Steve Tanner talks to us about his lat­est, Kick­started project, Flin­klock.

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

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

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