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Avril Brown Presents:

Dirk Manning’s latest project NIGHTMARE WORLD is a compilation of several seemingly unrelated tales which will reveal themselves to be more connected as time goes on. Currently there are over twenty stories and two hundred pages of NIGHTMARE WORLD available for people’s reading pleasure via Shadowline Web Comics and now thirteen of the stories from the series are being offered in trade form this month in PREVIEWS from Image Comics.

AB: Let’s dive right in and start with the easy questions. NIGHTMARE WORLD has stories ranging from a werewolf lovers’ dispute illustrated in stick figure form to a satirical tale of teens on the run from a serial killer (one of my favorites, by the way). What in the world inspired you to come up with so many different stories?

DM: One of my main goals in writing NIGHTMARE WORLD was to tell a series of short stories that each tackled a different genre of horror.

I mean, as a lifetime fan of good horror – be it in movies or comics – it has always bothered me that horror is so often stereotyped as blood-and-guts stuff. That’s why I specifically set-out to tell so many different types of cerebral horror stories in NIGHTMARE WORLD. Heck, like you said, we even did a “werewolf lovers” story using stick-figure caricatures – and it worked!

I guarantee you and everyone else who reads NIGHTMARE WORLD that you’ll never see two stories that are the same throughout the thirteen stories in the trade paperback collection hitting the shelves this October or even the whole 52-story series as it continues to be published online.

AB: Was it your plan from the beginning to have several different artists working on this project, or did every artist you spoke to want a piece of this tasty fantasy nugget?

DM: It was always my plan to work with a stable of artists. I think it makes the series more interesting for everyone involved, be it the readers or even the artists themselves who all feed off each other as pages circulate around. It’s all been friendly competition, though, I promise! We’re all friends here! [laughs]

Furthermore, though, it allows me to make each individual story as good as possible by catering stories to the strengths and styles of the individual artists drawing them. For example, there are certain stories that I would write only when I knew who would be drawing it – but that’s what makes each story really “pop.”

AB: You mentioned each story title in NIGHTMARE WORLD is a song title. Has music been a large influence in your life and your writing?

DM: Very much so. In fact, I worked in music journalism for years before delving into NIGHTMARE WORLD. The story titles are my own little “shout-outs” to many of the musicians I liked and worked with over the years before “retiring” and devoting my full attention to comic journalism and writing/creating my own comics.

AB: Have you always wanted to work in comics? What finally pushed you over the edge into your current commitment to write comics?

DM: Although I’ve been a very avid reader since I was about two years old (seriously!) and I’ve enjoyed creating my own stories for about that long, too. I also always liked to draw. I was a great artist in First Grade… but I just never got any better. [laughs]

In regards to comics, though, I was a late-bloomer: I didn’t start seriously reading them until I was 13 tears old! I was an old man!

Two of the earliest comics I read were THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and WATCHMEN, though, and after reading them back-to-back I realized that, with comics, you can do anything in regards to story-telling due to the combination of words and pictures.

I then spent the next ten years studying the art of story-telling in comics and honing my craft in secret while I worked as a music journalist by day. After I landed a face-to-face interview with my musical idol Mike Patton (the lead singer of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle among other bands) I knew that I had reached “the top of the mountain” in music journalism as far as I was concerned, so I abruptly retired from music journalism, shifting all of my writing efforts to my own debut comic series NIGHTMARE WORLD and some comic journalism on the side.

AB: What can you tell us about the other project of yours, THE TALES OF MR. RHEE?

DM: TALES OF MR. RHEE is a spin-off of NIGHTMARE WORLD featuring a very strong but very tragic noir “occult trouble-shooter” who goes by the moniker “Mr. Rhee.” It’s a very fun and very hard-boiled series with a fascinating protagonist. In fact, in some ways I think TALES OF MR. RHEE is even scarier and more “horror-based” than NIGHTMARE WORLD.

