In one fashion or another, Little Rock native Nate Powell has always worked in narratives. His origins in Little Rock’s long-lived band Soophie Nun Squad (a consortium of artists with a theatrical bent that helped define the Little Rock music scene during its “Towncraft” period), don’t seem entirely distant from the work that just earned him three nominations for the Eisner Awards, the gold standard for awards in the comics industry. “March: Book Two,” the most recent chapter in a trilogy of graphic novels that Powell has illustrated with meticulous care, tells the story of civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis, a heroic leader known for his passionate participation in the movement’s sit-in demonstrations, Freedom Rides, and voter registration drives. Powell’s highly charged and painstakingly crafted cover for the upcoming final installment (co-written by Lewis himself, with Andrew Aydin) was previewed last month on the 51st anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” it depicts: the standoff at Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Ala. “March: Book Three” is due in August.
Elsewhere in the list of Eisner-nominated works is “Long Walk to Valhalla,” a literary comic by Adam Smith and Jacksonville native Matt Fox, conceived after the pair met in an Arkansas comic book store. The story, up for Best New Graphic Album, meshes Southern tropes with Norse mythology, and begins when its main character, Rory, encounters a young woman who calls herself “the Valkyrie of Arkansas” and informs Rory it is his time to go to Valhalla.
Fellow Soophie Nun Squad veteran and Little Rock native Dustin Clark has been hard at work, too: After joining forces with another Little Rock native Jason White (Green Day) and Adam Pfahler (Jawbreaker) to form the intentionally difficult-to-Google band California, the trio has released its debut album: a self-titled, energetic, breezy pop-punk record that calls to mind Green Album-era Weezer more than any of its member’s particular past projects, and which features cameos from Rachel Haden (That Dog) and Alfredo Ortiz (Beastie Boys).