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A Magazine for Sheffield

Jim Connolly Jim Connolly: A Steel City Tale

Illustrator launches month-long crowdfunder to raise money to publish Sheffield’s very own superhero story.

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You may recognise Jim Connolly’s bold, illustrative style from his long-standing collaboration with Kelham Island Brewery, producing colourful characters with dystopian vibes for their iconic pump clips. But a quick browse of Jim’s Instagram reveals his love for all things superhero, and as the pandemic took hold he chose to channel his creativity into a new comic book project. We chatted to Jim to find out more.

Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic background.

I'm a Sheff-born illustrator based in Manchester. I mainly do comic-style artwork which varies from a kooky, cartoony look to a darker, graphic novel style. Probably my best known stuff is for Kelham Island Brewery, who usually use me for their beer art. I also did a range for Little Critters Brewery and I've done graphics for a touring stage show, murals, poster campaigns and promo work for the likes of Iron Maiden and Celluloid Screams. A fun string to my bow has been creating art prints about the places I've lived, which got my songwriting hero Badly Drawn Boy round to ours for a brew once. I also heard that Richard Hawley bought a Sheff music print I did for him and Jarvis which is a great compliment.


How has the pandemic affected you from a creative perspective?

It began for me with the death of my sister Teresa which was made much more difficult by lockdown. After the dust had settled it was obvious no work was coming in so I decided to tackle my personal comic project to occupy my mind and stay busy at a very rough time. It's been a challenging year for everyone and I was lucky to be able to turn that into a positive via creativity.


You're taking a giant leap into the comic book world. Tell us about Made of Steel.

Made of Steel is a big, upbeat, brash superhero versus kaiju (Japanese genre of films featuring giant monsters) battle in an alt-universe Sheffield called 'Steel City'. I named the hero Roisin Sharman partly after my little girl, but also after the Sheff legend Dr Helen Sharman. She meets ancient god Hephaestus / Vulcan in Bingham Park and becomes Steel Bolt. She's a sharp-witted teen college student who’s into punk and indie. She's used to dealing with low-end crime but has to step up when two derby day-themed beasts - Owlzilla and Bonehead - arrive to have a dust-up in town.

Tonally I was aiming for a Spidey-meets-vintage-Godzilla feel, all within the city that has a very special place in my heart. It's important to me that it’s equally accessible to both kids and adults as many comic book movies seem to just cater for teens and adults these days, which is frustrating as a parent who loves comics and wants to introduce their kid to them. 'Into the Spiderverse' did the former beautifully and planted the seed for this story. Spider Gwen really stood out as a funny, cool female character with diverse appeal who both me and my kid really loved.

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The Made of Steel project is gathering pace and I understand that you're planning a Kickstarter campaign to help fund it. When should people look out for that?

It kicks off on 1 October and lasts only 31 days. I need to raise enough to cover my overheads during the remaining work and to also publish and distribute the book. You can pledge as little as £3 for a copy. There are also rewards like original artwork, art prints and even the chance to be in the comic. I think Sheffield deserves its own superhero story so please help to be part of a little slice of Steel City history. Check out the Kickstarter campaign here.

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)
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