Interviews

Drag Queens and Comedy: An Interview with Chris Fildes

Kickstarter has become a safe haven for new works in the midst of the pandemic, a place where creators can turn to have their books shared with the world while conventions remain artefacts of the Before Times. Among the ranks of Irish creators putting their own through Kickstarter is Chris Fildes, writer of Fanny Galactic and the currently funding Crime&D’Sorder. The books centre on the drag scene in an English seaside village, bringing a new wave of comedy to Irish comics. Chris was kind enough to agree to an interview in the middle of his campaign – almost fully funded at the time this interview is going live.

It’s an awful cliché to ask a writer where they get their inspiration from, but I have to ask: why drag queens, and why now? Where did the characters come from?

Chris: I thought of the idea for the first book while watching a drag show in Dublin about 5 years ago. The performers wind machine had seen better days and I started to think about what would happen if it exploded. I then came up with this story in my head of this drag queen waking up in the future Buck Rogers style. So that’s how it started. I decided to make my characters a little older as I wanted a mix of fun, naughty humour but with the undercurrent of having been around and seen it all over the years. This lets me look at some weighty topics such as homophobia in 1980’s Britain (where I grew up), dealing with HIV and how growing up gay back then affected the characters – and still affects them.

How much of your own experience with the drag community came into play when writing this book?

Chris: I used to be involved in an annual Irish charity fundraiser called Alternative Miss Ireland. It started in 1987 in a small nightclub before coming back in 1996 hosted by Irish drag royalty Panti. It first went to see it in 1998 shortly after I moved to Ireland. I loved it so much I ended up building their website and going to committee meetings. It was such fun. It wasn’t just drag – it was a pastiche of a beauty contest so anyone could enter. I think a dog entered one year. What I loved about it was it was a bit rough around the edges and things would often go wrong – if we were lucky! I’ve always been drawn to slightly off-kilter entertainment and this really got me. I haven’t really been involved for years but it was a huge inspiration. 

We already know that Crime & D’Sorder is a comedy, but what else can people expect from the book? Is prior knowledge of Fanny Galactic required?

Chris: No prior knowledge required. All you need to know is in the first book Fanny Galactic’s pub gets blown up and she ends up in the future. There she discovers a world taken over by drag queens presided over by a friend of hers. The second book looks at the pub explosion scene from book 1 from the perspective of one of her friends caught up in it, and explores what happens next. The first book was a sci-fi comedy romp whereas the new one is more of a thriller/horror with comedy moments. It’s still funny (I hope) but it’s more serious and more the tone I’d like to take the series in going forward. I’d actually rather people start with this book to be honest – they can be read in any order. So we look at how and why the world got taken over by a drag queen and how Fanny’s friends get caught up in it.

Sybil D’Sorder

You moved to Dublin recently; how have you found the reception of the Irish comic community given the current state of the world? What are you most looking forward to post-pandemic?

Chris: Oh I actually moved here in 1998! I only started connecting with other Irish comic creators during both Kickstarter campaigns and haven’t had a chance to meet anyone properly. It’s my intention to get more involved now we can meet up. I’m so thrilled Little Deer Comics has opened up a stones throw from my house in Stoneybatter so this will give me a nudge to check out new Irish comics and start getting involved.

Editor note: Little Deer Comics has a store lease for 9 months, so don’t miss the opportunity to see it before it’s gone!

My mistake! We’ll have to make sure you get properly introduced to people soon! Back to the comics for now, what’s coming next from the world of Fanny Galactic and the drag queens of Dublin? Or will you be steering your craft to explore other areas of interest to you?

Chris: I’m hoping if this book is successful to work on the next instalment 20,000 WIGS UNDER THE SEA which continues Fanny Galactic’s time travel adventures – this time on the Titanic. This is going to be such fun. I’ve plans for more books in the series but I’m trying to work out how to get them out. CRIME & D’SORDER is a shorter comic than the first book and I’m not sure whether to split the new story into 2 books or do it all as one (which will take much longer). 

Violet Crime

I’m also working on some other stories too as I’ve been working on Fanny Galactic for a few years now (I first started plotting it nearly 7 years ago) and would like to spread out a bit. I’ve fully plotted a medieval horror story which I’m really, really excited about. It looks at a particular well known story in a very different way. I’m a big fan of David Lynch and this is scratching an itch to do something darker and more experimental. It came to me fully formed one night I couldn’t sleep – it scared me a bit as it felt like it was poured into my head from somewhere else…

Once this Kickstarter is done I’m going to finish writing this. I also have a new story I’d love to work on, which is an LGBT sci-fi love/adventure story. It’s an epic tale and the first issue I have mapped out and I think it could really work and lend itself to an ongoing story. So I need to balance that with budget and also wanting to carry on working with artist Edward Bentley on Fanny Galactic as I love our collaboration. At the moment it looks like there will be a gap before I start a new Fanny Galactic but I think it’s good to spread out and try a few other things. I’m going to be taking both Fanny Galactic books to Thought Bubble and it will be great to see the reaction and see what people think about it. 

