When it comes to being sworn in for elected officials most of the discussion is what they’ll do it one and possibly what they’ll wear. San Jose Councilman Lan Diep has decided to take things to the next level donning a limited edition movie-prop replica of Captain America‘s shield (the prop from Captain America: The First Avenger was limited to 1,000).
Diep who is a legal aid attorney and “self-professed comics nerd” said that Captain America is the “embodiment of America’s ideals.” And while many eyebrows were raised Diep’s reaction is “government should be fun.”
I think I was getting into, like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and stuff like that. And I confess that I did read comic books as well, like Spiderman was one of my favorites. And then I read what I was assigned at school.
….But by the time maybe I was Malia’s age, I was starting to read more serious books like, To Kill a Mockingbird, or some of the things that I see her reading now that made you think a little bit more. They weren’t just kind of adventure stories, but they were also stories that taught me about social problems and taught me about how people interact with each other, and how some people are kind and some people are cruel. And history sweeps them along, and people have a lot of challenges in their lives.
Former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson made headlines in the comic book world when he sent out an email reflecting upon an old issue of Green Lantern in a discussion about race and politics. This came after he used to same topic in a speech before liberal activists at Netroots Nation 2011. Grayson was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to chat about the email and his interest in comic books.
In between meetings the former Congressman was friendly and very engaging on a long range of topics including the origin of the email, his comic book reading habit as well as politics in general. The email definitely put a smile on my face. It’s great to see use of a shared cultural moment in politics, but also something a bit geeky. Grayson was happy I enjoyed it, especially since there’s been “not too much smiling on the left.” As a teenager he was a DC comics fan, sticking mostly with Green Lantern and Green Arrow, but also dabbling in the Avengers, Justice League and the Legion of Superheroes.
But Green Lantern #76 really stuck with him. While comics had often dealt with right and wrong, Denny O’Neil‘s comic was a fundamental shift in his eyes. It’s use of the real world was something entirely new. This wasn’t an allegory like Star Trek used to discuss modern social issues, this was in your face, there wasn’t a need for cultural allusions. This wasn’t the first time Grayson used a cultural reference though. References to Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan have been scattered throughout his speeches and writing in the past and has he put it, “it’s better than quoting Charlemagne.”
The infamous panel struck a chord with the Congressman, even after over 30 years. As a whole, he sees political leaders distracted from doing good things and the panel is as relevant to our times as it was when it was first published in 1970. Just as Green Lantern was confronted with, Grayson feels that today’s political leaders act like “they work for someone else, and not us.” After reciting stats on how many Americans are uninsured, without a job and how many homes are worth less than their mortgages, Grayson feels that politicians need to pay attention to the people counting on them, and that they’re “not doing enough for their constituents.”
The reaction to the email was overwhelmingly positive, which is great for Grayson who wrote the email himself. There was a connection as many remembered the comic book themselves. An outpouring of comments on Facebook and popular political website DailyKos followed a blog post with the same content. This further shows that issue is today still relevant and a landmark issue. After it’s publication the series dealt with real world issues more and more including overpopulation. Denny O’Neil forsook metaphor, leading to an “evolution of the medium.” This culminated with Speedy becoming a junky which caused all sorts of issues with the Comics Code which regulated content in comic books.
Today, the Former Congressman is enjoying comic books in a different form, the movies and animated shows that he’s been watching with his family through Netflix. It’s something both he and his children enjoy. After seeing V for Vendetta and Watchmen he decided to check out their comic book form as well as other works by Alan Moore. He appreciates the sophistication of the work which only makes Grayson look that more fondly on O’Neil’s Green Lantern run.
As a whole Grayson looks at the email as a good example of the general phenomenon of communication that comes from the inside. People appreciate the honest discussion more, and it shows more of who you are as a politician as well as the things you believe in. The email revealed Grayson is an authentic person, he’s just not saying things to get the job or keep it, he really believes in what he discusses, it’s who he is, something that’s been brewing for over 30 years with a little help from Denny O’Neil and Green Lantern.
We broke the news about former Congressman Alan Grayson using Green Lantern in an email to his supporters. We also first reported the Congressman spoke about DC’s hero at Netroots Nation 2011. Below you can see him talk on the subject yourself.
The former Congressman granted us an interview which we’ll have running appropriately on July 4th! Stay tuned tomorrow for it.
I’m a bit dumbfounded (and geeking out) on this one, but I was surprised to find this email in my inbox from former Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson. The email has been posted below unedited (other than removing the unsubscribe link), hence the donation button and Salsa Labs logo:
The movie Green Lantern opened on Friday, to mixed reviews. Maybe the reviews would have been better if the movie had included this powerful exchange, from Green Lantern #76:
African-American Man: I’ve been readin’ about you . . . How you work for the blue skins . . . and how on a planet someplace you helped out the orange skins . . . and you done considerable for the purple skins! Only there’s skins you never bother with – the black skins! I want to know . . . how come?! Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern!
Green Lantern: I . . . can’t . . . .
I may never have the chance to talk to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or any of the other Masters of the Universe who led and misled our country for eight long years. Nor may I ever have the chance to speak to Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, or any of the other savage right-wing loons who want to finish the job that Bush et al. started. But if I could, I might say:
Me: I’ve been readin’ about you . . . How you work for multinational corporations like Big Oil. . . . And how you say you built all those roads and schools and bridges in somecountry in Asia. And in some other country in the Middle East someplace you got rid of some dictator. Only there’s one country you never bother with – America! I want to know . . . how come?! Answer me that, Mr. Flag-Waiving Patriot!
