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Year Two



'Martin with his many fans at the UK's first O Men convention'

Hello! Where’ve you been? How is the world of O?
The world of O is fine. Well, sort of.

You only put out 2 issues last year – what happened?!
Aargh. It all went utterly pear-shaped.

The big plan was to release issue 2.3 in the Spring, then straight onto 2.4 for Bristol-time (which I didn’t go to) and finally get issue 2.5 ready for Caption in August.

It went horribly wrong. 2.3 was fine. 2.4 and 2.5 was just a crazy schedule, but I figured I could do it since 2.4 was made up of easier double-page spreads and 2.5 was going to be drawn half by other people, and my pages were supposed to be easy (ie, I’d cheat and play around with images on the page rather than draw whole new pages) – easy enough to do in one month.

Sadly, my laptop died and thanks to a bunch of mishaps I didn’t get a replacement part for almost a month. So that made things a bit more rushed and to be honest, I completely burned myself out - I was just doing way too much in general, busy life, busy doing O Men, busy doing all sorts, plus I had a few personal things going on. It was a bit of a mess.

So, effectively, 2.5 got done just in time for Caption, but at that point I was just utterly knackered and couldn’t go – I felt so bad for all the contributors, but they were really nice about it. 2.5 was actually sitting at the printers but I was away with family, taking a break.

I had also committed to another project, and that was just a huge mistake. I really wanted to do it, but I should have known I didn’t have the time.

To be honest, I was that knackered that I pretty much vowed not to do any more O Men for the rest of 2007.

Did you do any?
Of course I did! I didn’t pick up a pencil for a couple of months but I soon got the creative urge back. As soon as I figured out what was happening in issue 2.6 I really wanted to get into it again. I kind of vowed not to work so hard on it, though, to just enjoy it.

What is happening in 2.6?
I love it – it resolves all the cliffhangers from 2.4. I only actually had vague ideas what to do with the issue but then it just grew and grew. Without wishing to say too much, most of it is taken up with a huge row between some of the characters, which is a lot of fun. There is a massive revelation and also not all of the members may still be in the team by the end of the issue… I think people will like it, because it starts off in one way and then completely veers off into another direction.

When will we see it?
I’m hoping February. To be honest, the bulk of it is done, and now it’s just frustrating doing all the lettering and Photoshop stuff. I want to finish it so I can get onto 2.7.

What’s 2.7 about?
This is the big one – I have been looking forward to this one for absolutely ages. It’s my homage to a classic old Daredevil issue which I think was called ‘The Deadliest Night of My Life’, where DD gets trapped in a mansion filled with traps. My version has Kelly trapped by a mysterious enemy, and there are some huge, huge developments. Long-time fans of the O Men will not be disappointed. Everything changes with this one. It's pretty much what I've been building up to.

When can we see that one?
I am hoping to go to Bristol this year, so I should have that one and the latest trade paperback thingy ready by then.

And what’s up next?
Actually, I am planning to take a break from The O Men (yes, another one lol). It’s partly because I need to plan the final issues of The O Men and I don’t feel I’m ready for it yet. I know what happens, but I don’t know all the ins and outs yet, so I want to wait a bit and get it right.

I am actually planning to work on my spin-off comic, Spandex, for the year, and release it as one big graphic novel. It’ll be a huge amount of fun, and it will be very self-contained. I think about 120 pages of that will be enough to get everything I want to do with them done.

I also want to do a couple of personal projects – so I might do them with Spandex or leave them after O Men.

What is Spandex?
Spandex features a few characters that have appeared in The O Men - Diva, Liberty, Glitter - but it is pretty unrelated to The O Men series. It's basically a gay superteam - I figured it was a pretty original idea, but it probably isn't. It's set in Brighton and it's going to be a lot of fun. I think the first issue is going to be called 'The Attack of the 50-foot Lesbian'. It's all self-contained and there will be a lot of character exploration, and hopefully the focus will be just as much on quieter, dialogue-y moments as it is on the action.

What can we expect from the final O Men issues, then?
After 2.7, there's the five-part finale to the whole Vultures storyline. It's going to be crazy, all over the place, and characters will come and go. The volume three will answer every question that needs to be answered, including why the series is called 'The O Men'.

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Martin with his private art collection that he bought with his O Men funds

Firstly, how’s Issue 2.2 coming along? Can you tell us anything about it?
I’m about halfway through it. Summer took its toll a bit. Winding down from Issue 2.1 for a month or so, holidaying, being way too hot to draw/move/function in the heatwave - plus the fact that it’s a bit different now. The computer stuff adds a whole new angle to the way I work, so it can take a lot longer. I think I did actually lose my focus on the series a bit - but I started to get inspiration again from some really good albums at the time. Muse and Regina Spektor and other stuff. Music can really inspire me and it did put me back on track. So after a small blip the focus is now well and truly back on getting Issue 2.2 out before Christmas.
As for the subject matter of the issue, it focuses on a member of the new team who we glimpsed at the end of Issue 2.1. I don’t want to give too much away, because some people really hate spoilers. Let’s just say the cover to 2.2, which I put on the news section of the website, will tell you a lot of what you need to know. It tells us where that certain character has been and how they fit into the new storyline. I really like the issue a lot - although I’m looking forward to 2.3 even more!

This is a tradition with me on O Men. Whatever issue I’m working on - even though I’m enjoying it - I always just want to start on the next one. I’m always more excited about the next one. I guess that’s a good thing, creatively. It spurs me on a bit.

What’s Issue 2.3 about?
All I’ll say it’s different and it’s hopefully going to be very, very mature. I can’t wait.

