Self-Published Spotlight: AIRPLANE MECHANICS by Thompson & Manley

Welcome to Self-Published Spotlight, a regular interview column where I will be highlighting self-published comics and the creators and small print publishers who make them.

Individually, Jonathan Thomspon (Night of The Comet, A Game of Doubles) and Jeff Manley (Riley: A Teenage Bigfoot) are two of the most prolific, hardworking creators in indie comics. These two powerhouses are now coming together on Airplane Mechanics, a new self-published (via Kickstarter) graphic novel about two brothers attempting to finish rebuilding an old airplane.  Jonathan and Jeff took a little time to chat with us at MFR about the book, its process and getting higher (in more ways than one!). So check out the interview below and make sure you head to its Kickstarter page and help get this book out on the runway!

Monkeys Fighting Robots: How did Airplane Mechanics originate and how did you two link up for it?
Jeff Manley: For me, it was because Jonathan was persistent in getting a collaboration… and I had a moment last fall of being a little run down on drawing Bigfeet. I wanted to draw something with humans, but not have to create anything. So, Jonathan just happened to message me around the same time and I agreed to do it.

Jonathan Thompson: I had this idea for about ten years now. I liked Jeff’s work on Bigfoot and wanted to do something with him. I harassed him for months until he became available, I pitched him this project, and we were flying.

JM: Very punny!

MFR: Ha! That’s perfect! So what was the process like for each of you?
JT: After giving the pitch to Jeff and him accepting I went back and wrote the whole book. Then I give Jeff six-page bunches of revised pages as we go along.

JM: I preferred getting the story in chunks. Mostly because I am horrible at reading things and my attention span is barely six pages long.I would do detailed thumbnails for those six pages and Jonathan would approve them. Then I would pencil the pages on my custom preprinted templates. Which I would snap a photo of and the. Ink it in Clip Studio. It only took a few pages before we gave up on the approving thumbnails stage. I think I had to earn his trust that I could layout pleasing pages.

JT: He did earn my trust pretty quickly. I mean, I asked Jeff to do this book because I wanted Jeff’s DNA to be a part of it. He really does a fantastic job.

JM: It doesn’t feel like it is just a Jonathan Thompson book to me. My blood, Sweat and humor are in there. There were a few times I sent Jonathan a quick thumbnail before I started a page because I thought my idea was too weird. Then he would just reply “Go For It!” And I would draw an entire page that was a homage to a Family Circus comic.

Airplane Mechanics
Page from Airplane Mechanics. Art by Jeff Manley.

MFR: That’s fantastic! So since you mentioned Family Circus, were there any specific comics that influenced Airplane Mechanics?

JM: Mostly just Family Circus. With all the drama the title could have been “Family Circus”!

MFR: Jeff is this the first time you have drawn from someone else’s script?
JM: No. I collaborated on a couple of webcomics about a decade ago. One of them came in second in the last Comic Buyers Guide’s fan polls for “Best Webcomic” That comic was called Punching The Clock. Collaboration wasn’t my favorite process… so, I avoided it for a decade. Until I was weak to Jonathan’s undeniable charm.

MFR: What was each of your favorite parts of making Airplane Mechanics? Or what’s your favorite part of the book?
JT: I love being the first reader as I’m getting the pages from Jeff. I’m really excited to have the physical book in my hands. As for my favorite part of the story, oh that’s how it ends.

JM: My favorite part is how Brian always thinks weed will solve any problem. I super relate to that. I also like to print my own minicomics after I get each page done. So I can see how they look in spreads. I was often surprised with how well things flowed together without me trying. It was probably the weed helping me.

MFR: Oh wow. That’s something I haven’t heard many people do.
I am a unique person!

MFR: Jonathan, as a writer you have done just about every genre in comics. Was this always some kind of plan, or did the stories just develop into genres?
JT: Nope, just having fun exploring the kinds of stories I want to tell. I think everything has a distinct “Thompson-style” but the different genres allow me to develop my themes in different ways.

Airplane Mechanics
A Family Circus-inspired page from Airplane Mechanics. Art by Jeff Manley.

MFR: What made you want to make this digest size in dimensions?
I’ve gotten all of Jeff’s books in that size and thought it would be an interesting way to. I like switching up formats and creating unique-looking books. I’m excited for the size.

MFR: Any stretch goal rewards you want to hint about or want to share?
If we get into stretch goal territory then I might try and convince Jeff to do a short story as a bonus.

JM: I hadn’t thought of that…. Maybe we could do a minicomic where I write it and Jonathan draws it?

JT: I’m always down to create chicken scratch on the page!

MFR: Any final thoughts before we take off?
I am just very excited to see the reaction to the finished product.

JT: Same. I’m really excited to see it done and read it myself.

The Kickstarter campaign for Airplane Mechanics ends on May 20th, 2022. 

Manuel Gomez
Manuel Gomez
Assistant Comic Book Editor. Manny has been obsessed with comics since childhood. He reads some kind of comic every single day. He especially loves self-published books and dollar bin finds. 'Nuff said!