DIRK MANNING INTERVIEW
Dirk Manning has written an epic story in bits and pieces in Nightmare World. This October, the third volume of the series, titled Nightmare World: Volume 3 - Demon Days, will be released from Image Comics/Shadowline. Nightmare World has been described as “The Cthulhu Mythos meets Paradise Lost.” Each of the 13 eight-page stories in each collection exists as part of a larger tale but can be read on its own within the anthology-style series.
Dirk took time out of his insane schedule to sit down with HorrorTalk for an interview.
James Ferguson: First off, I promise I’m not going to ask you if all of these stories are connected. That’s a given at this point. Where did this story come from? There are a lot of pieces of various myths and legends throughout Nightmare World (e.g. Cthulhu, Armageddon, Werewolves). How did you decide what to include and what to exclude?
Dirk Manning: Despite all of the stories in Nightmare World being connected as part of a bigger story, first and foremost I wanted to make sure that each story in the series could and would stand on its own as a complete and independent short story… and that I would also devote each story to a different subgenre of horror.
So how did I decide what to include? Well, over the course of the 52 stories that make-up the series, we covered EVERYTHING and literally left no stone in the world of horror unturned.
JF: How did you decide which stories received the print treatment and in which volume?
DM: Because we initially released the whole series online at www.ShadowlineOnline.com, there was some (obvious) concern as to whether or not people would support the stories in print. I mean, sure, people had been asking for that for years, but to err on the side of caution (and to keep the collections as “new-reader-friendly”) as possible we decided that, with Nightmare World: Volume 1 - 13 Tales of Terror the book would be just that: 13 seemingly stand-alone tales of terror with very few – if any – clues as to the “big picture” of the series. The original fans of the series really supported the book and a bunch of new readers got behind the series for the first time in print, leading to that first volume doing really well for us and opening the door to future collections being a possibility.
The following Halloween we released Nightmare World: Volume 2 - Leave the Light On, and with this collection we started to pick more stories that showed the “interconnectivity” of this big world while also maintaining the same approach we used with the first volume of telling 13 different genre-hopping stand-alone short stories. Many readers picked-up on this right away, while others went back and re-read the first book and only then started to see how everything was slowly weaving together – much to their amazement! [laughs]
JF: For the record, I’ve read all three volumes and I’m still figuring it out.
DM: With Nightmare World: Volume 2 we also went back and remastered a bunch of the art and again included some nice bonus materials (such as an exclusive print-only prose story) that you can only get in the print edition of the book.
With Nightmare World: Volume 3 - Demon Days, which is being released this October, we decided to treat this collection as if it’s the third-act of a play and REALLY pull back the curtain to show just how much of one giant story we’re telling here with these thirteen seemingly stand-alone short stories in each collection, an uber-story that involves Lucifer manipulating a hapless mortal into awakening Cthulhu to kick-start the Armageddon. From the very first story in Nightmare World: Volume 3 we start to show how it’s all been happening… but again while keeping each story dedicated to a different genre of horror as well as completely self-contained to boot. After asking people to really pay close attention in order to make the connections in the first two books, with Nightmare World: Volume 3 we really decided to just blow the doors off the place starting with the wrap-around cover itself and taking that approach all the way through to the very last page.
It was a lot of work to make this series, but the pay-off is huge, you know? I mean, where else are you going to read well-written and beautifully-illustrated short stories about horror-topics/genres ranging from Cthulhu to barbarians to ghosts to zombies to Sherlock Holmes to aliens to Bigfoot vs. The Loch Ness Monster to heavy metal music to ninjas vs. samurais to the fairy folk to Lucifer to Lilith – each drawn by a different artist or art team – and have them all tie into one giant uber-story all at the same time? [laughs]
JF: Is there an intended reading order for Nightmare World? Or a chronological one?
DM: Because of the anthology-style approach I took with this series, you can read the individual books – and even the individual stories within each book – in any order.
I mean, sure, there’s a certain chronological order to the events of a lot of the stories (for example, the Cthulhu mythos story Frozen in Nightmare World: Volume 3 obviously takes place before You Oughta Know and Disasterpiece from the first two books), but I wrote the stories – and even published them online at www.ShadowlineOnline.com (where they can still be read for free in a basic version) out of order to begin with to enhance the reading experience. I mean, it’s a lot cooler to learn the origins and involvement of certain characters in certain stories only after we’ve seen them in action a bit, you know?
