It seems some of the best comics – and the best stories – don’t just introduce some characters and a narrative but take the reader into a full-imagined world of possibilities. Some may exist entirely in the real of fantasy, while other may be based all or part in our own world. In last years innovative illustrated book 45 from Com.X, writer Andi Ewington enlisted a host of artists to draw accompanying pieces for a host of denizens of his super-hero populated world. Although not comics per se, it told stories in a genre comics fans know and love. And now after the success of 45, Ewington’s universe is coming to comics.
Scheduled for release July 22nd, BlueSpear is the first of several spinoffs in the 45 universe and focuses on one of the heroes represented in last year’s book. The titular character of BlueSpear was born a young boy named Yuji Tomikawa, who received super powers while on a fishing trip. These powers led him on a journey that resulted in him becoming the defacto guardian for the Japanese city of Tokyo. This story was chosen to lead off the expansion of the 45 universe after BlueSpear’s interview segment was one of the most talked about from 2010’s book.For this outing, creator Andi Ewington is bringing in Com.X publisher Eddie Deighton to co-write and a phenomenal young illustrator named Cosmo White. Com.X has a long history of turning unknown artists into superstars, with the likes of Joshua Middleton, Trevor Hairsine, Travel Foreman, Ben Oliver, Neil Googe and others working their early in their career. And from the looks of this, they’re doing it again.
Newsarama: So what can you tell us about the lead character and story of BlueSpear?
Andi Ewington: I don't want to give too much away, but what I can tell you is that BlueSpear is a constantly evolving character. What I mean by that is we are discovering his aquatic powers at the same time as the reader, rather than presenting his abilities as a definite 'list'. If you think of every skill found in the marine world, BlueSpear potentially could have them all!
As for the story, we're going to delve a little deeper into the origin of the BlueSpear and his 'relationship' with his brother. That's not to say there isn't a dynamic plot coursing through the heart of this tale; you're going to witness some first-hand nastiness from Lotus and XoDOS that will roll through books 2 and 3.
Eddie Deighton: I think it's also important to point out that, unlike the transcript-based structure of 45, the BlueSpear story will assume 'standard' comic-book format, i.e., sequential art. It won't be about a journalist interviewing different characters - this is actually storytelling through pictures and speech bubbles.
Nrama: Cosmo, can you tell me about visualizing the character Andi gave you?
Cosmo White: Well, I was fortunate with Lotus and BlueSpear himself, in that they had already been lovingly designed by the 45 artist, Calum Watt; but it was only fortunate to an extent, as living up to Calum's standard was actually a pretty intimidating task... In practice, it was more a matter of refining the designs to bring them in line with my own style. I try to focus on a single defining characteristic for each character; so for BlueSpear's aquatic form I was interested in a streamlined appearance; in his monk's guise it was more about his face, which although expressionless, also needed somehow to be expressive! Lotus is all about the hair. Akira is a very feminine presence in the story, and again, Calum had already done a good job, so I tried only to present a sense of vulnerability; a sensitivity which BlueSpear himself is increasingly unable to communicate. If that all sounds a bit pretentious, I can say that X and his unnamed colleague went through a far less arty design process, and they ended up being my favourite characters to draw. X is tough and grumpy, and his partner is cocky and profoundly unlikeable, and they ended up in my mind like a kind of sinister comedy double act; like Evil Cannon and Ball.
Colour played a big part in the process, too, and you can see that, with regards to the main character's 'heroic' form, there's always a bit of blue and green around; while his monk form and Akira share the same palette, as brothers. I try to visualize the feel of the environment the characters inhabit as much as the characters themselves, and the colours (I hope) play a great part in evoking mood.
And finally, I'm a bit of a swimmer myself, so in the interests of authenticity I practiced a few super-poses in the deep end, and quickly concluded that you really can't swim with any dignity whilst sticking out your fist like Superman; so the underwater swimming scenes are 100% scientifically accurate and utterly plausible, especially the octopus, which took ages.
Nrama: Andi, this new book sets up a broader universe based on the characters and stories you set up in last year’s 45. How soon did the idea to do spinoffs come to you, and how’d you choose this character and this story specifically?
