STARBURST caught up with Birmingham-based indie comics hero Steve Tanner of Time Bomb Comics to find out what exciting new things he has planned for 2016.
STARBURST: What Is Flintlock?
Steve Tanner: Flintlock is an ongoing anthology set in the 18th Century featuring highwaymen, pirates and more. Each story takes place at some point between 1701 and 1800, with all the characters co-existing in a shared historical timeline. So, there’ll be highwaymen, law-enforcers, pirates and more. I’m writing the stories, the incredible talents of Anthony Summey, Lorenzo Nicoletta and Ed Machiavello have produced the art for the first issue. Last but not least, we have Bolt-01 on lettering duties. Flintlock’s launching at the Birmingham Comics Festival on April 23rd following a very successful pre-order campaign via Kickstarter.
Why pirates? Haven’t pirates been done?
Pirates in comics haven’t really been done, unless of course there’s been a huge pirate comics revival that completely passed me by! To me, it was a no-brainer that pirates would be an essential ingredient to Flintlock – although I’m trying present a spin on the stereotypical pirate themes that’s perhaps overly familiar from Captain Jack Sparrow and his ilk!
How is Flintlock different, what should we expect?
One big difference is that none of Flintlock’s leads are what you may expect. Both our lead highwayman and pirate characters – Lady Flintlock and Shanti the Pirate Queen – are women, and presented as realistic, rounded characters rather than the overly sexualised female characters we usually see in comics. Others like the Clockwork Cavalier are, I hope, a bit of a surprise. I think the shared timeline is unusual too as it means that although the various lead characters may never actually meet, the actions they take individually will sometimes have consequences on each other years, even decades, apart.
What is so special about Shanti?
She’s Asian, from India, and her stories will be set for the most part in and around the Indian Ocean rather than the Caribbean setting that people are more familiar with. What also makes Shanti special – and this is something that a couple of British Asian media commentators have picked up on – is that apparently she will be the first regular Indian Asian female lead character seen in British comics. I find that astonishing if that is indeed the case, although off the top of my head I can’t think of any myself that have been lead rather than supporting characters. Perhaps your readers can confirm that?
What’s the Clockwork Cavalier?
The Clockwork Cavalier is a mysterious wind-up automaton that, rumour has it, has been recruited into Henry Fielding’s Bow Street Runners to help his fledgling law enforcement agency maintain order on the streets of 18th Century London. The Cavalier was very much inspired by the real mechanical figures who were very popular at the time, but of course most of those were little more than cleverly constructed puppets.
What’s your next project?
For me, it’s pretty much Flintlock – Book Two is currently coming together, as I’m intending to release two issues per year. In terms of Time Bomb Comics, the next Bomb Scares horror collection is on the horizon for this October.
What’s the future of the UK comics scene?
The UK comics scene is constantly evolving – a fact that some of the keyboard warrior dinosaurs seem unable to grasp. More people are producing comics in the UK than ever before, the number of female creators is inspiring and the quality of the comics themselves improve year on year. Newsagents gave ground to comic shops who are in turn giving ground to the digital distribution channels, and the number of comic conventions there are make travelling around the country selling direct to your readers (and building that fanbase at the same time) a key part of reaching readers. Will that bubble burst? Certainly I think we’re at saturation point events-wise, but it’s the shows that put the “con” into comic-con that will struggle over the next few years. Like those aforementioned dinosaurs, they’ll end up extinct. More great creators will continue to produce more great comics though, and alternative distribution will continue to be fully exploited.
What advice do you have for someone looking to create comics?
Simply, create comics. With print on demand and digital distribution it’s easier and cheaper than ever to get your work out there, but you have to produce the pages to do that. I find the UK comics community incredibly open and supportive – so don’t be afraid to ask for guidance and advice. But take time to learn your craft, too, and be realistic in your goals and expectations. Start out the blocks with some shorter stories, that 300+ page graphic novel can wait for later.
Is crowdfunding the future of indie comics?
It is in terms of how I approach it, which is as a new avenue for distribution. I use Kickstarter as a pre-order platform to reach comics readers that otherwise I probably wouldn’t. My funding targets are low – and the cost of buying Flintlock via the pre-order campaign was set lower than it will be available for after publication. I don’t quite get the principle of charging backers two or three times as much for your comic as you’re going to be selling it to everyone else for once it’s produced to be honest! Forget 2 or 3 year delays too – I only launched the campaign once all the story pages were fully complete and in-house, and that will be the intention going forward.
You can find out more about Steve’s project at of Time Bomb Comics, and if you want to know more about the UK Indie comics scene, you should visit The Birmingham Comics Festival on Saturday, April 23rd.
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