Quantum Leap! We go behind the scenes on Time Bomb Comics flagship anthology

This week saw the release of Quantum No. 7, the first issue of the physical only, newsagents-first anthology’s second year. We talked to Time Bomb Comics publisher Steve Tanner and Sales Manager Dave West about Quantum Year One…

Quantum Issue 7 cover by David Morris and Ben Lopez
Quantum Issue 7 cover by David Morris and Ben Lopez

Congratulations on reaching one year of Quantum! Any general thoughts on how it’s gone?

Steve: Beyond the fact that a small UK indie comics publisher has managed to produce six consecutive issues of anything within one year, we’ve done it through a channel that a lot of people with any professed interest in British comics had decided was pretty much dead in the water when it came to publishing new comics. I can kind of understand why they think that. You see, traditional comics publishing into the newsagents is both hard and expensive.

Dave: I’d say that it’s been an interesting experience.

Steve, David Morris, and myself, have worked in comic book publishing for over 20 years, but we haven’t done anything quite like this before. Mostly, it’s been about working out costs, understanding how to sell to the market and engaging with readers. and then making people aware of it. This is part and parcel of any publisher’s job, a calm foundation for the more challenging elements to grow from.

We quickly learnt to curb our enthusiasm, reigning in some of our more creatively chaotic ideas to prioritise building Quantum up as a long-running venture. Working together closely has also mitigated some of the unexpected challenges that have popped up. I couldn’t imagine doing anything like this as a solo project, let alone getting it to be anywhere near as successful as we’ve been.

It’s impossible to overstate how proud we are of our comic and the response that it’s had.

Obviously, launching an anthology like this is a huge deal, what inspired you to do it?

Steve: The realisation that we could, and that it was the next step in the evolution of Time Bomb Comics.

Dave: For me, it’s partly about trying to recreate the experience of having comic books available in newsagents again. I’ve noticed that it’s been a part of comic book culture which has been declining over time, with stores becoming more and more specialised.

While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s meant that younger people have fewer accessible options. If you don’t live close to a large town or a city, then it’s increasingly difficult to get your hands on the latest indie comic books. This meant that getting a British comic anthology into the hands of new readers quickly became our focus.

Teenage comics, including 2000AD, Commando and Quantum, battling for space on the newsstand last year. Image: John Freeman (2023)
Teenage comics, including 2000AD, Commando and Quantum, battling for space on the newsstand last year. Image: John Freeman
Teenage comics, including Quantum, on the newsstand. Image: Time Bomb Comics
Teenage comics, including Quantum, on the newsstand. Image: Time Bomb Comics

Quantum being physical only feels an especially bold move now – how has the reaction to that been?

Steve: We haven’t been inundated with people wanting digital editions, so I assume that’s a good thing. I think it confused some reviewers who are used to getting pdfs for, well, everything. But an important part of Quantum is how it feels – the paper quality, the perfect bound cardstock cover, the matt lamination, even the smell – which just doesn’t translate digitally. That said, we are looking into having a digital copy of Quantum released six months to a year after the print copy goes off sale.

Dave: For Quantum to work as planned, we need people to go to the high street and pick it up. We’ve held back on producing it digitally as not to detract from this, but as Steve said, this might change.

The mix of stories draws from such a wide range of genres, what sort of thought went into that?

Dave: We want every reader to find at least one title that they could enjoy, regardless of which genre they prefer, be it horror, science fiction, western or … well, you get the idea. But it’s also about pushing reader’s out of their comfort zones to discover something new. I know I tend to stick with my favourite genres, in all media, but am quite often pleasantly surprised by something different that I’ve stumbled across.

A page from "Major Rakhana" for Quantum Issue 5, written by Steve Tanner with line art by Roland Bird, colour art by Dan Harris, and lettered by Rob Jones
A page from “Major Rakhana” for Quantum Issue 5, written by Steve Tanner with line art by Roland Bird, colour art by Dan Harris, and lettered by Rob Jones

Steve, your story, “Major Rakhana”, originated in Time Bomb Comics Brawler. What was the process like for creating a strip starring her for Quantum?

Steve: The setting and tone of “Major Rakhana” seemed to be a perfect fit for the type of stories we wanted in Quantum – worlds that are not our own. It also meant that I could do more with the concept than a six-page short, every 18 months or so. I’ve been able to world-build a lot more, and to develop the characters further. What has been fun is to include things that don’t need to have a pay-off a few pages later.

Anyone really paying attention will have noticed that the first “Major Rakhana” storyline in Quantum – “Pax Galactica” – had some elements in there that weren’t all neatly explained by its conclusion.

