For the third year in a row, the team behind the critically acclaimed and award winning March trilogy came to Dragon Con to discuss the book and the real life inspirations behind it. This year was particularly auspicious since not only was it following the release of the third and final volume, but it was also artist Nate Powell’s first ever Dragon Con. A drop in the bucket compared to co-writer Andrew Aydin’s nineteen, but it was still a welcome sight to see the entire team Aydin, Powell and Representative John Lewis together at the con for the very first time.
A big theme at the start of the panel was happiness and relief. The series has been in the works since about 2009 and to have all three volumes out and to be so well received has been nothing short of “euphoric” according to Aydin. There was a great amount of pressure the two felt to get not just the story of Lewis right, but of everyone else involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Powell especially talked about the devil of the details in some of the more extremely well documented events such as the March on Washington and the Selma to Montgomery marches and how doing right by the people who were there means getting the details of what they were wearing that day right.
As for Lewis, he is extremely happy with having the third book finally be out and was practically kissing it when it was in hand. He credits Aydin and Powell so much with getting the story out there into the world, calling them his “young brothers” and praising their ability to “make the words dance and sing.”
A lot of what has come up for March in these panels over the past three years is how resonant the story still is in our current social and political climate. That was purposeful according to the team, with the idea that the book would not only tell a story that Lewis feels responsible to tell as the last living member of the Big Six, but as a guide for the future of the movement. Lewis still absolutely believes in nonviolence and that if it can be done right in America, maybe we can be a model for the rest of the world. As for Aydin’s view on tackling the weight of that history, it boils down to seven words: “Follow your heart, and follow John Lewis.”
With the story of March expanding past Lewis’ life in later volumes, the team took a focus on bringing up two major parts that don’t get brought up in history books a lot: the political maneuvering that happened behind the scenes and the importance of the women who were on the front lines. The political maneuvering was something of a challenge for Aydin and Powell, who were trying to effectively portray it in a graphic format. It did lead to particular artistic choices though, with Powell taking pride in a panel in Book Three where he drew the cords of the phones spoken on during the Mississippi Freedom Summer as a twisted spider-web of maneuvering and intrigue.
When it comes to the women, Book Three focuses particularly on activists Annie Cooper, Amelia Boynton and Fannie Lou Hamer, who Lewis names as “the soul of the Mississippi movement” in the book and whose televised testimony at the Convention’s Credentials Committee in 1964 was famously cut off by an emergency press conference by President Johnson specifically to divert the press away from her words. When asked about writing about Hamer and the other women involved during the movement, Lewis was point blank on the why. “Women did a lot of the dirty work and never get the credit.”
As the panel came to a conclusion, Lewis did a lot to emphasize his faith in today’s youth for carrying the movement forward in ways they weren’t able to back then and even giving credit to his younger colleagues in the House for being able to use Periscope and Twitter to broadcast their gun violence sit in earlier this year when the CSPAN cameras were cut off. Towards the end, he told the story of going to another convention where a second-grade girl asked him a very simple question: “Representative Lewis, how are you so awesome?”
By the end of the panel, I was asking myself the same question.