His name is a familiar one at Shadowline for a few years now, but Dirk Manning has had a presence in comics and online for quite a while. Manning is the longest running webcomic writer in Shadowline's history and has been a a workhorse in spreading the word on not just his work but that of his other fellow Shadowliners. He may have done plenty of interviews but none have been exactly like this one.
1. How did you get started with writing comics?
One of the first comics I ever read was THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS when I was a mid-teenager. My mom knew I was interested in getting into comics (I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life and I liked the idea of getting new stories about the same characters every month) and, not knowing anything about it, said, “This one is big and about Batman so you might like it.”
Shortly after that a guy at the comic shop (who’s now been one of my closest friends for around two decades) hooked me up with WATCHMEN.
After reading those two books I realized that you could tell stories in comics in ways that you couldn’t using any other medium… and from then on I developed a passion for telling stories in this medium more than any other.
2. How is it that someone as unique as yourself grew-up can exist in a relatively calm place like Ohio?
Well, Ohio is the birthplace of more serial killers and more US presidents than any other state in the country… so… yeah. Read into that – and how it relates to my upbringing and rise to “comic stardom” – as you will. [laughs]
3. Between NIGHTMARE WORLD and TALES OF MR. RHEE your webcomics on Shadowline's sites have touched on all aspects of the supernatural. Is there a particular beastie of which you are fondest?
I wouldn’t say one particular beastie per say, no… unless you count Cthulhu – who’s just a fantastic monster to write with on every imaginable level. I mean, he’s Godzilla with giant bat wings, an octopus for a head and most people that learn of his existence go insane as a result. If there’s a better monster to write about, well, I certainly haven’t discovered it yet. [laughs]
That aside, I’m also very fond of writing Lucifer – who finally steps-out from the shadows in the upcoming NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume Three: “Demon Days” – as well as Thelma Lushkin from NIGHTMARE WORLD, a very twisted gal who comes to the forefront in the aforementioned upcoming collection and also makes a return appearance (along with her demonic bodyguard/companion “William”) down the road a bit in a future chapter of TALES OF MR. RHEE.
4. How can one survive an encounter with Cthulhu?
You can’t. You can only hope to be one of the lucky ones who is eaten first.
If you’re really dead-set on surviving, though, I’d say call Mr. Rhee from TALES OF MR. RHEE… but, honestly, he’d probably tell you the same thing. He tends not to sugarcoat things. [laughs]
5. You've done columns for Newsarama ("Write or Wrong") offering advice and helping other writers out there. Aren't you worried about making your competition stronger?
Not at all. I’m confident enough in what that I gladly – and quite regularly –help out anyone who needs advice on getting started with my “Write or Wrong” column.
Heck, when I started out I had no idea of how to get started and there was nothing like “Write or Wrong” out there to help give me advice on how to find artists, write scripts and just get out there and create comics, and it was that very lack of available “advice” out there about creating comics – let alone “breaking in” to the industry – that lead to me starting the column so many years ago.
I never, ever forget how hard it was for me as a writer living in Ohio at the time to start-out trying to create comics, and that’s why even after all these years I still write new “Write or Wrong” columns as often as I can. It’s a resource for writers out there who are just getting started and, like me, aren’t sure where to start.
My hope is that in the next year I’ll be able to assemble a nice book collecting the bulk of the columns to date so people can have a nice handy desk compendium to refer to… so stay tuned for details on that, as it’s something that really needs to happen.
As for your specific question about making the competition stronger, though, I look at it this way: The more people I help make great comics, the more great comics there are for me to read! No act is truly selfless, I suppose… [laughs]
6. What's your D&D alignment?
Tiamat… FOR THE WIN!
7. What's the worst nightmare you've ever had?
I don’t usually have bad dreams, really. I know that shocks a lot of people since I’m primarily known as a “horror guy” and all… but it’s true. I guess I get all of that stuff out of my system on the page, you know?
That being said, it’s the weird dreams I have that haunt me the most. Just the other night I had a dream that I was swimming in a lake with a lady friend and it was all very surreal. It was a dream that most people would probably think was calming… and maybe even a bit romantic… but it creeped me out a bit and I still can’t quite put my finger on why.
Maybe that’s why I’m a horror writer: Because I see things in a little bit differently than everyone else and it’s the “normal” things that freak me out a bit. [laughs]
8. What is the superpower you would most like to have and why?
Teleportation – no doubt. Think of all the time wasted travelling from place to place, you know?
9. What many folks may not know about you is that you're fantastic at reaching potential new readers and drawing them in, especially at conventions. How do you do it?
Besides my impeccable charm and dashing good looks? Ha… ha… ha. [sighs]
Honestly, it’s just that I love comics and I share that passion with people at the shows and conventions. I sell a ton of copies of the NIGHTMARE WORLD books at shows, for example, because I really believe in the series and I don’t try to present it is anything other than what it is for the sake of potential sales.
I tell anyone who comes up to my table straight-up: NIGHTMARE WORLD is a horror anthology series where all the stand-alone stories all weave together to tell one giant story. I then tell people that if they like horror stuff – especially of the NON-blood and guys variety – that they’d probably like NIGHTMARE WORLD… and then let them decide if they want to pick it up or not.
As odd and counter-intuitive as this may sound, I’m not at shows just to shill my books – or even the different Shadowline books when I’m set up with Jim Valentino for Shadowline. Rather, I’m there to let people know about some cool books they might enjoy – period. So many people at shows are so desperate just to cover their table costs that they become more concerned about making money than connecting with other fans and letting them know about the great work they have to offer – whether they’ll but it or not.
You have to remember that people go to comic conventions because they like comics, want to meet some creators and usually also discover a few new books to read. In my case, I see it as my job to tell them what NIGHTMARE WORLD – or Shadowline as a whole – has to offer without desperately trying to cram the work into their hands all for the sake of making a few bucks.
That being said, I’m passionate about NIGHTMARE WORLD – and the whole Shadowline line-up, for that matter – and that’s why I have no problem talking to people about it… and that often results in the people I’m talking to recognizing my passion for the work, sharing in it and deciding to check it out – and almost universally being very happy they did.
10. What was your favorite comic convention experience?
I’ll be hard-pressed to find a show thus far that tops the one-two punch of C2E2 in Chicago and Detroit Fanfare last year. I got to kick it with a ton of friends old and new at C2E2 (including rollicking good times with my friend and co-Shadowline artist Seth Damoose, the Panels on Pages podcast gang and with dozens more awesome people), and Detroit Fanfare was then held on Halloween Weekend and it was just a fantastic debut showing that’s really going to take the Midwest by storm as it continues to grow.
I also sold-out of everything I had at both shows, too, so that was a nice bonus. [laughs]
I also really enjoy Mid-Ohio Con and I’m hoping to get back to Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina for the first time in five long years next year… so here’s to hoping! I always announce my upcoming convention and signing appearances on Facebook and Twitter, though, so people can connect with me there to find out where I’ll be in the coming year.
New pages of TALES OF MR. RHEE appear on ShadowlineOnline.com every Tuesday and Thursday. NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume Three: “Demon Days” will be available in October.