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”: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/john-lewis-recreated-selma-march-comic-con-full-costume

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.

“Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner

“Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner. St. Martin’s/Griffin, January 28, 2020. 208 pp. Paperback, $19.95. Adult.

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review. Visit the store or contact them at fablesbooks@gmail.com to find or order this or any book reviewed on this blog.

Note: St. Martin’s/Griffin Books sent me a free copy of this book.

Andy Warner opens his new memoir “Spring Rain” with a disclaimer: “Memory is a tricky business.” We watch his plane fly into Beirut, Lebanon, and see his younger self make his way through customs and the airport. It’s 2005, he’s twenty-one, and he’s visiting Beirut as an American study-abroad student. Present-day Warner explains that he’s been reading through old diaries from his semester abroad to piece together the time in his life that we’re watching and reading. “It’s hard to reread,” he admits. “I come off like an idiot.”

It’s a brilliant opener for two reasons. First, for Warner’s disarming self-deprecation, which encourages readers to trust him. Second, for the narrative teaser: we’re waiting for young Andy to do something stupid, so that we can find out precisely what form his idiocy will take. Continue reading ““Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions,” by Andy Warner”

“They Called Us Enemy,” by George Takei

“They Called Us Enemy” by George Takei, with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker. Top Shelf, July 2019. 208 pp. Paperback, $19.99. Middle to high school.

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review. Visit the store or contact them at fablesbooks@gmail.com to find or order this or any book reviewed on this blog.

How do you decide whether to stand for your principles or protect your family? It’s not a decision any parent should be forced to make, but actor and activist George Takei lived the consequences of his parents’ honesty. Fortunately for Takei—and for his massive fanbase, many of whom have followed him from the first “Star Trek” to his more recent roles in shows from “Furturama” and “Archer” to “Kim Possible”—he not only survived, but eventually thrived.

Now 82, this isn’t the first time that Takei has told the story of his family’s time in US internment camps for Japanese Americans. His memoir “To the Stars” also inspired the musical, “Allegiance.” The graphic memoir “They Called Us Enemy” is the most recent version of this thankfully brief chapter in his life, published by Top Shelf, best known for US congressman John Lewis’s graphic memoir trilogy “March.” Co-writers Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott helped Takei translate the narrative to comics form, and the art of Harmony Becker—subtle and manga-inflected (see, for example, the backgrounds and the giant tears on the page below)—transforms the story into a work of art.

When Takei and his family were first imprisoned in May 1942, they didn’t have any choices to make at all: US soldiers came to the door with bayonets to kick them out of their house. They had ten minutes to pack.

Continue reading ““They Called Us Enemy,” by George Takei”