Issue 2.1 looked really different, with a lot of computer work. Can you tell us a bit about the reasons why you changed your working methods and how you feel about the new look?
Well I had to get with the times really. I kind of had a soft spot for being low-tech and amateurish and doing lots of scratchy lines, so I’ve always been a bit against computer aid, but I saw how a couple of small press friends have been using computers and their work looked so much better. The jury is really still out on it and some people even miss my hand-lettering, which I always thought everyone hated. I think people seem to like it though. Issue 2.2 kind of really plays around with the different styles, using the different methods as part of the storytelling process. That’s what I love about this writing and drawing this comic - I love coming up with different ways to tell each story.
Anyway, the idea is just for the Photoshop to clean it all up a little bit, not for it to take over completely.
As I said before though, it’s a completely different way of working. Whereas before, I could just sit down with a piece of paper and just do what the hell I wanted with it, now I can’t do it all in one go and I have to figure out how much space to leave for dialogue, plus get the page almost perfect before I scan it in. I have to say that with Issue 2.1 I got a bit carried away in a couple of places so I would scan pages before they were really finished. I just wanted to get on with it really.
Starting on Photoshop was a bit of a nightmare though. I can use computers okay, but it took me a while to get my head around things like layers. Some evenings I couldn’t get any work down because I’d done something wrong with a layer and it would make me want to throw my computer through the window. Luckily I work with a whole bunch of designers who were all able to sort out the problems.

Will we be seeing any more of the team which featured in Issue 2.1?
I’m actually not sure. Those guys were made up of some really old character ideas and also most of them weren’t actually supposed to survive the issue. The final scene in the church between the ghosts and the team was supposed to be a lot nastier than it ended up - but I ended up just getting too attached to the guys to kill them off.
So anyway, as things stand, I don’t have plans at the moment for any of them in the rest of volume two. Liberty and Diva kind of members now of another team called Spandex, and if I had more hours in the day, I’d be writing that comic too. It‘s a project I‘m very excited about. It would be a very fun comic, not tied too much to The O Men, and I have some great ideas for it, but I don’t have the time to do it at the moment.
I think the other problem is that things are going to get very serious in the O Men comic and I can’t really see how some of those more fun characters in that team would figure in.

What can you tell us about the proper new team of O Men - the one that appears at the end of 2.1?
Regular readers should recognise three of them, one or two of which are more recognisable than the others. Of the two new members, one will get established pretty much straight away, while the other will take his time to establish himself.

Will there be any more new members?
Yes there will, I think, but not too many. I don’t want to over-complicate things and juggle too many characters. I do want this volume of the series to be a lot more focused than the last volume.

And what about the O Men members from the first volume? Will we be seeing any of them again?
I think you can safely say that it’s not the end of the road for at least one of two of them.

How about future issues? Any details?
There will be one issue where I will be inviting other small-pressers to contribute sections. It should be a lot of fun and I am very excited about it. It’s actually going to be hard choosing just a handful of them out of the vastly talented pool of people (and I hope some of them will still be interested after my O Men anthology fell through).
There’s another issue which is heavily inspired by a really old issue of Daredevil that I utterly love. I think it’s called ‘The Deadliest Night of My Life’ and is a bit of a survival tale for old DD. That should be fun. I really want to stretch my writing on this season of the O Men. I think on volume one it all just coasted along on the whole soap aspect of it all. This one’s all about beginning, middles and ends and interesting stories. As you’ll probably know as well, this volume concentrates on the whole Vultures storyline, a huge terrorist organisation. Once the team is sorted out a bit, we’ll delve right into that.
I will say, and this sounds terrible, I’m not actually sure what the issue after next, 2.5, is going to be about. I have lots of incredible scenes in my head for that one, so I just need to decide firmly on what I am going to do. Volume two in general is much more of a work in progress than volume one. It’s daunting but it’s also quite exciting!

What are the long-term plans for the series? Volume three for instance.
I haven’t quite figured it all out yet. Volume two will be either 10 or 12 issues long. The plan with Volume Three is to do maybe three or four extra-sized one-shot issues, focusing on key characters.

Any current other comic faves?
Yeah. I like The Walking Dead, although I think certain elements of it are starting to drag a bit - it needs a bit of a jolt. Girls too. It started off great, but now I think it’s slowed down maybe a bit too much, and there’s also the problem that I’ll see an issue in the shop and I can’t actually remember if I’ve actually read it or not. I think it’s gone on a bit too long.
Otherwise, I have been really nicely surprised by the X-Men titles at the moment. I wasn’t that excited by them when I saw the team line-ups, but they are really cool and I like the reasons behind the choices for each team. Chris Bachalo’s art can be a bit frustrating though. I thought he started off quite well, but then it started to get hard to follow, as usual. Having said that, there are some stunning images in the issues - especially in the fight scenes. I don’t often say this, but there’s some stuff there that I have never seen being done in comics before. Also, I should mention Astonishing X-Men too. It’s been getting quite a bit of flak recently so I’m glad it picked up a bit with the Emma Frost storyline.
Otherwise, Civil War has been surprisingly engaging, but I think DC have messed things up a bit. Infinite Crisis was an inpenetrable mess and the One Year Later stuff has been let down by a few poor creative teams. 52 is a boring mess and it would be nice if they followed the format properly, instead of just showing a 15-page fight scenes covering one day, and then squeezing in a tiny bit of another day’s activities at the end. Good idea to have origin stories at the end though – a lot of DC characters are just a mystery to me. I hear that DC are aiming things more at the fans now, and not encouraging new readers, which I think is sad.
Oh, and one other comic I’m looking forward to is the final Seven Soldiers. I’ve been waiting so long for the final issue! I remember almost six months ago now, planning to take the day off from work when the final issue came out, but I’m still waiting for it. I thought Seven Soldiers started off quite weakly, but then things picked up - things started interlinking and Morrison started delivering good pay-offs to his stories. Some of the later series were a bit weaker but overall it was such a fun, inspirational series.
I’ve also been reading my Essential X-Men books. I have tons of Essentials on my shelf, but I do find them quite hard to read. Very dated and also it’s annoying that they reprint every single thing, and they don’t go straight to the fun stuff! Anyway, I’ve just finished the Phoenix Saga and John Byrne is just a legend. His art is so crisp.
And finally, I want Lost Girls!!!