Them: I . . . can’t . . . .
Well, I can answer that. For a generation now, we have seen the heartless, callous erosion and destruction of all the things that make you a member of the middle class in America:
The chance to see a doctor when you are sick.
A pension or retirement account.
Social Security and Medicare.
And we’ve seen them replaced by endless war, falling home values, no pensions, lower wages, and now what Karl Marx called a “reserve army of the unemployed” – to keep wages down forever.
Even after only two years in office, as one out of 435 in the House, I can point to a lot of things that I did to preserve, protect and expand the middle class in America, and to help those of us who were falling through the cracks.
I look at our so-called leaders on the other side of the aisle, and I see nothing like that. Only a perverse delight in eliminating programs that help my fellow Americans in need. They’ll lead us, all right – they’ll lead us straight to ruin.
The next time you see one of them — at a town hall meeting, in their plush offices, or just on the street – ask them this: “What have you done to help the people? Answer me that!”
If they’re honest, they’ll say what Green Lantern said: “I can’t.”
In brightest day, In blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power: Green Lantern’s Light.
Paid for and Authorized by the Committee to Elect Alan Grayson
Rep. John Lewis and Top Shelf Productions Sign Historic Publishing Agreement
Atlanta, GA – Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Top Shelf Productions have signed a publishing agreement. Top Shelf Productions has agreed to publish the graphic novel March, coauthored by Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, tentatively scheduled for release in 2012.
“I am very pleased to be participating in this effort,” said Congressman John Lewis. “This is something I really wanted to do some years ago and there is no better time to do it than now. It is not just a story of struggle; it is a story of involvement. It shows the ups, the downs, the ins and the outs of a movement.
“It is my hope,” said Congressman Lewis, “that this work will be meaningful and helpful to future generations to give many people here in America and around the world the urge, the desire, to seek, to build, their own world, their own future.”
A meditation in the modern age on the distance traveled, both as a nation and as a people, since the days of Jim Crow and segregation, March tells the first hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights.
The publishing agreement is an historic first, both for the U.S. Congress and graphic novel publishing as a whole, marking the first time a sitting Member of Congress has authored a graphic novel. Top Shelf Productions is the first and only graphic novel publisher to be certified by the House Committee on Standards.
“As a proud resident of Georgia, and a long-time fan of the honorable Congressman,” adds publisher Chris Staros, “this is truly a deep honor. To bring, not only his life’s story, but that of the Civil Rights Movement to the comics medium is truly exciting. This will make this historical and timeless message accessible to an entirely new generation of readers.”
An artist has yet to be named for the project though candidates are being actively considered.
JOHN LEWIS, is Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District Representative and an American icon widely known for his role in the Civil Rights Movement.
As a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary in 1959, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. He was beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.
From 1963 to 1966, Lewis was Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As Chairman, John Lewis became a nationally recognized leader. Lewis was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and at the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963.
In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year, Lewis helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Hosea Williams, another notable Civil Rights leader, and John Lewis led over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” News broadcasts and photographs revealing the senseless cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council’s voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the Director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). In 1977, John Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.
In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then.
ANDREW AYDIN, an Atlanta native, currently serves in Rep. John Lewis’ Washington, D.C. office handling Telecommunications and Technology policy as well as New Media. Previously, Andrew served as Communications Director and Press Secretary during Rep. Lewis’ 2008 and 2010 re-election campaigns. Andrew is a graduate of the Lovett School in Atlanta and Trinity College in Hartford, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Georgetown University.
TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS is the literary graphic novel and comics publisher best known for its ability to discover and showcase the vanguard of the comics scene. Founded by Co-Publisher Brett Warnock in 1995, and partnered by Co-Publisher Chris Staros in 1997, Top Shelf has produced over two hundred graphic novels and comics that have helped to revitalize interest in comics as a literary art form. Most notably, Alan Moore’s FROM HELL, LOST GIRLS, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN; Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS; Andy Runton’s OWLY; Robert Venditti & Brett Weldele’s THE SURROGATES, Jeff Lemire’s ESSEX COUNTY, and Jeffrey Brown’s CLUMSY & UNLIKELY, all of which have garnered critical accolades from the likes of Time Magazine, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine, Publishers Weekly , The New Yorker, and the New York Times Book Review.
IN PHOTO (FROM LEFT TO RIGHT): Chris Staros, Congressman John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
Scott McPherson is chief information officer of the Florida House of Representatives by day, undead zombie extra in his off hours. The 55-year-old Jacksonville native is also an extra on AMC‘s The Walking Dead. McPherson was also an elected official in his past life as well as software guru for the Republican Party of Florida, state Y2K preparedness chief and disaster-recovery expert.
In an interview with the News-Press McPherson had this to say about his fellow zombies:
Zombies are united in one goal — devouring humans. No red state, no blue state. Only zombie state.
Well, it’s campaign season and the pandering is in full force. But in a flashback to the 1950’s, Maryland State Senator Nancy King, who’s running for reelection, is using comic books as she fear mongers about cuts to education (and let me be clear we’re not for that).
In a piece of campaign literature the slogan reads “Imagine if they had to lay off teachers…” with a photo of children reading comic books. Implying comics don’t provide any educational value whatsoever. I’m pretty sure there are quite a few individuals that would disagree with her.