Interview: Dirk Manning

NWV1cover-web-letteredToday, we sit down with Dirk Manning, author of the Paradise Lost-meets-Lovecraft comic NIGHTMARE WORLD:

IFP: Tell us about your current project. What is NIGHTMARE WORLD about?

DM: NIGHTMARE WORLD is a series of 52 stand-alone, cerebral and genre-jumping horror stories each written by me and illustrated by a different art team. However, as you continue to read the series, you’ll start to see how all of the stories slowly bleed together to tell one giant, overarching story about, among other things, Lucifer’s plan to use Cthulhu and Lilith to wage one final and decisive battle against God for control of Creation.

I started NIGHTMARE WORLD as a self-published project online back in 2002, and we wrapped-up the whole series with the 52nd story last October…and then, last November, we were picked-up by Image Comics/Shadowline as part of their webcomics hub, where we’ve been re-releasing the whole series at the rate of a page a day every Monday-through-Thursday at www.NightmareWorld.com and it’s been an overwhelming success – a real “resurgence” for us.

In fact, the online series has been such a huge success that they’re releasing a trade paperback collection of thirteen of the first stories from the site this October, titled NIGHTMARE WORLD: “13 Tales of Terror” Vol. 1 with a bunch of cool extras not included in the online series, including a brand-new, in-continuity prose story called “The Long, Hard Road Out of Hell”. The book can be pre-ordered through any local comic book store with the Diamond Order Code “AUG09-0327,” through www.Amazon.com or even through wwwDCBService.com, who’s offering the book at 50% off cover price (making it only $7.99) and offering a bonus exclusive free NIGHTMARE WORLD script signed by me to boot!

So, as you can see, we’re doing what we can to make this book as accessible and affordable as possible for people to get their hands on. We believe in this title and we want everyone who wants a copy to read to be able to do just that.

IFP: What was the inspiration for your project?

DM: A lifetime of pain and misery, perhaps? [laughs]

I’m kidding…sort of. Honestly, with NIGHTMARE WORLD, my goal was to create the BEST modern horror anthology people could read…and as far as I (and most of the people who’ve read NIGHTMARE WORLD) are concerned, my team and I have done just that.

NIGHTMARE WORLD is creepy, unsettling, emotional and sometimes, even funny…and sometimes, all in one story! [laughs]

I grew-up on The Twilight Zone and of course, love the old EC Comics stuff, and I wanted to combine my love of good short stories as presented in these series – as well as by authors such as Poe, Bradbury and Ellison – with the idea of an “anthology” that, when read as a whole, also told one giant story without sacrificing any of the “stand-alone” qualities of the individual stories… and hence, NIGHTMARE WORLD was born.

IFP: What is your ultimate goal with NIGHTMARE WORLD? Where do you want it to end up (generally, without giving away the end)?

DM: I guess I sort of answered this a moment ago, explaining the idea of a series of stories that could stand alone but also read together to tell one giant story…but aside from that, I just want to make sure NIGHTMARE WORLD Vol. 1 sells well enough in print that we can get the whole series into print via four volumes of NIGHTMARE WORLD trade paperback collections. That way, people can read all 52 stories in print and see the whole grand thing unfold from their bookshelves and coffee tables.

I mean, reading it on the computer is all fine and well, but nothing beats being able to take an actual book into the bathroom with you, you know? [laughs]

IFP: How do you feel your project fits into its genre?

DM: Obviously, a lot of people want to categorize it as “horror”, and when all is said and done, it’s certainly more “horror” than anything else…but NIGHTMARE WORLD is definitely more of a “cerebral” and “unsettling” type of horror, more than, say, blood-and-guts, splatter-gore stuff.

I mean, hey, I’m not bashing that type of horror – and NIGHTMARE WORLD NW_01_013certainly contains its fair share of monsters and such – but what most people seem to appreciate about NIGHTMARE WORLD is that, yeah, while it’s a horror comic – it’s a horror comic that doesn’t cater to the lowest common denominators in horror, you know?

You can have monsters and undead serial killers and even Cthulhu – but you can also do it in a way that tells stories that are smart and scary at the same time.

IFP: What other projects have you done? Which was your favourite?

DM: Back when we were self-publishing NIGHTMARE WORLD, I ran two other online comic series at the site for a bit.

The first was TALES OF MR. RHEE, a very noir series about a supernatural trouble-shooter who goes by the moniker “Mr. Rhee” (get it?) and very quickly finds himself in over his head. Mr. Rhee instantly became an insanely popular character among readers – to the point that I still get weekly e-mails about him, asking when the series is going to return and finish the second six stories of “Volume One” of that series.