What do you think about the small press at the moment?
Well I drift in and out of it, really getting into some of it when I go to the Bristol comic cons. Let me think. I thought Bevis Musson’s Queen of Diamonds was really impressive - great fun. My Bristol table-mate Graham Pearce is doing some great work on his Sgt Mike Battle series, and starting to get good recognition. I stumbled across some comics by a young chap called Oli Smith, and I was really impressed. I think he has a very bright future. Other than that, it’s still a great community and I love getting Baz Renshaw’s Red Eye Magazine and discovering what’s out there.

Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve started to notice an element of snobbery in comics, which I don’t like. I just don’t like the attitude that superhero comics are necessarily bad, and they are receiving quite a bit of criticism. I get annoyed when so-called ‘comics ambassadors’ recommend comics and tell people what to read - and it’s nearly always the non-superhero stuff. And the Page 45 comic shop owner who always seems to go on about how great indie comics are in his Comics International column - but only the ones without superheroes in them. And look at Vertigo, which is trying so hard to create a line of non-superhero comics that they’re pretty boring at the moment.
It’s sad because I hope people aren’t put off The O Men because they think it’s something it isn’t. I think it takes the superhero genre and gives a very unique twist to it, and I am really excited about it. I mean, yes, I do have problems with superhero comics are unoriginal and boring, but there is some really cool stuff out there. I can’t wait for all the new Wildstorm stuff, for example.

Finally, back to The O Men ...where’s Miss Scarlet?!
Well, she seemed to be getting shot at the end of Volume One. Didn’t she?

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August 2005

The O Men season two

Looking back on The O Men season one, what did and did not work, in your opinion?
That’s a hard question for me, because I can’t look at it objectively. I put an issue out and I can’t tell if the art is rubbish or if the writing is crap, because I am too close to the whole thing.
But the thing that bugged me is that I read the whole of season one in one sitting, before I started writing season two. Boy, were there some bloopers. That’s what happens when you write something over such a lengthy period of time!! Like, why would Rob and Kelly necessarily be proper brothers and sisters? I never explained that. When Rob saw his future self in Issue 17, he never actually saw that it was an Anathema version of Rob, and yet he refers to it a couple of issues later. And I messed up the ending of the final issue too. A lot of people were really confused over what was real and what was one of Miss Scarlet’s illusions (although, looking back, I kinda like this confusion – it hopefully sends the readers’ minds thinking about it all).

What was the critical response to season one?
Amazing. Really good. I was really surprised. I mean, yes, there were criticisms of the artwork a little bit, but on the whole I am just really glad that people enjoyed it. It’s like, people come up to me at conventions and say “I’ve heard how good your comic is, and I want to try it” and I’m thinking, “oh dear, I hope they like it!” Thankfully, they usually seem to really like it.
What I’ve always been doing with The O Men is putting out a comic that I myself would enjoy, and it looks like a lot of people are on my wavelength.

It looks like there’s a new O Men team in season two! Spill the beans!
Hehe, yes, you’ll meet the new guys in Issue One. I don’t want to give too much away, because there are some neat little secrets behind some of them. I can give you names though – Limbo, Diva, Busybody, Random, Outcast, Liberty and Phenomena. A couple of them have appeared before in backgrounds.

Will we see any old faces?
Oh yes. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. I don’t want to say any more really. I’ll say that a member of PSI-SQUAD will eventually be joining the team.

What’s season two all about?
Terrorism. I’ve only hinted about it all before, but now I’ll tell you. It’s all about the ‘Vultures’ subplot, introduced in season one. How Doctor O is involved – maybe even leading – a group of mysterious individuals who are responsible for catastrophes and accidents around the world.
It’s a really, really hard topic to address, because I could come across so trite if I handle it wrongly. But I’m slowly developing ideas and opinions. I don’t know yet where I’m heading with it all – where I can head with it all – but it’s getting there.
I’m not really someone who follows the news and I have no interest in politics whatsoever, so this is a new thing for me. Tackling such a topic. But you can’t really not be affected by these kinds of things.

How’s the Anthology coming along?
It’s dead, I’m afraid. It was all planned out, and I even had received a couple of pieces, but then about three or four people either dropped out or said they weren’t sure they could meet the deadline. It was a shame, and I guess I could have replaced them, but also there was a financial issue, so I decided to leave it. If Anthology pieces do get finished I will probably pop them on the website.

Can you tell us about the two issue ones that are going to kick off season two of The O Men?
Nope, because I have scrapped that idea too!!! It would have been so cool, but there were timing issues and money issues and it basically boiled down to: is this essential? And the answer was, sadly, no.
The idea with issue one of season two was always to do a Love and Rockets style epic story, following twelve months in the lives of every O Men character, leaping around all over the place. And then the Kelly story, where she sets up a new O Men team, became more interesting and I decided to shift the focus to that, with elements of the rest incorporated. But then that got too complicated, so I thought about doing another comic that took place parallel to Kelly’s year. That was going to be the plan – but at the end of the day, I didn’t have enough strong ideas to make it work. I might do something similar though in the middle of season two, but there will now only be one Issue One of season two.

What about the O Men collections?
I really want to do Books Eight and Nine, but need to get a couple of the earlier ones reprinted first, so that’ll take a while. I still have plenty of the final back issues available, so it’s not all bad. Some people have suggested doing a Marvel Essentials type of book – collecting all of season one in one volume. It sounds really good, so I am looking into it! I’m not entirely sure it’s do-able though. It’d come to about 300 pages – it’d fall apart!!

A lot of influences make their way into The O Men – from music, TV and films. Are there any new things you’ve been getting into?
My music tastes are still angstly females, but I am really liking a lot of indie and rock stuff right now. Films – it’s been a really dull year for movies, I think. TV is getting much better. Just when it looked like all the decent programmes had been cancelled and there was nothing left to watch, along come the likes of Lost and Battlestar Galactica and all is well again! Lost is amazing. Just jaw-dropping TV. It was over-hyped by Channel 4, which, I think, caused a backlash before it even started, but I really recommend it if you’re not watching it.

