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Martin Xing (’21) talks to us about his thesis story, ‘The Harding Files: The Mysterious Case of the Toy Maker’

What is your thesis story titled, what is it about, and what medium did you decide on?

Title: The Harding Files #1: The Mysterious Case of the Toy Maker
The story is a campnoir story about a sex crime detective who investigates a series of bizzare crimes comitted with magical sex toys. While obsessing over these crimes, his relationship with his husband is hanging by a thread. He has to solve the case and save his relationship before his career and marriage crash and burn. It’s a digitally illustrated graphic novella.

Tell us a little bit about the process of deciding on telling this story. Did you always want it to be told in this medium?

I know I want to bring something gay into a genre that doesn’t see a lot of gay characters. And I love detective stories, so why not make a gay detective with a husband and make them go on adventures? And yes, I think I was pretty settled with the medium I chose for the story pretty quickly, which is digital illustration with collage elements.

Why are you the only one who could tell this story?

I don’t think I am? Lol. It’s not the first gay detective story out there but I think I’m trying a new fusion of genre between noir and camp that can bring something new and fun into detective stories.

What theme(s) do you want people to connect with?

The theme of love, trust. And how sex/kink/bdsm practices in an intimate relationship can bring people closer together if the people involved have love and trust.

After graduation, how would you like the thesis story to help your career?

I want the thesis to be serialized and help me get some popularity and get me noticed by comic fans and publishers.

Do you think you would have told this story if you’d never attended MFA Visual Narrative?

I don’t think so. A lot of inspirations I got for this story only exist because I came to MFA Visual Narrative and came to New York. I would probably never get the support I did from the teachers and my mentor in other programs.

How did your mentor help you in the creation of the story?

My biggest issue in creating is that I can be too scared to move onto the next step unless the previous one is absolutely perfect, which can make the project go really slow sometimes. My mentor Rob Guillory really pushed me to accept that I can move onto the next step with some imperfections, or I don’t think I would even finish my thesis. (He also taught me through so much personal experience in both art making and personal growth with many valuable lessons)

What tools did you use to create the story? Feel free to share a tip or two about them.

I draft with pencil and paper. Then move on to Photoshop. Most of the thesis is done in Photoshop and I use Clip Studio art for speech bubbles and dialogues.

If you could show your thesis story to ONLY one person, who would that be, and why?

John Waters maybe. Because my story is a camp noir story with a lot of crazy things happening, I think John will get a kick out of it.

Anything else you’d like people to know about you and your story?

I’m a huge fan of cosmic horror, which might also happen in a future installment of The Harding Files. There will be a long arc that will tie everything together when it gets serialized.

Thanks for talking with us, Martin! Follow him on Instagram for news about The Harding Files and Martin’s other projects.

A man in a suit with. pink tie and his humanoid dog sidekick run toward us
Headshot of Martin Xing.
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