Illustrator Nate Powell (BFA 2000 Cartooning) is drawing inspiration from history—literally. The SVA alumnus is collaborating with venerated Civil Rights leader Congressman John Lewis and his staffer Andrew Aydin on a three-part graphic novel about Lewis’ lifelong fight for justice through nonviolence. In March (Top Shelf Productions), Powell’s art vividly recounts Lewis’ fearless journey from sharecropper’s son to student activist to the U.S. House of Representatives. Lewis, who helped plan the 1963 March on Washington, will also be making his way to SVA soon: He has accepted the College’s invitation to speak at commencement exercises this year.
March has been cited as an important literary and historical achievement. When March: Book One was published in 2012, it quickly became a bestselling phenomenon among young readers from middle school through college and was widely praised by educators and prominent critics, with many suggesting it be added to “required reading” lists. “It’s blown my mind at every turn to see March work its way into an enduring and vital part of the public discourse,” Powell says.
Powell, a New York Times best-selling graphic novelist, credits his success in part to the technical and formal immersion in cartooning he received at SVA. As a fourth-year student he earned the SVA Outstanding Cartoonist Student Award as well as a Self-Publishing Grant from Shakespeare & Co. Books. “I was so fortunate to study under the great Carmine Infantino, Keith Mayerson, Klaus Janson, Ben Katchor, Sal Amendola and the legendary Joe Orlando—a powerhouse era!” he says.
Powell’s other works include the acclaimed Swallow Me Whole (Top Shelf Productions, 2008), a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist and winner of the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Novel and two Ignatz Awards. His adaptation of Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero will be out this fall, followed by a short story collection, You Don’t Say. He is currently writing and drawing his next book, Cover.
March: Book Two is scheduled for release early next year. “Working with John Lewis has been an immensely rewarding and powerful experience,” Powell says. “I couldn’t ask for a more dedicated, compassionate team of collaborators.”