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.

mankind-graphic-novel-adams

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.

mankind-graphic-novel-wolfman-grayson-pacheco

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.

mankind-graphic-novel-golden

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

Mankind The Story of All of Us: Week 5 Preview

By History.com Staff

The six-week television event Mankind The Story of All of Us continues this Tuesday at 9/8c. This week, we’ll explore the monumental changes to industry, transportation and our daily lives brought about by the Industrial Revolution.

Check out some of our favorite content for Week 5: Revolutions.


Find out how the development of the spinning machine led directly to the Industrial Revolution.


How did the railroad pave the way for America’s ascension as a superpower?

Categories: Mankind, Technology, Transportation, Videos

Reflections on Lincoln

By Kim Gilmore

It has been exciting, encouraging and slightly exhausting to keep up with the commentary on the recent Lincoln film. Perhaps more than any other American president, Abraham Lincoln seems to carry our expectations and political hopes, even in retrospect. He continues to play the role of national prism—we turn him sideways and upside down searching for answers, generations later.

Many historians, including the Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer (he served as a consultant for the film and related book Lincoln: A President For the Ages) have noted the profoundly powerful sway of the film, regardless of its omissions or oversights. Matthew Pinsker, author of Lincoln’s Sanctuary, notes that “this movie probably does better on this difficult subject than any other American film” and that it is an excellent piece of art, despite not sticking to letter of the law in terms of historical detail.

blog-lincoln-historiansOther scholars, including leading historian Eric Foner, in a letter to The New York Times, have lamented what they see as a lost opportunity to show the critical roles of slaves, free blacks and abolitionists in overturning slavery. Foner argues (and the weight of evidence shows) that emancipation took place “on the ground”—not just in the unofficial and official rooms of Congress.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic has organized a Lincoln Roundtable with many contributors analyzing the film, its portrayal of Lincoln and what it all means when it comes to questions of slavery and emancipation. Wow–lots of discussion! As we continue to debate what exactly happened, when and why—and Lincoln’s role in the drama of the 1860s–it is heartening to see a feature film serve as a vibrant platform for these conversations.

It is interesting to look back on what one key player–who does not play a role in the Lincoln film but did play a very key role in the movement to end slavery–said about Lincoln in the decade after his death:
“It mattered little to us what language he might employ on special occasions; it mattered little to us, when we fully knew him, whether he was swift or slow in his movements; it was enough for us that Abraham Lincoln was at the head of a great movement…which, in the nature of things, must go on until slavery should be utterly and forever abolished in the United States.”- Frederick Douglass, April 1876

Categories: Abraham Lincoln, American Civil War, Movies

Mankind The Story of All of Us: Week 4 Preview

By History.com Staff

HISTORY’s six-part series Mankind The Story of All of Us continues this Tuesday at 9/8c. This week, we’re hitting the road (or the water) as mankind begins the fabled Age of Exploration. Here are some of our favorite content for this week’s episode, New World.

Age of Exploration: Life on the Open Seas Infographic
Life was pretty difficult for a sailor in the Age of Exploration—and bad pay and long hours were just the start of it. Rotten food and scurvy were commonplace, and if the diet didn’t kill you, there were plenty of other things that could.

Below, check out some of this week’s exclusive video from Mankind The Story of All of Us.
Web Exclusive: Columbus
Get the story on how Christopher Columbus unknowingly discovered the New World.

Web Exclusive: Fur Trade
Find out how high demand for animal pelts led to exploration in North America and Siberia.

Categories: Exploration, Infographics, Mankind

Mankind The Story of All of Us: Week 3 Preview

By History.com Staff

The epic journey of Mankind The Story of All of Us continues this Tuesday at 9/8c. Among the topics covered this week is how money developed around the world. In that spirit, here’s some of our favorite new content for this week.

The Story of Money Infographic

Get the facts on the earliest forms of money and the origins of the U.S dollar, discover which country created the first paper money, and find out how the Inca created a great empire—without using money at all.

Below, check out some new web exclusives from Mankind The Story of All of Us.

Mankind Exclusive: Salt
How did salt become one of the most valuable commodities in much of the world?

Mankind Exclusive: Salt
Find out how the Spanish discovery of silver in the Americas led to the rise of global trade.

Categories: Infographics, Mankind, Money, Videos

Mankind The Story of All of Us: Week 2 Preview

By History.com Staff

HISTORY’s epic television event continues this Tuesday at 9/8c with Episode 2: Empires. To go along with that theme, here’s some of our favorite new content for week 2 of Mankind The Story of All of Us.

Mankind Rome InfographicRome: Ancient Supercity Infographic
Rome was a city of “firsts”—the first apartment buildings, the first central heating and even the world’s first shopping mall. From a state-of-the-art water supply to the biggest sports arena in history, this brand-new infographic explores how Rome kept its 1 million residents happy, hydrated and healthy.

Great Innovations Sweepstakes
Fire or the wheel? Steel or concrete? Check out our bracketology-style sweepstakes to cast your vote for what you think is the most important innovation in human history. Come back to vote each week for a chance to win a home entertainment bundle, including a 55″ 3D HDTV, plus weekly Mankind prize pack giveaways.

Mankind: World Heritage Game
Produced in conjunction with UNESCO, the World Heritage interactive game challenges users to identify World Heritage sites and their locations throughout the world. The colorful and interactive web-based game includes descriptions and images ofover 300 World Heritage sites.

Categories: Ancient History, Ancient Rome, Games, Infographics, Mankind, Sweepstakes

Introducing Bet You Didn’t Know

By Barbara Maranzani

As we’ve mentioned in a few previous posts, we’ve been working on a ton of content in support of the new six-part series Mankind The Story of All of Us, including videos, infographics, unique social media experiences, original articles and more. We’ll be rolling out this content over the coming weeks, but we’re thrilled to present one of our favorite pieces: Bet You Didn’t Know™, a collection of hundreds of fascinating facts covering all aspects of history. The interactive lets you browse facts at random, sort by theme, share with friends and even check out the BYDK Top 20, our most popular facts.

Check out history.com/facts to dive in.

For example, we bet you didn’t know that:Bet You Didn't Know interactive
Or that:Bet You Didn't Know Fact 2
Also check out the Bet You Didn’t Know™ app for both phone and tablet devices. It includes all of our BYDK content, plus exclusive videos, photos and infographics from the show. Oh, and it’s free!Bet You Didn't Know App

Categories: Bet You Didn't Know, Interactives, Mankind, Mobile

Mankind The Story of All of Us: Premiere Week

By History.com Staff

HISTORY’s six-part television event Mankind The Story of All of Us premieres Tuesday, November 13, at 9/8c. Each week, we’ll be bringing you new features related to the show, including infographics, exclusive videos, original articles and more. To kick off premiere week, here is some of our favorite content for week one of the show.

Join the Story
Every Tuesday night, viewers will have the chance to unlock exclusive extended video from Mankind The Story of All of Us, featuring interviews with Brian Williams, Anthony Bourdain and others. Just tweet with #Mankind or share to Facebook Tuesdays at 9/8c to join the story.

Pyramids Infographic
There are more than 100 pyramids in Egypt, but did you know that the Americas have more pyramids than the rest of the world combined? What similarities do these structures—built hundreds of years and thousands of miles apart—share, and how are they different? Find out in our new infographic.

Below, check out some of this week’s web exclusives from Mankind The Story of All of Us.


Find out how harnessing the power of fire revolutionized human life.


How did the development of weapons change mankind? Experts weigh in.

Categories: Mankind

Veterans Day: HISTORY Says Thanks

By Kim Gilmore

“But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget.”    – Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”

Veterans Day falls each year on November 11. As many people know, the holiday dates back to World War I, when the world celebrated the laying down of arms, known as Armistice Day. Here at HISTORY, observing Veterans Day is a company-wide effort. Starting in 2007, we launched a program called Take a Veteran to School. Every year the program has grown, and this year thousands of schools in all 50 states are participating. The concept is simple: organize a Veterans Day celebration so students can learn more about the holiday, and invite veterans in the community to receive heartfelt thanks for their service.

Our online hub for Veterans Day, Veterans.com, features classroom materials and much more information for Veterans Day. This includes resources for the Thank a Veteran at Work program, in which employers organize ways to honor veterans on or near Veterans Day. Check out our Thank a Veteran at Work tip sheet, which highlights options for making these celebrations easy and meaningful without requiring a lot of time or money.

HISTORY also has a fun social media campaign based on the theme “It’s Never Too Late to Say Thank You.” Using the hashtag #THANKAVET, you can thank veterans in your family or community on Twitter. People all across the country take part in this viral campaign each November. We also have a special website that makes it easy to type in a Tweet. There you’ll find some great videos and PSAs connected to the campaign.

The quote at the top of this post comes from one of Tim O’Brien’s incredible books of short stories about the Vietnam War. Since HISTORY first launched our veteran-related initiatives, many of us have seen and heard firsthand the stories that our veterans carry with them throughout their lives. These stories can be intensely personal, and they are also part of our history—they are documents of our past. One of my favorite programs at HISTORY is called Film Corps, which preserves footage and stories of those who have served. Check out these videos here, and don’t forget to thank a vet this fall!

Kim Gilmore is a historian and director of corporate outreach at HISTORY.

Categories: Holidays, Veterans

A Class That Makes Us Want to Go Back to School

By History.com Staff

We’re back after some downtime due to last week’s storm. We sincerely hope our readers are safe and sound, and our thoughts are with all those who were affected by the disaster.

With America heading to the polls tomorrow, we wanted to devote today’s HISTORY Blog post to a fun and fascinating class taught this semester by Patrick Spero at Williams College. “The Politics of the Presidency” surveys the American presidency from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln, paying special attention to partisan politics and presidential campaigns. Instead of writing essays and reports, students get the chance to create minute-long video campaign ads for and against each of the presidential candidates covered by the course. The challenge is that they have to act like modern-day campaign managers while working with materials—images, quotations, music, etc.—from the 18th and 19th centuries.

We’ll continue to follow the course over the coming weeks and post some of the students’ work here on the HISTORY Blog. In the meantime, check out this video in which Professor Spero describes the class and the unique methodology he’s using to teach today’s students about yesterday’s presidential politics. You can also see some of the first videos of the semester here.

Categories: Elections, U.S. Presidents, Voting