A BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE to the ace artist, who was born 66 years ago, on Feb. 7, 1958…

Welcome to BURIED TREASURE, Pete Stone’s new recurring feature that spotlights great, lesser-known comics that demand your attention…


I first noticed Kevin Nowlan when he drew an issue of Moon Knight after Bill Sienkiewicz stopped illustrating it. The precision Kevin brought to his work was vastly different from Bill’s freewheeling style.

I loved what Sienkiewicz had done. The Werewolf two-parter, Scarlet Fasinera, aka Stained Glass Scarlet, and the great “Hit It!” story.

Now, suddenly, there was this new artist. He could draw. I could tell that. But he wasn’t Bill. There was something different about this guy. His work wasn’t dynamic, but it was good. Solid. Well drawn. You could tell he was a potential artist for Marvel. He only did a couple of issues of Moon Knight, then seemed to vanish. He did a Dr. Strange issue that I loved, but it took a certain amount of time for him to find his “voice.” That voice (in my opinion) started in a comic no one remembers, Dalgoda from Fantagraphics Books.

Dalgoda, launched in 1984, was written by Jan Strnad and drawn by Dennis Fujitake. It was so sincere and wonderful. The hero was an alien “dog-man” who was just like the rest of us. He was scared because he was trying to save his people and his planet, but heroic. He fought for his friends and forgave people for being human. That is secondary to the back-up — Grimwood’s Daughter, written by Strnad, penciled and inked by Nowlan and colored by Kenneth Smith.

The story is about Elves struggling to survive as men try to destroy them. The art is so visceral and real. The elves are thin and angry. They don’t stand like normal humans… they stand with power and intensity. Some of them want to destroy the humans and some want to work with them. The images of the women are harsh and angular, like elves. One of the elves is having an affair with a forest elemental, a spirit creature, who is trying her best to save them from the encroaching humans.

Nowlan translates the story brilliantly. Every panel is showcases how good he will eventually become. He displays his natural storytelling ability as well as his work ethic. He’s not afraid of a six-panel page. His figurework is subtle and realistic. The women are sexual in a very carnal way. There is no doubt the men and women are drawn to each other. There is a terrible war coming, but the heroes are fighting. There are even dragons. They swirl and swoop through the air. 1984-85 precursors to Game of Thrones decades later.

I certainly enjoyed the main feature, but there was something about Nowlan’s almost primal work that I was tremendously attracted to. Stunning forests with ethereal elf creatures, a giant white stag that saves the main character. For a high schooler who had read all the Conan stories, Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, Lord of the Rings and so many others, this was right up my alley.

I will say that computer coloring could make this a more modern piece, but Kenneth Smith does a very decent job. There is a reprint of the entire series that I highly recommend. It’s at a reasonable price through Amazon, a hardcover and filled with Nowlan extras.

A year later, Kevin turned in a brilliant art job on The Outsiders Annual #1. This time he got to color it as well as paint the cover. You can see the influences that Kevin had at the time… Neal Adams, maybe a little Frank Frazetta. It’s a solid, very readable art job but you could see that Nowlan was honing his skills, getting better and better all the time.

In 1992, he inked Joe Quesada on the DC series The Sword of Azrael, which introduced the Azrael character to the DC Universe. At Continuity, I remember Neal, Rudy Nebres and a few others poring over every comic in awe of how good both of those artists were. Quesada was dramatic and exciting while Nowlan’s inking was precise, and he spotted his blacks so frickin’ well. It was a match made in artistic heaven.

He finished for Dan Jurgens and inked Jon Bogdanove on two Superman/Aliens series that showcased just how truly talented an inker and artist he was.

Then there was the ABC line of comics that Alan Moore created at DC, where Kevin drew the feature Jack B. Quick, a genius middle-schooler whose experiments go constantly awry. Kevin penciled and inked those 8-page stories… a highlight of a company filled with the best of the best.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the work Kevin did with Neal. He started with an Armor cover, did a few more, inked one of my personal favorite covers (Deathwatch 2000 Megalith #3 wrap-around over Ernesto Infante) and finally inked almost a full issue of Batman: Odyssey (#12) over Neal. The only one better on Neal… well, was Neal.

Somewhere in the mid-1990s, Kevin drew a series for Penthouse Comix. It had some nudity, but it wasn’t raunchy by any stretch of the imagination.

However, one issue featured a cover by Nowlan that is probably one of my absolute favorite pieces of his art. A beautiful, naked woman floats up into the air while energy and pieces of clothing swirl around her. The colors are stunning, and the skill is amazing. The woman’s skin tones are warm and inviting while the background is a subtle, graded blue and white. In a run of covers by Adam Hughes, Frank Frazetta, Mark Schultz, Richard Corben, Luis Royo and many others, Nowlan’s cover is one of the absolute best.

I feel tremendously lucky to have been able to watch Kevin Nowlan start with a great story like Grimwood’s Daughter, move on to The Outsiders Annual, take a chance (and the money from) Penthouse Comix and finally get to work with legends in the industry like Neal Adams and Alan Moore. He is one of the best.

You may have missed Grimwood’s Daughter or some of the other series I’ve mentioned, but it’s not too late. You can get a nice hardcover copy of Grimwood’s Daughter for not that much. Under $15, I believe. It’s worth it. Other trades are out there if you look for them. Everything Kevin does is really kind of amazing.

You can check out Kevin Nowlan’s Marvel Heroes Artist’s Edition, published by IDW. That’s more expensive, but once you step into the world of Nowlan’s genius, there’s no looking back.


— Introducing… BURIED TREASURE. Click here.

— BURIED TREASURE: Adam Kubert’s Brilliant 1988 Miniseries JEZEBEL JADE. Click here.

Peter Stone is a writer and son-in-law of the late Neal Adams. Be sure to check out the family’s twice-weekly online Facebook auctions, as well as the NealAdamsStore.com, and their Burbank, California, comics shop Crusty Bunkers Comics and Toys.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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