Think of it as a Pulp Fiction approach to telling the story, if that makes sense. Nightmare World is kind of like Pulp Fiction for horror fans. [laughs]
JF: The third volume, Nightmare World: Volume 3 - Demon Days, is out this October and while it ties a lot of loose ends up, there are still another 13 stories that are unpublished in print. Are there plans for a fourth volume?
DM: That’s the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind! [laughs]
As you said, we definitely “tie everything into a bow” with Nightmare World: Volume 3, but, admittedly, there are a few tiny teasers in this book that allude to some unanswered questions, for sure.
Will we collect those last 13 stories in print next October or at some point down the road? Honestly… I don’t know. Part of me wants to have the whole series in print (of course), but the flip side is that A LOT of work goes into preparing these stories for print. As anyone who has read the books and compared them to the online version of the series can tell you, we’ve put A LOT of work into remastering the stories for print, be it tweaking the lettering, recoloring a story or in some cases even having a new artist redraw it from scratch for print. A lot of work goes into making these collections by everyone involved… and there’s hardly a page in Nightmare World: Volume 3 that has gone untouched in the transition from web to print.
Considering this, and the fact that we pretty-much wrap-up the “big story” with Nightmare World: Volume 3… I’m not sure if we’re going to collect the last 13 stories into a Nightmare World: Volume 4 next year, or if we’ll wait a few years and release a giant “Omnibus Edition” of all 52 stories in this giant hardcover Nightmare World Bible or what.
Whatever we do – or don’t do – the remaining 13 stories are all online at www.ShadowlineOnline.com in the “Webcomics” section and will remain there forever, so completists out there who, say, REALLY want to know who the boy in Thelma Lushkin’s file at the end of In the Meantime is can go there and find out online for free.
All of that being said, though, if Nightmare World: Volume 3 sells really well I guess we’d have no choice but to start work on Nightmare World: Volume 4, so everyone that’s interested in this series and that happening should definitely pre-order a copy of Nightmare World: Volume 3 since creator-owned books live and die based on pre-orders.
JF: With Nightmare World concluded online, were there any stories that you wanted to tell but didn’t get the chance?
DM: Sort of… but not really. The Nightmare World story in and of itself is told to the extent that I wanted it told… but over the course of writing the stories for the series I found that there were some stories I wanted to tell that were simply too big to be done justice in the eight-page format… and those stories are now being written and illustrated as a series on 22-page full-length one-shot issues that we’ll be publishing either online or in print (or both) down the road a bit. I should note, though, that these stories will NOT take place in the Nightmare World universe or continuity.
For people who want to stick abound in the Nightmare World universe, though, there’s Tales of Mr. Rhee, a spin-off-series (of sorts) that takes place in that same world and is published online every Tuesday and Thursday at www.ShadowlineOnline.com.
Tales of Mr. Rhee is a much darker series than Nightmare World, too… but we’ll talk about it more in a bit. [laughs]
JF: You’re well known for the popular “Write or Wrong" column at www.Newsarama.com, a “how-to” tutorial for writers on creating comics. You seem to be living the indie comic creator’s dream with Nightmare World by taking it from self-published web content to a printed copy from a major publisher. Do you have any suggestions for newcomers looking to get into comics as you did?
DM: You mean besides going to the “Write or Wrong” page at https://www.newsarama.com/topic/write-or-wrong and reading all the older columns that are still available online? [laughs]
I’d say the biggest mistake that I see aspiring creators – especially writers – making is trying to find artists to draw their giant 60-issue series they’ve had in their head (and hearts) since they were 12-years-old.
To use a great analogy my letterer and friend Jim Reddington often tells, “Approaching an artist and asking him to draw your 60 issue series is like walking-up to the hottest girl in a bar and asking her to marry you.”
Creating comics IS a marriage… and it’s something you need to ease into with an artist. Considering this, you need to start by presenting an artist with an idea for a SHORT story (as in 5 to 8 pages AT MOST), and even then make sure it’s something the artist (or artists) you want to work with will be interested in drawing.
I used this approach and it’s EXACTLY why so many amazing artists (many of whom have now gone on to much bigger projects) worked with me on Nightmare World over the years.
That being said, though, starting small with an artist can lead to the two of you working together a lot more in the future, including on bigger things. Heck, Josh Ross basically ignored my first request to work with him, but when I e-mailed him a second time with a different story idea we started talking and he ended-up drawing Welcome to the Jungle. From there we started doing more and more stories together, and before long he became the most prolific artist of the whole Nightmare World series (drawing seven stories in the series), and once we finished Nightmare World he then went on to draw all 13 chapters of the first volume of Tales of Mr. Rhee as well.
