Back on August 6, I published a page in the Journal about Chris Nicholls and his attempt to gain funding through Kickstarter for his steampunk comic book project; Arthur Shilling. Since then, the project has nearly reached fruition and is on the cusp of success. There are only 10 days to go, so I had a little chat with Chris to get some more information on his project.
It’s wonderful of you to take the time out of your hectic schedule to talk to me, Chris. As you know, the Journal centres around the steampunk culture and your comic seems to have a steampunk theme to it. Do you have roots in steampunk?
I’m a big fan of the classic writers, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle (I know he’s not pure steampunk but the essence is there). And some of my favourite comic series have been steam/dieselpunk ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ and ‘Hellboy’. I also love the alternative history work of Harry Turtledove, which makes me want to understand how these steampunk worlds work and where the difference lies (ours by the way will be revealed later in the year). And I’m a big fan of the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, which I feel has a place in the genre.
The way my brain works is very numerical, which is a bit strange for a writer, and I like to deal with precision. The perfect marriage with clockwork. And if all else fails you can hit it with a hammer.
And what inspired you to create this project, dear boy?
I had been working on short stories starring Arthur Shilling for some time, they were originally going to be a collected series of short stories similar to the Sherlock Holmes books. However, I help to run Armadacon in Plymouth and while I was there I got a chance to speak to Steve May. I’ve always loved his work, I have a massive Doctor Who pen and ink he did hanging on my wall, so I slipped him a script. From there our story gets longer and less to the point.
Now, aside from the obvious pun, how did you come up with the name Arthur Shilling?
Arthur Shilling started life as a pun and a Gentleman Plumber. We (my wife and I) were painting the bathroom of our first house and we just invented the character of a Gentleman Plumber who worked on the toilets of the super-rich. From there he gained the title Paranormal Adventurer and evolved into what I write today. Once I realised this was something that other people were interested in he dropped the farcical element and join a world that has been fleshed out to all four corners. This does mean there are a group of stories that may never see the light of day.
There’s a sub plot featuring a monster hunter, tell us about that
The initial pitch for this comic was a six page story to be published in another Plymouth based comic; “The Pilgrim Strips” published by Cape Fear Comics. But once Rob Cross joined us as lead artist we felt like the story could do with some more breathing room, so it became 11 pages. Of course this isn’t enough to warrant a whole comic of your own and we had given ourselves a very short deadline. So we struck on the idea of having a second story, but this one being mainly text and having illustrations to highlight key points.
I was in contact with Chris Fisher at the time and I knew he was looking for a project to work on, so I pitched him the world of Arthur Shilling and he was able to incorporate a character he’d been working on for a while; Dr Beckett.
The character of Dr Beckett brings a balance to that of Shilling. Even though Beckett has had a privileged life it’s been one of hardship, he really isn’t the happy-go-lucky character that Arthur is. And when we finally get the two of them to meet in the same strip things are going to get heated (and I don’t just mean the tea).
Is there a chance that you may have a Simpsons/Futurama problem where the smaller project becomes better and more popular?
Not at all, the aim for us is to publish lots of comics from this world. Whether they are an on-going series or short runs to tell a story. We would love to see the day when Dr Beckett has his own book. The plans are it won’t be long until he has the cover and we know the second chapter of his story, the first will stay a mystery for a while.
Would it be something you would dispose of if it did?
No, talking as a man trying to start a business, I would rather sell one person three comics then just one. That makes sense, so when Beckett gets popular enough we will give him his own book and sell that alongside Arthur Shilling.
Obviously I know, but describe to the proletarians what a Gentleman Engineer is?
He is an engineer to the gentry. If a Lord or Lady want their dirigibles tune for a faster flight, or a Doctor needs clockwork arm re-hinged he’s the man you go to.
Does Shilling have a larger plot development or will it be issue by issue?
I have a larger story in mind with the formation of their worlds team of super heroes, akin to ‘The Avengers’ or ‘The JLA’ that Arthur plays a major part in. But I think that will be tackled in a second series that I aim for a Christmas release. I would like to keep Arthur’s own book as short one to three part stories, some people can just pick up and read.
If you go over your target, what will you do with the extra funds?
This was a hard thing to work out when we were thinking about what we could do. We didn’t want to add extra pages for two reasons. Firstly it would have meant we would have needed to create more content. And secondly it would have put the cost of the final product up. Another option was to print more issues, but we felt that the 500 we were already planning on would be enough to get us through our first convention.
What we decided on was to list conventions we would like to attend as goals, so we would work out how much to have a table at ‘Cardiff Comic and Animation Expo’ or ‘London MCM Expo’ and put that as our goals. It also means we can extend our £5 for collection pledge to lots more people, if they can wait that long to get their hands on it.
If we did have more money on top of that I would like to be able to pay the freelance artists for their work. On top of that a small notepad style laptop would be heaven for me, something I can carry around an crack out when it’s needed.
Jolly nice of you to talk to me, my good man. Thank you.
One thing I noticed about Chris is his determination. He knows what he wants and he knows what he needs to do to attain it. He’s worked tirelessly and intends to carry on doing so to ensure that Arthur Shilling sees the light of day. The bit that got my moustache twitching was the indication of a larger story later in the future.
Time is nearly up to get your donations in. It only needs a paltry sum of £250 to reach the target, so dig out those purses, contact your bursary or invent a money creation device.
If you’d like to make a donation, click this link:
Arthur Shilling comic book Kickstarter project