BlueSpear is the latest comic to come from British independent comics publishers Com.X. It's a spin-off from their previous title 45 and you can read our review of it here. With the comic due for a re-release (with the Diamond code NOV110868 for those of you who understand such things) I was lucky enough to be able to talk to BlueSpear creators and co-writers Andi Ewington and Eddie Deighton.
Was it always the intention to spin off some of the characters from 45 into their own books or did that arise from how well 45 was received?
AE: I always planned to dip back into the stable of characters and sub-stories I had created in 45. There was just so many different possibilities, cross-overs and unanswered questions that it deserved further exploration, regardless how well the book did. The fact that the comic community appears to look back at the release of 45 in a positive way is a bonus (and a huge relief of course).
What was it about BlueSpear that made you decide to give him his own story?
AE: Eddie (Deighton) and I had a great time editing 45 and it was inevitable that we would end up writing a spin-off together. I had a germ of an idea for a mini-arc and, when Eddie and I reached the interview with BlueSpear, we realised that we had a hero on our hands that could evolve in any direction we wanted to take him. The more Eddie and I talked about BlueSpear, the more we saw that he could kickstart the planned trinity series in spectacular fashion.
ED: BlueSpear is integral to one of the main story arcs running through the 45 world, which makes him quite important anyway, but we also had a lot of flexibility with him because his powers are so diverse and as yet (to the reader) limitless. He also has quite a sad and emotionally complex origin which allowed us to easily develop and expand upon his story. As Andi and myself wanted to focus on a particular story-arc for the first trilogy, BlueSpear became the prime candidate for allowing us to do that. Plus, we were itching to show the 45 readers a little bit of what he's capable of as a superhero; he's one of the few in the original GN that James Stanley doesn't interview directly so it was great to be able to indulge in one of the more mysterious characters in the universe.
The book is steeped in Japanese culture, both ancient and modern. Is that something you were aware of already or did you research it?
AE: I had already previously spent a considerable amount of time researching Japanese ghosts and legends for another project I had in the pipeline, so I was grateful for the small pool of knowledge that I had amassed. Plus I totally love Japan! It's completely crazy and surreal, yet steeped in history and tradition, one of those countries that's on my bucket-list.
ED: I think the essence of what Andi tried to do with 45 was to try and convey the respective age or nationality of the superhero character he was writing about to the person reading the book, so BlueSpear was always (hopefully) going to reference the Japanese culture to some degree to allow you to immerse yourself in the world he'd created. By concentrating on BlueSpear, we had to make sure even more aspects of the culture were applied to give it authenticity. We both loved the idea of creating a western comic that paid homage to the Japanese culture that had a fusion of characters from both sides of the world and wrote with that in mind.
BlueSpear also features another character from 45, X the phasing XoDos agent, was he always part of the story?
AE: Yes, out of several characters that I wanted to explore, X was definitely one of them. SkyLine is another and, of course, Lotus. BlueSpear is the fuse to a much larger story-arc that spans these three characters. BlueSpear will pass the baton of this story to X in the next instalment who, in turn, will pass it on to SkyLine, while Lotus helps establish a link between all three of them.
ED: When we discussed who and what should spin off from 45, Andi was always passionate about specific characters. It just so happened that, throughout all the conversations on the 45 edit and the ongoing scenarios we discussed, these characters were always embroiled in each other's origins anyway, so when the focus was on BlueSpear and how you could continue on from the final scene in his one-shot, X was an immediate choice to 'carry the flag' into the third book. As one of the writers, it's great knowing how important these individuals are to the overall arc and the way we're able to build on their responsibilities and character development from book to book. X has some great scenes and situations coming up!
Cosmo White's beautiful artwork seems to perfectly compliment the story, how did you end up working with him?
AE: It was at one of the UK Comic Cons that Cos approached us for a portfolio review. Eddie spotted Cosmo's potential straight away and showed me his work, which I agreed was phenomenal. When our planned artist for BlueSpear (Calum Alexander Watt) had to step away, Cosmo became our number one choice as replacement. But what we didn't realise at the time was how much life and imagination he would breath into the story.
45 had a glossary of slang used by the characters and some of these terms also appear in BlueSpear. How easy was it to incorporate into the story?
AE: Both Eddie and I agreed that in BlueSpear we didn't want to pepper the reader with the slang that had been created. Those coming into BlueSpear for the first time may have found the terminology confusing at best and jarring at worst. Instead we decided to drop in the odd jargon here and there as a subtle nod back to the 45 heritage, which of course made it a lot easier for us! Though I think in the next planned release, X, we aim to ramp up the slang a tiny bit.
ED: We'd been working with most of the slang for over a year whilst developing the 45 concept so, for us, it felt quite natural to add to general dialogue and conversations, but we made a point of not trying to impose it on the reader too much in the BlueSpear story. We didn't want the reader looking through and constantly be referring back to the glossary; we wanted the words to feel natural within the overall dialogue. Also, some readers who didn't read 45 may buy the book, so we wanted to make sure they didn't become frustrated with conceited, creator-made terminology just for the sake of it.
When creating an independent comic, is there pressure to do something different from the mainstream publishers?
AE: I can only answer this from a creator point of view rather than that of a publisher. For me there is no benchmark to measure up to. I've not worked with the likes of DC or Marvel on established characters and scenarios before. I'm acutely aware of what has generally gone in the past, however, I like to think that the formula I've devised for story creation sees me through to delivering a skewed take on things.
ED: I always feel you have an obligation to try and push the boundaries; you're not going to sell many books as an independent creator if you're not trying to do something original, innovative and daring. You have to give the readers a reason to buy your book. Emulating 99% of the other books on the market isn't going to get people to pick yours up. And why conform? You're independent - you have the freedom and inspiration to create anything your heart desires. You're not restricted by someone else's character or origin. As the publisher, I face a similar pressure. Generally, you have extremely limited production and marketing budgets so you have to carefully consider what you release and make sure it's the best product it can possible be. Every copy you sell counts and could be the difference between printing or cancelling a title.
You took BlueSpear to this years San Diego Comic Con, how was your con experience?
AE: Sadly, I couldn't attend, added to that was the planned delay of the release. This meant for SDCC that we were showcasing teaser pieces more than anything. That said, I think the overall reaction was genuinely positive!
ED: Neither of us were able to attend, but Benjamin Shahrabani (one of my Com.x business partners) did and informs us that the BlueSpear freebies and ashcan exclusives went down very well! We created posters of one of the iconic splash pages in the book and it really drew people to the booth. We also produced button badges featuring a number of characters from the 45 universe. It's our plan to create different ones for different conventions, so if you picked them up at SDCC, keep hold of them because you'll be able to add to the collection if you see us at the next con we attend!
What can we expect from the 45 universe in the future?
AE: BlueSpear is just the tip of a trilogy that extends further into a larger story arc, so expect more from the likes of X and Skyline in the near future, beyond this series who knows - hopefully more 45.
ED: If people react to this first arc in the way we hope, I'd love to create a couple of one-shots and put out more trilogies focusing on other characters but developing the wider story-arcs. Maybe another two or three trilogies, then collect them all into one big edition along with 45 for a benchmark, superhero experience!
What superpower would you like to have?
AE: With two small children, I'm finding there just aren't enough hours in the day, so a power that enables me to manipulate time would be real handy right now.
ED: I've always wanted to be able to fly but, what with running three companies, a more practical power would be the ability to grow extra sets of arms when needed, or the ability to duplicate myself so that I can mega-multitask!