A Harvard professor's book asks: What if the Jan. 6 attack had succeeded? – The Washington Post

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An armed militia fires at will to shut down a TV news network in Washington. A Confederate flag hangs behind the statue in the Lincoln Memorial, while a structure once named for Thurgood Marshall now bears the sign “Clarence and Ginni Thomas Federal Judicial Building.”
Just blocks away, passersby behold a new statue: President Donald Trump, in his second term, holding up the Bible.
Such stark images arrive like visual depth charges in a new illustrated story co-scripted by a civil rights attorney turned Harvard law professor. The planned four-issue series, “1/6: The Graphic Novel,” imagines what the American landscape would look like if the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had succeeded.
The debut book, which is available digitally Friday and in a physical version later this month, depicts a world that its authors call “dystopian speculative fiction” — where the U.S. Capitol rioters are prominently celebrated and where the Second Amendment can trump the First Amendment. Yet legal scholar Alan Jenkins says the graphic novel was created as a pop-culture bridge to foster conversation, communication and a call to action.
“We should be remembering 1/6 the way we remember 9/11,” says Jenkins, who was assistant to the solicitor general at the Justice Department before joining the Harvard faculty. “I think they are similarly cataclysmic and life-altering events that could be considered similarly historic and important, looking back and looking forward.”
Jenkins says creating an alternative American history is a way to engage people of varying political views. “One of our storytelling efforts is to have empathy for everyone,” he says. “That doesn’t mean everyone is right or that there’s moral equivalence, but we need to understand each other.”
Jenkins’s “1/6” co-creator, artist-activist Gan Golan (co-writer of the parody book “Goodnight Trump” and comic “The Adventures of Unemployed Man”), says the mission is clear: “We’re trying to reckon with the reality of the moment we’re in.”
The authors, who teamed with lead artist Will Rosado to render a Big Brother future of imperiled human rights beneath the skies of omnipresent patrolling drones, say that they sought to tap the strength of such visions as a type of preventive medicine.
“A big part of our story is using the power of dystopian fiction to sound the alarm bell and make us all be vigilant and focused on what is a real emerging danger in this country,” Golan says.
“We are, in some sense, even closer to the vulnerability of a successful insurrection” now, says Golan, noting that many election deniers were elected or reelected in last year’s midterms. “The narrative is often that we dodged a bullet. Maybe, but there are 10 more bullets coming at us.”
The authors hope the popular appeal of the graphic novel medium can help “1/6” reach people who will not read the House select committee’s recent 845-page Jan. 6 report and who read only “algorithmically chosen media reports,” Golan says.
The graphic novel will be driven by four characters whose ideologies span the political spectrum. These “everyday people,” Jenkins says, symbolize how “the country on a profound emotional level is impacted by events like these.”
Volume 1 takes place nine months after the Jan. 6 insurrection, during which secret fighters are working to restore democratic norms. The second volume will flash backward and be set around the events of Jan. 6, 2021. “We follow true events up to the point at which Capitol Police Officer [Eugene] Goodman led the mob away from the Senate chamber,” Jenkins says. “In our universe, they turn right instead of turning left. They do what they said they were going to do.” Volumes 3 and 4 will explore the implications of the insurrection.
The publisher, OneSix Comics, will also publish an “action guide” for readers who are motivated toward political engagement in the real world. “1/6” and the guide are published under the auspices of the Oregon-based pro-democracy organization Western States Center, where both Jenkins and Golan are senior fellows. (Top contributing artists include Pia Guerra, Shawn Martinbrough, Alex Albadree and Jamal Igle.)
Why Jan. 6 has been a challenge like no other for documentary filmmakers
Jenkins was compelled to create a comic soon after the events of Jan. 6, 2021. His long legal career has often focused on social justice, but at the time of the Capitol attack, he says, “for the first time in my life, I was not actively engaged in trying to do anything to protect or uplift a multicultural democracy in our country. And so I thought: ‘Well, storytelling.’”
Jenkins and Golan had met at comics conventions — each described formative comics-reading experiences as a child — and the creative partnership evolved naturally on “1/6.” Golan and Rosado worked together to give the graphic novel a cinematic sweep, including scenes worthy of an action-hero comic.
Throughout the creation of the book, the authors shared a sense that one way to illuminate our political landscape is by shooting up a warning flare about peril.
“I think Insurrection 1.0 may have never ended, in the sense that many of the forces that we saw gathered together on Jan. 6” are still mobilized, Golan says, and they might view that attack as a “learning moment.”
Jenkins says their research for the graphic novel continually provided reminders of how close the insurrection came to succeeding, and “how much we were dependent on behavioral norms, not laws, in many instances, and courage. Everyday democracy should not depend on courage.”
The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.
The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.
The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.
Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.

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