Years later he was the best man in my wedding, and just a few months ago I was in his wedding party.
All of this happened by starting small… so there you have it. START SMALL with your artists and build-up your professional – and perhaps even personal – relationships from there. That’s the best advice I can give aspiring creators in a nutshell.
JF: If you could sum up Nightmare World in one sentence, what would it be?
DM: A recent reviewer said “Dirk Manning’s Nightmare World is to horror what Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is to fantasy,” and I can’t think of a better (or more flattering) summary than that.
JF: What are you working on next?
DM: As I mentioned a few minutes ago, now that Nightmare World is finished (at least in regards to new online stories) we’re currently focusing most heavily of Tales of Mr. Rhee at the moment. Tales of Mr. Rhee is technically a spin-off of Nightmare World in the sense that it takes place in the same “universe” as Nightmare World and even features some of the characters from that series (just as Mr. Rhee himself makes small cameos in both Nightmare World: Volume 2 and 3), but that’s more “Easter Egg” stuff than anything else, as you need no prior knowledge of Nightmare World at all to read and enjoy Tales of Mr. Rhee, which publishes every Tuesday and Thursday at www.ShadowlineOnline.com without fail.
The tagline for Tales of Mr. Rhee is “If you have to call Mr. Rhee, it’s already too late for a happy ending,” and that pretty much sums-up the basic plot of the series right there. Mr. Rhee is a cryptic paranormal trouble-shooter trying to survive and thrive in a post Armageddon/Rapture world… and as I said a moment ago, several characters and even a few plot-threads from Nightmare World creep into the series over time… but when all is said and done it’s a brand-new stand-alone series that is definitely a little darker and edgier for horror fans to enjoy.
Aside from that, several full-length 22-page one-shots are in the works, but it will be a bit before those see the light of day even though the first two are already in the can. Right now we’re just focusing on Nightmare World: Volume 3 and Tales of Mr. Rhee.
All of that aside, I still write my ”Write or Wrong” column for www.Newsarama.com as often as I can, which is usually at least once a month. I also keep threatening to put out a print book collection that collects most of the columns from that series, too... so there’s that to look forward to at some point as well.
JF: Where can people find you and your work online and in-person?
DM: Nightmare World and Tales of Mr. Rhee are both available to read at www.ShadowlineOnline.com under the webcomics section, but people can also instantly be notified of updates via my Twitter account or Facebook page.
As for the getting the Nightmare World books in print, the first two volumes are available for purchase at any book store, comic book shop or even at www.Amazon.com. Nightmare World: Volume 3 - Demon Days will be out the first week of October (Happy Halloween!) and is currently available for pre-order at all of the above locations.
Additionally, I think it’s worth specifically pointing out to your readers that www.DCBService.com – a really great online vendor for comics and graphic novels – is offering pre-ordered copies of Nightmare World: Volume 3 at a whopping 50% off cover price *and* offering a free exclusive music CD with every pre-ordered copy to boot. The CD is a special remix of the song “H.P. Lovecraft” by the industrial/metal band Cockfight Club and it features an intro and outro skit written and performed by me – one that takes place in Nightmare World continuity. DCBService is a very, very good online vendor and I’m happy to do this promotion with them – especially for people who don’t have local comic shops and need to get their comics via mail-order. They’re also re-offering the first two Nightmare World books for 40% off cover price too, that way people can really maximize their savings on shipping and such, which is very cool of them. The direct link to this offer is right HERE and I can’t recommend ordering the book through them enough if you want to get the books at a deep discount and get the exclusive music CD to boot.
Finally, as for in-person appearances and conventions, I’ll be appearing at the Detroit Fanfare comic convention at the end of September, doing a signing-tour throughout the Midwest to celebrate the release of Nightmare World: Volume 3 - Demon Days in October, and then hitting the Mid-Ohio Con in November. After that I’ll probably be recuperating until Spring, at which time I I’ll be hitting a lot of the major conventions with Shadowline Comics.
It’s going to be a busy year, but you know what they say about there being no rest for the wicked, right? [laughs]
JF: Thank you for your time, Dirk. Look for Nightmare World: Volume 3 - Demon Days at your local comic shop. As this is a creator owned project, we highly suggest pre-ordering the book at your shop. You can also order it on Amazon or at the aforementioned DCBService.
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