I also posted a twelve-page teaser story for more of an ensemble/other-worldly/fantasy-ish series called FARSEEKER on the original site – something I was a little nervous about doing since it wasn’t horror-based at all. It turns out that people really liked it, and that’s something else I’ll be returning to soon.

As for which is my favorite…I like them both equally for different reasons. [laughs]

IFP: How did you get into writing for comics?

DM: I’ve been an avid reader since I was about two years old, and when I first started seriously looking at comic books when I was about thirteen, I quickly realized that I wanted to write stories for this medium because you can tell stories using comics that you can’t do in any other way.

It all comes down to words and pictures…and you can do anything when combining words and pictures.

IFP: What drew you to mixing Lovecraft/Mythos with Christian mythology? Pitting Lucifer against Cthulhu? Whom are you rooting for?

DM: Well, it’s not so much Lucifer against Cthulhu as it is Lucifer using Cthulhu – and Lilith, the first wife of Adam and mother of a thousand-fold demons – as part of his plan to escape from Hell and take over the world.

As for what drew me to this approach/idea…well, if I was Lucifer, trapped in Hell, and desperately wanted to defeat God and drive him from Creation, well, that’s exactly what I would do. [laughs]

IFP: Tell us about some of the challenges you have encountered in making NIGHTMARE WORLD.

DM: Geez…how much time do you have? [laughs]

Self-publishing comics – even online – is a journey filled with obstacles. In fact, I write a column for www.Newsarama.com titled, “Write or Wrong”, in which I continue to offer advice and tips to aspiring creators while also discussing some ofNW_01_036 the hardships I experienced along the way.

The biggest “obstacle”, if you could call it that, was how, back when I was first getting started, so many people telling me that no one would ever read or publish NIGHTMARE WORLD because 1. It was an anthology and 2. It was a horror anthology.

Seven years later, we’re now more popular than ever and being published by Image/Shadowline Comics, while many of those nay-sayers never even got their projects off the ground…so, I guess we showed them, huh? [laughs]

IFP: Name your favourite comic and why.

DM: Right now, I’m really loving The Walking Dead, The Goon, Rex Mundi, Fables and Scalped the most…although, I think the upcoming Shadowline title Cowboy Ninja Viking – which is also released in October – has the potential to become my favorite comic ever…even though I have a legendary hatred of ninjas. [laughs]

IFP: Who do you think has influenced your style the most?

DM: Harlan Ellison and Alan Moore were undoubtedly my two biggest literary influences and heroes…although, I also owe a lot to Poe, Bradbury and even Shakespeare, believe it or not.

My other main influence doesn’t even come from the world of literature, though, but rather from music. I’ve always loved how singer Mike Patton (most famously of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle) has always followed his own heart and created the type of music he’s wanted to create, regardless of genre. I had a chance to meet him and talk to him a bit several years ago and when we talked about this, the passion and fire in his eyes made me realize that, yes, you should follow your heart and create what you want to create, regardless of how “different” it is from the last thing you did.

In the end, quality will usually win out.

IFP: What artistic accomplishment are you the most proud of in your career so far?

DM: Hands-down, it would be creating NIGHTMARE WORLD, being able to finish all 52 stories in the series with the help of so many talented artists who believed in me and the concept behind it, and then getting picked-up by Image/Shadowline Comics.

IFP: If you could be a Lovecraft/Mythos monster, which one would you be? Why?

DM: I know he’s not a monster, per se, but I identify with Randolph Carter waaaaaaaaaaay too much for my own good. [laughs]

IFP: Do you have a favourite Lovecraft/Mythos story? If so, which one is it?

DM: I know this is a clichĂ© answer, but I still think “The Call of Cthulhu” is one of the best horror stories ever written.

IFP: Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

DM: Honestly, right now, all of my focus is on NIGHTMARE WORLD – both this first print edition coming out as well as the online series.

However, Josh Ross and I are still picking away at the last six stories of TALES OF MR. RHEE, so that, hopefully, when NIGHTMARE WORLD wraps up its run online in about a year, we can dovetail right into that.

That aside, Len O’Grady and I will be returning to FARSEEKER, soon – due, in no small part, to fan outcry as well as that of my daughter, who read it and loved it. [laughs]

Finally, I have a few more projects I’m working on that I’d like to see come to light in 2010, including a crime book with Anthony Peruzzo and a few ideas for honest-to-goodness children’s books for Silverline Books, the Shadowline imprint for kids.

IFP: What is your dream project?

Much like the fans, I love TALES OF MR. RHEE and I’d love to write that character in a series of mini-series forever…but really, as far as I’m concerned, I’m living it right now with NIGHTMARE WORLD, and working with Kris Simon and Jim Valentino at Shadowline.

My “dream project” would be to continue to be able to release books, both online and in print, with them for a long, long time to come…

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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.

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IFPInterview: Dirk Manning