Reconciling the Past with the Present: Spotlight on Andrew Aydin

The National Book Award–winning team behind March, the bestselling graphic history of the civil rights struggle told from the perspective of the late Georgia congressman John Lewis, is back with a sequel.

In Run: Book One, which publishes in August from Abrams ComicArts, New York Times–bestselling author Andrew Aydin and celebrated illustrator Nate Powell—joined by illustrator L. Fury— continue the story of Lewis’s life and the backlash seen across the United States after the voting rights campaign in Selma, Ala.

“We decided to make Run because of what we saw happening in the world,” says Aydin, who is a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award honoree, a Printz Award winner, a Sibert Medal winner, a Walter Dean Myers Award winner, a two-time Eisner Award winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. “The backlash to change can too easily be forgotten. To read March and see it through today’s lens, it’s important to understand how strong and how fast the backlash was to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. We are still living through that backlash today.”

Aydin says the team titled the book Run because of Lewis’s life. “First you march, then you run,” Aydin says. “First he was
a dedicated young activist putting his life on the line, then he became a public servant. But in that time, John Lewis had to pick himself back up and rebuild his life. It’s a book about loss, and change, and what happened after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. It’s a guide for young people, and necessary history for everyone struggling to reconcile our past with where we are today.”

Perhaps no one can sum up the book’s mission better than Lewis. “In sharing my story,” Lewis said in a statement about the book before his death in 2020, “it is my hope that a new generation will be inspired by Run to actively participate in the democratic process and help build a more perfect union here in America.”

Pulp Fiction: Spotlight on Ed Brubaker

To say that Ed Brubaker is on a roll lately would be something of an understatement. The acclaimed comics writer has nabbed five best writer Eisner and Harvey Awards in the last 10 years. Working with his longtime collaborator, the artist Sean Phillips, Brubaker has released bestsellers such as Criminal, Incognito, Fatale, The Fade Out, and the Reckless series.

The second volume in that series, Friend of the Devil, published in May from Image Comics and follows ex-FBI agent and current private eye Ethan Reckless as he mourns his father, investigates the disappearance of a missing woman, and exposes a seedy and sinister side of Hollywood.

The book received a glowing review from PW, which praised the “bruising second entry in Brubaker and Phillips’s bloody-knuckled
L.A. noir series” for its “sharp cultural references, bone-deep knowledge of the Southland, and pulsing through line of righteous heroism [that] will make readers eager for Ethan’s next reluctant adventure.”

Of all the character’s he’s created, Brubaker lists Ethan Reckless in the top three. “Ethan is one part private eye, one part repo man, and one part wrecking ball,” Brubaker told PW earlier this year. “He’s a surf bum in Venice Beach who lives and works out of an old movie theater a client paid him with. And he only takes cases that are interesting to him, or appeal to his sense of justice, regardless of how much money is being offered.”

When asked how he creates the atmosphere of a vintage crime story in his work, Brubaker told PW that the idea for the Reckless books sprang from the 1960s and ’70s pulp paperback era, with its lurid painted covers. “I wanted to try our hand at that kind of recurring pulp hero character,” he says. “I also wanted to lean into the pulp somewhat and let the violence be a bit more over-the-top. Above all, it was about trying to have more fun and create a character that would live through the times I grew up in, as this kind of troublemaker for hire.”

Empowering African Creatives and Storytelling: Spotlight on Roye Okupe

In 2012, Roye Okupe, an award-winning filmmaker, author, speaker, and entrepreneur originally from Lagos, Nigeria, leveraged his passion for comics and animation to create YouNeek Studios. Under that umbrella, Okupe wrote, produced, and directed several animated productions including the critically acclaimed animated short Malika–Warrior Queen.

Now Okupe, whose work has been featured on CNN and NBC and in Forbes, the New York Times, and the Guardian, is teaming with Dark Horse Comics to create the YouNeek YouNiverse, a connected world of African-inspired superhero and fantasy stories.

“What we are trying to do over the next few years is create a compelling and immersive universe with our own twist,” Okupe said in a statement. “The YouNeek YouNiverse is a massive, interconnected universe of sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero content spread across multiple timelines with stories told from an African perspective.”

This fall, Okupe is releasing a trio of graphic novels. In September, YouNeek will publish Malika: Warrior Queen, which follows the adventures of queen and military commander Malika, who struggles to keep the peace in the empire of Azzaz. The book was written by Okupe and illustrated by Chima Kalu. Also publishing in September is Iyanu: Child of Wonder—written by Okupe and illustrated by Godwin Akpan—about a teenage orphan who discovers she has abilities that rival those of ancient deities and will save a world on the brink of destruction. And in October, YouNeek will publish E.X.O.: The Legend of Wale Williams. Written by Okupe and illustrated by Sunkanmi Akinboye, the book tells the story of Wale Williams, the son of a famous scientist—and a tech-savvy superhero known as E.X.O.—who must try to save Lagoon City from extremists.

Okupe admits his goals for YouNeek Studios are ambitious, but he stresses they certainly aren’t impossible. “With this monumental partnership with Dark Horse and the impeccable history, support, and infrastructure they bring to the table,” he said in a statement, “we will finally be able to achieve our ultimate goal: create, for a global audience, content that empowers African creatives and storytelling.”

A Different Kind of Fantasy: Spotlight on Brandon Sanderson

For his fans, Brandon Sanderson is synonymous with the fantasy genre. A #1 New York Times bestseller and Hugo Award winner, Sanderson is an acclaimed fantasy author whose books have been translated into more than 35 languages. He is best known for such classic works as the Mistborn trilogy, the epic fantasy saga The Stormlight Archive, and The Reckoners trilogy.

But in May, Sanderson stepped out of his comfort zone and published his debut graphic novel, Dark One, with Vault Comics. The book, written with Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, illustrated by Nathan C. Gooden, and colored by Kurt Michael Russell, follows the adventures of Paul Tanasin, a 17-year-old haunted by dark visions he initially believes to be hallucinations. But soon Paul discovers that his visions are prophecies from a world called Mirandus, and that he is destined to become a fearsome destroyer and rise up as the Dark One.

According to Sanderson, Dark One, which Kirkus hailed as a “dramatically dark fantasy that will leave readers eager for the sequel,” was his first book that didn’t want to be a prose novel. “After five false starts, it came to life when I imagined how it would be if the pictures I had in my mind were actual pictures,” Sanderson said in a statement in 2018. “And then all of a sudden, in a couple weeks, a full and rich outline came together.”

And Sanderson says one of the things he enjoys most about being an author is experiencing the vision and beauty that artists apply to his work when interpreting it for a visual medium. “Dark One is the culmination of years of work on my part to create something new, different, and interesting in the fantasy space—and I’m extremely pleased at how it turned out,” he says. “It’s a melding of my worldbuilding and the storytelling skill of a talented team over at Vault Comics. It turned out better than I ever hoped, and I am extremely proud of the project as a whole. I hope everyone will enjoy seeing into one of my worlds in a new and interesting way.”