Ewington: BlueSpear came about from the extensive edit via Eddie Deighton of Com.x and myself. Eddie and I really warmed to the character of BlueSpear and the potential in his powers. As we began batting 'spin-off' ideas between us it quickly became apparent that we could tie the BlueSpear story arc into a larger picture that had been hinted at throughout 45. In reality we arrived at the spin-off long before we had even finished the 45 edit!
Nrama: For those that didn’t read 45, can you tell us about the threat that XoDOS represents in this universe?
Ewington: XoDOS are presented as a faceless American-based organisation that revels in manipulating any given world stage event for their own machiavellian means. The majority of the characters in 45 have no idea what XoDOS have planned for them, I don't want to give too much away but it'll certainly be monumental.
Nrama: Will any of the other characters from 45 besides BlueSpear appear in this book?
Ewington: Yup, you're going to see a lot more of Lotus, and X and how their dynamics evolve through their mission. Plus, there're a couple of new characters thrown in to spice things up a bit - and of course, Akira, BlueSpear's brother.
Nrama: Given that BlueSpear’s titular character is a Japanese patriotic hero, do you have any plans to release this book in Japan?
Ewington: I can't speak for Com.x but I'd be delighted if BlueSpear did make a Japanese debut.
Deighton: It would be great if we could get BlueSpear onto the comic shelves in Japan. We haven't quite managed to stretch our publishing plans to the Asian market yet, mainly because of the formats and page counts that we normally publish, but I'd love to see what the market would think of our books. We've tried hard to make sure we treated the character with dignity and respect and I think he's one of the coolest characters in 45 with the most potential in terms of his abilities, so maybe this could be the one that we decide to premier.
I'm also not sure I'd feel comfortable trying to promote an aquatic superhero to the Japanese people at the moment and whether it would be appropriate and respectful, but I'd love to try in the future.
Nrama: Com.X has found a number of great artists – Neil Googe, Trevor Hairsine, Travel Foreman, Ben Oliver and others. How’d you find Cosmo White?
Deighton: We met Cos three years ago, when we were exhibiting at the Bristol International Comic Expo (we'll be there again this year, May 14th & 15th). We loved his work from the minute he showed us his portfolio but didn't have anything specific for him to work on at the time but last year when we were attending, Andi and Com.x were actively looking for someone to take on art duties for BlueSpear so, when Cos came back and showed us his work, we knew we were in a position to talk to him about it.
Nrama: So Cosmo, can you tell us about yourself – in your own words?
White: I'm from a graphic design background, but from early on showed little aptitude in the area of cornflake box design, and quickly moved on to a glittering and adventurous career in retail management and woodwork. Regarding comics, though, I started off working in small press, with Underfire Comics, down in Brighton. We're still going, and this year's our tenth anniversary!
Anyway, after years of miserable toil and labour, I was kindly given a place in the first volume of Ilya's Best New Manga. After that, Titan were nice enough to allow me to draw some issues of the Transformers; and subsequently I had the good luck to talk to Ed and Andi of Com.x about BlueSpear, which pleasurable task leads us neatly up to the present day.
Nrama: Will you be doing more stories in the 45 universe after this?
Ewington: Com.x and I see this as a start of a trilogy series that spans the globe. It doesn't necessarily continue with the BlueSpear character, but what develops in the first BlueSpear book has certain repercussions that evolve through the main story-arc.
Deighton: As Andi mentioned, we already have this first trilogy in progress, which is about 60% complete, and it's safe to say we could probably continue most of the characters that were interviewed in the original book into their own spin-off titles, but we'd only do it if we all felt there was a story worth telling that was entertaining enough for the readers.
Personally, I'd like to see a trilogy that deals with a totally different aspect of the 45 world than the one we're creating for this first 'series'; one that has a more 'personal' angle and takes it back to the essence of what most of the original interviews were about - normans and super-s co-existing in a normal world. But that's the joy of what Andi has created - the story arcs can pretty much go anywhere we want them to at this point.