How about comics?
You know, I get into less comics as time goes on, but somehow I seem to buy more! I’ve been reading Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers stuff. I enjoyed the one-shot but have been a bit underwhelmed by the rest of it so far. I’ll stick with it though. I’ve really enjoyed Daredevil. The latest story arc Decalogue was one of the most original things I’ve read in a long time. I’m really getting back into The Authority. That started to annoy me a bit, because I felt the roster needed a bit of a shake-up, but Ed Brubaker is doing a really good job. That’s it I think. I’ve been buying a lot of those Marvel action figures – they are so amazing and so cheap! And I’m really looking forward to the Hellshock collection as I am a massive Jae Lee fan.

Anything else we should know about?
I’m gonna keep a low profile for a bit! I love conventions and having a table at conventions, but my stock is really low now and I can’t afford to replace any of it! So I don’t want to sell too many more comics right now! So you might not see me until Comics 2006 in May, where I will probably be launching season two of The O Men!
Also, get ready for a new look for season two. I’m gonna play around with inking and lettering and cover elements – so it should be cool…

– Issue One of The O Men Season Two will be available in May 2006. Stay tuned to the website for more details!

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October 2004

Six months have elapsed since Issues 24 and 25 - what happened??!
Yeah, I know. It's terrible. I always tried to make The O Men bimonthly, but only ever managed to get about five issues out a year. Then this year it really slowed down. Life got in the way, I guess! It's been a bit hectic. But I'm fine with it.
I've always put a lot of pressure on myself to get each O Men issue finished - I didn't want the readers to lose interest and forget what's been happening, and I didn't want to lose interest myself (so easily done in the small press). I wanted to keep an impetus going, and I was also really excited about upcoming events and I couldn't wait to draw them. Also, in a bizarre way, I had a funny thing about still doing The O Men when I hit 30. I started the comic when I was about 24, and I always knew it would be a long-term thing that would probably finish by the time I was 30, and I was sort of alarmed by the thought of still drawing in my bedroom at that age!! But now I'm 30, and it's all okay. I still feel the same. I haven't died of old age. I'm still me (except I'm probably even more immature), and I still like drawing and I'm still proud of what I'm doing. Abby talks a bit about this sort of thing in Issue 10.
So anyway, to cut that long story short, now I'm on the last three issues and it feels like the pressure is off. I'm enjoying it. I'm taking time. It's cool. At the moment it's mid-October, and I'm hoping to get issue 25 done for the London Winterfest in a couple of weeks' time. I'm maybe just over three quarters of the way through Issue 25 - I should get it finished way before time, and I think, if I do, I will spend more time just shading stuff and making the art more detailed.

Can you talk us through the final three issues of volume one?
Issue 25 was a nice surprise. I did panic about it slightly, because, basically, there was so much that needed to happen - lots of things to be set up - and this was my last chance to do it - considering the 'different' nature of Issue 26 and the fact that Issue 27 was the big climax. I had a lot of exposition to get through, a lot of things to put in place, and I really thought the issue would suffer - but then I came up with the 'now and then' format and I think it really worked. To be honest, it was only afterwards that I realised that it was a format used in Stephen King's 'From a Buick 8' novel. I guess it was a subconscious thing and I added a sneaky reference to this in Issue 23.
Issue 26 - I knew it would involve Miss Scarlet and a massive fight, but I didn't realise that it would become just about that. I guess there was a bit of a Kill Bill influence. I wanted it to be really gritty and nasty. Plus you really get to go into her psyche and work some things out.
Issue 27 - well I haven't written it yet - but it should be a doozy. Might be extra-sized, and I might include some extras too - things like bloopers and pin-ups.
I'm surprised how well everything has come together at the end. I mean, I always knew there would be things going on with Miss Scarlet, Grace, the USAviors and Anathema and the Vicious Circle girls at the end of volume one, but I didn't know all the fine details. It just came together, though. I do think that this story is writing itself in a spooky way. The characters are really helping me out.

How would you yourself rate the 10-part Vicious Circle storyline so far?
I like it. I'm amazed it's all worked out. I mean, the logistics of it all. Characters needed to be in certain places at certain times, and I'm surprised and glad it worked out.
Issue 24 was an achievement, I think. To just totally shift the focus of the storyline, and yet still pursue it. I mean, you've just read Issue 23 and you want to know what the hell is going on, but you don't find out - but then, right at the end, you do. You do get a glimpse of where the storyline has gone (and it also saves me doing boring, clunky things like actually getting Grace to the Institute).
There are only three things that haven't worked for me. There's the Colin/Peri storyline. It was too rushed. I just didn't have enough room for it. I even bumped it a couple of issues for lack of room. I also wanted to do a scene between Rob and Ingrid (Union Jack's widow), but I just never had the room. I thought it was important to show what happened to her, and for Rob to apologise for what he did to her in Issue 14. And finally - and I haven't even done this yet - but I don't think I'm going to have much room to really show what two of the new Vicious Circle members are going to be up to towards the end of Volume One, which is going to be a shame, although you'll still get the gist.
But I'm glad that people have taken to the Vicious Circle ladies. When they first appeared way back in Issue One, the readers were like, 'oh they're a bit one-dimensional'. And really they were. They were just a device to introduce The O Men team. I always knew they'd be back, and I always knew they'd be more developed. Spider has surprised me. She's really evolved. She changes from issue to issue, and I don't know how she's managed to do that without me noticing!! And there's so much more to Blackie's character and history, and I doubt I'll get to explore it.

How have things generally been in the world of O?
Great. I mean, slower than before, but great. I love doing conventions. I'm quite a shy person, and Comics 2003 in Bristol was my first convention - we had a stand there - and it was just amazing. Everyone was so nice, and I made quite a bit of money. Comics 2004 was great too. I'm starting to really meet some interesting people in the small press community. I keep missing out on Caption though. I don't know why. I just never get organised enough. I always vow to go, especially when I get all enthusiastic after Bristol - but then Caption always comes along really quickly, and I'm like - 'oh shit, it's next week, I can't go'.
Since I haven't had an issue out for a while, I've been kinda missing seeing reviews of my stuff! Ah well. Soon.

