Writer, artist and magazine editor Martin Eden has been creating comics since he was a nipper – but entered the British small press/indie comics world around 15 years ago.
After collaborating with various creators on titles such as Bulldog and Contact, he soon kicked off his own project, The O Men, a super-soap which ran for 10 years and was Eagle Award-nominated.
In 2009, he put out Spandex #1, which earned international headlines, earned excellent reviews and an Eagle Award nomination for Best British Colour Comic. Titan Books have now released the first three issues in a hardback book called Spandex: Fast and Hard.
Now also working on book collections of his old O Men series, DownTheTubes caught up with him after a successful weekend at the Kapow! comic convention to ask him about his work...
DownTheTubes: Spandex. What's it all about?
Martin Eden: It’s about a group of gay superheroes. They’re based in Brighton and they fight Giant Lesbians, Pink Ninjas and Gay Zombies – and that’s just the first three issues! It’s a big, epic super-soap comic and I delve into their personal lives quite a bit, and there are loads of twists and turns.
DownTheTubes: What inspired this story?
Martin: The idea just evolved naturally, but I did think it would be a really fun and original concept. For some readers, it would be a refreshing break from the crossover/reboot-filled worlds of Marvel and DC. It’s a complete new universe to explore, full of fun characters like super-spy James Bend and villains like Muscle Mary.
DownTheTubes: It's a welcome collection - how has it been pitched to people who haven't heard of it?
Martin: I call it a gay Eastenders-meets-Carry On-meets Grant Morrison. Actually, to be honest, I am really wary that people think it’s only for an LGTB audience. I think it’s for everyone (except kids!) - the gay aspect is just a context and a launching point for various interesting storylines.
DownTheTubes: The original strip was black and white, did you take a specific approach to the colouring? I've heard people say it's really enhanced the storytelling.
Martin: I’ve always done black and white comics, but then I realised that Spandex would only really work in colour (mainly because each team-member has a specific colour scheme). I was pretty horrified when I realised this, as colour printing is a bit more pricey – but it turns out that colour printing actually isn’t too expensive these days.
So after that, I had to teach myself how to use Photoshop and just get in there and start colouring. People seem to really respond to it, and I like to do fun things with the colours. For instance, the team’s homes are all colour-coded, their origin stories in issue 6 are all colour-themed, and issue 3 plays around a lot with the colour – a villain turns the whole world black and white and turns people into colourless zombies/drones, and only a handful of colourful Spandex members are left.
DownTheTubes: Do you have a favourite Spandex story or scene?
Martin: I think every issue has at least four or five favourite scenes – key moments that I build up to. I think I’d be bored of the comic if they didn’t have those!
|Martin's favourite Spandex scene from Issue 5|
DownTheTubes: What's coming next for Spandex?
Martin: Well I just released issue 6, which has a huuuge twist. Issue 7 finishes the four-part OMFG storyline and wraps a lot up of storylines and answers a lot of questions. Leading up to it, i’m going to be doing some cool teaser portraits featuring each team-member. If all goes well, Issue 7 will also include ‘Spandex Black & White’, a series of portraits by various artists.
Then I’m doing a Spandex Special early next year which will effectively be the final issue of the entire thing. I am just plotting it now, and I think it’s even more shocking than issue 6.
I think that will be the end of Spandex then – I’ll have told the story I set out to tell... But I do already have some more ideas...!
DownTheTubes: Would you ever consider doing Spandex stories that you write but drawn by other artists?
Martin: I did that with some mini-comics that came with Issue 6. I worked with other artists on stories for some of my supporting characters (Hag, Cherry Blossom Girl, and Bear Man & Twinkle). But for the main series, I want to do it all myself – there are so many scenes that have been in my head for years – I just want to draw them all.
Maybe if I ever do a Volume Two of Spandex, someone else could draw it. Drawing is so time-consuming, and I have a few other things I want to do.
DownTheTubes: You also created The O Men, which also earned you a lot of praise. Are they returning?
Yes! I feel guilty because I was only supposed to take a year’s break from The O Men to do Spandex. But the first issue of Spandex itself took a year to create! But now I’m reprinting the entire O Men series across five books. I didn’t finish the series – I had about 8 or so issues left, so that material will all be in the fifth/final book – all original material. I kind-of know what happens, but I do need to do a lot of writing.
DownTheTubes: What else are you working on at the moment?
Spandex takes up pretty much all my time, plus I’m working on the O Men collections, which involves a lot of tidying up scanned art. In the back of my head, I’m plotting my next series. At the moment, it’s called Top Class, and I want it to be five digest-sized books. I can’t say much about it yet, except that it might be for all ages, and it has an epic storyline (of course!)!
DownTheTubes: What one piece of advice you would give an aspiring comic creator?
Martin: Just go for it. I get a lot of people come up to me at conventions asking how to do it.
It’s easy -- just get a pen, paper, write it, draw it, do it – then get feedback, accept criticism (but don’t pay attention to online ‘Comments’ sections, people can be so nasty), learn from mistakes, go to conventions and see how people respond to it.
I would also say, don’t break your bank – just print up small amounts if you can. Try not to lose money, be careful!
And finally, make notes when you come up with ideas, because it’s annoying when you forget a good idea!
• More about Spandex at http://www.spandexcomic.com/ and more about The O Men at http://theomencomic.wordpress.com/
• Facebook: search for Spandex Comic, also The O Men and find Martin on Twitter @spandexcomic