Manning up, Dirk Manning scares up some ‘Love Stories (to Die For).’Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dirk Manning smiles. The Toledo-based horror comic book author has made audiences the world over cringe with delight during the course of his career, with stories like “The Tales of Mr. Rhee” and “Nightmare World” garnering a huge following.
His latest work is a departure in more ways than one. “Love Stories (to Die For)” — which, like most of Manning’s work, began life as an online comic — comes to print with two previously unpublished stories brought together in one double-length book.
“I tell people that ‘Love Stories (to Die For)’ is very scary and very romantic. Just like me. As the title suggests, they are very horror-infused love stories,” Manning said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star. “One of them is a vampires versus Vikings story from the Middle Ages, and the other is a futuristic story about three people trapped on a space station overrun with aliens, and there’s only one escape pod left for two people.”
The series originated as a series of stories on the website Shadowline (shadowlineonline.com). Three installments were posted there, leading to the publication of this set of two new stories. And Manning said there’s plenty more where those came from.
“The reaction has been incredibly positive, people really stoked about it. So I’m definitely hoping to do more stories in this format. This is the successor to ‘Nightmare World,’ in a way,” Manning said. “I would love to do more.”
The introduction of “Love Stories” to print is just one part of a roller coaster month for Manning. He is also preparing to take over for an arc on Big Dog Ink’s series “Legend of Oz: The Wicked West,” which reimagines the classic L. Frank Baum franchise as a Western.
“I’m getting to do the flying monkeys, which … is a little in my wheelhouse anyway,” Manning noted. “That’s some of the scariest pop culture characters out there.”
It’s a bit unusual for Manning to work on such a project for a few reasons — not the least of which being that he almost always works with in his own universe, with his own characters.
“For many, many years — most of my career, almost all of my career — I’ve been staunchly creator owned,” he said. “I do my own thing. I did ‘Nightmare World,’ I did ‘Tales of Mr. Rhee’ … ‘Farseeker,’ ‘To Die For,’ everything has been creator owned. And, honestly, it took a certain property for me to say, ‘Yeah, I’d be willing to do that.’”
Then there’s the Kickstarter. With an eye on bringing his enormously popular online series “Tales of Mr. Rhee” to print, Manning will launch a specialized fundraiser on the website around the end of the month — a process that he’s actually had some misgivings about.
“‘Mr. Rhee’ was a book that would be a perfect Kickstarter. People really like it, it’s self-contained, it’s done. I even had a great cover artist on board, Riley Rossmo, who did ‘Proof’ and ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking,’ who wanted to do the covers — very well established artist. So all the pieces were there, but my dilemma was, I couldn’t pull the trigger because I didn’t want to cut out the comic shops.”
The solution: Offering fans that back the Kickstarter a deluxe hardcover edition of “Mr. Rhee,” exclusive to them, then creating a straightforward paperback for the direct market.
“I’m going to be telling people straight out … what I want to do with Kickstarter is to raise the funds to produce a really nice hardcover for everyone that contributes, and there’ll be other bonuses they can get,” Manning said. “But also raise the money so that we can print a direct market edition, so that comic shops and casual readers — people who don’t want to spend money on a hardcover, who would rather spend 15 bucks or 20 bucks on a paperback — can.”
In support of all these projects, Manning is heading out on his most ambitious tour ever — 13 signing dates over the course of 13 weeks, with appearances at numerous comic shops and conventions all throughout Ohio and Michigan. But the one he’s most nervous about? Right here in his own backyard — a signing at Seann’s Anime and Comics in Sylvania at 2-6 p.m. Sept. 28.
“It’s one of those things where I come home and I do a signing in Toledo, and my biggest fear is to show up and be in the comic shop for four or five hours and, you know, crickets,” Manning said. “So it’s much more frightening to do a hometown signing than to be out on the road. Come hang out with me, kick it. It’s a rare, old-school hometown appearance.”