What other comics are you reading at the moment?
Hmm, let me think. I'm really enjoying Astonishing X-Men. Uncanny X-Men is cool. Daredevil. Identity Crisis. All sorts, really. Avengers is sort of cool, but then I think Bendis and Finch are taking the piss a bit. They don't seem to know much about Avengers continuity and they seem to like to fill each issue with 50 splash pages. I can't believe Chuck Austen is making a living writing comics. The man should be imprisoned for crimes against comics.

How have the collections been received?
Really well! Book Seven will be ready very soon, and I just went to my third printing of Book One, and Books Two and Three are on their second printing. People seem to like the nice, shiny colour covers. The collections sell well at conventions. Too well, in fact, cos I keep having to somehow stump up the cash to get more done!! I'm always like, er, no don't buy it cos I'll have none left!!

Is music still a big influence on the comic?
Oh yes, absolutely. And films and TV. When I see or hear something I really like, it can have a major influence on the direction of the comic. For instance, I've been watching a lot of Japanese horror recently, and I also saw a preview of the American version of The Grudge, and I just think those evil ghosts are so amazing - they're such good concepts and so formidable. I just got to thinking - imagine if you put a bunch of super-heroes up against some totally invincible, totally evil ghosts - and that's something that's gonna happen in the first issue of volume two.

Can you tell us a bit about the O Men Anthology?
I guess the Anthology is something that has always been at the back of my mind, but I never thought I would get round to doing it. And then I just met so many talented people at conventions and I really wanted to work with them. So the idea was to put together a 50-or-so-page collection of stories written and drawn by other small press creators. It features a lot of the supporting cast-members from the series and occasionally fills in some blanks from the series. I feel a bit guilty in a way, because I interfered a bit with some of the writers' plans. I mean, yeah, it's all well and good to say "just go off and do what the hell you like", but I felt like there were certain little tales that could and should be told, and I wanted to get the right people to do the right stories. Steer them in the right direction. So I interfered probably more than I should have done, but I think it'll still work out fine.
Included in the Anthology are:
Pathe short story - written by my mate Nick Jones and drawn by the supremely talented Garen Ewing. It's about an unsuspecting couple's visit to The Institute;
Frenzy story - by Barry Renshaw and Leon. This one's about Frenzy's time in prison, just before he terrorised everyone in the 'Frenzy' arc;
Anathema story - this is gonna be cool. It's about one of Anathema and Doctor O's past lives. Written by Gary Simpson and drawn by Sean Azzopardi;
Blackie story - written by moi and drawn by John Paul Howard. Ever been irritated by someone at the cinema? Find out what happens when a psychotic superhuman serial killer is!
Vicious Circle story - written and drawn by the fabulous Mardou! Expect something utterly crazy!;
Arachnid story - a kind of origin tale to the Insect Squad villain - tying in with events from Issue 19. This one is drawn by Kelvin Green;
O Men story - last but not least, a story written by me and drawn by Grant Springford. This one sets up the gang against a team of very important new villains!
There are also pin-ups of Seraph, Miss Scarlet, the UK Ultra Knights and Molly Valentine by Tim Doe, Roger Mason, David Baillie and Sarwat Chadda (respectively), plus a silly one-page thing on Snow Leopard cobbled together by longtime O Men designer Marcus Scudamore and me. Plus each short story gets a full page intro with a new character pic by moi, and blurb about the story and creators. Oh, and I somehow managed to get Gary Spencer Millidge to draw the cover!!!
So anyway, the Anthology was supposed to appear in October 2004, but the deadline was crazy and I basically can't afford it this year, so it's probably gonna be October 2005!!! Which is better, because it will probably appear at the end of The O Men Volume One.

What can we expect from The O Men in the future?
Well apart from the Anthology, there's Volumes Two and Three! I think Vol Two will be about 10 or 12 issues long. I'm hoping to make it a bit more stream-lined - get one big story in there, rather than lots of little ones as in Volume One. I'm still tinkering with ideas, but it will feature a new team (with some old faces) and I do generally know who the villains will be. It'll be a bit more Mission: Impossible, I think.
I do know that the first issue of Volume Two will be something special. It'll follow the events of a whole year, as various characters pick up the pieces of their lives. It'll focus on two or three characters in a big way, but it will also feature just about every other surviving character from Volume One. I'm excited about it.
Volume Three will maybe be about 10 or 12 issues long again. I'm thinking of having three four-part arcs focusing on a different characters. There will be some big answers to some big questions.

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Year One

Full Name: Martin Richard Peter Eden
Date of Birth: 29 March 1974. I'm an Aries, whatever that means.
Real Job: I'm a magazine editor. It's quite a cool job, but sometimes I'm too busy to enjoy myself!

Tell us about the comics you read.
At the moment, top of the list is The Invisibles. As I write this there's about 8 issues of the series left. Not everything makes sense at the moment but I think most of it will by the last issue. At least I'm hoping it will! I'm looking forward to rereading the whole series with all the puzzles in place. Other current reads are: Stray Bullets; Strangehaven; Optic Nerve; Artbabe; The Inhumans; stuff by the Hernandez Bros; I'm just getting into Daniel Clowes' stuff. I was a major fan of (Grant Morrison's) Doom Patrol, (2000AD's) Zenith, Sandman, Shade the Changing Man and Love and Rockets until they all finished (and the Sandman follow-up, The Dreaming, just isn't the same - too much Cain and Abel). I think my comic-reading history probably echos a lot of people's. As a kid I started off by reading the funny comics like Beano, Whizzer and Chips, Nutty (does anyone remember that? I loved that.) As a teenager I got into 2000AD, then mostly Marvel superhero stuff like Spider Man, The Avengers, Fantastic Four Power Pack, The New Defenders. I never really liked DC, they had silly names like Elongated Man! Then I discovered The X-Men. My first issue was when Storm was shot by Forge and lost her powers. I never really looked back. At the same time, I was reading things like John Byrne's Alpha Flight and Stikeforce: Morituri. When I was about 18 or 19 I was starting to realise that The X-Men titles were never going to be the same without Chris Claremont, and I was getting fed up of having to buy about 10 titles to get the whole story, so I dropped all the X-titles. Luckily, at about the same time, I was intrigued enough by a good review of Shade the Changing Man in Comics International to sample a copy of that. My first issue was issue 25 (I think) 'Lenny's Story'. I was blown away, and I was soon reading Sandman and then most other Vertigo titles.

