaper every single day,” Lewis tells Comic Riffs of those days in the ‘40s and ‘50s. “We were too poor to have a subscription, but my grandfather had one.”

On Sundays, he notes, he especially relished those Sunday color comics.

Some years later, Lewis came upon the ‘50s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” which centered on the 1955 bus boycott. Its lessons about nonviolent protest — spotlighting such historic figures as Gandhi and Rosa Parks — struck a chord.

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“It was about the way of love,” says Lewis, who would become chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. “We were beaten and arrested . . . and that comic book inspired me to make trouble. But it was the good kind of trouble.”

When Lewis aide Andrew Aydin was teased several years ago by fellow staffers about his going to San Diego Comic-Con, the congressman told him about the profound impact that a certain comic book once had on his life’s course.

Lewis agreed to create “March” if Aydin would co-write it with him, and they teamed with Eisner-winning cartoonist Nate Powell. The book was released two weeks prior to the 50th anniversary of the March of Washington, at which Lewis was the youngest featured speaker.

Since then, he has scaled many political and cultural mountaintops.

And to this day, Lewis notes, he has a copy of that influential King comic book in his office.

It’s tough to top that for comics fandom.

To read Comic Riffs’ full article on Rep. Lewis, you can click HERE.


Rep. John Lewis (right) with the co-authors of his new civil-rights graphic novel "March: Book One" Andrew Aydin (left) and Nate Powell in Washington. (Top Shelf Productions/.)