Comic Creator interview
with Dirk Manning
Name: Dirk Manning
City: Hell, Michigan
Comics: Tales of Mr. Rhee (Devil’s Due) & Nightmare World (Image/Shadowline) are my two biggest creator owned franchises, although I’ve also done stories for The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West (Big Dog Ink), Dia De Los Muesrtos (Image), Grimm Fairy Tales (Zenescope) & more. I’m also the author of the online column & book Write or Wrong: A Writer’s Guide to Creating Comics.
Websites: www.DirkManning.com as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Tumblr @DirkManning
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Dirk – I first started seriously getting into comics when I was 13 years old. I’d been a various reader all my life up to that point (& still am) & I loved the idea of having new material to read about interesting characters every month.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Dirk – The Incredible Hulk #364, written by Peter David. I bought it at a local skateboard shop that started carrying a lot of comics. I was familiar with The Hulk from the old TV show & I liked how they marketed the “Countdown” story as “Part 4 of 1.” I thought that was really clever.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Dirk – About 27, give or take. It was Nightmare World, which I started publishing as an online comic in about 2002.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Dirk – This one, no question. We’re living in a true new golden age of comics.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Dirk – To quote the late, great Harvey Pekar: “Comics are worlds & pictures & you can do anything with words & pictures.” There’s a way of telling stories using the comic book medium that can’t be done any other way… & it’s fascinating.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Dirk – That depends on the intent of the person creating them.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Dirk – When I first took Nightmare World to print I went the print-on-demand route & I sold the books at Wizard World: Chicago & the Pittsburgh Comic Con… so not many.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Dirk – I think it’s a case-by-case basis, depending on the product, but ideally standard 22-page comics shouldn’t be more than a few bucks a pop.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Dirk – I always have at least one new creator-owned graphic novel out a year… but I also oftentimes have stories in anthologies & such, too. That being said, I’d like to get to the point where I’m doing at least two creator-owned graphic novels a year along with some miscellaneous side-projects here & there.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Dirk – Depends on the project & what would best suit the story.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Dirk – Comic strips are usually working towards a gag or cliffhanger every few panels… which has its place… but I’m much more of a book guy, myself.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Dirk – This really depends on the art team I’m working with & the schedule we’ve set for the book…. But it’s usually at least a few months, minimum.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Dirk – Appreciate the nuances when they’re there.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Dirk – I have written so many comics that I can now usually “thumbnail” pages in my head… but there are still times when I will actually sit down & draw it out (crudely) on paper to see how it will look or to perhaps more clearly communicate my vision to the artist for consideration.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Dirk – My workstation is constantly evolving piles of clutter surrounded by hundreds of books.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Dirk – I started publishing my work online back in 2002, so, as you can imagine, I’m a huge fan of using digital distribution to help promote your work & make it accessible to readers.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Dirk – Depends on the project. We did Tales of Mr. Rhee Volume 1 all in grayscales, like an old film noir, because that’s the aesthetic we wanted to create. We then did Volume 2 (& the upcoming Volume 3) in full color.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Dirk – That really depends on the skill sets of the people involved. Every creator owes it to every reader -- & the work itself -- to get the best person possible for each position, be it writing, illustrating, inking, coloring, lettering, etc.
QRD – How do you find collaborators?
Dirk – Almost exclusively online, although I’ve occasionally met great collaborators at conventions.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling the artist what to draw?
Dirk – I write VERY full scripts, but then I also give the illustrators the freedom to interpret what I write as they see fit… & if there’s a difference we iron it out together. It’s a marriage, you know?
QRD – Do you think it’s important to have a full story arc completely written before starting to draw?
Dirk – Not necessarily, although I think it helps for the illustrator to at least have a sense of where things are going. From a writing perspective, I think it’s always best to know your ending before you start, though.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Dirk – Well, I’m not sure I’d exactly call him a comic book person, per se, but having my writing compared to that of Harlan Ellison would be a helluva compliment for me.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Dirk – Honestly, I think they’re usually surprised they’re so dark considering what an otherwise upbeat & cheerful person I am!
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Dirk – Overall they’re not my cup of tea, but as with any type of characters, there’s good stories that can be told with them.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Dirk – Creator-owned.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Dirk – Honestly, I’ve yet to be in a real hurry to play with other people’s toys since I tend to focus on my own books so much… but that being said, I’d love to go back & do some more writing for The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West by Big Dog Ink. Writing a Midnight Sons book for Marvel could be a lot of fun, too, under the right circumstances.
QRD – Ideally would you self-publish?
Dirk – I’ve done it a lot, but I prefer to work with a publisher who can help me do some of the “heavy lifting” necessary to get the books printed & out into the marketplace, both brick & mortar & online.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Dirk – I did 37 conventions & signing appearances last year & as of June of this year I’ve already done about 20. I love doing conventions because they’re a great place to build exposure for my work… & sell the books, of course.
QRD – How do you feel about doing work for anthologies?
Dirk – Love ‘em. I contributed to two -- Unlawful Good & Then It Was Dark -- in the past year alone.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Dirk – Conventions & social media are really my one-two punch. Some of my readers even created a Facebook group called “The F(r)iends of Dirk Manning Support Group” which was pretty surreal… & has been a real blast.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Dirk – Absolutely! I think both my Nightmare World & Tales of Mr. Rhee fill niches a lot of readers are looking to fill & can’t with any other titles.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Dirk – I really make comics to make comics, but were my work to be transferred to other mediums I think Nightmare World would work really well as an anthology-style TV series a la The Twilight Zone & that Tales of Mr. Rhee would work well as a film franchise.
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Dirk – I love books, but I buy books to read them rather than collect them.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Dirk – Digital issues & print collections.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Dirk – Creator-owned work, hands-down.
QRD – Anything else?
Dirk – I love to help other creators make comics, & that was the impetus behind Write or Wrong: A Writer’s Guide to Creating Comics & the Write or Wrong: Live! panels I host at numerous conventions across the country. I split my time between appearing at comic conventions around the country, haunting all social media platforms @DirkManning & writing. More details can be found at www.DirkManning.com for those interested in learning more!