What comics writers do you feel have inspired you?
John Byrne has had a great effect on me in terms of actually taking a character, examining them and then completely changing them. Turning them inside out and back to front. Stretching them for what they're worth. He did that with Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four and the West Coast Avengers. I'll be doing that with The O Men. None of the characters that you meet in the first issue will be the same as they are in the very final issue (if indeed they're still alive). Grant Morrison is a big influence in two ways. First in the dialogue, making it lifelike. There's a part in the second 'phase' of Zenith where Zenith has just been through major amounts of crap, including having to kill his dad, and the chapter just ends with him saying (something like) "Right. That's it. I've had enough" That's probably what I'd say! Alan Moore's work has also been a great inspiration. Swamp Thing. V for Vendetta. If someone were to say to me: "Why are you still reading comics at your age?", I would pop a copy of The Watchmen into their hands and say, "Read this, and if you can come back to me afterwards, and honestly say to me that you think comics are only for kids, then I myself will give up reading comics." As for artists, there are so many. George Perez, Gary Spencer Millidge, David Lapham, Jaime Hernandez, Jill Thompson... But there are two in particular: Chris Bachalo and Adrian Tomine. Chris Bachalo because I saw him develop from OK artwork in The Sandman and the first few issues of Shade the Changing Man to the outstanding, totally innovative, ground-breaking material he produced later in the Shade series and the Death mini-series. Adrian Tomine because, again, he has come such a long way from his work in his '32 Stories' collection. It's difficult to believe that his current Optic Nerve work is done by the same artist. Oh and of course, there's Rob Liefield and some of his Image mates. I look at some of their work and think "Jesus, I can do better than that!"

When did you first start producing comics?
This is going to sound like such a cliché: I first started as soon as I could hold a pencil. I started out drawing pictures to accompany the fairy tales my mom and dad would read to me as a little kid. As I started junior school, I did this massive comic which was a total rip off of the Flash Gordon film. I loved that film! I showed it to all the teachers. I think they just humoured me. Then I just basically made up my own super hero teams and made little comics over the years: the Space Scouts; the Wonder Men. My poor mom had to read them all! (Somehow my dad escaped.) It's interesting to note how some of The O Men characters have been with me from these early days. Grace, Stuart and Rob have definitely been with me in various incarnations over the years. I had dreams of being some sort of artistic successful child prodigy, working for Marvel when I was 16! I sent some samples to Marvel at that age. I got some Bristol board (like they tell you to in 'How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way') and drew this story featuring Rogue fighting Titania, Screaming Mimi and Quicksand (my fave heroes and villains!). It was truly awful! But I can never forget my excitement of getting a reply from Marvel Comics in the States: Spider Man was on the envelope!!! It was a rejection of course. When I was 18 I was at university, and, apart from drawing the occasional cartoon for the student newspaper or poster for a play, I was working on a series called 'The Omen'! The first storyline was in issues 1 - 6, and they covered the same basic storyline of issues 1 - 30 of my current 'O Men' series (i.e., Anathema coming back from the dead and killing everyone). It wasn't actually a bad attempt. Brainstorm was gay (inspired by Northstar's coming out at the same time. Thought I'd hop on the bandwagon)! It wasn't that bad, but I had all these characters (including a New Mutants style trainee team), all this back story, and I was killing all these people off and somehow expecting the reader to give a damn about all of them. How could they? if you don't get the chance to connect with a character, why should you care when they die? I continued the story with the start of the second volume, but gave up at around issue 10. Anyway, just this weekend I popped home to my parents' house in Birmingham (where I've got probably over 1000 comics, and all my old drawings) and I reread my early Omen stuff. It's all pretty crude, but there are some decent bits of dialogue in there which I could never remember writing. I had a second stab at doing the 'Omen' when I was about 21. I started off with the 'Frenzy' storyline, but gave up at about issue 4. I'm actually redrawing/rewriting 'Frenzy' now as issues 3 -7 of The O Men. So basically, the current O Men is volume three! Note that all of the above was read only by my mom!!! So when I was about 22 I thought it was about time I started showing people my work. Getting some feedback. I responded to ads in Comics International and did art for some small press strips like 'Bulldog' and the 'Bukowski' zine. It was good practice. I was reviewed for Bulldog as 'the disappointing Martin Eden'! I struck gold when I contacted Ceri Jordan, a writer based in Wales. I drew the first issue of her science fiction project 'Contact'. It was good because she passed all the comments onto me. The readers were very, very constructive in their criticism. No one loved it, no one hated it, but everyone had something useful to say. I was reviewed as Ocompetient but unexciting'! It made me realise I had a long way to go, I still have, but I can get there. Plus I just loved the finished product. Not the artwork - I look at the artwork now and cringe. The actual comic itself, the format, the A5 package. I loved it. As crude as it was, it felt so... professional! I wanted to do more, and I thought I should have one final stab at the Omen, and here I am.

Do you prefer writing or drawing?
I'm not a writer. Writers are people who enjoy creating passages of beautiful text, or use their work to satirise or analyse something or someone. I think I'm more a storyteller. Put it this way: some people praise Thomas Hardy's novels for their descriptive passages of nature. I just love the blood and guts and misery and intricacy of the stories themselves! I've presented the O Men as a soap opera story. I'm going to attempt innovative ways of telling the stories and look at strange goings-on in everyday life, but I know I'm no Alan Moore. Ideas for the O Men, or bits of dialogue, storylines, new characters, etc, just come to me at any time. I've had to start writing things down before I forget them. And the characters just write themselves. I'll sit down to plan an issue and I'll say, now what would Abby be doing, what would Brainstorm do? And they write themselves in the long term plans too. At the moment, the only fate for one of my favourite characters is death... As for drawing, it's just something I do. If I wasn't creating The O Men, I'd be sat watching telly with a drawing pad in my hand, doodling away! So, I think drawing comes more naturally. Why a superhero soap opera'? I sometimes ask myself this question. I mean, a lot of the situations are things that happen to normal people, not just superheroes: marriage breakdowns, alocholism, relationship problems, AIDS... But you can have so much fun in the superhero genre. You can kill a character off and then come up with a clever way of bringing them back. In fact, I began to do this too much and had to stop myself! Or imagine if someone's vengeful lover returned to Albert Square in Eastenders. That happens in my O Men, except this person is psychotic and extremely powerful.

