Representative John Lewis stopped somewhere unexpected this weekend. He was at San Diego Comic Con. Lewis was and is a civil rights leader and he was there to sign copies of “March” the graphic novel chronicling his life and his commitment to nonviolent protest.
Comics have, for a long time, been part of the civil rights movements in America. Lewis was inspired by a comic edited by Martin Luther King Jr decades ago about Rosa Parks. Some comics like X-Men have dealt with the idea of prejudice as a normal and even constant theme.
Exuberant fans turned out to see Lewis and to have him sign their copies of the graphic novel he co-wrote and over a hundred people waited for more than an hour before the panel discussion of the book. He was asked about how he intended to help get the Voting Rights Act restored after the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to largely gut it. Some asked for guidance about finding justice for Trayvon Martin. Others praises his courage, determination and character.
Lewis went on to discuss the graphic novel with artist Nate Powell and co-author Andrew Aydin, who is also a congressional aide.
Indeed, while House Speaker John Boehner was trying to lay claim to how positive a thing it is to try and constantly repeal laws, Lewis was being treated like a rock star. While there, Lewis told the audience about his childhood as the son of sharecroppers and his facing down the evil of bigotry. He even said how the goal of his experiences was to “to create a society where we can lay down the burden of race and move on.”
Lewis hasn’t stopped fighting for equality, even being a strong proponent of LGBT rights.
At one point, Aydin even states “You have no idea what this means to me. I’m a fanboy. There are few things I’ll be more grateful for. Maybe when I have a child.”
After the discussion wrapped up, Lewis’ fans showed up to sign copies of the book. One of the collectors there told Lewis that “My mom’s a teacher and my sister’s a teacher … so it’s going to be in the right hands.” Another fan, a mother, explained to her son that “This is a real life superhero.”
Another fan asked Lewis to sign a much-loved copy of his memoir “Walking with the Wind.”
Lewis took all the attention in stride saying “It’s almost like being in church. The people, through their actions, just the way they look at you, the way they greet you, they don’t even have to verbalize it. But in a sense they’re saying ‘Amen.’” He also hoped that using the comic book medium could help propel the message in his book forward. He said “I think you will have people reading ‘March,’ not just book one … they’ll be waiting for book two and book three. And then passing it on to other members of their family or to their students.”
In fact, the book is not just being offered via the traditional paper method of graphic novels, but is being offered in electronic form. The next volumes are set to come out in 2014 and 2015, and Lewis added that “Oh yeah, I plan to come back.”
Some video from Lewis’ visit to the convention: