God’s Man

When I first glanced at Gods’ Man, the cover gave me true 20’s vibes with its retro font type and abstract approach. The font specifically reminded me of something from the Great Gatsby, and the cover art first made me think of Aubrey Beardsley; an artist who was known for his significance in the Art Nouveau movement. The style as a whole made me think of Art Deco, with its blocky, yet sleek and sophisticated style. I also noticed the book was two-toned with a black and tannish color. The bold contrast of the black ink on each page was so encaptivating that it forced me to dive deeper into the story that presented itself in these illustrations. I loved how the variation in line weight provided a sense of shading and depth. The ranging amount of detail in each illustration held my interest, and brought me to reflect on its production and the time that was put into it. It’s interesting because, typically, I speed through graphic novels in hopes of just looking at every image. God’s Man really commanded my interest, in contrast to my usual experience with wordless graphic novels. It was interesting to see the direction of each line, how they flowed together, and how that contributed to the overall image.The cover was simply laid out; everything was stacked in the center and equally spaced. The different font sizes were what distinguished hierarchy on the cover, as the title and the author had the biggest fonts. The background of the cover, diagonal strokes that formed an arrow-like, chevron pattern, was the first thing to catch my attention.The book was well-preserved with a shiny cover with most of the pages still intact. The book was case bound, and was about an inch bigger than the height of my hand..making it about six inches tall and four inches wide. Gods’ Man had a bit of weight to it, though it wasn’t super heavy. The pages felt really light yet sturdy, as they felt like a thinner type of cardstock. The pages also had a sort of texture to them, it was almost porous without the holes; which I figure must be due to natural aging in the environment it’s kept in. I noticed that the edges of the pages were rough like they had been chipped away over time. The roughness of the pages made each page unique, and the slightly darkened edges added to the authenticity of the book; it was interesting to run my fingers down the edges. It was almost as if I could feel, and see, the history of the novel on its pages. I noticed there were some stains on them as well, which seemed to resemble that of coffee or tea. I’d have to say that the rustic edge of the pages was the most interesting physical feature of the book.

 The book didn’t have any distinct smell or sound when I flipped through it, though I did notice that it was rather quiet as I turned the pages. 

God’s Man was the first American graphic novel that had no words. It exhibited the art of woodcutting/engraving throughout each illustration. According to the Smithsonian Libraries, God’s Man was the “first of wordless novels” introduced in the 1920’s. This novel is a rare find, as I tried to search for it online and found that one would have to pay upwards of three hundred dollars to get their hands on a used copy. God’s Man is valued for its story; the journey of a man selling his soul for a magic paintbrush. His story is beautifully illustrated in these woodcuts, adding a higher level of artistry to each page. The illustrations were the highlight of this book, and the fact that it’s been preserved so well adds to its value. The monotony of the page layout and colors used, contributed to the simple design of God’s Man; allowing the reader to appreciate and focus on the story being told. The process of how God’s Man was produced has me in awe. In its early stages, the illustrations in God’s Man were woodblocked onto each page, before they were mass produced later on. The intricacy that went into every woodcut illustration holds enough value for everything else about this novel.

The history of woodcutting is a rich one, and God’s Man falls early on the timeline of such practices. According to “Early American Book Illustration”, by Sinclair Hamilton, the first wood engravings incorporated in books came about in 1795; The Looking Glass for the Mind was the first book to exhibit wood engravings. This engraving method was born by Alexander Anderson, who is now known as the “father of American wood engraving”(108). Woodcutting, as stated by the University of Washington Library, was the most common technique for early print illustrations. The process is tedious, requiring a precise and articulated vision for proper execution. 

It’s important to understand how Lynd Ward, the author/artist of God’s Man came about creating such an honorary series of works. Art Spiegelman, an American artist and author, said that Lynd Ward “was way ahead of his time,” when it came to understanding the value of  artistry in publication. Spiegelman claimed that Lynd was a “visionary, in understanding the importance of the book as an object, as a container of a kind of content..” which leads me to evaluate God’s Man in a deeper way. Lynd came from a background of wordless novels; as he studied fine arts in New York and had various mentors in Germany where he learned to woodcut. “Lynd Ward and the Wordless Novel,” written by Rich Rennicks, discussed Lynds early influences on how he got into graphic novels. It was “Destiny” by Otto Nückel, a graphic novel published in 1926, that sparked Lynd’s interest in graphic novels. Though woodcutting was previously developed in much earlier times, Lynd was the first to utilize the practice in a wordless graphic novel in America. In a way, that fact serves as its own mark on the historical timeline; marking the beginning of wordless graphic novels in America.



Broman, Elizabeth. “A Wordless Novel – Gods’ Man.” Smithsonian Libraries / Unbound, 4 Jan. 2016, blog.library.si.edu/blog/2016/01/04/a-wordless-novel-gods-man/#.XjrGkS3Mz_Q.

HAMILTON, SINCLAIR. “Early American Book Illustration.” The Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. 6, no. 3, 1945, pp. 101–126. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26409843. Accessed 5 Feb. 2020.

Rennicks, Rich. “Lynd Ward and the Wordless Novel.” Lynd Ward and the Wordless Novel | The New Antiquarian | The Blog of The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, www.abaa.org/blog/post/lynd-ward-the-wordless-novel.

University of Washington. “Historical Book Arts Collection.” ::: Historical Book Arts :::content.lib.washington.edu/historicalbookartsweb/illustech.html.