Spandex: Fast and Hard (Titan Books) collects the first three of seven comics from writer/artist Martin Eden. Detailing the epic battles and complicated love-lives of nine super heroes who comprise the titular team, all members of LGBT community, the chapters are titled ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Lesbian’, ‘Pink Ninjas’ and ‘If You Were the Last Person on Earth’. From the titles alone, you probably can intuit there is a fair amount of cheek to the series.
The first seven heroes we meet are named Liberty, Glitter, Diva, Mr. Muscles, Butch, Prowler and Indigo and their powers range from tremendous strength (Mr. Muscles) to invincibility (his twin sister, Butch, who also happens to be black, while Muscles himself is white), from the ability to teleport (the French, Indigo) to the ability to take power and skills from anyone who is gay (Prowler) to a particularly strong Gay-dar (Diva), and more.
Established within the first issue are rival gay-superheroes who may or may not be truly villainous, romantic entanglements between and within both groups, and something just real enough by way of human interactions to pull the characters back from the precipice of painful and potentially insulting stereotypes concerning homosexuality and trans-gender.
I’m not sure when I stopped feeling uncomfortable with the bright colors, the over-the-top bulges in the pants of the men and the tops of the women, and the cultural references that stopped just shy of being too on-point, but it happened by the end of the first issue. In spite of my relative lack of experience with or desire to read any comics, gay themed or no, that fall into the super-hero-soap-opera genre, I found myself quickly accepting the collection on its own terms. Important in this regard was the realization that there was no malicious intent on the part of Eden. I still can’t say for certain if he is gay, but I am quite certain he is not looking to make fun of the LGBT community or use the novelty of the topic as novelty alone. His note to readers at the end of the third story, encouraging them to seek help for depression, anxiety, or any affliction that comes with the pressures of being human, gay or straight, is enough to convince me of that for certain, but I was confident even before that. There are clever bits in these stories, and some real heart from time to time. Eden’s afterward to readers only confirms my suspicion that he is truly having fun with this, he is thrilled others want to read it too, and he has a great deal of love for his characters.
As Eden himself intimates, each issue is better than the one before. I now find myself strangely wrapped up in the lives of these characters who walk so dangerously close to cliché-hell. I want to know what will happen now that two gay members of the team, of opposite sexes, have hooked up. I want to know how another member will be able to come to terms with a terrible loss. I also would love to see what they fight next. The villain of ‘If You Were the Last Person on Earth’ is pretty cool – the whole story has a nice, sci-fi feel that adds another element to look forward to in the future.
I can’t say these comics are for everyone, more because of the camp-factor than the gay-factor, but I do think Eden has created an interesting world, one worth checking out if you’re open to his concept and style.
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