Gods’ Man

A black-and-white illustration.  Framed by arms raising wineglasses, a dark figure stands at the top of the image, his eyes in shadows and with a depressed expression on his face

The book’s unnamed protagonist framed by wineglasses, emphasizing the isolation he feels

Cover to the first edition of Gods’ Man (1929) by American artist Lynd Ward (1905–1985)

Gods’ Man is a wordless novel by American artist Lynd Ward (1905–1985) published in 1929. In 139 captionless woodblock prints it tells the Faustian story of an artist who signs away his soul for a magic paintbrush. It was the first American wordless novel, and is seen as a precursor of, and influence on, the graphic novel. Ward first encountered the wordless novel with Frans Masereel‘s The Sun (1919) while studying art in Germany in 1926. He returned to the United States in 1927 and established a career for himself as an illustrator. He found Otto Nückel‘s wordless novel Destiny (1926) in New York City, and it inspired him to create a similar work. Gods’ Man appeared a week before the Wall Street Crash of 1929; it nevertheless enjoyed strong sales and remains the best-selling American wordless novel. Its success inspired other Americans to experiment with the medium, including cartoonist Milt Gross, who parodied it in He Done Her Wrong (1930). In the 1970s Ward’s example inspired cartoonists Art Spiegelman and Will Eisner to create their first graphic novels.

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