FCBD 2011: Chasing Rainbows, Fearing the Amish, Selling Horror Comics To Kids And More By Dirk Manning

One of the joys of being a comic book professional – as far as I’m concerned, at least – is attending conventions and signing events across the country.

As an guy who only publishes creator-owned work and, as a result, doesn’t have Hollywood-level awareness of my work (although having my new all-ages fantasy-esque comic FARSEEKER running at MTV GEEK certainly doesn’t hurt one bit), I’m in a position where one of the best ways for me to get the word out about my comic series such as NIGHTMARE WORLD, TALES OF MR. RHEE and the-above-mentioned FARSEEKER is to hit both the convention circuit and larger creator-centric signing events such as the mini-con had at PACKRAT COMICS in Hilliard, Ohio on Free Comic Book Day.

Was Hilliard, Ohio (which is a suburb of Ohio’s state capital Columbus, Ohio) a thriving Mecca of geekdom where thousands upon thousands of fans from across the world would descend on Free Comic Book Day?

Of course not.

However, Jamie and Teresa Colegrove, the co-owners Packrat Comics, are very, very good people who were kind enough to have me in for a signing at their initial Free Comic Book Day event several years ago when I was a complete “no name” talent who just happened to be able to be in the area visiting a friend, and after trying (and failing) to get back there for the past few years now that my star has been rising over at Image Comics/Shadowline (among other places), it was well-past time for me to finally make sure that, come Hell or high water, I made it there this year when they were gracious enough to invite me back once more.

Besides, Nicholas Brendon (aka: Xander Harris from television’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was going to be there signing autographs and kissing babies as well, which meant that there would be plenty of potential/future NIGHTMARE WORLD fans attending.

Dirk Manning is more than just a pretty face holding to ears apart, folks:

Of course, my hopes of foisting numerous copies of the first two NIGHTMARE WORLD tpb collections could have been nothing more than a pipedream. After all, trying to actually *sell* comics at Free Comic Book Day can be a bit tough, but I knew it was going to be a good day when I walked out to my car to start the drive in the early morning hours and saw this:

Surprisingly, though, this was hardly the least exciting thing I saw during my multi-hour drive through scenic rural Ohio.
Take, for example, this Old Timey drive-in movie theater I came across:

Which, on closer inspection…

Proved to be not so “Old Timey” after all:

(You’ll forgive me for not admitting here that I spent WAY too long standing in front of this drive-in trying to figure out why the establishment’s web URL read “Meth Eaters” before I figured out what it really said.)

A short time later I then had a good laugh at a “Beware of Amish” sign posted on the side of the road…

Only to discover that the sign was in fact not a joke at all!

In fact, mere minutes after passing the Amish horse and buggy pictured above I learned that the Amish, it seems, are not to be f**ked with:

Deciding it was in my best interests to probably not to risk any additional Amish altercations, I opted to hop onto the highway for the rest of the trip… and upon reaching my exit, it realized yet again that it was indeed going to be quite a good day to sell some horror comics:

After a warm welcome from Packrat Comics co-owners James and Teresa Colegrove…

And a quick stroll around the store…

Including a dip down into their amazing “Basement o’ Back Issues”…

I strolled next store to the “Artist Alley” section to find my spot.

Within minutes of officially opening the place was hopping, both inside…

And outside. Literally.

Thanks to the nice layout and friendly customers I had a line at my table for the majority of the day…

And much to my surprise, several younger readers were encouraged by their parents to buy the first two NIGHTMARE WORLD collections…

And when I say younger readers, I mean REALLY young…

Although, considering some of the clientele, perhaps in hindsight I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was:

Heck, even some of the more “established” readers ended-up buying copies of both volumes of NIGHTMARE WORLD after checking them out!

Several old friends of mine also swung by throughout the day, including Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer and Zombies! (The Card Game) illustrator/all-around-swell-fellow Dave Aikins, who enthusiastically endorsed the book for my sole shamelessly staged photo-op of the day…

A bit later this HUMONGOUS Sasquatch-looking thing stopped by…

Only scared away by the robot-dancing of my pal Victor Dandridge Jr.

A little later in the day my good friend/actor/model/director Anatasia Acid Poptart (who Bleeding Cool readers will remember as one of the models whose photos were being stolen and reused by Rob Granito) swung by to promote her upcoming horror film “Kiss Me Dark” and otherwise… uh… blow people away?

The key to a successful in-store or convention appearance is setting goals, and whenever I do a signing or convention appearance I like to set a certain goal for how many books I’m going to sell. For the sake of fun, these goals also usually accompany some form of a bet. Well, by the middle of the afternoon I met my goal of selling a combined 50 copies(!!!)of NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume One: “Thirteen Tales of Terror” and NIGHTMARE WORLD Volume Two: “Leave the Light On” (both of which are also available at comic shops and book stores nationwide from Image Comics/Shadowline – if I haven’t mentioned that yet), which won me this most cherished prize:

Yes, that’s a custom-made balloon-animal Cthulhu… and yes, the poor guy broke a sweat making it.
Just to give myself a little more reason to dance, I went on to sell one more set of NIGHTMARE WORLD books before closing-up shop for the evening, bringing my total number of books sold to 52 copies(!!!)… and as you can see in this rare live photo of me, the events of the whole day left grinning ear to ear:

Again, many thanks are due to Jamie and Teresa, who, in closing, wonderfully remind us that Free Comic Book Day is – and should always remain – all about the love:

Dirk Manning is the writer/creator of NIGHTMARE WORLD and TALES OF MR. RHEE for Image Comics/Shadowline as well as the co-creator of FARSEEKER with Len O’Grady for www.ACT-I-VATE.com. He lives on the Internet and can be found lurking around places like Facebook and Twitter when not writing – or writing about – comics. Special thanks to Stephen Blanzaco, who took the few photos that Dirk didn’t take himself, and to Chuck Moore for rare live Dirk Manning photo.