Steve Tanner talks to us about his latest, Kickstarted project, Flinklock.
Steve Tanner created Time Bomb Comics back in 2007 to publish one shots and graphic novels. In fact, the British independent publisher celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, with books like Defiant,BombScaresVols1 and 2 and Ragamuffins:StitchInTime under their belt. In 2016, they decided to fund adventure anthology Flintlock using Kickstarter, the second time they did this (the first was with BombScares). It worked and they have just published a second volume of Flintlock, which is out now. ComicHeroes spoke to Tanner to find out about the genesis of Flintlock, the crowdfunding experience and the appeal of creating your own anthology comic.
“Flintlock: Book One took about 18 months from coming up with the concept to launch,” Tanner reveals to me when I speak to him recently.
He has been using Kickstarter for a very specific purpose, he explains.
“I’m using Kickstarter as a pre-order business model, and I think it’s important to highlight that. It’s difficult to get an Indie book noticed, even harder to get them into the comic stores, so I’m finding crowd-funding an interesting alternative route to market. That strategy then dictates the overall campaign – my financial target is always very low, the postage is worked out at cost, and the base book price is cheaper than it will be after it has been published.
“For several years I was very anti-Kickstarter,” Tanner continues, “but then I realised that my issues weren’t based around the platform itself but how it was being used by some of those adopting it. For example, I was seeing books sold at two or three times the price they would be when at the convention tables or the funding targets were so astronomically high as to be ridiculous. And don’t get me started on the time is takes for projects to deliver. To me, if someone has faith in your book to pay for it in advance they should be getting a better deal than those that buy off the shelf.
“Similarly,” he adds, “if your project is funded you’ve essentially entered into a contract with all those who have helped you – so then going off and working on something else and making those good people wait much longer than they expected to is just wrong. You’ve received the money, you’ve been paid for the job, now go and do it.”
Tanner is weary of these ideals with every use of the platform. “That’s why regardless of the level you pledge at with the Flintlock pre-order campaigns your digital or printed copy of the book will always cost less than cover price. The low overall target also means the stretch goals can be triggered earlier, so the opportunity to reward backers further then presents itself quicker. It’s about properly rewarding anyone who’s pre-ordered the book, not penalising them,” he tells us.
Flintlock features three different stories ( LadyFlintlock,Shanti and The Clockwork Cavalier), all written by Tanner. He enjoyed the variety of writing three very diverse and different characters, all united by a common historical setting.
“As with any anthology Flintlock presents an opportunity to tell a range of stories. The linked theme is the 100 years that make up the 18th century, which is a very broad yet concentrated backdrop and allows for a wide range of possibilities character-wise. Going back to my original notes for the series it quickly became apparent that this backdrop allowed me to conceive a wide range of characters that are very different to one another yet still fit in the period. Not all made the final cut, of those that did some have yet to be seen. This also seems a good opportunity to mention the shared timeline – all the characters co-exist within the Flintlock century, although they maybe decades apart from one another. Some will meet, some won’t, and some who may be considered bit-players will turn out to have major parts to play as the series progresses,” Tanner informs us.
He was very aware of just how important a role the artists on each of the strips would play.
“A huge part of Flintlock’s success has been the artistic talent involved, no doubt about it. Putting the team together, the thing I was most conscious of was the setting and how that needed to be properly realised. It’s one thing to be able to draw a recognisable Batman – but a horse? Or a period street scene? Quite frankly, that’s not something that every artist would warm to.”
Of his team he tells us, “Anthony Summey had recently drawn an incredibly detailed short story for the 2015 BombScares anthology book, and it happened to have an 18th-century setting. As soon as I saw that I got in touch with him and offered him Lady Flintlock. Anthony’s a huge fan of the period so he was up for it and is doing an amazing job. There’s a whole Al Williamson/Alex Raymond feel about his artwork and that classic style of his is just beautiful.
“Lorenzo Nicoletta came via the submissions pile. For a small set-up TimeBombComics receives a fair few
“He enjoyed the variety of writing three very diverse and different characters”
submissions, either as completed works seeking publication or writers and artists sending through spec samples. So I have a potential talent pool that’s being regularly updated and Lorenzo’s work stood out as being a good fit for Shanti. He’s a really talented newcomer, and you can already see the progression in his work from BookOne to BookTwo. I had the pleasure of meeting him as well, when he came over to England to be with me at a con. He’s a great bloke!
“Edgard Machiavello was a combination of both those elements,” Tanner continues. “I’d already seen his work previously and he’d also sent me some separate samples. There’s a dynamism to Ed’s style that seemed a perfect fit for TheClockworkCavalier and pairing him up with that character has been spot on. The pages he’s producing are just remarkable. In Book
Two the Cavalier story is set in and around St Paul’s Cathedral. That’s a location that would challenge the best of artists and Ed has, well, his pages for that are just jaw-dropping.”
And it doesn’t stop there, Tanner has a plan for the future in place already. “I have artists Caroline Parkinson and David Morris, both of whom are working some new character storylines for Book Three and beyond. These are creators I’m a personal fan of, and they’ve come to me because of Flintlock:BookOne. They enjoyed the book and want to be involved, and I’m delighted that they are,” Tanner recalls.
It is the variety of the different artists that he sees as one of the strongest aspects of the series.
“I think one of the strengths of an anthology is that it offers differing styles, which is something I’ve also tried to achieve with the scripts themselves – you’ll notice that the pacing and tone of Lady Flintlock is very different to Shanti, and different again for the ClockworkCavalier. Adopting a cookie-cutter approach was never a consideration – if you want that uniformity of style just have one artist draw the whole thing, right?,” he asks.
With any historical series, it stands or falls on its research and the creator is all too conscious of this.
“All the stories are rooted in fact, in particular the ClockworkCavalier stories which features a character very much inspired by that notorious fake 18th Century automaton The Turk. There’s the London setting too, and the real historical figures involved with the Bow Street Runners – more research went into that third story than those first two!”, Tanner admits.
Flintlock features characters quite different to those who would have appeared in adventure strips years ago. But it was essential for Tanner to reflect modern society in them.
“A lot of what inspired Flintlock is down to the gender politics of today rather than 300 years ago. Sure, many of the characters in the Flintlock stories will behave and react with 18thcentury values and in many ways the culture of the time drives the stories in this way. That can be a limitation – these characters can’t just behave like contemporary people wearing hats and wigs like we’d think – but also provides a wealth of plot and interaction dynamics ripe for exploration.
But let’s look at where we are now, and how those characters are perceived today, because that’s a huge part of what I’m trying to do with Flintlock as a whole. At the series core, Flintlock is about telling adventure stories using comics as the medium to tell them.
“I think one of the strengths of an anthology is that is offers differing styles”
Left: We wouldn’t mess with the good lady if we were you
Above: Titular character Lady Flintlock shows her two sides
Below: The art has a very distinctive style, with a great tone and tempo
Left: Tanner has raised four times his original Kickstarter goal to continue publishing the comic books