Hailing from Brighton, South England — “the gay capital of the UK” — the rainbow-colored crime fighters of Spandex: Fast and Hard have assembled the world’s first all-queer superhero team. Over the last few years Martin Eden has drawn three single issues of the adventures of Liberty, Diva, Indigo, Butch, Twinkle, Mr. Muscle, Bear-Man, and Neon — and now those standalone comics have been collected into a graphic novel that will be released here in America this Tuesday.
Spandex contains three stories: “Attack of the 50 Foot Lesbian,” a hilarious gay hero meet-and-greet that features a splash page homage to Reynold Brown‘s Attack Of The Fifty Foot Woman poster and some fully NSFW sex scenes; “Pink Ninjas,” a farcical play on samurai cinema with more gay in-jokes than a Gilmore Girls episode has pop culture references; and “If You Were the Last Person on Earth,” a sequential art It Gets Better video dropped into an apocalypse.
Eden drew the first issue of Spandex as a gift for his friends, and the other two after Britain’s LGBT community went wild over the heroes. His distance from the mainstream comics industry has allowed him the freedom to tell poignant, sexy stories with a nuanced approach to gender and sexuality. It is that, more than the “all-gay” thing, that really makes this book a first.
Take, for example, the Professor X-style leader of the Spandex team: Her superhero identity is Liberty, a badass lady who is not above using her feminine wiles to seduce/destroy the bad guys. Liberty’s non-hero identity, however, is the physically male-gendered Paul Ford. Liberty literally dreams of fighting crime in a female-gendered body, breasts and all, but always wakes up to find herself in Paul Ford’s masculine body. Or Prowler, the self-identified gay man with, um, a working tail who finds himself shockingly, undeniably — spandex, remember! — attracted to lesbian Indigo. Or Diva, the fully glam femme lesbian whose non-hero identity is the homely Isabel Shaw. Eden’s portrayals of gender and sexuality are even more chromatic than his circus-colored team, and that is saying something.
But please don’t think Spandex: Fast and Hard is like sitting through Gender and Sexual Identity 101. Eden’s sense of humor is reminiscent of another wry British writer who once quipped: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” Eden invites his readers to giggle — and sometimes guffaw — along with him, as he pokes fun at gay cliches, media trends, pop culture shenanigans, comic book tropes, and even British royalty. (There is a corgi joke in “Pink Ninjas” that almost made me fall out of my chair.) Plus, there are some plot shockers that will make you gasp and also maybe snap your heart in two.
This isn’t a Marvel- or DC-caliber title. The art is more like something you’d find in a self-printed book at a comics convention. But what it lacks in visual polish, Spandex more than makes up for in humor and heart. Martin Eden is a man who was tired of waiting around for mainstream comics do the right thing with their LGBT superheroes, so he went ahead and did it himself. The result is fresh and fun and gayer than every Bravo reality show rolled up in a rainbow and smashed inside an episode of Glee.
Do you think you’ll give Spandex: Fast and Hard a read?