Independent comics comic creator and now freelance editor Martin Eden reveals his path to comics, and tells us a little more about his latest project, Zeros…
Like many comic writer/artists, I’ve been drawing comics since I could hold a pencil – the cliche is true for many of us. Growing up, I created all sorts of comics – Star Lords, The Wonder Men, Space Scouts and a comic called The O Men (which I painted).
That original O Men series came in my late teens when I was just discovering Vertigo comics and The Sandman, plus Grant Morrison’s work. I was also reading the excellent Comics International magazine, which helped me learn about the UK self-publishing (small press) scene.
That combination of elements made me decide to take what I’d done with The O Men and redo it – give it more depth. So really, six issues of that original O Men series would develop into 30-odd issues of the new O Men Volume One.
I’d describe The O Men as an epic superhero soap opera for mature readers.
The small press scene at the time (in the late 1990s/early 2000s) was fantastic. So many friendly people, so much fun – the Bristol convention was always the one to go to. I’m quite a shy person, but exhibiting at my first Bristol con was a real game-changer. A lot of people had heard about The O Men (through Comics International) and I slowly built up a nice little readership base.
I was around 35 issues into The O Men when I was starting to get a little burned out, and going to conventions was getting tougher (carting loads of sets of 35 issues around everywhere without a car was a challenge). I also had an idea for a new comic so I decided to put The O Men on hiatus and have a fresh start.
My new project was Spandex, about an all-gay superteam – I felt it was a concept that hadn’t been done before, and I was anxious to produce it before someone else inevitably came up with a similar idea. It took me a year to create the first issue (I was learning Photoshop) and I initially just printed up a small run of issues to share with friends and sell at cons.
It seemed to do okay – and people loved how colourful it all was – and then a friend who works in Marketing offered to help me put out a press release. It worked… and it went crazy. So much press attention – newspapers, websites, magazines – all around the world. Overnight, I received one thousand orders for Issue One – and so I quickly had to reprint. I continued Spandex for seven more issues until it came to a natural end. The idea with Spandex was that it would be fun, self-contained and experimental – but it ended up becoming as epic as The O Men.
After that, I finished off The O Men across eight final issues, and the ending of that led into my latest project… Zeros!
I decided to run Zeros as a webcomic (mainly for practical purposes – having no room in my flat for any more comics!) and started it in around 2019.
Zeros is set in a world where everyone has a superhuman power and the story focuses on the lives of a class of 12 schoolkids at the Powertown Institute. Volume One is finished now and the cast are all around eight years old in it. For Volume Two, there is a time jump in the story and they are older – I won’t say any more than that.
I would say Zeros is an “all ages” comic, but I think that could be a bit misleading. It’s just a story that could be read by anyone of any age. There are some fairly heavy storylines – bullying, sexuality, gender issues – but it’s not a “mature readers” comic. I wanted Zeros to be a comic that my young nephew and niece can read.
It’s is set in the same world as Spandex and The O Men, and indeed some of my old characters are going to be part of the story (some have already made appearances).
I would say my influences with Zeros are Jeffrey Brown, Grant Morrison, 20th Century Boys and the Hernandez Bros. My aim is to have short, character-focused chapters but there are lots of subplots and ongoing mysteries.
This month, I left my full time job at Titan Publishing to go freelance – and hopefully this will mean I can spend more time on Zeros. I’m also hoping to do a Kickstarter for a complete Spandex book, and I’m considering doing a ‘Young Spandex’ graphic novel. I also have a new cartoony newspaper strip-style comic in the works.
• You can read Zeros for free at zeroscomic.com
• Martin is also on Instagram at instagram.com/martrpeden | He’s available for editing, writing, drawing and tutoring
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