Dirk Manning is a constant feature of the Comic Con scene. This comic creator and writer extraordinaire might be one of the hardest working men in comics. He does panels at every comic con he attends, stays on the floor to greet fans, gives inspiration to those trying to get into the comic industry, and cranks out books like no tomorrow. Tales of Mr. Rhee from Devil’s Due is his latest work. Recently, The Beat spoke to him to see what’s up with his latest entry into the comics world, what the comic con scene is like, and what is up with all those panels.
Seth Ferranti: You do a lot of panels at comic cons. Do you think you are the hardest working creator out there?
Dirk Manning: Oh, wow! You’re putting me on the spot right off the bat! [laughs] I’d be hesitant to say I’m the “hardest working creator in comics,” because, on a certain level, I think that makes it sounds like there’s a competition where there isn’t one. That being said, I suppose I’m one of the BUSIEST writers who’s not doing any work for the “Big Two” (yet). Last year I did 37 conventions and in-store appearances– including 24 appearances in 18 weeks – in support of my books such as Tales of Mr. Rhee from Devil’s Due, Nightmare World, Love Stories (To Die For) and Dia de Los Muertos from Image Comics, The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West from Big Dog Ink and the Write or Wrong collection from Caliber. I’d like to think that we ALL work hard… but I can say for certain that between all my writing and book touring, I stay very BUSY, at least. [laughs]
Ferranti: What’s it like going to the comic cons all the time?
Manning: As anyone who’s done a lot of conventions can tell you, it takes a lot of stamina and energy to be “on your game” when you’re doing multiple conventions… especially when you’re doing them back to back to back to back to back…etc. [laughs] Admittedly, due to what I post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, a lot of people think that “Life on the Road” (as I label it) is all about hanging out with my “con family,” signing books, hosting panels, and eating a lot of ice cream… but the truth of the matter is that it’s really a lot of work to set-up at conventions as a professional… especially when you’re a one-man-show like I am. When I’m doing a show I’m almost always running my own tables and my own panels… and even fun work like that is work. Basically, doing conventions almost every weekend of the year (after working a day job every weekday and writing almost every weeknight) means rarely getting to sleep in, rarely having any “downtime” for video games or Netflix…but that being said, I wouldn’t trade where I’m at in my career right now for anything in the world.
Ferranti: What is your book, Write or Wrong: A Writer’s Guide to Creating Comics, about?
Manning: Write or Wrong is primarily a collection of my inspirational/how-to columns that ran on another website for several years, now slightly revised and updated for print. There are a lot of books out there about how to write scripts and such, but Write or Wrong is a book for people who know they can write and would like guidance and advice on how to MAKE COMICS even if they can’t draw them themselves, including advice and guidance on meeting and working with artists, keeping your team going, and really how to deal with the roadblocks life can – and most likely will – throw at you as you take that journey.
Ferranti: Is that also the concept behind your Write or Wrong: LIVE! panels?
Manning: The panels – and the book, really – are both my way of “paying it forward.” Sometimes people come up to me and say “Aren’t you afraid that you’re helping the competition?” and I always get a playful chuckle out of that before explaining that, as a writer, you should have no competition, because you should be writing books only YOU can write. That aside, I have a few Write or Wrong: LIVE! panels that are especially popular, including “The 10 Commandments of Working With Artists” and “Building Your Brand as a Creator (or: Doing the Work is Only the First Step)”… and I suppose the names give a pretty fair description of what they’re both about. [laughs]
Ferranti: What other panels do you do at the comic cons?
Manning: Over the last year or so I’ve had the pleasure of teaming-up with with Buddy Scalera of Comic Book School and doing mini-presentations (or, as he loving calls them, “sermons”) to lead-off his Creator Connection panels at C2E2 and New York Comic Con. Thus far my motivational bits have been VERY well-received, so that’s nice. Several people from the Creator Connection panels have already come back to me at later shows to show me books they created after hearing me speak and getting help from Buddy in meeting co-creators… so that’s really rewarding.
Ferranti: What’s the concept and storyline of the Tales of Mr. Rhee series?
Manning: Tales of Mr. Rhee is about a magician who lives in a world where, after the Armageddon and Rapture has happened, everyone left behind wants to think things are back to normal again. Mr. Rhee knows they aren’t, though, and is trying to convince people of what’s REALLY going on in the world – even though they don’t want to admit it.As a result, it’s very much a “man-against-society” type of book… almost a H.P. Lovecraft meets George Orwell kind of horror… with some Franz Kafka mixed in for a little extra creepiness and despair.
Ferranti: What would you tell someone they can get out of reading Tales of Mr. Rhee?
