We’re nonetheless in awe of his belief in us to inform his life story, together with his willingness to threat being disregarded and laughed at for this selection of medium and format.
He was additionally acutely aware of the function the Web performed in creating a brand new literacy amongst younger folks. Phrases and footage labored collectively in tweeted memes in a lot the identical manner as a comic book panel. Sequential narrative was turning into the language of younger adults. Similtaneously we made our comics, Andrew and the Congressman labored collectively within the Congressional workplace (their day jobs, as Lewis would describe it) to dramatize the tales of the motion by social media, creating the now ubiquitous “#goodtrouble.” These efforts labored hand in hand to sensitize, educate and encourage younger folks, bringing them a historical past and consider of the world round them that was without delay each iconic and fast.
It took 5 years for that concept to succeed in the world, as mainstream publishers rejected the idea as outlandish. Andrew finally discovered a sympathetic ear at a 2010 comedian conference, and by 2011 artist Nate Powell had joined the workforce. Then, together with Lewis, we started our unbelievable work.
No historic determine of such magnitude had ever tried to inform their story instantly by comics, and as a way to produce work that felt actually alive we needed to invent our personal type of scholarship. We weighed a number of narratives and reminiscences of the principal members of the motion in opposition to the lengthy historical past of scholarship and retellings, whereas staying true to the truth that we have been at the beginning telling John Lewis’ story. Typically folks disagreed. Typically books disagreed. And we needed to type all of that out with Congressman Lewis usually serving as a sympathetic referee, since we have been evaluating the work and historical past of his mates, colleagues and admirers.
Our collaboration required a fragile stability between an correct, accountable historic account and the intimate, subjective expertise of that historical past. Rising to actually know and love John Lewis all through the inventive course of additionally required rising in belief — the belief crucial to put ourselves in his sneakers on the drawing desk and keyboard. We labored every day to show ourselves worthy of it, respiratory life into body after body.
When John Lewis spoke about forces “trying to take us back,” he was making an attempt to get us to see that the forces he confronted by no means went away. They have been all the time there, hiding in plain sight, ready for us to let our guard down, ready for us to overlook the way to battle again. As a cloud descended over our society all through the 2010s, he pushed us each to proceed to consider within the human capability for change; to stay open at the same time as potentialities threatened to vanish.
As we turned within the first 10 accomplished pages of “March: Book One” again in summer season 2012, we solely hoped our collaborative imaginative and prescient might stand as much as his subjective experiences. Studying these pages introduced tears to his eyes, distilling one thing true on the web page from inside his personal personal reminiscences. The Congressman would usually say that studying “March” was “like being there,” and that the illustrations had the power to make the phrases “sing.” There was no mannequin for what we have been making an attempt to do. We needed to construct the language and the requirements as we went.
He was really gracious, really sort, really affected person. There’s a lot bandwidth wrapped up in “John Lewis The Icon” that it is simple to low cost the years we spent consuming meals collectively; looking for socks; discussing the O’Jays “Backstabbers” LP; ready in line collectively as Nate purchased a Batgirl motion determine for his daughter after a signing. The nights spent indulging in sweet and ice cream after an vital night occasion, or the reduction of anonymity in faraway cities. The sheer journey of criss-crossing America collectively for 5 years straight is one thing we’ll miss most.
Congressman Lewis all the time made a degree to establish “March” as “a roadmap to change,” one which allowed future generations to acknowledge each the successes and obstacles throughout the motion because it grew and advanced. And by “change,” we all the time meant “revolution.” This objective was generally chuckled at early on — actually, a brand new wave of nonviolent revolution from a comic book?! — however Lewis was all the time guided by a transparent ethical framework in each motion, each group and each web page of each e-book.
He was impressed by the notion that the graphic novel format might characterize civil rights historical past in a extra fast, impactful manner — and his enthusiasm mirrored a lifelong willingness to let youthful folks take the lead with new approaches to progress. Lewis’ instance has helped Nate, at 42, acknowledge that he is already approaching dinosaur-status within the eyes of his 8-year-old, and that when she inevitably calls him out of contact with a altering world, it will be time to hear and develop with the following technology. That is the broadest sense of continuous revolution, embodied by our openness, our vulnerability and our capability for reflection and alter.
It’s no vindication that at this time his mandate is more and more seen as a necessity for the very survival of our democracy. We have all lived the implications of nationalist fable clouding our shared historical past, in addition to the struggles endured to take care of a precarious democracy. However we’re solely initially of these probably catastrophic penalties. Fact issues. Historical past — advised by the individuals who lived it — can and can decide our skill to maintain and battle for a society holding precise equality, precise justice, precise freedom, and precise peace as beliefs.
John Lewis spent his huge lifetime marching towards that promise, and we should fulfill it. We will. However we should do it collectively, now, even with the chance that nothing already misplaced will return.