Toledo native pens how-to guide for comics industry newcomersWritten by Jay Hathaway | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A native Toledoan and comic book writer has released a book covering the finer points of breaking into the comics industry.
Dirk Manning’s “Write or Wrong: A Writer’s Guide to Creating Comics” was released in paperback in October 2012. The book is based on Manning’s popular online column and functions as a practical guide for up-and-coming comic book writers or those who think they may want to venture into the genre.
Manning began publishing comics online in 2002, with “Nightmare World,” a series of genre-bending horror that offered more than simple cheap thrills.
“A lot of people associate horror with ‘blood and boobs,’ but that’s not what ‘Nightmare World’ is,” Manning said. “Good horror speaks to the human condition. You can tell funny, scary and romantic stories with horror. There are all these different subgenres to explore.”
“Nightmare World” was eventually discovered by Image Comics, a publishing company that has released some of the most legendary comics of the past two decades, including the recent hit, “The Walking Dead.” Manning credits his decision to publish online as one of the major factors of its success.
“No one was really publishing comic books digitally back then, and to me, it just seemed the most natural way to get my work out there and get it distributed,” Manning said.
Though the online version was originally 52 eight-page stories, drawn by different artists, Image released a series of three print collections of “Nightmare World,” with 13 stories in each.
“All these independent stories weave into one giant narrative,” Manning said. “It is all these different facets of horror that weave into one big picture.”
Though the final Image release of “Nightmare World” was published in 2011, Manning hinted that the stories may soon find their way into other mediums.
“It’s started to draw the attention of a lot of people outside the comic book industry, which is exciting,” he said.
Manning continues to work on various comic projects, both online and in print, and has even started a spinoff series based on a character from “Nightmare World (Tales of Mr. Rhee).”
When commenting on his new book, Manning first explained how comic books became his focus as a writer.
“Writing comics is such a unique way of writing,” he said. “It’s not like writing a movie, [for which] you’re talking about moving images. Comic books are a blend of static images and dialogues and narration. When it’s done right, it is such a powerful way to tell stories. It’s so invigorating and exciting; there’s nothing else like it. It’s the only medium you can read in which you use the right and left parts of your brain at the same time.”
“They are almost like a movie without a budget,” he added. “As a reader, that’s what drew me to them. As a writer, it’s the ways that you can tell your stories, juxtaposing words and pictures, that you can’t do anywhere else.”
The idea for “Write or Wrong” was born early on in his career, when Manning vowed that, should he ever find success in the industry, he would share his stories and advice with others. That day finally came.
“Here I was, this guy who grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and I was working with talented artists from all over the United States, and even Ireland and Croatia,” he said. “The vast majority of ‘Write or Wrong’ is about how to network with these artists, how to approach them, and how to manage the art team, which can include up to five people — the writer, the penciller, the inker, the colorist and the letterer. I talk about how I met the artists, the mistakes I made along the way, and eventually how I was able to work with all these artists to create this large anthology series.”
Manning said when a comic writer is first “coming up,” he or she does usually not have a lot to offer to an artist.
“Anyone that wants to make comics can tell you, if you can’t draw, the people that can draw are like the most beautiful people in the world — like the hottest girl in the bar,” Manning said. “So, writers approach these artists and say, ‘Hey, do you want to draw this 12-issue miniseries with me?’ A 12-issue miniseries is 12 times 22 pages, which is 264 pages of artwork. Let’s say there are five panels on a page — that means you’re walking up to an artist you don’t know, and asking them to draw 1,320 pictures of stuff that you tell them to draw. It’s insane.”
In “Write or Wrong,” Manning suggests some more realistic ways for writers to find and approach artists, based on his own experiences.
“For ‘Nightmare World,’ I would say, ‘Hey, I like your art, and I see that you draw a lot of dragons. If I write you an eight-page dragon story, would you be willing to illustrate it? And we can publish it together online.’ Then it’s 40 panels of dragons, which they were going to draw anyway.”
Manning also offers advice about the teamwork necessary to complete comic book projects.
“As the writer, you’re the de facto captain of the ship,” he said. “I spend a lot of time in the book talking about team management, and how to work with other artists and professionals.”
Manning said one of the most important factors in building the right comic book team is finding others who share similar visions and passions. He added that working with a variety of artists also helps one discover which combinations work best for different projects.
“It’s like being in a band. You jam together first.”
Manning will appear in Sylvania at Seann’s Anime and Comics, 5805 Monroe St., from 4-9 p.m. March 2 for a book signing. Several of his works, including “Write or Wrong” and “Nightmare World,” will be available for purchase.
For more information, visit www.dirkmanning.com.