Who are your favourite O Men characters?
I like different aspects of all of them. I like Rob's energy, enthusiasm and confidence. I like Grace's goodness. She's my tragic heroine. I love everything about Miss Scarlet. She's sexy, scary, unpredictable. You don't know if she's good or bad, and she's not really either. She'll be getting the best lines. Brainstorm's just this big, quiet bloke, but I'll be taking layers away from him. Anathema is totally evil. An out and out bitch. Doctor O is totally mysterious, but we'll eventually find out about him. I'll be having a lot of fun with Abby down the line. She's going to get seriously dumped on, and she's not going to take it lying down. And why should she? None of my characters are perfect, if they get hurt by someone they're going to strike back. I like writing the female characters. Remember the old days when the Fantastic Four or the X-Men would go into battle, and the Invisible Girl or Marvel Girl would just faint? Well those days are over really, aren't they? All my women are strong women. But what I like best is testing their strength. Miss Scarlet and Grace, and later on in the series, Seraph and Shine and Molly Valentine, are all going to be pretty much knocked around and dragged about, and some of them may not get back up again. The least fun to write is Stuart. There's a very good reason for that, though, and it's one of the most important mysteries of the first volume.

What first drew you towards comics and why did you choose it over any other medium?
I really don't know. Some people love football. Some love cars. Some love ballet. I just love comics and I always have. Going out on a Saturday, getting back with a pile of comics and just sitting on my beanbag with some crisps spending the whole afternoon reading them. Plus, I've spent the past 25 years drawing, so it's about time I did something constructive after all that time. If you had the chance, which existing comic character would you like to work on? Maybe the X-Men. I'd try and do something more exciting with them. Or something on the Vertigo line. I don't know. I was thinking the other day how amazing it is that some concepts are still going. Characters like Batman and Superman have been around for so long. It's equally amazing that Batman is still fighting the same old villains: Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy. Maybe it's time to create some new characters. I think that's what I'd probably do, try and create new legends.

What are your favourite tv shows, films and books?
TV: I lean towards science fiction/fantasy. I love The X-Files. I was with that from day one. I hated it when it got so popular and there was the inevitable backlash, and now it's become untrendy to watch it. I don't care. Even when there's a duff episode, there's always something inventive in there. I love South Park and the Simpsons. They're the only things on TV which make me laugh out loud. I'm a huge believer in vegging out, and I like to do that to Coronation Street, Eastenders, ER, Rikki Lake, Jerry Springer, Star Trek... things that let you put your brain on hold. I also am ashamed to admit that I love this programme on MTV called The Real World. It's my one vice. Sad, sad, sad! It's about seven strangers who move into a house together and have their lives filmed for about four months. I find that sort of thing fascinating, particularly since I've been in many different flatshare situations myself. It's just great to watch other people suffer, and see how they react to situations which I've been through myself.

My favourite films are Alien, Bladerunner, Jean de Florette/Manon de Sources, The English Patient, Jason and the Argonauts. Something imaginative or moving. Something that gets the hairs on the back of the neck tingling. I love it when I go to a cinema and come away just going "wow" and thinking about the film for days. That kind of happened with Contact, Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park...

I did English at university so I still go back to authors I studied there. Dickens, Hardy, Woolf. Other than that, I like horror and science fiction. I'm a major, major Stephen King junkie. I'll devour one of his 1000 page novels in two or three days! I loved The Stand, and The Regulators (written by 'Richard Bachman', King's former pseudonym) was amazing.

What music do you like?

It's impossible to pin my music tastes down. Just earlier I listened to some of the last album by PJ Harvey and then put the new B*witched single on! (What a confession!) My absolute favourite is Tori Amos. A lot of people think she's mad. Maybe she is, I don't know. But she's amazing in concert. A lot of people say her lyrics are nonsense, but even though I sometimes don't know what she's saying, the emotion in her music says a lot more to me than a thousand bland albums by Celine Dion or Mariah Carey. Anyway, a lot of Tori will be creeping into The O Men, but if you can't stand her or don't know her stuff, don't worry, you won't notice. Other than that I like Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs, Throwing Muses, Kristen Hersh, Tanya Donelly, Breeders, Curve, Bjork, REM, Jewel, Barenaked Ladies, jeez, the list goes on. Radiohead, the Verve, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrissette. I recently got into Beth Orton. I've just bought the new Cranberries album which is terrible!!! Music is very important to me, and indeed to The O Men comic. The comic has a soundtrack which I explain in the editorial to Issue O.

What do you hope to acheive with The O Men?
I want to affect people in ways that I've been affected by comics in the past. Moments like the total shock of the death of Alpha Flight's leader Guardian in Alpha Flight issue 12 (first volume). How can they kill the leader??!! The sadness of Kathy and the poignancy of her story at the end of Shade the Changing Man issue 49. The sheer brilliance of the concept of Cliff Steele exploring Crazy Jane's mind in Doom Patrol issue 31. (Crazy Jane was a super hero with 64 different personalities/powers and her mind was represented by an underground station.) The beautifully written characters of The Sandman. I want to give all that back to the readers. Give them a read that will shock, surprise, entertain, intrigue and bemuse them. I don't think there's any title at the moment which does all that. The O Men characters are in for a bumpy ride! I also want to actually finish the series. I have to finish the series. Some of my long-term plans and ideas, especially those involving Miss Scarlet and Doctor O, have simply got to be told. It sounds arrogant, pretentious and arty-farty, I know, but there you go. Besides, I've got to tell the story, before someone else comes up with my ideas! Other than that, I want to produce something I'm proud of. I'm not happy with everything in the first few issues, but that's good. I can acknowledge that and look at ways to achieve it. If I delayed the production of The O Men until I thought I was ready, at a stage where I was utterly confident in my abilities, where I would only get good reviews, I wouldn't have started this for about 10 years. I'm still learning. (An O Men TV series would be a nice achievement too. Definitely on Channel 4.)

