Interview: Dirk Manning

Today, we talk to comics author Dirk Manning. We’ve interviewed him in the past. This time, we’re talking about his latest volume of Mythos comic Nightmare World:

IFP: Please tell us a little about yourself.

DM: My name is ‘Dirk Manning’ and I’m the writer and creator of Nightmare World and Tales of Mr. Rhee for Image Comics/Shadowline, and the author of the inspirational/”how-to” column for writers, titled “Write or Wrong”, at www.Newsarama.com.

I’m a huge horror geek – especially for H.P. Lovecraft – as is evident especially in Nightmare World, which is a horror comics series more than a little steeped in Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

IFP: Before we get to that specifically, what is the Nightmare World project about?

DM: Nightmare World is a series of 52 standalone short stories, all written by me and drawn by different artists or art teams. It’s a horror book in the vein of EC Comics or The Twilight Zone (rather than “torture porn” or “blood and boobies”), but what makes Nightmare World so unique is that, though every story in the series (which is 13 stories per printed volume of the book) is a standalone story, as you read them all, you will see how they start to weave together as part of one GIANT story that, again, involved the Cthulhu Mythos quite a bit as you progress through Nightmare World Volume 1, 2 and 3, respectively….

IFP: How does Nightmare World tie into Lovecraft’s Mythos?

DM: As I said a moment ago, Nightmare World is a series of standalone stories that all, over time, weave together into one giant story…and a big plot element of that “uber-story” is now that Lucifer is involved in awakening Cthulhu to kick-start Armageddon, the Rapture, and the final war with Heaven, so that he can (hopefully) take control of Earth.

Admittedly, we’re sort of “mashing up” both Biblical lore and the Cthulhu Mythos…but with rather wonderful results, if I do say so myself. [laughs]

Heck, aside from the Lovecraft mythos and the Biblical aspect of things, we also work in stuff about Lilith, some fairy folk lore…all sorts of stuff. Heck, we even tossed in a dash of “superhero” stuff, just to make it really interesting…and it all plays a part in the bigger picture of Nightmare World.

Make no mistake, though: The “biggest” part of the backstory is clearly the Cthulhu stuff. We first get a taste of the Cult of Cthulhu (literally) in Nightmare World, Volume 1: 13

Tales of Terror and then we see a huge Lovecraft monster battle royal in Nightmare World Volume 2: Leave the Light On, when Cthulhu and company take on the forces of Heaven in “Disasterpiece”, as well as the last superhero on Earth in “Without You I’m Nothing”, and then, in Nightmare World Volume 3: Demon Days, we see how the priestess from the first book was pulled into the Cult of Cthulhu, as well as why Lucifer needed Cthulhu awakened in the first place.

It’s really cool stuff for Lovecraft fans, especially. I mean, how many other comics are out there where you can see Cthulhu batting away swarms of angels who are trying to take him down with flaming swords à la King Kong on top of the Empire State Building? [laughs]

IFP: What is the most important thing a reader new to Nightmare World needs to know?

DM: Well, I’d say there’s two things….

First, the 13 stories in each volume are all standalone, genre-hopping short stories that can be read – literally – in any order. In other words, you don’t need to start with Nightmare World Volume 1, nor even with the first story in that volume. The stories are all little slices of a bigger whole, and even in the print collections, we tell the stories a bit out of order…sort of like a horror version of Pulp Fiction, if that makes sense.

Second, and here’s the real kicker: If this series sounds interesting, but you’re not sure you want to buy the books, well, a “basic” version of the whole 52-story series is online for free at www.ShadowlineOnline.com under the “Webcomics” section. Point blank, I have nothing to hide and I feel the series is good enough that, if people read it online for free, they’ll like it enough to want to buy the nice print collections of the book, where we have remastered a lot of the art (and, in some cases, gone back and completely re-illustrated some of the stories for the print books). After all, it’s a lot easier to read these stories in print form in the bathroom – that way, the laptop won’t be burning your legs, you know? [laughs]

IFP: What prompted you to put out a new volume?

DM: Honestly, it was largely due to the fantastic response everyone had to the first two print collections.

Like I said, the whole series is already available online (in a basic form) for free, so when Shadowline started publishing the books in print, we really wanted to make it “a big deal” and worth people’s investment. So, we went back and remastered a lot of the art, added some cool bonus stuff (such as an exclusive, in-continuity prose story to each volume and gorgeous, full-painted wrap-around covers)…and people who had previously read Nightmare World online, or were new to the series, responded very, very well to them…which made all of us involved very happy, of course.

It’s cool to publish the book online and all, but when all is said and done, I love BOOKS, so it’s nice to actually have these stories physically collected in that way, in these nice – but affordable – prestige format graphic novel collections.

IFP: How is the third volume different from the first two?

