BY SEÁN P. FEENY
LAST Monday a talented young Letterkenny man posted a short video onto YouTube on the history of Ireland. What happened next was totally unexpected. After only five days John Ruddy’s video ‘Irish History in 6 Minutes – Manny Man Does The History of Ireland’ amassed over 50,000 hits and received a phenomenal amount of publicity, not only from people sharing the video on social networks, but also from media outlets.
John decided to make the video to wean myself off the intensive research and illustration of historical events he was doing for an upcoming historical publication.
“Ironically, this video quickly became very intensive in itself, having spent about three weeks working on it. When I finally got posting it on Monday I was amazed to see the hits go up and up each time I came back to the laptop they were still going up!
“By Tuesday it had gone viral across Ireland and I had a busy day replying to emails and tweets and all sorts. I managed to sell a few more Manny Man books out of it, and hopefully more sales are to come.
“By the end of last week Tuesday it was on about 12,000 views and today (Monday) it has received over 50,000 views. There’s seems to be a few American sites posting it now so it may get a second wind amongst the Irish diaspora.”
John said the coverage and online feedback to Manny Man Does The History of Ireland feedback has been predominantly very positive.
“There’s been many variations of ‘I wish I had this when I was at school’. It’s nice to hear that people are enjoying it. One website complimented me in how I was able to maintain a light-hearted, humorous tone throughout a lot of heavy and often dark history.
“Of course, there have been a few ‘trolls’ picking up on aspects that I left out or didn’t elaborate on, but as a very early comment in reply to their complaints said ‘it’s almost as if 6 minutes wasn’t long enough to tell 5,000 years of history’,” he laughed.
This was John’s second Manny Man video. Last year he made a video celebrating both Donegal reaching the All-Ireland final and the 75th Anniversary of The Hobbit.
To quote well-known Highland Radio news broadcaster Donal Kavanagh when he introduced John’s video at the Crash Cabaret in An Grianán Theatre: “Not only does John’s bizarre mind manage to connect these two events, he actually has it make perfect sense.”
John is best known for his acting, playing roles in the award-winning production of The 39 Steps and more recently Mass Appeal alongside Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhrighde, but drawing and illustrating has been a major part of his life for quite some time.
He said: “I’ve been drawing all my life and illustrating books for nearly as long. Between creating my own little comics and adventures I remember in 6th class in Scoil Cholmcille illustrating a nature book for the centenary of St Eunan’s Cathedral in a group led by our teacher, Mrs Anne McGowan.
“More recently, I’ve been illustrating local historian and teacher Kieran Kelly’s upcoming history book on Letterkenny. It been a massive project for me, which I’ve been working on for the past year,” said John.
The idea for Manny Man came to John while he was still in secondary school. “I remember drawing this little chap on each page of my French book during my early years at St Eunan’s College and coming up with the name Manny Man and it seems to have stuck.
“I was rooting through the attic a few months ago only to discover a Manny Man comic from when I was about 16 I had done for the Youth Information Centre.
“It was like finding the missing link for me! It was when I was studying the Leaving Cert that he found a use in helping me study King Lear.
“I’d been wanting some quick and easy comic form of the Shakespeare that didn’t take itself too seriously. I couldn’t find one, so I made one.
“He came to life more and more in the back pages of my refill pads in university and when I came to the far side of Third Level, between the recession and the great developments in social networking, I finally decided to reveal him to the world.”
“Between the cult following of the web comic and that air entrepreneurship that everyone seemed to be talking about, I decided to use that study aid I had created for myself for King Lear in the Leaving Cert and allow it to help other students, too.
“I approached my former English teacher Siobhán Melvin to help me get the ball rolling on the new project and before long I had produced Manny Man Does Shakespeare, a series of comics which condense the works of Shakespeare into fun digestible, visual scenes. It’s perfect for the student’s often stressful study environment. It’s fun and educational.”
In the wake of a great influx of interest in Manny Man, thanks to the viral video, John will finally be finishing Manny Man Does Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet and hopefully continuing his One-Man Shakespeare Show for schools. “I hope to make a few more videos for YouTube, too, but I’ll keep those as a surprise,” John said.
Manny Man Does Shakespeare can be ordered through the Manny Man Comic Facebook page, so be sure to give John Ruddy a LIKE!