Manning: A lot of what publishers call “horror” comics are really super-hero comics in disguise, where, instead of super-heroes they have magicians and instead of super-villains they have monsters… but that is NOT the case with Tales of Mr. Rhee. Rather, Tales of Mr. Rhee is a straight-up horror comic that really studies what it would be like to live in a world where our protagonist know nasty things exist in the shadows and the effect that knowledge has on him long-term… especially when everyone else is in such denial. Imagine being that one person who knew that monsters and demons were real – or, in this case, still skulking around Earth. How would you make friends? Or work a job? Or even trust anybody – ever – knowing they could be some sort of demon or vampire or monster sympathizer or something? That’s what Tales of Mr. Rhee is about: The toll being a “monster-hunter” would really take on someone over time…
Ferranti: You recently finished Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 2: Karmageddon. When is the release date?
Manning: We recently wrapped-up a very successful Kickstarter for Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 2 via Devil’s Due through Kickstarter (pulling in just shy of $20,000 inpre-orders!), so the Kickstarter backers are going to get their books first. The Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 2: Karmageddon TPB is been solicited for an October release in comic stores across the country, though, so people who missed the Kickstarter can get a copy that way. Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 1: Procreation (of the Wicked) also recently sold-out of its first print run, so Devil’s Due will be resoliciting the new printing of that book when Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 3 starts as a five-issue mini-series early next year. The good thing about Tales of Mr. Rhee, though, is that you can pick-up any volume and just dive right into it. That’s a priority in ANYTHING I do: Making sure anyone can pick-up any TPB I’ve written, read it, and know exactly what’s going on. In my opinion that’s what all comic creators should strive for, as it’s entirely possible to tell big, complex, and engaging stories without requiring readers to buy the previous three dozen issues to understand what’s going on.
Ferranti: You’ve had a long career to date… what are some of the highlights?
Manning: I self-publishing my first comic series Nightmare World online back in 2002, and back then I couldn’t understand why digital comics and online comic distribution weren’t a bigger thing… so I’m of course super-excited to see that platforms like Comixology are now being so strongly embraces by readers and publishers alike. That aside, I have to say that working with Riley Rossmo (Constantine: the Hellblazer) and Eric Powell (The Goon) on the covers to the first two Tales of Mr. Rhee collected editions, respectively, has been a professional highlight, for sure, as they’re two of my favorite comic artists currently working in the industry.
Ferranti: What is up with Nightmare World?
Manning: Shadowline Comics, which is Jim Valentino’s partner studio of Image Comics, ran Nightmare World in syndication as part of their online comics hub when it still existed, and from there went on to publish three-fourths of the series over the course of three TPB collections. That being said, there’s still ¼ of the series not in print, and not a convention or signing appearance goes by where people aren’t asking me about releasing one last Nightmare World collection or – better yet – an omnibus that collects all 52 eight-page stories in one giant book. I switched gears away from Nightmare World for a few years to launch Tales of Mr. Rhee and the first Write or Wrong collection in print, but that being said, I know that people are clamoring for one last Nightmare World book to cap-off the series – especially since the events of Nightmare World and Tales of Mr. Rhee are more clearly becoming intertwined – so I fully intend to release Nightmare World Vol. 4 sooner than later at this point. Stay tuned to all my social media outlets and my personal webpage for details!
Ferranti:What comics did you like growing up?
Manning: I didn’t really get into comics until my teens, at which time I started with Peter David’s run on The Incredible Hulk. Then, I started reading Ghost Rider before moving into the works of Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Mike Mignola, David Lapham, and Japanese horror comic master Junji Ito, all of whom continue to have a huge influence on my writing to this very day.
Ferranti: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Manning:My inspiration is writing comics that only I can contribute to the world and then bringing them to life with some of the most talented up-and-coming artists in the industry. Take Tales of Mr. Rhee, for example. The “magical monster hunter” trope has been done to death in comics, especially, but I can guarantee you that there’s no other comics out there like Tales of Mr. Rhee.
Ferrnti:What’s next for Dirk Manning?
Manning: My writing schedule right now consists of Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 3, Nightmare World Vol. 4, Tales of Mr. Rhee Vol. 4, Write or Wrong Vol. 2, and a few other projects on my plate… not to mention any other opportunities that I may take-up along the way, of course. Honestly, due to how much I love doing my own creator-owned comics I say “No” to a lot of things, but even if I just stick to that list of creator-owned projects listed above – not to mention all of my touring across the convention circuit – it’s going to be a very busy 2016 for me, for sure! [laughs]
Dirk’s personal website, complete with tour schedule, can be found at www.DirkManning.com, He’s also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr under the handle “DirkManning” at each site.
Seth Ferranti writes for VICE, The Fix, Don Diva and other media outlets. He runs www.gorillaconvict.com, www.thegr1nd.com and has 8 true crime books out, one of which, The Supreme Team, is now being adapted into a graphic novel with Stache Publishing.