DM: In the first two Nightmare World collections, we were a bit…”coy”…about how much the stories were all really connected…but with Nightmare World Volume 3: Demon Days, we really start pulling back the curtain with the first story and never stop. [laughs]

In Nightmare World Volume 3, everything comes to light and we really show just how connected all these seemingly standalone stories really are.

It’s cool because each book can still be read as an anthology of standalone stories…but when you put them all togethe,r you’ll see what a big world has been created at the same time, right before your eyes.

IFP: Did extending the story change your original view of it? If so, in what way?

DM: When I first started self-publishing Nightmare World as an online comic series back in 2002, I was never sure how far I would get to go with the series. I knew in my mind what I wanted the full scope of the series to be…but I was reluctant to make that “big picture” too obvious, in case, for whatever reason, we wouldn’t be able to see it all the way to fruition. That’s why, first and foremost, we always wanted people to be able to read and enjoy Nightmare World as a series of standalone short stories, first and foremost.

As the series went on, though, it became a big hit for us and it became evident to all of us involved that people were reading and enjoying the series, so around the time of our 25th story, we decided to go ahead and start showing the “connective tissue” that pulled everything together…and that led us to a total of 52 different short stories, wherein we tell all sorts of genre-hopping tales of terror that also serve as one giant story about Lucifer’s plan to awaken Cthulhu to kick-start the Armageddon.

IFP: How did you choose the artists to illustrate the stories?

DM: Many of the artists featured in Nightmare World were artists whose work I found online and liked enough that I invited them to do a story for the series…and oftentimes, we all enjoyed working with each other so much that we ended up working together several times over the course of Nightmare World. That’s why the front cover of every book reads, “Dirk Manning and Friends”…All of the artists involved in each book are my friends and it was their shared enthusiasm about the series that helped bring Nightmare World to life and make it as successful and as great of a read as it is.

More so, though, I also always went out of my way to match the scripts to the artists. For example, it’s no coincidence that most of the formal Cthulhu and Lucifer appearances are drawn by Josh Ross, as he was the man who best captured the feel of both characters, respectively.

Matching the right scripts to the right artists is what also makes the series so strong – and it’s why, in some cases, I waited YEARS for some of the artists to have the time to draw their particular stories. I mean, really, who else but Renae de Liz could do justice to “Violet” from Nightmare World Vol. 1, for example?

It’s the same for every story: Each script was specifically written with each specific artist in mind…and that’s why the series works so well and, quite frankly, so much better than the “hit

and miss” approach of so many other anthology-style books.

IFP: Please tell us about your future projects.

DM: Now that Nightmare World is, for all intents and purposes, done (although I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of a fourth and final Nightmare World book that collects the last 13 stories from the online series in print at some point), our new project from Shadowline Comics is Tales of Mr. Rhee, which we publish online for free every Tuesday and Thursday at www.ShadowlineOnline.com.

Tales of Mr. Rhee is technically a spin-off series of Nightmare World (as can be seen in the first story, when Mr. Rhee is seen examining a certain Cthulhu idol at the house of another sorcerer), but that’s secondary to the story itself, which is a story about a very cryptic paranormal troubleshooter, trying to survive and thrive in a post-Armageddon world.

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 really sums things up right there. [laughs]

It’s also a bit “darker” than Nightmare World, which I tried to keep at a solid PG-13+ level of horror. Rhee goes past that a bit in terms of the shocking events that happen…but, again, it’s not torture-porn or blood and boobies, either.

All 13 stories in the first volume of this series are being drawn by Josh Ross, who also drew most of the Cthulhu-based stories in Nightmare World, so that might give you a hint as to some of the places this story will be going over time….

IFP: Where can people find you and/or Nightmare World Volume 3: Demon Days, online or in person?

DM: I’m always posting away on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/DirkManning) and Twitter (www.Twitter.com/DirkManning), so those are two easy ways for people to keep tabs on what I’m doing and the comics I have coming out.

As for the Nightmare World books, the first two volumes are available for purchase at any bookstore, 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 copy to boot. The CD is a special remix of the song “H.P. Lovecraft” by the industrial/metal band Cockfight Club, that features an intro and outro skit, written and performed by me – one that takes place in Nightmare World continuity. DCBS are 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.

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’ll be hitting a lot of the major conventions with Shadowline Comics.

I’m very easy to find online, though, so I encourage people to check out Nightmare World and, if they like, to drop me a line and let me know what they think! It’s all about the love of good Lovecraftian horror, you know? Us uber-fans need to stick together. [laughs]

Bio: Dirk Manning is the writer/creator of Nightmare World and the column “Write or Wrong” for www.Newsarama.com, in which he gives tips, anecdotes and advice to help aspiring writers create their own comics. He loves life and hates ninjas. Cthulhu is his homeboy.

IFP

About IFP

Keep Innsmouth going! Purchase our anthologies and books.

IFPInterview: Dirk Manning