In this new dystopian graphic novel, the January 6 coup attempt succeeded

In the weeks following the January 6, 2021 uprising, Harvard Law School professor Alan Jenkins struggled to sleep.

“I used to wake up in a cold sweat at 3 a.m. every morning worrying about our democracy,” he says.

Jenkins believes the violent breach of the US Capitol posed an existential threat to America and its democratic institutions and, almost immediately, knew he wanted to explore and amplify what he saw as far-reaching implications. He also knew exactly how he wanted to do it: through a graphic novel that could, potentially, reach those who don’t follow politics beyond the immediate news cycle.

A chilling scenario in the graphic novel has armed officers raid a news station to prevent a story from airing. “Under the authority of the Fair and Balanced Media Act of 2021, this network has been declared an enemy of freedom,” they shout. “Turn off those cameras.”

Shawn Martinbrough

He then teamed up with artist and New York Times best-selling author Gan Golan to write the narrative for 1/6: The Graphic Novel, a partially crowdfunded four-part series that imagines what might have happened if insurrectionists had been successful. Jenkins and Golan call their character-driven graphic novel “a tale of what was, what might have been, and what might yet be.”

The first chapter became available for download, fittingly, on Friday January 6, the second anniversary of the attack. It’s titled Remember This Day Forever and can be purchased on Amazon or Issuu for $2.99.

“Comics can be a way to say the things that aren’t said and bring the stories that are beneath the surface into the public conversation,” says Golan. “And that’s one of our main goals in doing it in such an accessible and fun art form.”

Expect the remaining three chapters of 1/6 to be released about once a quarter—the authors are still digesting the copious amount of information from the Jan. 6 televised congressional committee hearings. The bipartisan panel released its 845-page final report in late December, arguing that former President Donald Trump was responsible for the uprising and should again be barred from holding office.

The graphic novel combines speculative fiction and carefully researched verified events, and the first chapter features chilling scenarios. Regiments of armed militia patrol the streets and storm a news station about to go live with a 2020 election success story.” Under the authority of the Fair and Balanced Media Act of 2021, this network was declared an enemy of liberty,” shout the officers, weapons drawn. “Turn off those cameras.”

Veteran cartoonist Will Rosado’s art adds discomfort through immersive visual storytelling. Scenes with activists protecting crates of ballots (“our democracy’s last test”) are played out in icy blues, grays, and greens for a decidedly post-apocalyptic feel. The pages with tanks and militia explode with incendiary oranges and reds that make it look like the bombs are about to go off. Faces across the political spectrum register powerful emotions: terror, anger, shock, concern.

“There are footnotes and elements of hope in later chapters,” promises Jenkins, who teaches courses on race and law, communications, and Supreme Court jurisprudence. “Some of that hope comes from ordinary people who believe in our democracy and are ready to take action to protect it.”

Graphic novel cover 1/6 shows rioters at the United States Capitol waving a Confederate flag

The narrative of 1/6 follows the lives of four characters from across the political spectrum whose lives have been changed forever by the events of January 6th.

Will Rosado and Gan Golan

Comics, of course, have a long history of tackling issues related to social justice and inequality.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus, by Art Spiegelman, depicts the horrors of the Holocaust. Captain America famously punched Adolf Hitler in the face when Marvel first introduced the American flag-clad superhero in 1941. DC Comics’ mighty Superman revealed the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and battled again against the hate group a few years ago in a comic aimed at young adults. Marvel’s Black Panther also fought the Klan, and the X-Men’s mutant fights serve as an allegory for racial persecution.

As Jenkins and Golan talk about that comic book lore on Zoom, it’s clear I’m talking to two avid fans of the genre.

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Gan Golan (left) and Alan Jenkins co-wrote the narrative for the graphic novel 1/6. Both trace their love of comics to the age of 10.

One six comics

“Collectively, we have an outrageous amount of interest in comics and history under our belts,” laughs Jenkins, who first got into comics at age 10 and counts Daredevil, Submariner and Black Panther among his characters. favorites.

The authors hope their graphic novel will motivate people to act in the spirit of the couple’s favorite comic book heroes. It is published under the auspices of the Western States Center, a pro-democracy organization based in Portland, Oregon, where both are senior members. The book comes with a digital toolkit that includes strategies for civic leaders to combat bigoted political violence and for schools to help children distinguish between reliable information and falsehoods.

Jenkins and Golan constantly rewrote their story during hearings, digging into new revelations and details, and trying to discern what to incorporate and how.

However, “the only part of the story that cannot be told through the January 6 final report is what could have happened and what could still happen, the long-term trajectory of this anti-democratic movement,” says Golan, an architect of the large-scale activist event People’s Climate March and author of the graphic novel The Adventures of the Unemployed, about the adventures of an unemployed crusader and his sidekick Plan B.

“Like all dystopian fiction,” adds Golan, “it gives us a picture of the world that we have to work very hard to avoid.”

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