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Year two y
ou've finished the first year of The O Men, how do you feel it
Now that you've finished the first year of The O Men, how do you feel it has all gone?
I'm really pleased. Put it this way, in January 1999, I had no readers and no idea what people would make of the comic. Now, a year later, I've got a fair number of subscribers and some very faithful readers who really seem to be into the comic! It all got off to a really, really slow start. I sent off about 50 free copies of the first couple of issues to a list of people I'd gathered from comics letters pages, and only got about five responses! Still, it was better than nothing, and it slowly got better throughout the year, mainly due to good reviews in Comics International.

What has been the highlight of the year?
Definitely the Eagle Award nomination. I was really shocked. I've got no idea how it happened because it's not as if I've got a phenomenal amount of readers who would have voted for me. It's my job to try and build on the award nomination, to try and get some publicity for The O Men because the majority of the comics-reading population still don't know it exists. Apart from that, the reviews have been great, really amazing - I'm really flattered by some of the things people have been saying, comparing me to Grant Morrison and Pete Milligan! I've also been getting some amazing letters from people. It's great that readers can take time out to read the comic and analyse it and then write a detailed four/five page critique of it. I know how time-consuming that can be, too, as people have been sending me their own comics, and I can never get round to writing back! I think one of the best moments was when one of my early readers absolutely hated the comic, and was quite frank in his opinions - but then I refused to give up on him, and with issue 3 he seemed to really love the comic.

What was your favourite issue from the first year?
None of them are perfect, but I think issue O is probably my favourite. It's quite strange, because that issue contained pages that I drew over five years ago, when I wasn't exactly brilliant at drawing, and people wrote into me saying those particular pages were their favourites! I'd have to say that issues 1 and 2 are definitely not my favourites. They're really rough around the edges.

Have any of the characters become particular favourites?
Yeah, Miss Scarlet and Anathema are brilliant to write. They're so unpredictable. They get all the best lines. I consider Anathema to be as much a main character as Grace, Doctor O or Rob. I'm not sure how Rob and Colin are coming across - I hope people like them. I like Rob's energy and enthusiasm. Abby's been a bit weird; she's gone off in all sorts of directions that I hadn't anticipated. I can't pin her character down.

You seem to have the series planned out - has everything gone to plan so far?
Sort of. I'm still planning to end volume one at around issue 25 or 30, after an epic ten-part story, but some of the details along the way have changed. For instance, I was drawing a picture of a minor supporting character, and I really liked the picture and I thought, "hmm, you know, that character really looks interesting", and then ideas came up for doing a lot more with the character, which developed into plans for a 2 part story called 'Memories'. Then there are the readers' letters. I can't believe Pathe is so popular! I mean, I had a few plans for him, but I decided to use him a great deal more once I discovered how much people liked him. That's why he's in Issue 7 so much. I hadn't really planned for him to be in the issue at all. Molly Valentine is very popular too, and although I've got extensive plans for her later on in the series, I'm trying to figure out ways of involving her more at earlier stages. Plus something weird happened with issue 4. To cut a long story short, I thought the issue would be really quick and easy to draw and finish and it was a nightmare! I really struggled to get it done on time. Plus the pages I had a hard time with were the really nasty pages, the scenes where Frenzy is being really vile to Grace and the flashback to when Molly was assaulted. It made me feel really depressed! So that whole experience made me want to add a lot more lighter notes - in between all the murder and betrayal of course! Again, that's the reason for the whole Grace/Pathe thing in Issue 7. I wanted to try and do some sort of feel good story. And finally, even though I've got most of it planned out, I really enjoy it when little ideas and storylines come to me at the last minute. Things like Miss Scarlet's murderous little jaunt in issue 5, Molly listening to The Corrs singing "What can I do to make you love me?" in issue 3, Miss Scarlet changing her outfit in issue 5, and the whole telepath thing with Grace and Colin, also in Issue 5.

What are your plans for year 2 of The O Men?
I'm really excited about year 2. Issue 6 finished the Frenzy storyline. I don't think I'll be doing a four-part story again for a while - 8 months is a long time for readers to read a complete storyline! Having said that, I couldn't really have told that particular story in any fewer parts. Issue 7 basically follows all the characters through a typical (?) day. We find out a lot more about the characters, and there's lots of sex! There's a different style to the issue too, and I'll probably get criticised for copying Stray Bullets. Issues 8 - 10's a three-part story arc called 'Malice'. I'm not going to give too much away but a very unusual mercenary is sent to attack our heroes in an extremely weird way. I've been researching this story for about five years now! Basically if I get it wrong I could alienate a lot of readers, rather like Grant Morrison did with The Invisibles' 'Arcadia' storyline! The first part of 'Malice' is a jumping-on point for new readers - the gang just meet up and have a dinner party. It was inspired by the first chapter of the Sandman story 'Season of Mists'. Issue 11 is called 'It Never Rains...' and spotlights Brainstorm, Anathema and Abby.

How about plans for the rest of the series?
Well, as I've said, volume one should end between issue 25 and 30 after an epic ten-part story. The rest of volume one will resolve, amongst other things, the relationships between Grace and Stuart, Abby and Rob and Brainstorm and his girlfriend Peri. We'll find out what's wrong with Stuart, we'll learn about Miss Scarlet's past (but not all of it), and we'll discover the fate of the UK Ultra Knights. We'll also still got to meet some major characters: Rob's sister, Vixen, the American superhero team The USaviors and Seraph (we met her briefly in Issue O). I haven't made concrete plans for beyond volume one yet. In an ideal world the series would be three volumes long and would comprise of about 100 issues, but on my bimonthly schedule I'll be about 50 years old when the whole thing ends! Volume one raises a lot of questions which I don't plan to answer by issue 30, so I have got to go to a least a second volume. It's all up in the air at the moment.



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