Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights icon, passes away

Lewis told the story of the Civil Rights era in the graphic novel trilogy ‘March.’

John Lewis, the Civil Rights icon who marched for racial equality in the 1960s and served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987, passed away today at the age of 80. Lewis had been fighting stage IV pancreatic cancer since December.

The congressman from Georgia was one of the original Freedom Riders and stood against racism, desegregation and discrimination his entire life — both in the streets and then later in Congress.

He helped organize, and spoke at, the famous 1963 March on Washington, and was arrested, jailed and beaten for challenging Jim Crow laws throughout the South. He was the last surviving member of the “Big Six” Civil Rights leaders, a group that included Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young.

He was also an award-winning graphic novel writer.

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Reading for Revolution: Black comics, Black lives

On Blackout Tuesday, take a look at eight graphic novels that explore the issues of police brutality, the experiences of Black people and working toward change.

It’s Blackout Tuesday, and we’re centering Black creators with a short list of comics and graphic novels that explore issues of police brutality, the experiences of Black people, and how to work toward structural change. To find more Black creators, follow the #drawingwhileblack hashtag on Twitter and check out Sheena Howard’s Encyclopedia of Black Comics (full disclosure: I was a contributor).

Read. Learn. Then go out and change the world.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Nate Powell on ‘Come Again’

Following his work on the ‘March’ trilogy, the National Book Award recipient discusses his most recent graphic novel, punk rock, politics, his influences and more.

Nate Powell is the only cartoonist to receive the National Book Award. In recent years he’s been busy drawing the March trilogy, and continues to educate and  talk about the book series, the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and John Lewis. Of course Powell had a long career in comics before March, beginning with self-published zines before moving onto a series of Eisner and Ignatz Award winning graphic novels including Swallow Me Whole, Tiny Giants and Any Empire.

Powell’s new book, his first solo graphic novel in many years, is Come Again. A story set at the end of the 1970’s, it’s about a commune that is fracturing, it’s about secrets, it’s about parents and children. At the heart of the book is a supernatural force, but as in the work of Ray Bradbury and others, the force isn’t a metaphor, but it plays a key but muted role in the story, preying on people in a way that is familiar and terrifying. Powell and I have been talking for years – since before he became famous, and we talked about this new book of his, punk and politics, trying to balance personal work like this with collaboration, and the political work – artistic and otherwise – that he’s come to see as so vital.

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Reading for Resistance: What I Learned from ‘March’

Rep. John Lewis’s memoir of the Civil Rights movement is not ancient history. It’s the guidebook we need today.

I keep coming back to March.

It’s not something I thought would happen. It’s a good book, true, but now more than ever, it’s a necessary book.

It should not be necessary. We were supposed to be reading March, Rep. John Lewis’s memoir of the Civil Rights movement, as history. The final volume ends on a triumphant note, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. When we closed the book, we were supposed to be closing the book on the terrible history of Jim Crow in America.

Except we haven’t. Before Lewis and his co-authors, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, were even finished with the third volume, the Supreme Court rolled back the protections of the Voting Rights Act. In preparation for the 2016 election, many states closed down registration sites, purged the voter rolls, restricted polling places and hours, and in the case of the North Carolina Republicans, actually sent out a press release bragging about suppressing black votes.

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