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'March' Comic's Creator Remembers Late Rep. John Lewis

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When Congressman John Lewis died on Friday, he left behind a tremendous legacy. He was a civil rights icon, a defender of the Voting Rights Act, a mentor, father and husband, the moral compass of Congress. And as of 2013, he was a comic book hero. Lewis released a trilogy of graphic novel memoirs called "March." Andrew Aydin co-wrote those books. Here's John Lewis talking about the initial spark of the idea in September of 2013.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN LEWIS: I wanted to do it. He convinced me that we should do it to make the story available to another generation, to children, to young people and to those of us not so young.

SHAPIRO: And Andrew Aydin joins us now.

Welcome.

ANDREW AYDIN: Hi, Ari. It's good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: You were working in Congressman Lewis' office when the "March" trilogy came about. Tell us the story behind it and what it was like to work with him after working for him.

AYDIN: Yeah. Well, I started in his office, answering his mail. And by that point, I was working on his reelection campaign. And we were coming down to the end of the campaign. Folks were talking about what they were going to do after. And I start talking about, I'm going to a comic book convention. And everybody laughed at me. But the congressman said, don't laugh. There was a comic book during the civil rights movement, and it was incredibly influential. And I looked it up, and that was our inspiration. That was our guide. There was this comic "Martin Luther King And The Montgomery Story" that the congressman remembered.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. And he ultimately went to Comic-Con with you, that comic book convention in San Diego. This was a couple of years after the first book in the "March" trilogy was released. It was 2015, and he cosplayed as an earlier version of himself. Tell us about that moment.

AYDIN: (Laughter) He did. You know, there was some kids who wanted to talk to the congressman after our panel at Comic Con. And we suggested, well, why don't you march with us? And so here was the congressman in his trench coat with a backpack. And he put two books in it, and he put an apple and an orange and a toothbrush and toothpaste in it just like he'd done in 1965. And he led those kids down the hallway through San Diego Comic-Con. And by the time we actually got to the booth to sit down and sign their books, there were thousands of people following us. And it was one of those moments where you knew he was not just trying to sell books or anything. He was showing the way. He was...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

AYDIN: ...Literally walking hand-in-hand with the next generation.

SHAPIRO: It speaks to what we heard in that clip of him of making the story available to another generation, children and young people. I mean, how did he think these graphic memoirs might persuade younger generations to get into good trouble, as he put it, moving forward?

AYDIN: Well, I think, you know, we - he and I worked together a lot on social media. I was his digital director, and I worked on the Internet. And he recognized that this generation spoke and read in a different language. Sequential narrative is their language. They grew up on the Internet. And so if we were going to reach them, we had to do it in their language. And that's what we were trying to do.

SHAPIRO: Is there any panel or episode from the trilogy that you turned to after you heard that he had passed?

AYDIN: It's that last page of "Book Three," when we're sitting in the - he was sitting in the Capitol. And I said - I raised it again about the comic book idea. And I said, congressman, they're going to laugh at you if we do that. And he said, it wouldn't be the first time. And he wasn't afraid to do things that others didn't understand if he felt they were the right thing to do.

SHAPIRO: Andrew Aydin is co-author of the late Congressman John Lewis' graphic memoir trilogy "March."

Thank you so much for remembering him with us.

AYDIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Hey, thanks for reading.
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