Will Smith via his production company Overbrook Entertainment, along with partner James Lassiter, will produce an adaptation of the upcoming graphic novel, The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks, which Sony Pictures picked up the rights to.

The graphic novel, which won’t be available for sale until April 1, 2014, is an interpretation of the real-life story of the 369th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army that saw action in World War I and World War II. The 369th Infantry is known for being the first African American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Force during World War I and was nicknamed “The Harlem Hellfighters” (hence the title of the graphic novel), as well as the “Black Rattlers,” in addition to several other nicknames.

The graphic novel was illustrated by Caanan White.

The story chronicles their journey from enlistment in Harlem, to training camp at Spartanburg, South Carolina, to the trenches in France, only to return home to the USA, heroes, but back to still facing discrimination.

Films like Red Tails aside, the contributions of African Americans to USA war efforts during the early half of the 20th century remain woefully under-explored on film and TV. This is an appreciated move by Will Smith and company.

It’s worth noting that the author of the graphic novel, Max Brooks, also wrote World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which was adapted to film last year, with Brad Pitt starring, and a sequel in development. 

No word on whether Will Smith plans to star in the adaptation, or if he’s only producing.

You can preorder a copy of the novel now via Amazon HERE.