Manley in 2009
November 7, 2013 (aged 48)|
The Death of Donna-May Dean
Joey Manley (1965–2013) was an American online publisher and founder of the Modern Tales family of webcomics websites, which included the subscription-services Modern Tales, Serializer, Girlamatic, Graphic Smash, and the webcomics hosting service Webcomics Nation. Manley wrote a successful LGBT novel in 1992, titled The Death of Donna-May Dean, and moved to San Francisco in 2000 in order to work in the then-new field of web design. Here, Manley became one of the "founding pioneers" of the American webcomic movement by implementing a then-revolutionary subscription model. Though Manley's web services never became financially successful enough to support the artists he worked with, he was a well-regarded figure within his community.
Joey Manley was born in Russellville, Alabama in 1965. Though he had drawn comics as a child, he never had an interest in becoming a cartoonist himself. Manley's debut novel, The Death of Donna-May Dean, was published by St. Martin's Griffin in 1992. It tells the story about a young gay man coming of age in Alabama, and quickly became a cult classic of LGBT fiction. 27-year old at the time, the pressure to follow his early success up with a second novel overwhelmed Manley. Instead, he moved into a career in the then-new field of web design. In 2000, Manley moved to San Francisco, where he worked for Streaming Media and served as the first webmaster for Free Speech TV. The website he oversaw, freespeech.org, went on to win both a Webby Award and RealNetworks' Streamers Award.
To learn more about webcomics and introduce himself to the American webcomic community, Manley began the podcast Digital Comics Talk and the review website Talk About Comics in 2001. Through his podcast, Manley came into contact with various major webcartoonists of the time. Manley soon began recruiting artists for a for-profit, subscription-based webcomics collective, which he launched in March 2002 as Modern Tales. At the time, Manley hoped the subscription model would increase the visibility of everyone involved in the project, even if they would otherwise not be particularly popular. Though Modern Tales never managed to bring a living wage for the artists involved, it did do solid business and got attention from older comic book artists such as Harvey Pekar and Will Eisner By 2005, Modern Tales had approximately 2,000 members, each paying $3 USD per month. Manley had moved to Louisville, Kentucky at this point in order to cut costs.
In 2003, Manley began co-hosting a podcast with Lea Hernandez titled The Diva Lea Show. Manley started multiple subscription-based webcomic services in the mid-2000s, such as Serializer (in collaboration with Tom Hart), Girlamatic (in collaboration with Hernandez), and Graphic Smash (intended for action webcomics). Manley started Webcomics Nation in 2005, a webcomic hosting service. Manley's webcomic services were together referred to as the "Modern Tales family" of websites, and they had featured artists such as Gene Luen Yang, James Kochalka, Howard Cruse, Chris Onstad, Shaenon Garrity, and Dylan Meconis. All of Manley's remaining services shut down in April 2013.
In collaboration with Josh Roberts and with funding from E-Line Media, Manley began developing a comics-oriented social media and publishing platform titled ComicsSpace in 2007. Manley moved to New York in order to work on the new project and was known to be very enthusiastic about it, but ComicsSpace never fully took off. While still working on ComicsSpace, Manley moved back to Louisville once again and began focusing on personal creative output through an online fiction workshop with a close circle of writers. In 2011, Manley began serializing a second novel online as a work-in-progress. Titled Snake-Boy Loves Sky Prince: a Gay Superhero Teen Romance, the book tells the story of a supervillain's minion who falls in love with the son of a superhero.
On August 10, 2013, Manley died of complications from pneumonia in a hospital in Louisville. Aged 48, he was survived by his spouse Joe Botts. Manley's death was commemorated by figures such as Scott McCloud, Lea Hernandez, and Joshua Hale Fialkov.
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- Walker, Leslie (2005-06-16). "Comics Looking to Spread A Little Laughter on the Web". Washington Post.
- Melrose, Kevin (2013-11-08). "Modern Tales founder Joey Manley passes away". Comic Book Resources.
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