Overview

Martin Eden's Spandex Soap Opera - Part 1

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Nominated for a prestigious Eagle Award this year for “Best British Colour Comic“, Martin Eden’s small press super-hero team book Spandex has garnered an incredible amount of mainstream attention. With radio, television and national newspaper coverage, Eden’s group of all-gay super-heroes have certainly caught the media’s eye. In the first of a two-part interview Broken Frontier catches up with Martin to talk about all things Spandex, the state of the British small press scene, pink ninjas and 50 foot lesbians…

BROKEN FRONTIER: For those readers unfamiliar with the book, what is Spandex’s core concept and what was its genesis as a spin-off from your previous comics work?

MARTIN EDEN: Spandex is about an all-gay superteam who operate out of Brighton. It follows their day-to-day lives, which are occasionally interrupted by the odd nasty villain or two. It’s fun and exciting and has lots of drama, twists and shocks, and a bit of cheekiness.

I had previously worked on a small press comic called The O Men, but after 10 years I needed a break from it, and I felt that people were put off from getting into it because of the amount of issues I had produced. I fancied starting something new and fresh and less complex, something a bit more fun.

At the same time, three or four background characters in The O Men were starting to grab my attention – Diva, Liberty and Glitter. I just took those and popped them into a new team called Spandex, and added new characters too.

It took quite a while to develop it and get it right and feel happy with it. It just felt like a really original idea to me, and I wanted to get the comic out there before someone beat me to it. Every time I looked through Previews, I had a feeling of dread that Marvel or DC or Image would launch an all-gay superteam book before I could release my first issue!

BF: Can you give us a quick rundown of the team’s members and your cast of characters?

ME: Sure. There are seven team-members in Spandex, each representing a colour of the gay rainbow flag. Taking them in order, from red to violet, Diva is a gorgeous lesbian Wonder Woman-style character. She has a massive secret, which I will reveal in issue 6. It’s something I’ve never seen done in a comic before, and I think it’ll knock people for six.

Glitter has light-based powers and he’s young and has a camp sense of humour and he can be a bit bitchy. He’s not always likeable, which is why I made him the focal character in issue three, to show a more serious side of his character and to hopefully make the readers like him.

Mr Muscles and Butch are the strong twins. Butch is really, really quiet, but I like her a lot – it’s a fun challenge to make a monosyllabic character likeable! Prowler has the power to take on the skills and abilities of any gay person in the vicinity. So, for instance, when the team go to Japan, he absorbs the Japanese language from gay guys and gals in Tokyo.

Indigo is my sexy, French teleporter. She has her Indigo Room, full of weapons, gadgets and costume changes and she teleports in and out of it. She’s very ‘flighty’, and her loyalties to the team are often in question. Finally, we have the team’s leader, Liberty, a guy who wears a female power-suit. She’s a quirky, fun character, but has a very serious, very manipulative side.

Other than that, we have lots of supporting characters who pop in and out of the series, such as Queenie the 50-foot lesbian, James Bend, and enemies like Pussy, Hag and Chunk. Also, one of the team members needs to be replaced after issue one, so we get the addition of Neon, a fluorescent gay ninja.

BF: You’ve been a solid presence in the UK small press scene for quite some time now with your The O Men series. Does it surprise you that, despite the opportunities of the internet as a platform for self-publishing, so many creators still embrace the traditional small press print route?

ME: No, not really, because there really is nothing like the feeling of holding a physical comic in your hands. Maybe I’m one of the old guard, but I don’t think I’m the only one who feels like that. I think so many people are doing things online, and I do really miss getting tons of small press comics through my letterbox!

I also think that printing has actually become a lot cheaper, and a lot of small-pressers are surprised by the different formats of comics they can afford to do. When I was planning Spandex, it suddenly dawned on me that the comic should be full colour and I was horrified, and that idea just wouldn't go away. How'm I going to afford this? But it doesn't actually break the bank - I was really surprised.

BF: Following on from that, which small press books are you particularly enjoying at the moment?

ME: There’s so much good stuff out there. I tend to follow creators, so anything by Paul Rainey (very funny) and Sean Azzopardi is great. Paul just finished a 13-part sci-fi comedy epic called There’s No Time Like The Present, which I recommend. Sean just finished an amazing horror superhero comic called Necessary Monsters. I’m loving Philippa Rice’s My Cardboard Life, which is well worth checking out online. Philippa also appears at just about every convention in the UK and always has some fun comics to sell. She’s so creative, it’s unbelievable.

BF: This may seem a strange comparison but I was constantly reminded somewhat of John Byrne’s Alpha Flight in the book’s initial setup. As readers we’ve been introduced to a fully-formed team from the get-go and we’ve begun to learn more about each character’s secrets and pasts as the book has progressed. Are you a big fan of the soap opera aspects of super-heroes and are there any comics that are a particular influence on your approach to Spandex?

ME: It’s funny that you should mention Alpha Flight, and I’m delighted that you did, actually. Byrne’s Alpha Flight was one of my all-time favourite comic runs ever. I know the guy gets a lot of flak these days, and his art has deteriorated a little, but man, those Alpha issues were stunning. The secrets, the shocks, the subplots… wow. They really don’t make comics like that any more. That’s what I want to do with Spandex – keep readers on their toes, like Byrne did with Alpha Flight. He killed the leader in issue 12! You just don’t do that!!

               

My character Indigo is actually loosely based on Aurora. Indigo is French and sexy and quite erratic and minx-y – but she’s a lesbian and she’s not schizophrenic… I do love soap opera-style comics. I just need to read a comic where the characters are interesting and they evolve, like Claremont’s old X-Men comics. I think the only comic that is doing that at the moment is The Walking Dead. It’s nice to read a comic where you really don’t know what is going to happen to the characters from one issue to the next. I’ve read and enjoyed so many great comics over the years – Morrison’s quirky and inventive comics, Sandman and its amazing cast of supporting characters – and I guess you can see their influence in Spandex. I just want to create a comic that I would enjoy reading myself.

Join us tomorrow for the second part of our Spandex interview. For more information and details on how to order the book check out the official Spandex website. You can also follow Spandex on Twitter or check out the Spandex Facebook page.

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