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Joey Manley, founder of the pioneering webcomics site Modern Tales, passed away last night in a Louisville, Kentucky, hospital due to complications from pneumonia. According to his longtime partner Joe Botts, he was surrounded by family and friends. Manley was 48.
A publisher, editor, podcaster and author, Manley launched Modern Tales in March 2002, establishing one of the first workable (and profitable) subscription models for webcomics. He soon spun off Serializer, an alternative-comics site originally edited by Tom Hart; Girlamatic, a female targeted site initially edited by Lea Hernandez; Graphic Smash, the action comics site; and Webcomics Nation, a webcomics-hosting service.
The collective “Modern Tales family,” which closed in April, had published work by such creators as Gene Luen Yang, James Kochalka, Howard Cruse, Chris Onstad, Shaenon Garrity and Dylan Meconis, among many others.
Manley was also an early comics podcaster, launching “Talk About Comics” in 2001, and co-hosting the “Diva Lea Show” with Hernandez, beginning in 2003. His first novel, The Death of Donna-May Dean, was released in 1992 by St. Martin’s Griffin; he serialized his second, Snake-Boy Loves Sky Prince: a Gay Superhero Teen Romance, online as a work in progress beginning in 2011.
He “was a true pioneer of webcomics,” retailer and convention organizer Chris Butcher wrote last night on Twitter. Cartoonist T Campbell went more in-depth about Manley’s contributions on his blog, writing, “There was a brief moment, hard to remember now, when webcomics and the Web in general seemed to be unsustainable through advertising. Ad rates were in freefall, panicking artists who, a few years prior, had thought they were more or less set for life. Joey knew how to talk to people, how to bring talent together, and he was the one willing to address the elephant in the room: maybe we needed to change the business model.”
Many more tributes are popping up on Manley’s Facebook page.