We caught up writer and artist of Spandex a while back and talked tohim about why his characters are so different from other superhero teams, how he got there, what were his influences and what’s next. We also chat alot about y’know, stuff… (this episode plus all our podcasts can be got on iTunes here why not subscribe while you’re there?)
Author: Martin Eden
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Prowler, Liberty, Glitter, Indigo, Butch, Mr Muscles, Diva all superpowered, all British, and the first all gay super-hero team there ever was! Created by independent creator Martin Eden, Spandex charts the highs and lows of a group of Brighton-based heroes, doing battle with 50-foot lesbians, a group of deadly pink ninjas, as well as their own complicated love lives! A super-hero book like no other!
Spandex: Fast And Hard collects issues 1, 2, and 3 of the on-going comic book series by Martin Eden (writer/artist), published by Titan Books, in a glossy hardback US-size book – so that’s about 114 colour pages. Published earlier this year it made quite a splash in the press featured, as it was, in the pages of the Metro and on the Sun website, as well as on the convention circuit when it created a buzz at a vibrantly coloured table at KAPOW. Even Jonathan Ross is a fan. Even more importantly ( ) so am I, having stumbled across Spandex, and Martin, back in 2010 when I had the privilege and honour to submit some artwork for his Japandex – a gallery of Japanese-related art, with a Spandex twist (found here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.399172141859.183778.137375331859)
The elephant in the room with Spandex, so to speak, which needs to be addressed first and foremost, is this: Spandex is a super hero comic with a difference – the entire team is made up entirely LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) superheroes… three gay men, three lesbian women, and their transvestite leader. Now, before anyone bemoans the fact that this may be another attempt to join the pink bandwagon that Marvel and DC are firmly on – the love affair of Shatterstar and Rictor in the pages of X-Factor, the marriage of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu, the introduction of a lesbian Batwoman and the Question and the coming out of Alan Scott (the original Green Lantern) there are three things that you need to know:
1- who cares! Even was it so (and it isn’t) there’s nothing wrong with more diverse characters!
2- it isn’t! Admittedly Northstar has been an openly gay character for longer but Eden’s been doing spandex long before LGBT was the new ‘craze’ in mainstream comics.
3- he does it better
Let’s start with the team itself: Diva, Prowler, Glitter, Indigo, Butch, Mr Muscles and their leader Liberty, with bright – and tight – costumes making up some the colours of the rainbow (naturally), and a diverse and always interesting range of personalities and powers. Jason Ford wants to be a woman and, with the help of a female power suit, is Liberty; Butch and her twin Mr Muscles have indestructible skin and super-strength; Diva is Spandex’s very own power-house, a lesbian Wonder Woman; Glitter who has light-based powers, Prowler can absorb the abilities of any gay person in the vicinity, and he also has a tail), and finally Indigo who is not only French (which we won’t hold against her) but more importantly a teleporter.
On the surface – and we’ll get to the art in a moment – the premise of this book, and the characters themselves, may appear to be stereotypes or simple satire but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Eden writes each of the characters, and the plot-lines, with a sense of depth, making them real and tangible. By the end of the first issue you know these characters and by the end of the second you care for them too. This is all down to the great talent of Martin Eden’s writing; he manages to blend over-the-top characters and superheroics with deep and personal character drama, showcasing different characters’ tumultuous private lives with a poignant and engaging touch as most especially evidence in issue 3. Even when things are dark and bleak, however, Eden manages to use flashes of wry humour to ensure an always compelling read.
A divisive aspect of Spandex: Fast And Hard, however, may be the art. It is definitely fair to say that Eden’s style is not what some/most people would be used to, especially from the mainstream comics’ publishers. With very simple and quite basic line-work, and perhaps overly colourful for all tastes, the art itself will never challenge Alex Ross, John Romita Jr or Brian Bolland but what Eden may lack in pure artistic refinement he makes up for in artistic storytelling, using each and every panel, layout and transition to get the story across on each and every page. While people may only see the bright colours they are missing out on the subtlety, such as using Sapphic’s choice of t-shirt to highlight her sexuality and the way that the art fits the tone of the book.
It’s also worth noting that this isn’t your parents’ typical comic book either and is probably not suitable for kids; it features some crude humour, swearing, bulging costumes, nudity, sex and adult themes (such as clinical depression), and relationship issues. It also features copious amounts of violence which, even when it is dressed in a KD Lang t-shirt, or pink pyjamas, doesn’t stop a decapitation being a decapitation. However, for me, these simply added to the enjoyment.
Spandex: Fast And Hard is a LGBT-centric, LGBT-themed, comic. That goes without saying. But, more than that it is just a really good comic; you don’t need to be LGBT to appreciate it and nore should anyone ignore or dismiss it because of the characters’ sexual preferences. The characters are no more defined by their sexuality than any mainstream ones are solely defined only by their superpowers.
For me the biggest drawback to this hardcover collection is simple … the size (pretty sure a Spandex character could make a joke there); while each story is pretty much self-contained – with the plot-lines obviously building and intertwining – it is still only three issues of an interesting, compelling and above all fun comic. The next instalment is going to definitely be worth waiting for.