My buddy Shawn presented me with the greatest of opportunities one fine Sunday morning. Drive him to Morningside Heights to pick-up some original art. Original Art from Ben Templesmith. “Who knows, maybe you can do an interview with him,” Shawn said. So now I’m losing it!
So after buying us lunch, showing us some of his amazing work, and keeping us laughing with his industry commentary, Mr. Ben Templesmith genially agreed to an email interview with me for whatchareading.com.
WR: With the success of Tome and Lust, what’s next on 44 Flood’s Horizon?
Ben: Well, I wrapped up THE SQUIDDER late last year, via 44FLOOD a thing that started as 4 issues worth of story but ended up having an extra 44 added to it and then earlier this year we did the DAGON kickstarter (where I adapt a short HP Lovecraft story into comic form) which… I was quite overwhelmed by, success wise! I’m already half done with that book and hope to have it out on time or even sooner than we promised (September). After that… well, I’m planning some smaller things and a web series… and maybe a big project or two, depending on how some talks go.
WR: Are there any writers or artists out there you would like to bring into the 44 Flood fold?
Ben: Oh plenty. Speaking for myself, I can’t wait til Shane Pierce, a fantastic painter, and Mike Rooth, a great comic artist, start flexing their muscles and getting things out there. Shane has his own art book coming shortly, and I’ve long promised I want to do a Viking type collaborative comic with him. And Mike is someone I’d love to do something with too.
There’s so many others out there too of course. Kasra and Menton have a bunch of people either lined up or are keen to do things with. I’m more the guy that prefers to just do my own thing and stick with close friends really, before I get too experimental.
WR: Squidder was a great book and seemed, at least to me, to be a landmark in your career, specifically when it comes to creativity,content and storytelling. What did doing this book mean for you?
Ben: I think it was a landmark, in that I began to realize the old way of doing my work doesn’t have to be controlled by money men. That I can start working *with* the suits, instead of *for* the suits. Kickstarter is really just a brilliant preordering system and if you have an audience, you can take advantage of that fact to finally gain a little leverage against the old established order.
If an artist can fund themselves to do a book, directly from people who *want the book* they no longer have to give away their rights to a publisher just so they can afford to eat and pay rent as they do it. Publisher still gets the book, and has to start generating revenue off books… instead of wanting to lock up film and other media rights instead.
My only guiding principle in any new thing is that the creators of something should be the people benefiting most from their creations. There’s plenty of people in this world paid exceptionally well for bouncing a ball, or making a sex tape and being filmed doing stupid things… it’d just be nice to get to the point where visual artists can actually reap the rewards of their hard work.
Err, but yeah, apart from that, SQUIDDER was the final proof of concept I needed that I could do a crazy book that meant something to me, and enough people would come along for the ride and that I could survive doing just that. It was immensely fulfilling to do, and I have AMAZING dedicated fans who I can’t thank enough.
Because of SQUIDDER, when I get asked to do commercial jobs now, I have a little more luxury of not having to work for “the man” as it’s comparable to me doing my own thing! With a little luck I can truly start branching out and doing the creative things I’ve always wanted, instead of other people’s dreams (sometimes those dreams are just as fun though… it’s just nice to have choices!). I’m well conscious that that’s a pretty rare club to be in, mind you. It does make all the 4am work nights worth it though.
WR: Gotham by Midnight hit the stands with much positivity and fan response, how did you end up working on the darker side of the D.C. Universe?
Ben: Was pretty simple really. Ray (Fawkes) asked me if I’d like to do a book that was effectively already greenlit. It had never occurred to me that the Spectre was something I could do… so as soon as it was mentioned I jumped at the chance. First and foremost though it was just a chance to work with Ray, who I’ve known for a few years now. I’m eternally grateful he got me the chance to work on a truly “mainstream” issue #1 of anything. Was a lot of fun. And yeah, the critical response was fantastic. That’s all Ray though. I fully expected a lot fo people used to superheroes to be rather confused by my art. I was quite wrong there, it seems (I mean I didn’t get any hatemail!)
WR: Are there any characters coming up in Gotham you’re looking forward to drawing? Or any you’d personally like to draw in either Gotham by Midnight or in another D.C. book?
