The U.S. Constitution: A Graphic Novel

I, like many American high schoolers, took AP U.S. Government. I don’t know about people at other high schools, but our required summer reading was the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Have you ever tried to actually read the Constitution? If you haven’t and you want to, you can do so here but it’s pretty dry stuff. Sure, for American citizens it’s the most important document in their entire lives behind only their birth certificate and social security card, but that doesn’t make it interesting. Especially to a high schooler who if they’re anything like me, left their summer work to the last few days before school starts and wants nothing to do with it. Luckily, I had the same teacher for AP Gov as I had had for AP U.S. History the year before. She told us before the end of the previous school year that instead of reading the plain old Constitution we could read this graphic novel adaptation of it by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell.

While this book is fricking awesome, my only problem with it is that it doesn’t actually include a whole lot of the verbatim text of the Constitution. But that’s a big problem, and yet it’s also the thing I like most about the book. What I’m trying to say is: read this to get background on and explanation of the Constitution and see lots of cool imagery related to it. Then go and read the actual Constitution (or vice versa).

One of my favorite things about this book is these guys:

legislative branch

This is the legislative branch a.k.a. Congress. The artist, Aaron McConnell, uses these dudes (there’s one for each branch) frequently throughout the book and they are flipping boss. Sometimes they change clothes: the judiciary was a referee in one panel, while the legislative branch was once a bull and another time wore a costume very reminiscent of Superman with the American flag where the S would have been. They always keep their “heads,” though.

bill evolution

There’s this cool graphic of how bills become laws and fish become humans.

States are represented by their state bird—for us Virginians that’s cool because cardinals are easily recognizable, but for people who don’t know what any other birds look like or what state they represent it’s still cute but also confusing.

There are some especially moving images when the three fifths compromise is not explicitly alluded to in the text, but there are slaves shown with two fifths of themselves cut off.

I could go on, but let me put a long story short and just say that it’s worth a look if not a read.


PS: According to the artist’s blog  he and the author Jonathan Hennessey are working on a new adaptation of the Gettysburg address, to be released this year.

  1 comment for “The U.S. Constitution: A Graphic Novel

  1. Mosty
    April 19, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    That sounds really interesting, and I think that would have helped me a lot more in my AP Gov class, which was pretty boring to begin with. Luckily, we didn’t have to read the entirety of the Constitution, although we did get an overview of it in a chapter of our textbook, and we went extensively over the bill of rights. It’s interesting that they made it into a graphic novel, it seems to be something that’s happening really frequently in the literary world. I know Twilight has had a graphic novel adaptation, as has Wicked Lovely, not to mention a Wrinkle in Time, and even the Bible has been adapted into comic book form. It seems like people are finally starting to take the idea that graphic novels are easier for kids to get into more seriously. It’s probably also really good for business.

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