Last week, we discussed a comic that won’t be in stores for another couple weeks. Today, I wanted to look at a book that actually hit stores two Wednesdays ago. Eventually, we’ll use the Wednesday Comics feature to talk about a comic that actually comes out on the same day as the column. But it would have been remiss of me to ignore the fact that today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. In honor of this milestone anniversary, Top Shelf Productions recently published March: Book One, the first of a trilogy of graphic novel memoirs written by Congressman John Lewis in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell. After being released on August 13, the book has already reached #1 on the New York Times‘ list of best selling graphic novels.
While the origin story is a pretty standard component of comic book storytelling, detailing the chance encounters and life-altering events that occurred on the path toward heroism, Congressman Lewis’ story (from his early life in Alabama through to his initial meeting with Martin Luther King and subsequent involvement in the Civil Rights Movement) reads like a real life superhero origin tale, all the while using President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration as a poignant framing device. One of the biggest revelations in this inspiring graphic memoir is the fact Lewis was himself inspired by a comic book as a young man in 1958. Thanks to the wonders of technology, that book, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, can still be found and read in its entirety online here. See, the internet can be a force for good in the universe!
While most of the events of this first book take place before the March on Washington in 1963, an event that will be chronicled in later volumes, it is more than fitting that Book One is being released during the commemoration of such a seminal event in American history. To echo the sentiment of most reviewers, March: Book One will soon be a core text in American history classrooms across the country. In anticipation of this, Top Shelf has included a free, downloadable teachers’ guide at its website.
Prior to the book’s publication, Congressman Lewis made the rounds at Comic-Con International in San Diego, where he was given the superstar treatment and drew an impressive line to Top Shelf’s booth on the exhibit floor.
The SIUniverse team was originally supposed to be at Comic-Con this year but had to back out due to scheduling conflicts. I’ve done the SDCC thing before, and didn’t really miss not being there this year. Still, it would have been an honor to wait in line at the Top Shelf booth and get a chance to shake Congressman Lewis’ hand and thank him for all that he has done for our country. Oh, and get a signed copy of the book, too!