TALES OF MR. RHEE originally debuted on the original NIGHTMARE WORLD website before we moved over to Shadowline, and we published the first six eight-page stories of “Volume One” there. Considering this, it’s my hope that the series will take the place of NIGHTMARE WORLD at the Shadowline webcomics hub once it wraps-up in another year or so. In fact, artist Josh Ross is working on the second six stories that will wrap-up Volume One right now… so stay tuned!

AB: You seem to be a big fan of Cthulhu. Can you explain to our readers a bit about the origin of Cthulhu and what it means to you? What first drew you to this creature and its mythos?

DM: What a great question! Basically, Cthulhu is the creation of the 1930’s horror pulp writer H.P. Lovecraft. In layman’s terms, he’s a Godzilla-sized monster with bat-wings and an octopus for a head… so visually alone he’s a great character!

The “Cthulhu Mythos” basically states that this big-ass alien-demon thing is sleeping below the ocean waiting for the stars to enter their proper alignment so he can be awoken by his cult members once more, at which time he’ll presumably rampage around and eat everyone.

Now tell me, Avril, what’s not to like about a character like that? [laughs]

Cthulhu plays a pretty big role in NIGHTMARE WORLD as the series progresses… but I don’t want to spoil anything by saying how.

AB: I agree, that sounds like one likable character. And I’m all about surprises, so thanks for holding out. Do you see yourself always writing “horror” comics? Is there another genre you’re itching to try out?

DM: While I’m certainly a “horror guy” at heart, I’m definitely not the type of guy who only wants to write horror stories forever. In fact, back before NIGHTMARE WORLD was picked-up by Shadowline we ran a 12-page teaser comic for a more fantasy-based series called FARSEEKER that received raved reviews from our readers. In fact, even some of the artists I had worked with for years at that point called me or e-mailed me and said “Dirk! We didn’t know you had this in you! This… this isn’t horror!” [laughs]

FARSEEKER is something artist/co-creator Len O’Grady are going to be returning to very soon… and aside from that and TALES OF MR. RHEE with Josh Ross I’m in various stages of prepping pitches for a crime book, a super-heroine book and even a straight-up children’s book I want to pitch to the amazing Silverline imprint of Shadowline.

So, yeah, while I like horror and will probably never totally abandon it, I’m also going to continue to tell other types of stories too.

AB: I ask this of all writers I interview: what advice can you give to green, aspiring writers?

DM: I actually write an ongoing column titled “Write or Wrong” over at Newsarama in which I talk about this all the time – and that’s another thing I’ve written that’s not horror I’d like to put together in a nice printed bookshelf-worthy collection in the next year.

Simply, though, I’d say the best thing you can do is be honest to yourself, the artists you work with, and never use rejection as a reason not to create something you truly believe in – especially when it’s so easy to create, post and host comics online these days.

AB: If you could have tea and crumpets with the writer of your choice, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would your first question be?

DM: I’m really tempted to pick Alan Moore or Harlan Ellison since I’m such big fans of both their work… but I think I’d instead pick Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft and ask them “So… do you have any idea how famous you became after you died and what an influence your work had on the world of literature and horror?”

AB: And now for the random question of the day: if you could spend a month’s paid vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be?

DM: Honestly, a month’s vacation would be Hell for me since I’m such a workaholic in regards to my writing. [laughs]

I just went to Amish Country in the Midwest for a few days with my wife and that was a nice change of pace to be completely removed from any technology, but I don’t know if I could effectively “relax” for a month without writing stuff for NIGHTMARE WORLD, “Write or Wrong” or any of the other projects I’m working on. Heck, I don’t think I could even go that long without writing updates for my Twitter, Facebook and/or Facebook accounts for that matter.

AB: Sounds like you're pretty plugged in to your work, which is good news for your fans of NIGHTMARE WORLD. Thanks so much for your time, Dirk, and we're looking forward to reading more of your horrific world!

NIGHTMARE WORLD: “13 Tales of Terror” Vol. 1 from Image Comics/Shadowline is now available for pre-order in the August 2009 edition of PREVIEWS on p155 (order code AUG09-0327) as well as at Amazon. NIGHTMARE WORLD also runs online with daily updates every Monday through Thursday at Shadowline Webcomics. 

Avril Brown 

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