Martin Eden's Spandex Soap Opera - Part 2

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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 second instalment of a two-part interview Broken Frontier catches up with Martin to talk about Spandex‘s Eagle Award nomination, press interest, the Japandex project and gay zombies…

Read Part 1 here

BF: What has reaction to the book been like? Did you ever imagine there would be such an appeal beyond the small press audience? And how much of a shock was the greater media interest in Spandex?

MARTIN EDEN: I’ve had generally a very positive reaction to the book, and people seem to like what I’m doing. I do get the odd ‘hater’, but I’ve started to just ignore them now. In fact, most of the haters are people that haven’t actually read the comic, they’ve just browsed my website. I’ll get a comment from someone saying something like: “Your depiction of a transvestite is offensive”. In that instance, I try to chat to them and ask if they want to talk about it, but normally they don’t respond.

I never imagined Spandex would get noticed the way it did. I have a friend in Marketing and PR who helped me send out a press release for the first issue, and neither of us thought it would even get read. Then suddenly my Marketing chum said to me, “Mart, you’re on the homepage of The Sun website”, and then the Metro newspaper picked up on it too. Then I was doing radio and TV interviews. All this while I was working in my day job!!

It was all a massive shock and I went round with a shell-shocked expression on my face for about a month. I only printed 200 copies of the first issue, and after the Metro feature, I received about 1000 orders in two days. I had to scamble to get a second printing organized and I also had promised to provide a free sketch with each issue…!

BF: How did it feel being nominated for a prestigious Eagle Award this year?

ME: It was unbelievable. I’d actually just come back from a somewhat disappointing weekend at the Bristol comic convention – barely any punters came into the small press room we were in – and I was feeling a bit low. I arrived at work and my colleague said to me, “well done on the Eagle Award nomination” and I was like, “what??” When I investigated and saw that Spandex was up for ‘Best British Colour Comic’, I was on cloud nine! I’m not really expecting to win, as I have huge titles in my category – The Beano, 2000AD, The DFC – but I’m just really, really happy with the nomination.

BF: Tying in with the team’s visit to Japan, in the “Pink Ninjas” issue Spandex #2, you initiated your online “Japandex” project. Can you tell us about that and your obvious love for Japanese culture?

ME: I think it all started when I got into Japanese horror movies a few years back. I just fell in love with the country and the culture and just the whole thing, really. Then I started exploring manga – although I still find it all a bit overwhelming – and I started taking Japanese classes, which was really fun and challenging. Finally, I visited the country back in March and I had such a great time, and the people are soooo lovely.

Everything just came together really for issue two, the Pink Ninjas issue. I wanted to introduce an Asian character and pay my little tribute to Japan, and I was able to use a lot of elements of my Japanese visit in the artwork, the people I met and the sights I saw. It wasn’t the plan to use my experiences in this way, as I'd hoped to finish issue two way before my trip. However, the issue took longer to create than I’d anticipated, and I’m glad I was able to draw the Japanese scenes after my trip, as I would have missed so much out – things like the fact that the cities skies are sprawling with telephone cables.

Japandex came about because I had loads of ideas in mind – loads of tributes to Japanese movies and culture, and I wanted to put a Spandex spin on them. Stuff like ‘Gayzilla’ and a Battle Royale image with my team all dressed in school uniforms. I didn’t have time to draw them all though, so I decided to invite some friends and fellow indie comics people to have a go. It was great, I really enjoyed working with everyone and seeing what they came up with. Some of the artists were fairly inexperienced, so it was wonderful to see them take part and actually get a phenomenally positive reaction. I think it was a nice experience for everyone that took part. You can see all the art on the ‘Spandex Comic’ Facebook page.


BF: You’d planned a somewhat different narrative structure for upcoming storylines with a planned graphic novel “collecting” non-sequential issues of Spandex and inviting readers to mentally fill in the gaps themselves. Is that still how you see the story progressing?

ME: Plans have changed, really. I originally wanted to just release one issue of Spandex – a taster – because I wanted to get the idea out there, but I didn’t think I could afford to print loads of individual issues. The plan was that the eventual book would tell a 15-issue story, but we’d only see six of those issues. There would be fake covers to fill in the gaps and each issue would have fake Editor's notes. It just helps cut a load of boring set-up and exposition and it was a fun idea. I was even thinking of doing an issue 1000, so we’d see the team of the future!

However, Spandex started to get some attention, and I got more and more enthusiastic about it and I just wanted to get more stuff out there, so that people could get to know and hopefully love the characters the way I do. But non-sequential issues wouldn’t work in an issue-by-issue basis. If someone buys issue 1 and then issue 4 and then issue 8, they’ll be saying “well, where’s issue 2 and 3 etc…?” So I changed it all back to normal – thankfully it still works, and I’m still telling the story I want to tell.

If I can get a publisher, I might try and do a ‘Director’s Cut’ version of the whole thing, right at the end, showing the story as I originally intended it. In the meantime, I’m still playing around with the format of the comic. For instance, issue three will have a full story, but we’ll only really see three or four of the characters. Then at the end, we get 8 separate 3-panel ‘Spandex Shorts’ which progress a few storylines and provide an opportunity to show the missing characters and also introduce a whopper of a cliffhanger to the whole issue. Spandex is all about fun and experimentation and challenging myself and the reader.


BF: Are there any teasers for upcoming storylines that you can share with us?

ME: Issue three is going to be something really unexpected. We jump straight into the middle of a sci-fi/horror storyline where everything has been turned on its head. I kind of call it my ‘gay zombies’ issue, which sounds fun and weird, and I guess it is, but I will also actually be exploring some deep issues.

After that, there is a four-part storyline called ‘OMFG’, where the series’ villains, Les Girlz, attack the team. It’s going to be really epic and a lot of fun. Each issue will have a different flavour and emphasis. In amongst all this, there are tons of subplots. Butch is dating the team’s enemy Pussy… There are lots of questions about Diva’s true identity and Liberty’s true motivations… There’s a murder-mystery... And a lesbian and gay team-mate suddenly find themselves attracted to each other and they need to explore this.

By the end of Spandex #7, I will have addressed all the important questions that I have raised during the series. I’m not gonna do a Lost on the readers and answer absolutely nothing. I will probably end the series when that four-part arc finishes, and after that, I might start up a Love and Rockets-style Spandex magazine (maybe once a year) – but that’s a couple of years off. I really want to go back and finish The O Men series and explore other projects, and Spandex was only ever intended as a shorter series.

BF: For those intrigued by Spandex’s premise, and what they’ve read here, how can they go about obtaining issues of the comic?

ME: It’s best to visit my website, http://spandexcomic.wordpress.com/, and order it from there – I mail it out straight away and I usually throw in a couple of freebies, like badges and cards or sketches. You can also order a PDF of the comic if you want, which is cheaper. Other than that, I’m at most comic conventions and some shops are selling it, such as some of the Forbidden Planet shops and places like Dave’s Comics in Brighton.

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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