A long time ago, in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, Mann had dreams of becoming a book cover illustrator and/or comic book cover artist.
In retrospect, the latter seems much more viable, as breaking into book cover work practically required you to live in New York, and being that Mann was a born-and-bred California guy (SoCal, to be exact), the idea of A) East Coast winters, B) being so far from home, friends and family (NYC being a nice place to visit, but...), and C) starving so far from home was always a non-starter.
Don't even get him started on how one of the most amazing all around artists and book cover illustrators ever—one of the young Mann's heroes—Frank Kelly Freas ("The Dean of Science Fiction Artists"), ended up after five decades in the field.
Eventually, there was D), as well. Mann learned that unless one was a big name, doing book covers was not a lucrative occupation—to say the least. It was one thing to be a "starving artist" because you had no work. It was another when work simply didn't pay enough to be anything other than a form of indentured servitude!
TERMINATOR vs. ALIEN
The late '80s, early '90s saw lots of crossover comics. Alien fighting Terminator seemed a natural to Mann. Dark Horse Comics loved it, then didn't.
ALIEN: MOTHER & CHILD
A "sentimental" piece showing how mama Alien looks after one of her "babies". The light below is that of space marines debating whether to fire or not...
In truth, Mann did have some forays into doing illustration for games and comics in the early '90s, a period of which, according to the artist, the less is said, the better.
Some years later, still toying with breaking into illustration somehow, he considered "funny books" (comics) once again. Mann had both the connections (or so he thought) and the geographical desirability (or so he thought) to have a chance.
Seeing this burgeoning industry as his artistic salvation, he made a big push to break into the field in '98. He did a batch of pieces that showed his broad capabilities across multiple genres, and in particular, his affinity for dark tales of science fiction and horror, both very popular at the time (as, indeed, they still are today).
San Diego Comic Con, after all, was only a few hours south of the City of Angels, which Mann called home. Once upon a time, he had attended Comic Con every year. And there he went, sizable portfolio in hand (only some of the works he brought along are shown here) in an effort to attract the attention of industry pros.
Being on the "Left Coast" wasn't going to be as much of an issue in comics as it was in books. He knew that many comic industry types lived and worked in the West (Dark Horse Comics was located in Seattle, for instance). He could even call a few of them by first name, having worked for an LA/Hollywood comics operation that had, sadly, folded prematurely some years earlier (for which Mann did some good work, now lost to history).
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT FIGHTS
Mann loved the goth-modern look of Tim Burton's BATMAN and that fantastical City of Gotham. It informed and inspired this piece, as our hero dispenses justice in an electrical storm...
Mann had an idea for a Predator WWII saga. Pred goes a-huntin' in Stalingrad, ship gets blown up, both sides (Nazis and Reds) after him, he makes some new friends...
In fact, it was about this time (the early to mid '90s) that the big move of adapting comic books into films began in earnest. Working in Tinsel Town during this period, Mann was more than a witness to it; he was a participant—as a graphic designer/art director in the entertainment advertising industry.
The response to his work at ComicCon was stunningly positive. He ran out of 1000 business cards by day 2. Numerous portfolio pieces were passed out. The publisher of Dark Horse Comics—the company Mann REALLY wanted to work for—told him that some of his pieces were "ready made covers," and practically assured the artist steady work.
Which did not explain how and why, several weeks after ComicCon, when Mann contacted said publisher as instructed, he was treated very rudely and given the verbal "heave ho."
Today, all these years later, the artist says it doesn't hurt, but that kind of 180º about-face bitch-slap has gotta smart still, regardless.
Then, slithering in the pits and in the depths of post-ComicCon despair, Tinsel Town came calling once again, with it's many blandishments (filthy lucre being chief among them, not to mention wine, women and song*), and the rest, so they say, is history...
Q.V.: Samples of Mann's entertainment advertising work.
It was not lost on Mann as the years went by that the films he was doing design (and later video and web) work on—like X-MEN, HELLBOY, HARRY POTTER, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, MEN IN BLACK—were the very kind of projects he'd hoped to work on at the front end, not at the back!
NOTE: In case it's not clear, the title of the post is tongue-in-cheek; Mann's "illustrious" past career was anything but "perfect."
*Mann is still waiting to collect on the "wine, women and song" part; he has it on good authority that it will all arrive any day now...
LOBO GOES LOCO
At one time Mann worked with one of the co-creators of the archetypal comic bad boy, LOBO. There was talk of doing many covers. Of course it fell through...
TORG: THE CYBERPAPACY
Mann was part of an avid RPG group which played, among other things, TORG. He was particularly enamored of the Cyberpapacy realm...