It’s common in comics to see creators bounce around between publishers as they make a name for themselves and vie for bigger and bigger books, but artist Clay Mann has stayed in once place — Marvel — and methodically risen through the ranks to become one of the publisher’s growing team of pencillers that are just one rung below A-list artist Architects like John Romita Jr. and Stuart Immonen. Although the artist rarely grants interviews, his work both in print and through commissions shows someone pushing the limits of their style and growing as an artist, and I’m excited for what comes next.
The Orlando-based Clay Mann broke into comics back in 2005, straight into Marvel’s office and editor Warren Simons with no prior experience in comics to speak of. The artist’s first work was a back-up story in the anthology title X-Men Unlimited‘s 13th issue published in April 2006. After that, Mann chipped in on the final issues of the Marvel Knights’ Fantastic Four title Four before rotating over to the kid-friendly Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four where he drew, coincidentally, four issues. After that he jumped over to Mark Paniccia’s turf, doing six issues of Heroes For Hire before the series ended in early 2008. After that, Mann was put to work finishing some delayed books with doing part of The Immortal Iron Fist #14, the Thor: Man Of War one-shot, Ultimate X-Men #94 and doing the first part of Lady Bullseye’s introduction in Ed Brubaker’s Daredevil run.
Doing these more higher profile work and seeing editors rely on him to keep books on time paid off for Mann, because in 2009 he got the chance to be the primary artist on his first solo series — Dark Reign: Elektra with his Heroes For Hire writer Zeb Wells and the editor that gave him his first job at Marvel, Warren Simons. The artist did some excellent work there, opening the doors necessary for him to come full circle and return to the X-Men offices for what would be his most popular run to date, X-Men: Legacy with Mike Carey. Mann did a total of 10 issues with Carey from February 2010 to June 2011, including the high-profile “Age of X” crossover which saw Mann be the lead artist and designer for almost all of the alternate universe designs of the characters. After that, he got a unique gig drawing Skottie Young’s turn from writer-to-artist with the miniseries Magneto: Not A Hero.
Mann’s next big project is reviving Remy LeBeau in a new Gambit series starting in August with writer James Asmus. But given his steady rise in comics, I could easily see this long-time Marvel exclusive quickly transitioning over to be a top artist for the company on an Avengers title or perhaps a post-Brubaker issue of Captain America. What do you think?