Ben: Heh, well, my run is over now… but I got to draw Batman in about 8 panels or so? That’s enough for me. I can die happy with that. I’m easy to please. I’d love a stab at the old Lobo…but that’s never going to happen I guess, but really, the DC stuff is a lot of fun, but a job for me. By that I mean a job, not a career. My heart still lies with doing the odder books with no rules off on my own or with some fellow deviants. The miniseries and strange things I’ve been known for the last few years. DC is a fun place to play in, but I also know I’m not suited to most of the stuff they put out. I’m happy I just got *any* chance.
WR: You’ve had nothing but good things to say about working with Ray Fawkes, are there any established industry writers you’d like to work with? Or at least a really big fan of?
Ben: Oh, I keep my ambitions rather small these days. I had a movie made off a book I co-created. I’ve been nominated for enough Eisners back in the day to give me the idea I must’ve been doing *something* right… so… really… apart from working with friends… there’s nothing else I’d rather do than good books on my own. Just tell the stories I want as a creative and see where I evolve. Working with Warren Ellis was the highlight of the career I’d say. Doesn’t really get much better than that. I keep my ambitions small now, like I said!
WR: And the obvious question on every fanboy’s mind…what Marvel character would you like to tackle if you had the opportunity?
Ben: Ghost Rider. Hands down. But, I doubt I’ll ever get a chance. And like I said, unless asked, I’m really just happy doing my own thing these days.
WR: Although always tinged with Horror, you covered a few different genres; science fiction, mystery,hard-boiled noir, fantasy, etc. Is there a genre that you haven’t delved into that your chomping at the bit to get at?
Ben: Hmm, I’ve tried most of the ones I’m into. I don’t think, at this point, there’s anything left outside of romance… which… isn’t really something I’ll dabble in. Maybe pure fantasy? Who knows. That stuff goes so well with epic space opera scifi.
WR: Besides Lovecraft being a major influence, are their any other prose writers you would recommend to people either looking for inspiration, or just so they have something to talk to you about at the next convention?
Ben: Nah. I love Harry Harrison and Tom Holland… but I can’t say they’re influences. I owe more to Warren Ellis and Quentin Tarantino really! I just love how they do dialogue.
WR: Speaking of; as someone who appears to, by probably mystical means, attend every comic con, is there anything you would like to see more of at a con? Is there something you’d like to see less of?
Ben: Probably more creators, in healthy artist alleys. There’s some great shows that really excel at making comics a true part of the “comic con” experience… and then there’s a few who definitely go the other way. And that makes me sad. As there’s still the word “comic” in there for a reason (not to mention the billion dollar franchises these folks spawned).
WR: You were born in Australia, lived in San Diego, Chicago, and New York. Which City did you find most conducive to the creative process? Any particular reason why? Which was the least (if you don’t mind pissing off a whole city of fans)?
Ben: I did a brief spell in Seattle too, a city I greatly love. Just not the people I was surrounded by at the time. I hope to get back there one day. Each city though is unique. Good points and bad. Some cities are better at different stages in life. It’s all rather complicated to say “this is the best!”. Chicago and New York are both amazing places in different ways. And I actually like snowy weather. San Diego was probably my least favorite. The weather, though nice… gets mind numbing in it’s lack of variation. I’m weird. I like rain. And cold. And the really poor planning in SoCal… well… I don’t want to be in a car for half my life! Freeways are not pretty things. I kinda get tired of looking at them.
WR: While googling info on you for this interview, I noticed a character in Hunger Games was named after you? Were you aware of this ? Do you mind?
Ben: Yeah, I quite mind.
I thought there were standards about that sort of thing really.. in that, there’s reasons why names are often changed from books to film, etc. I don’t get it. My name is legal and I actually created it as an amalgam of my mother’s and father’s surnames when I was 18… as a tribute to my Grandfather, who was where I got the art genes from!
It’s a minor gripe but since I’m technically the only “templesmith” out there I’ve ever heard of, or seen in any search… you have to wonder how obviously she knows it’s my name she’s using. Google is rather easy. I’d love a bit of compensation for having me be a fat git in a wig on some movie (I’ve not seem em).
At least make me the handsome buff guy or a cool villain. I see that stuff come up constantly with tweens posting stuff about the character, not me… heh.
WR: And finally, pick your favorite: Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, or The Creature from the Black Lagoon?
I’ll assume you mean the original versions and not the Universal Monster type ones… so I’ll always go Dracula. Frankenstein’s monster a close second.
(Damn, I had him pegged as a Creature guy!)
Thanks for the Interview Ben!
You can find more info on Ben’s current projects (and where to buy his books!) at http://www.templesmith.com/