Dirk Tiede was told in high school that his comic book drawings would get him nowhere. Today, the 1997 Millikin graduate is a nationally recognized artist and entrepreneur in the high-demand field of graphic novels for his "Paradigm Shift" manga series.
Tiede has been a featured artist or guest at several anime and comic conventions for more than 10 years, including the San Diego Comic Con, as well as a speaker at the American Academy of Art and other educational institutions. His website, paradigmshiftmanga.com, is littered with a loyal following of fan contributions, art and comments.
"I specifically picked the Japanese manga look because of its action feel and horror element," Tiede says.
Creating his manga is a time-intensive process, Tiede says. "I write it, I'm the one doing the drawing, I'm putting it on the web and making sure it's ready for print," Tiede says, crediting Ris Fleming-Allen '96 as his editor. In fact, he sees her role as instrumental to his process. "Sometimes I'll send her a scene, and she'll practically re-write it. Then it will be more like what I was hoping for than the first draft I sent her," Tiede says. "She plays a very integral part."
When he began the series, he was still working his day job in Chicago, and the first book took him three years to complete. Since its 1999 release, Tiede has released two other books; all three books compose part one of the series. He is currently working on the first book in part two of the series at his home in Boston, collaborating with Fleming-Allen in Chicago.
Manga is an art form for Tiede, in addition to his business and hobby. "It's all about making sure that the radio reception between me and my little muse is as clear as possible so it can just talk and I can listen when it comes out," he says. "I have the skills now that if it wants me to draw something, I'll draw it."
However, there was once a time when Tiede set aside his muse and his drawings. "It was the 1993 Chicago Comic Con. I was young, barely 18," Tiede says, smiling. "I took my work around to the various portfolio reviews there. I don't know if it was that they were overly harsh or I just had thin skin, but I got some rough critiques, and I took it badly."
definition of manga
"While 'manga' is just the Japanese word for comics, many people associate the word with an art style defined by characters with big, cartoonish eyes, dynamic and often insanely exaggerated storytelling and outlandish settings and premises.
What struck me when I read manga for the first time was that it felt like watching a movie. The action was so dynamic, and the ink lines in the art looked as if they were practically thrown onto the page, and the characters were just leaping out."
Tiede had previously been encouraged to attend Millikin by his uncle, Russell Tiede, MU associate professor emeritus of music. Although he had intended to set aside comics after his Comic Con experience, Tiede still had the drawings he had worked on throughout high school. James Schietinger, longtime MU professor of art, saw Tiede's talent in them and encouraged him to study art at Millikin.
With his student portfolio review a success, Tiede was excited about the resources that Millikin offers to budding artists. "I had some portfolio reviews at other places which had gone well," Tiede says, "but this knocked them out of the park. The fact that there was a computer art lab just fascinated me. I knew where I wanted to be."
The skills he learned at Millikin helped him find work as a web designer after graduating, but he still wasn't satisfied. "I had this huge skill set, and it got me a job in Chicago, but it was just a job," Tiede says. "I thought, 'Where's the love?' and that's when I started doing comics again."
Chicago itself sparked Tiede's creative fire. "When I first moved there, I took the train downtown to work every day," he says. "We came around the corner and a whole vista of skyline would open up to us. I had a story and characters in mind, but the city inspired my setting.
"It's like there's a movie playing in my head," he notes. "I'm just writing down what happens in the movie, and it hasn't stopped playing yet, so I need to honor it and keep doing it."