Superman came from Krypton. A radioactive spider gave Spider-Man his powers. And civil rights movement hero John Lewis? The origin story of the Democratic congressman from Georgia goes back to his family's chicken coop.
With the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech looming, Lewis sat down with “Top Line” to talk about his new comic book-style autobiography, “March,” Trayvon Martin, the Voting Rights Act -- and how those long-ago chickens were more productive than today's Congress.
“Some of these chickens would bow their heads, some of these chickens would shake their heads, they never quite said amen,” says Lewis. “But I’m convinced that some of those chickens that I preached to in the ‘40s and the ‘50s tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues listen to me in the Congress. As a matter of fact, some of those chickens were a little more productive. At least they produced eggs.”
But Lewis’ new book is about much more than chickens. He goes on to tell his life story and involvement in the civil rights movement.
“It is my hope that we will reach hundreds, thousands, and millions of young people, that they will understand the story, understand the struggle,” Lewis says of the book. “We wanted to teach people how to use philosophy and discipline of nonviolence, not to be afraid, but to find a way to bring about change in a peaceful, orderly, and nonviolent fashion.”
How did Lewis come to write a comic book? He explains that a persistent staff member, Andrew Aydin, suggested that he take up the project, and he was reminded of a comic book about Martin Luther King Jr. that had influenced him as a young man.
“I have a young staff person who came to me more than five years ago, and said, ‘Congressman, you should write a comic book,’” Lewis recounts. “And I said, ‘Oh, what are you talking about.’ And he said he was going to Comic-Con, and other staffers started sort of making fun of him, and I said, ‘You shouldn’t do it. A few years ago, back in 1957, there was a comic book called “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Story,” and that book influenced me.’”
Lewis agreed to move forward with writing the book on the condition that Ayden would be the co-author. And, this year, Lewis joined Ayden at Comic-Con.
“Being in the midst of hundreds and thousands of people dressed like Batman, Superman, I just though some of it was super-human, something from another planet, another period in the history of human kind,” Lewis says of his trip to Comic-Con.
For more of the interview with the historic civil rights leader gone comic book writer, and to hear what he says Washington needs to do moving forward following the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act, check out this episode of “Top Line.”
ABC's Betsy Klein, Gary Westphalen, Mike LaBella, Wayne Boyd, and Barry Haywood contributed to this episode.