Johannesburg, South Africa — Former President Nelson Mandela launched the first edition Friday of a series of comic books about his life aimed at encouraging young South Africans to read.
"You know you are really famous when becoming a comic character," the 87-year-old anti-apartheid icon joked at his Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
The nine books are among initiatives aimed at preserving Mandela's legacy.
By telling his story with pictures, the foundation hopes to help overcome the illiteracy that persists more than a decade after apartheid's end. A million copies will be distributed free at schools and in newspapers.
The first comic book, called "A Son of the Eastern Cape," covers Mandela's royal upbringing in rural Transkei and ends with his arrival in Johannesburg, where he would set up South Africa's first black law firm and lead the armed wing of the now-governing African National Congress.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison for opposing white-minority rule, emerging to become South Africa's first black president in 1994.
"One of the few advantages of prison is that you have time to read and time for reflection," Mandela said. "If the comic reaches new readers, then the project will have been worthwhile."
The first edition of the comic book is in English, but Mandela's foundation plans to translate it into all 11 of South Africa's official languages.