Paging Dr. Eldritch

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Most everyone done it sometime in their life - turned delibrately to the advice section of a normal magazine or local newspaper. But there's nothing normal or local about Dr. Eldritch - an ex-monster hunter who turns his piercing attention from vampires to inkwell, where he pens an advice column for other extraordinary types. At least that's how creator Evan M. Nichols is telling it in Ask Dr. Eldritch, an action figure-based webcomic with a little bit of everything, ranging from beauty pageants to troll dating.

A webcomic this addictively strange calls for a supporting cast equally addicting and bizarre. The eclectic cast includes Dr. Eldritch's mostly down-to-earth assistant Kari, his burglar-eating security system Trevor, a somewhat Asimovian robot named Ping and even a rented werewolf hunting trophy.

I caught up with creator Evan M. Nichols to talk about his creative influences, goals in life and favorite sandwich toppings.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Why webcomics? Ex-vampire hunter turned advice columnist sounds like it could float in any number of mediums, including TV, books or movies. Why did you choose webcomics in particular?

EVAN M. NICHOLS: The webcomic is merely Step #2 in my multi-media plan. Ask Dr. Eldritch began with the weekly advice column. Since then, I've also published Eldritch short stories as subscription fiction, written a draft of an Eldritch novel, and worked on comic books and a screenplay. I've also considered podcasts, webcasts, and video games. Of all those, the webcomic seemed the most economical means to increase my web presence and expand my audience.

BF More pressingly, why action figures? You just don't see that many action figure comics these days, and even when people can't draw (like me), they usually just find artists who can. So why did you choose to tell the story with action figures?

EMN: A webcomic is a huge time commitment, and when I started, all my artist friends were busy with their own projects. Rather than finding a stranger to collaborate with or relying on my mediocre drawing skills, I opted for action figures.Plus, my background is in theater, and creating a photocomic is like producing a small play with posable actors.

BF: I was also curious: has there even been any issue of copyright using action figures? Has anyone ever said you can or cannot use such and such a figure at any time?

EMN: No Cease-and-Desist letters so far! I'm not a lawyer, but I understand there are potential trademark issues if I want to sell merchandise using photos of the action figures. As a free webcomic, I've stayed under the radar.

BF: How did you come up with Dr. Eldritch? Was there any character or characters that formed the basis for his career or personality?

EMN: I've always been annoyed by characters in fiction who make obvious mistakes, like searching for the psycho-killer by venturing alone into a dark basement. So I started the advice column as a feature on my website, where I'd answer the questions that those characters should ask. When I started getting e-mails from people who didn't seem to understand that these letters were made up, I decided that fictional letters needed a fictional advice columnist.

A friend once said that Dr. Eldritch was the character that I wished I could be. He's my take on the Heroic Protagonist, one who intuitively knows whether to slay the monster or befriend it. However, I'd much rather write about adventures than live them, so my alter-ego gets that job.

BF: Lastly, what advice to do you have anyone looking to break into webcomics, or any creative field in general?

EMN: I noted early on that the two major complaints from fans of other webcomics were "Irregular updates" and "Too much mayonnaise."  So I decided on three comics per week, and haven't missed a scheduled update yet, for 400 comics. So my advice to beginners is to pick a schedule you can live with, work on  improving your skills, and never, ever quit because you're discouraged. Most "Overnight Success Stories" take years to manifest, so keep looking for ways to move forward.  And go easy on the mayo.


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