HISTORY Blog

Behind the Scenes of the Mankind Graphic Novels

By History.com Staff

One of the things that has amazed us the most about working on Mankind The Story of All of Us is the vast amount of fresh, unique content that has been created in support of the series. From a brand new fact database for both mobile and web, dozens of videos, a weekly infographic series, a UNESCO-themed game and more, we’ve tried to cover this monumental television event from all angles. One of the coolest items has been a series of graphic novels that explores many of the stories covered in the series. This is a first for HISTORY, and we worked with some of the most well-respected names in the industry, including Neal Adams, Joe Brusha, Michael Golden, Devin Grayson and more. You can check out a preview of the first volume here, or purchase the entire series here.

To give you a better idea of what it took to bring this series to life, we sat down with some of the talent involved to get their take on the making of the Mankind graphic novels. And, of course, to get their picks for their favorite HISTORY shows.

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An early sketch and final cover by artist Neal Adams

Q: What drew you to the project?
Joe Brusha – Writer, “From Dusk to Dawn.” President & Co-Founder of Zenescope Entertainment
The first thing was getting to work with HISTORY – I’m a huge fan! Their shows are some of the most watched in my house. And once I read the outline for Mankind it was immediately something I wanted to be involved with. It’s amazing seeing how all of the discoveries and events in history have shaped us and brought us to this point in our evolution. It makes you wonder not only about our past and how we got here as a civilization, but what’s going to happen to us in the coming decades.

Devin Grayson – Writer, “Blood & Silk”
Everyone’s heard the axiom “write what you know,” which is great advice, but only half the story. The other half is “write what you want to know.” There is no better way to learn about something than to write about it. The graphic novel project presented a unique opportunity to become intimately acquainted with a key turning point in the history of humanity and then use the mechanics of graphic storytelling to put a heartbeat to it. It’s a really exciting way to learn and to teach simultaneously.

Jorge Pacheco – Artist, “Aztec Rise & Fall”
I’ve always enjoyed graphic novels that have actual historical facts and stories. My mother was a High School English teacher and was a proponent of comic books as a way of getting young readers interested in reading, while learning something about history or whatever the subject may be.

Arie Kaplan – Writer, “The Story of the Ocean”
I’m fascinated by the idea that at one time, the ocean was what separated us, but that eventually, mankind mastered the ocean by building sturdy boats, and by using those boats to travel great distances. So what used to separate us was now used to bring us together. That’s a wonderful irony, and it’s at the very heart of the story.

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Excerpts from the series by writers Marv Wolfman and Devin Grayson and artist Jorge Pacheco

What was the most challenging aspect of your work?
Brusha: The research. Most of the stories I write are fiction and there is some occasional research that goes into that, but it mostly comes from my imagination. This was completely different. It’s by far the most research I’ve ever done for a piece. But it was rewarding not only because it allowed me to tell a factually accurate story but because I actually learned something too.

Grayson: My chapter explores the emerging prominence of what we now call the Silk Road in the 5th Century CE. In addition to all of the amazing merchandise exchanged up and down those 4,000 miles of inter-connected trade routes, languages, ideas and religions were also traveling back and forth between Asia, the Mediterranean, Europe and North and East Africa. The most challenging aspect of my story was creating informative, realistic and colloquial ways to express the ideas behind some of those religions–like Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, and Islam–within a very limited amount of space.

Marv Wolfman – Writer, “Seeds of Change”
Taking a subject like farming and finding a way to make it graphically interesting. Also making it personal by following one family line for thousands of years.

Kaplan: Researching the various early civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians and the Phoenicians, both of which were known for their work in shipbuilding, navigation, and other aspects of sailing. It was a challenge because I had to figure out how these ancient societies were connected to one another, if at all; did they trade with each other? Was it perhaps plausible for a Phoenician sailor to find himself in what is now present-day Spain? And by finding out which societies interacted with one another, I was able to then map out a narrative structure for the story.

Gio Timpano – Artist, “The Runner” and “Citizens and Believers”
One story involves Athens and the other Rome, and both of them have a landscape view of the two cities. The reconstruction of them was the most challenging thing to do, but it was also the most fun, I could draw the details of these two ancient cities for hours.

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Anatomy of a Cover: Artist Michael Golden's progression

What are you most looking forward to seeing brought to life in the broadcast series?
Brusha: The rise and fall of the world’s great empires. Ancient civilizations have always held a fascination for me. Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Aztecs and Incas were all mysterious, exciting and dangerous civilizations and we can only imagine what it would have been like to live in one of them. It’s going to be very exciting to see them brought to life in the series.

Grayson: The whole premise of the show is so great; it really gets to the heart of the idea that we’re not just on this planet, we’re of it. I’m particularly excited about seeing the relationship between humanity and the oceans brought to life. There’s so much we take for granted today, but imagine how exciting it must have been to cross those bodies of water for the first time and begin to map out the globe in a meaningful, unified way.

What’s your favorite HISTORY show?
Pacheco: That’s a very difficult question. I’ve been watching History channel for many years, but if I had to pick one, I would have to say WWII in HD. I’ve always been interested in learning about the world’s past and present wars, to learn why men hate, and to understand how humanity can grow.

Kaplan: Pawn Stars! I TiVo the show and so does my dad. So when I visit him, we watch it together and it’s a fun bonding experience. I also really enjoyed America The Story of Us.

Brusha: Wow, that’s a tough one. If I had to go with my all-time favorite it would be MonsterQuest. Currently though, it’s Ancient Aliens. Can’t get enough of it!

Wolfman: Mankind The Story of All of Us, of course!

Categories: Mankind