Since launching FOG! seven years ago, I’ve been fortunate to befriend people who I admire, and Dirk Manning is one of them.
Dirk’s continued success is the result of not only his hard work and talent, but also a commitment to building his readership and mentoring people trying to break into the industry through his Write-or-Wrong articles (and book).
His latest project, is a Kickstarter for a hardcover collection of the third volume of his Cthulhu-noir horror series, TALES OF MR. RHEE.
Dirk was generous enough to take some time to discuss the project, his Kickstarter and his upcoming projects.
FOG!: For readers unfamiliar with your work, can you tell us about TALES OF MR. RHEE?
DIRK MANNING: The set-up for TALES OF MR. RHEE is that Hell invaded Earth for three days… and then it suddenly stopped. Those that survived the invasion decide to move on and start to resume life as normal, content in believing that there are no more monsters or demons left. Mr. Rhee is a magician who knows that’s not the case, though, and that “The Three Days of Darkness” was just the beginning of something much more horrible
What about Mr. Rhee as a character? What kind of person is he? A hero? An anti-hero? A villain?
Well, I can tell you what Mr. Rhee is not, and that’s a superhero.
Point blank, the whole “demon hunter as superhero” concept has been done to death, and I’m not interested in re-treading that ground.
TALES OF MR. RHEE is a horror comic, and Mr. Rhee is basically someone trying to survive in a world that not only doesn’t want to believe that there are still monsters left, but adamantly refuses to believe that it’s even possible.
As such, he’s an extremely isolated from the rest of society, and when you combine that with the fact that there’s also some demons out there who want to kill him – at least – again, you can see how this is very much a horror book through and through.
It’s “Cthulhu noir,” really.
If that term interests or intrigues you, you should be reading TALES OF MR. RHEE. [laughs]
Congratulations on the success of yet another Kickstarter. One of the amazing things that you do is that you really cater to your fanbase by making virtually everything available as an add on, allowing people get exactly what they want. Why does Kickstarter work so well for you specifically and do you think it’s a more viable distribution method than the traditional direct market for independent creators?
Regarding the add-ons, when crowdfunding, I think only a fool wouldn’t cater to what fans would ask for. As such, when my readers told me that wanted TALES OF MR. RHEE coffee and coffee mugs for a pledge level and glow in the dark temporary Mr. Rhee tattoos as Stretch Goals, I found a way to make that happen… and they responded in kind by supporting the campaign with great enthusiasm. We were fully funded in three hours, and cracked 10K in pledges in 13 hours, breaking two Devil’s Due records. It’s not rocket science: give the people what they want and they’ll support you in kind.
Regarding Kickstarter usurping the Direct Market, that’s something Devil’s Due big kahuna Josh Blaylock and I have talked about at length before we started going the Kickstarter-to-Direct Market approach with my books. Specifically, I wanted to be able to release Kickstarter Exclusive versions of my books (and, again, bonus swag such as the coffee) while not taking money from the comic shops either. That’s why we release Deluxe Hardcover Editions of the books that are Kickstarter Exclusive (to cater to the most dedicated readers who want a fancier, collector’s edition of the books) while also then releasing standard TPB editions of the books through the Direct Market for casual readers.
I love my comic shop supporters, and I want to support them too, so it seems like a pretty good balance. In fact, it’s an approach Devil’s Due has since started using more and more with some of the other creators, too… so I think it’s safe to say it’s working for everyone across the board.
Can you tell me about some of your quirkier rewards such as the coffee and karaoke?
Ha-ha! For sure! Several chapters/issues of TALES OF MR. RHEE: “Those Who Fight Monsters…” start in a coffee shop called “Dirk’s Perks,” so I thought it would only be fitting to offer Mr. Rhee coffee mugs as a pledge level reward. When I brought this up to Josh he said “What if I could hook you up with some actual bags of ‘Dirk’s Perk’ coffee to go along with it?’ I laughed… and then I realized he was serious and I laughed even harder… and here we are, offering Kickstarter Exclusive Hardcover Editions of the book along with these really nice ceramic engraved coffee mugs and bags of gourmet whole bean “Dirk’s Perk” coffee as a “Comics and Coffee” pledge level. It’s… surreal. And amazing. [laughs]
At this point everyone and everyone who pledges for a hardcover will get, as part of the unlocked Stretch Goals, SIX “Devil’s Due Character Crossover” Art Prints featuring characters from TALES OF MR. RHEE battling characters from LORD OF GORE, GALAXYS FOR HIRE, PLUME, NIGHTMARE WORLD, MERCY SPARX, and SQUARRIORS, as well as glow-in-the-dark temporary tattoos.
Now we’re in the “Book Plate” upgrades stage: Every hardcover will come with a bookplate signed by me, and as I type this we’re on the verge of also getting every bookplate signed by artist Seth Damoose. If we hit that, the next upgrade is Seth doing a custom headsketch on each bookplate, and after that, should we hit $20 in presales/pledges, every Hardcover will come with all of that as well as a *Kickstarter Exclusive* 16-page TALES OF MR. RHEE/TOUCHING EVIL bonus comic written by me and illustrated by Dan Dougherty.
For those who haven’t read TALES OF MR. RHEE, is Volume 3 a good jumping-on point, or should people start from the beginning?
I wrote TALES OF MR. RHEE Volume 3: “Those Who Fight Monsters…” to be as easily accessible to new readers as I did rewarding for long-term readers of the series. In fact, anyone who wants to check out TALES OF MR. RHEE can read the whole series for free at the Devil’s Due website by just going to www.DevilsDue.net and seeing that’s the case for themselves.
I understand that some people could be nervous about jumping into a new series at the third volume, but, readers can go to that link, start reading the book, and see that this is as good of a place to start as any.
And, hey, if someone likes what they read and decides he/she wants the whole series in one swoop, we’ve got a pledge level called “The Triple Threat” for that. Like I said, it’s all about giving people what they want and making it as easy as possible to explore and support new books they might enjoy.
I’m really into heavy music, and I’m really digging the new OTEP album “Generation Doom” that just came out. OTEP is a female-fronted metal band that continues to become more and more of an underground sensation, and this is easily their best – and most accessible – record yet. Between them and GHOST, I’ve been really spoiled by refreshing new metal music lately.
I’m also super-stoked that we’re going to be seeing a lot of new work coming from Eric Powell from his own publishing house Albatross Comics, including HILLBILLY and a second issue of the rip-roaringly hilarious SATAN’S SODOMY BABY. Eric Powell is one of my favorite creators and just a really good dude to boot, so I’ll enthusiastically support anything he does.
I also just received a signed and personalized copy of Joe Hill’s new novel THE FIREMAN in the mail today, so I’m really looking forward to diving into that. Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son, and easily one of the best horror writers of the generation. Everything he has done has been amazing.
Finally, in one final bit of self-promotion, I’m tickled to announce that on Friday the 13th the news broke that I’ve signed a multibook deal with Devil’s Due that will include, at minimum, TALES OF MR. RHEE Volume 3 and 4, a complete LOVE STORIES (TO DIE FOR) graphic novel collection with a stunning cover by Nei Ruffino, and – come this October – NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume 4 and a NIGHTMARE WORLD Omnibus that collects all four volumes into one giant hardcover collection.
We’ll be taking that one to Kickstarter, too, and I’m super-excited about it, as people have been jonesing for the fourth and final volume to be in print for years.
Between that and TALES OF MR. RHEE doing so well, I can say “The Dirkiverse” is finally officially coming to fruition.