Thanks again to Chris for taking the time to talk to us! Be sure to check out Crime&D’Sorder on Kickstarter – the campaign ends on September 30th! From the sneak peek we got before the interview, this is the sort of book the Irish comic scene needs.

About Chris:

Chris is a new Irish comics writer born in the UK but based in Dublin for the last 20 years. Last year he Kickstarted his first book FANNY GALACTIC : TUCK TO THE FUTURE about the adventures of a time travelling drag queen. It funded in under 3 days so now he’s come back with a follow-up CRIME & D’SORDER. He grew up on a diet of 1980’s Doctor Who and 2000ad and which inspire both his humour and writing.

Follow Chris on Twitter @IamChrisFildes

Sleep Tight
Interviews

Dustbunnies and Horror: An Interview with Anthea West

Anthea West is the Dublin based creator of Fate, an all-ages fantasy story that began in print and turned to the web. As well as Fate, she’s released The Earthbound God – a fantasy graphic novel – and Sleep Tight – a short collection of horror comics.

Anthea West

You’ve been working on Fate for a long time now. Did you always plan on releasing it as a webcomic?

Short story: Yes. Long story: The plan was to release it as an issue series until chapter 3 and then start releasing it was a web series along with the issues. However, I soon realise, after chapter 2, that printing and selling issues were a handful and pretty expensive over time. I went back and tweak a few things in the original chapters, coloured them and placed them on the web while discontinuing the issues. I enjoy selling graphic novels far more than issues anyway.

If you were to start again now, would you do anything differently?

I would have changed some plot things, very minor things that no one else would have noticed except me most likely. I would give myself more time between chapters to not only write and layout pages but to get a month’s worth of pages completed. A buffer is a webcomics best friend as the old saying goes.

Your Kickstarter last year was fully paid on the first day. What do you think helped with that?

I think it was a good mixture between being involved with the Irish comic community for years beforehand, having already built a small audience for Fate since 2015 and I had recently joined a webcomic collective called Ink Drop Café some months before the Kickstarter. They are such a wonderful and welcoming group and they helped a lot with the advertising of the KS over the month. They were also there to give a lot of moral support and advice and I’m super indebted to them.   

What would you advise to other creators looking to Kickstart a book?

Build your audience first. Advertise what you’re creating long before the Kickstarter. Get your name out there, let people know who you are and sort of things you are creating. Remember that Kickstarter is a platform, not a guarantee of success. You’re only going to get as much as you put in.

Sleep TightAs well as all-ages fantasy, you’ve also worked on horror. What made you work in a different genre?

I’ve always enjoyed horror. Not so much as getting spooked in the middle of the night but that’s a given when you consume the scary stuff. I had always wanted to make some horror comics, I use to write a lot of horror in my teenage years but I just never really got around to it. The final push was when the 100th person told me I could never do horror or “serious” stories because of the style of my artwork.  Let say, spite can be a wonderful motivator.

If you could only work in one genre, and you had to choose between all-ages fantasy like Fate, or horror like Sleep Tight, which would you choose?

Fantasy, no question. It’s a bit of a cheat answer as fantasy spills over into other genres easily such as horror and adventure while still being fantasy. Besides, my horrors are all shorts, fantasy tends to be where my long-form story ideas live. I have a lot of long-form stories planned for the future.

What’s your one tip for people wanting to make a start in comics?

Just start making comics. Don’t worry about perfection, or about being good. Good will come later. Right now just hop in and learn. Start with short stories, work up to issue-length stories and if you want to, move onto graphic novel length. Making comics and sharing them online or IRL is getting into comics.

What’s next for you in the world of comics?

More Fate certainly. That should be returning after its long break in June. This summer or next September I’ll be releasing another, longer, horror anthology called Interloper, so keep an eye out for that. My patrons over on Patreon get previews and sneak peeks into that every week. I’m also near the end of writing my all-ages graphic novel, Ash Tree, a story where a young girl called Aisling is shrunk and forced on an adventure with a hyperactive fox and has to learn, very quickly, how to be brave.