John Lewis tribute

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review.

Lewis in 1965 and 2015. Image from “Colorlines”:

In 2008, when Andrew Aydin was a young staffer answering phones for Congressman John Lewis’s re-election campaign, he told his colleagues that he was heading to a comics convention after the campaign season wound down. Aydin received the usual ridicule about costumes and kids’ stuff, but Lewis came to his defense, citing how the comic book “MLK and the Montgomery Story” helped fuel the civil rights movement. Five years later, he published “March, Book One,” co-written by Aydin, and illustrated by fellow Hoosier (although Arkansas-born) Nate Powell, the first of three volumes about Lewis’s history and role in the Civil Rights movement.

“I believe in this format,” Lewis told “The LAist” when asked what he was able to accomplish in comics that he hadn’t in the two memoirs he had published before “March.” “You are able to make it real, make it plain, make it simple for young people and people not so young to understand. It’s drama—high drama. That’s what the civil rights movement was all about—drama.”

Lewis recreated that drama for a new generation at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International, when he cosplayed his younger self walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. He found a similar jacket and backpack, and filled the backpack with “two books, a toothbrush, toothpaste, an apple and an orange,” according to a recent tribute article in the “New York Times.” Lewis walked a half mile across the convention center, followed by a horde of kids who had read “March,” and were as awed by Lewis as if he were Superman in the flesh. By the time he had finished this version of his march, he had gathered more than 1000 followers, even more than the original 600 who were there for a peaceful protest on a day later called “Bloody Sunday.”

Here’s a link to my review of “March 3,” which came out in 2016. You can also read my reviews of the first two volumes here and here. We’ll miss you John Lewis. Thank you for the many generations of kids you’ve taught to get into the type of “good trouble, necessary trouble” the US needs right now.

“Superman Smashes the Klan,” by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

“Superman Smashes the Klan,” by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru. DC Comics, May 2020. 240 pp. Paperback, $16.99. Ages: Most official outlets recommend twelve and up, although parents reporting to Common Sense Media say ten and up. (My eight-year-old has read it twice now.)

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Fables is back open! Please enter through the back and follow store guidelines. High risk customers can still make browsing appointments before or after hours, and all customers can continue to order online at, over the phone 574-534-1984, or via email

It’s 2020, and I wish this Superman storyline from the 1940s were no longer relevant. As the resurgence of hate in the US has made clear, however, we do need this story again. There’s no better choice for retelling it than Gene Luen Yang.

Yang labels himself “Cartoonist and Teacher” on his website. The first comics artist to serve as a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, Yang wrote and illustrated the near-instant classics “American Born Chinese” and “Boxers and Saints,” and has been crafting superhero reboots such as “The Shadow Hero” and a new Superman series that features not Clark Kent, but a Chinese teen named Kenan Kong.

The story that Yang adapted and revised for this book was originally released for radio rather than comics. “The Adventures of Superman,” broadcast in the U.S. from 1940 into the 1950s, ran this “Klan” story arc in the summer of 1946, right after the end of World War II. (You can hear the whole thing here.) Yang preserves the basics of the original story: Dr. Wan Lee, the patriarch of a Chinese American family, gets a new job, and moves the family out of Chinatown and into a house in Metropolis. They are visited by the “Clan of the Fiery Cross” soon after they move in:

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