Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition: Jen Benka and Kris Dresen of 'Manya'

Wed, July 17th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Beau Yarbrough, Columnist

[Manya]Say you're a cartoonist going about your normal business, creating comic

strips and producing comics. And then, one day, your career changes, at

least a little, when you become a nominee for a

href="http://www.comic-con.org/pages/2002Eisners.html" target="_blank">2002

Eisner Award nomination for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.

"Well, we were pretty surprised," "Manya" co-creator

href="http://www.krisdresen.com/" target="_blank">Kris Dresen told CBR

News on Tuesday. "I submitted our book without expecting anything. I had

forgotten all about it until I saw the nominations list. [Co-creator Jen

Benka] and I never approached 'Manya' with the hope of it being nominated,

let alone, win any awards. But it's still a rush when something like this

happens."

As for what "

target="_blank">Manya" is actually about, Dresen has this

capsule description:

"It's a serial graphic novel about Manya, a woman in her late 20's,

early 30's and her life as she travels the path to becoming a writer. It's

funny, poetic, sometimes serious, and offers great insight into what makes

this woman who she is."

While there have been dramatic gains for non-superhero comic books in

the nascent 21st century, by and large, comic readers aren't spending a lot

of money on comics like "Manya," wherein the title character works in a

book store and is advised in her dreams by Marie Curie. But if there isn't

a large audience reading such books, there is an audience interested in

works like "Manya."

"The reader reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," Dresen said.

"And while critical attention does help, we're finding that word-of-mouth

seems to be our greatest generator of new readers. We get a considerable

amount of mail from guys who are thrilled that their wives or girlfriends

who never read comics but loved 'Manya' when it was given to them. Of

course, when the likes of Steve Lieber and Dwayne McDuffie are pimping our

book, we are now getting some attention from more mainstream-type readers."

[Manya]For some previous winners, an Eisner award for Talent Deserving of Wider

Recognition has helped propel winners into more mainstream success - or

simply come at a moment where that success was somewhat inevitable. But

Dresen has no particular interest in following the footsteps of previous

winners like Brian Michael Bendis, Tony Millionaire and Linda Medley.

"I don't see 'Manya' as a stepping stone to doing mainstream work for a

major. I don't have a deep-rooted desire to draw Spider-Man. We're already

drawing the type of comics that I want to do. If someone decides to pick up

what we do and publish it, that's great. We welcome all offers. Jen and I

are quite confident that the audience for 'Manya' is still largely untapped."

And it's not as though she won't be keeping busy:

"Right now 'The Road to Hell' is the big project on my plate. The script

by Dwayne and Matt S. Wayne is unbelievably funny. It's going to so much

fun to draw. If all goes well I should have it done sometime in early 2003.

I have another graphic novel that I'm writing and drawing scheduled after

that called 'Grace,' but that's a ways off.

"Dwayne's been a fan of mine for some time. He finally screwed up the

courage to ask me to draw 'The Road to Hell' and I said yes. THEN he told

me that it was 128 pages long ..."

As for the award, Dresen has her pick as to who should take home the

award the night of August 2.

"Jen and I have no illusions that we'll win. But I wouldn't feel too bad

if we lost to Dylan Horrocks. He doing some of the most interesting and

intelligent comics out there today."

CBR News

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