"WesterNoir - Mooncursed" for Quantum Issue 4, written and lettered by Dave West, writer Jemma West, drawn by Joseph Harangue, coloured by Matt Soffe
“WesterNoir – Mooncursed” for Quantum Issue 4, written and lettered by Dave West, writer Jemma West, drawn by Joseph Harangue, coloured by Matt Soffe
“Tales of WesterNoir” - Sample Art
“Tales of WesterNoir”

Dave, obviously “WesterNoir” has been running for a while. Which aspects of its world did you want to bring to Quantum?

Dave: I developed “WesterNoir” with Gary Crutchley and we focussed almost exclusively on its central character, the enigmatic Josiah Black. That said, there were many other characters introduced in that series and it seemed a shame not to explore them further. After chatting with my daughter, editor and co-writer, Jemma, we found that we wanted to introduce a new character to this world. We knew we wanted a character who has her own history and reason for doing what she does, separate from Josiah but able to interact with already established characters.

You have the Clockwork Cavalier appear on the cover of Quantum No.7 – what should readers know about him?

STEVE: Absolutely nothing, other than it’s not his debut. The Cogwheeled Conundrum also appeared in Quantum No. 1, so it seemed a cool idea to bring him back for an encore one year later. I’m sure he’ll pop up again in the future too, and probably when least expected.

One of the interesting things in Quantum has been seeing the reprinted ‘non-superhero superhero’ stories, like “Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man?” What was the process of bringing them over like?

Dave: It’s amazing that these stories, some of them more than a decade old, are still finding new audiences and fans. We didn’t want an outright superhero story in Quantum, but “FastestMan” felt like a very British take on what that type of world might be like. People with abilities just getting on with their lives much like everyone around them; no spandex, capes, or superhero landings in sight.

The Quantum Prime subscription is offering rare reprints and extras, is there anything there you’d like to talk about?

Steve: Quantum Prime came from the readers. They wanted a subscription option, but we didn’t want to just do the usual thing of posting out every issue to subscribers and taking too much away from the newsagents. Our solution was to create something which really rewarded those who subscribe, so what we’ve came up with is almost like a Quantum ‘loot crate’. Those who have already subscribed have some really exclusive stuff already – 1:500 variants, comics that have only been printed for subscribers and fun merch that just make it more than most direct from publisher comic subscription models, which seems to be just the latest issue sent to you in a plastic bag.

Dave: The subscription model is very important to a business like ours; it provides a steady income stream that we can rely on and allows us to interact more directly with our readers. It’s also fun thinking up cool new things we can give to our subscribers. Where we can, we pull together limited editions of Quantum. These are printed to meet the subscriber numbers, making them as rare as can be.

Any general thoughts on Quantum going forward- anything you’re excited about this year?

Steve: One year on, do I think those commentators and nay-sayers are right about comics not being viable in the newsagents anymore? It shouldn’t come as any surprise that I don’t, although I’ll concede that it’s not the easiest of routes to take. Ultimately, publishing Quantum has been a Nemesis-like roller-coaster of learning curves with some unexpected and terrifying twists, but like any good thrill-ride continues to be breathlessly exciting.

Dave: To be honest, we have too many ideas!

There are loads of things we want to include in Quantum, and we would like to bring it out monthly to let us develop these. But that’s something we are hoping to do in the future. We do, however, have some other ideas that we are intending to introduce over the coming year, but we’ll keep those close to our chests for now.

Thanks to Steve and Dave for their time!

Quantum No. 7 is on sale now, and can be found in your local newsagent. If you can’t find a copy, you can get in touch with Time Bomb Comics on social media or via info@timebombcomics.com to find your nearest stockist

All six issues of Quantum Year One are available here from Time Bomb Comics as a bundle – for £60 in the UK

• Check out Time Bomb Comics at timebombcomics.com 

• Follow Time Bomb Comics on Facebook | Twitter | Substack

Creating Comics: An Interview with Comics Writer and Time Bomb Comics editor, Jemma West

Time Bomb Comics is a British comics company created back in 2007, that publishes comics and graphic novels, including the popular Flintlock and Brawler anthology series, and the recently-published Gerry Anderson Spectrum anthology. From historical horror to mind-bending science-fiction, each release is a complete story by talented creators.

Their books are about delivering good solid comic book entertainment, featuring stories from exciting newcomers to established professionals our artists and writers, united with a single aim – Telling Great Stories.

With many thanks to Katie Cunningham for this item

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  1. Coming Soon: Quantum #7, featuring The Clockwork Cavalier – downthetubes.net

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