peer review “power of the picture”


The Power of the Picture John Lewis was one of the most prominent figures of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. He was also a fighter for social justice in modern times up until his passing in July of 2020. Lewis’ graphic novel, March: Book 1, is an important addition to the conversation on racism in the United States. John Lewis wanted to tell his story in the graphic novel form because he knew it would reach a greater audience. Comic books and graphic novels are also effective sources of storytelling, and they have the influence to engage the audience deeper into the story than text-based media.             Comic books and graphic novels can have a great influence on American culture. Comics have shaped politics and society with the creation of iconic figures like Captain America.  Comic book legend Stan Lee who is recognized for creating superheroes like Spiderman and the X-men did so with the thought of keeping politics in his stories, and how the protagonists dealt with everyday problems. “The X-men were created to highlight why racism and segregation was wrong.” (Burris) As the X-men shed a spotlight on how society treats people who are different from them; Lewis gives the same credit to the influence that graphic novels had on him. Lewis recounts the time he was inspired by the 1958 comic book, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story and how the comic inspired him to adopt a peaceful strategy when faced with violence. (Lewis 78) Lewis confirms his decision to tell his story in this form of medium because he “hope(d) that March…will teach the new generations about the power of nonviolent protests.” (Grady) Drawing has been an outlet for humans as a form of storytelling as far back as the caveman era about 39,000 years ago. (Auman) As a result of thousands of years of practice, comic books can be an effective way of telling compelling stories through art. We can see the emotions of the characters and experience what they are experiencing in real time. Lewis recounts his sit-ins at the diner where they were not welcomed and the dread they felt from performing these acts of peaceful protests. On page 93 of March, Lewis and his fellow classmates are sitting at the counter with looks of fear on their faces as a group of unhappy on-lookers loom in the background give the scene a sense of dread. The look on the faces are not the only elements that set the tone of the scene, but the darkness of the background adds to the tension of uneasiness felt by both sides. This picture alone brings the reader into the uncomfortable environment without a single word of dialogue being written on the page.    While books can have the same effect on people depending on how effective the writer can be; sometimes translations can get lost. It is then left up to the reader to decide what message the author is trying to convey with words alone. The guesswork on what is happening in the plot will not be as much of a factor because the art in the novel paints the picture for the reader. Graphic novels do not have to worry about the words being used as much as an author of a book may have to get the proper message across. Overall, comic books should be given just as much credit for telling classic stories as have written classic novels. Finally, John Lewis choosing this form of media to share his struggles was effective because graphic novels and comic books can appeal to a larger audience, especially amongst younger people. They are also effective at telling compelling stories, and the artwork alone can pull a reader into the story more than an only text-based story can.

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