Artist Ben Templesmith spoke with CBR News regarding his upcoming work on three different titles for three different publishers this week.
Originally featured as part of CBR’s “Artists On The Verge” Templesmith has largely built a following with his online comics work at sites like OPI8.com, Komikwerks.com, and Unboundcomics.com. However, recently his workload has exploded into the world of print comics with publishers such as Todd McFarlane Publishing (TMP), Idea+Design Works and DC/Vertigo.
Templesmith’s current project, filling the gap left by long-time “Hellspawn” artist Ashley Wood, is his first real “break” into the print comic world. His earlier work having been mostly limited to the realm of the online comic. Templesmith’s first full-length work will appear in issue number eleven. As one might expect, working in Ashley’s shadow has challenged him artistically. “It’s an evolving thing I guess,” said Templesmith. “Especially considering, with the pages of ‘Hellspawn’ #10 and #11 I did, wrapping up the Cy-Gor/Damascus story, we all wanted to keep it fairly consistent with the look and feel Ash had. I’m still in awe of his work, which he’s taking to a whole other level now, but I’m looking at other things now, and want to go to other places (with my style) too. It’ll happen over time. I hope.” said Templesmith. “If you don’t evolve, you die. Like I said, Ash is taking off artistically, doing some amazing stuff, and I don’t think I can, nor want to necessarily, follow him. A lot of it probably comes from the computer aspect of the work, and yeah, I ‘think’ I use some of the same techniques, though I can’t be sure, as all I’ve ever done is look at his and Dave McKean’s stuff and tried to put two and two together. I’m gaining new interests and influences all the time, so hopefully some of them will come through. I’m nowhere near where I want to be artistically yet. It’s all a work in progress.
“‘Hellspawn #12’ will pretty much kick off to a new beat, with what I hope is a bit of a new look, while still keeping the ‘Hellspawn’ effect going, I mean there’s not too many mainstream books out there that let the one artist do everything, pretty much the way he wants. Steve (Niles) has a killer story coming for that one,” he promised.
“‘Hellspawn #11’ is the conclusion to the Cy-gor storyline. It’s pretty brutal. It’s the sort of story that makes you think the writer must eat small children is his spare time, what can I say? Todd has a clear direction for the book too of course, thus far it’s been a case of me learning through experience what hits the mark more than what doesn’t so to speak. I pretty much agreed with all his suggestions and comments thus far, and it’s been damn helpful, since I’ve never had much in the way of feedback here in Australia. He gives tremendous free reign though, which is rather scary,” he said.
Templesmith owes his first big print comics break to a large amount of chance. “‘Hellspawn’ came about late last year, pretty much through sheer luck,” said Templesmith. “I was online with a buddy of mine, Darren Close, and he mentioned some guy he knew, Brent Ashe, TMP’s Art director, was interested in getting a commission off me and would I like to talk to him. So of course I said yes. One thing led to another and Brent showed Todd my site, which he must’ve liked a bit since they asked me to do some test ‘Sam and Twitch’ pages. After that I was asked if I wanted to do a bit of ‘Hellspawn'”, said Templesmith. “So both Darren and Brent, I owe big time.”
Next, Templesmith spoke about his work with writer Joe Casey on an upcoming Vertigo book. “‘Darwin Theory’ starts off with a rather emotionless bloke, who works for the government. He thinks he’s special, but then don’t we all? And then some freaky shit happens,” he said. “I got involved with ‘Darwin Theory’ way back, through luck, and the fine tastes of one Joe Casey. He just emailed me out of the blue one day and asked if I was interested in doing a little something with him. This was before his ‘X-men’ and ‘Superman’ gigs. I had just finished reading some of his ‘Mr Majestic’ the day before he emailed me though, so I knew who he was instantly. ‘Darwin Theory’ has been in development for that long basically.”
Both books present Templesmith with various hurdles to clear. “‘Hellspawn’ and ‘The Darwin Theory’ I’d say are equally challenging. On the one hand, ‘Hellspawn’ is where I get to deconstruct the way I was doing things and think about how I could do them…differently, while ‘Darwin Theory’ has such a scope to it. Joe has some pretty cool visuals written in. While it’s not exactly light and fluffy material, it’s not exactly horror either, so there’s a bit more adjusting for me,” he said.
|The cover to “30 Days” by Ashley Wood.|
Templesmith also explained how his opportunity to work on an Idea + Design Works book came about. “’30 Days of Night’ just came out of nowhere while I was sitting around bored, waiting for scripts and such. Steve Niles (writer for ‘Hellspawn’) threw a few things at me. I did some samples, which he then shopped around to some contacts of his and bingo, Idea+Design Works said they wanted to do it. It all happened rather quickly,” he said. “’30 Days Of Night’ takes place in Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska…just as they’re settling in for the long night ( 30 days of complete darkness ) some rather interesting people decide to show up to have some fun, and not everybody is happy about this. You could say some are quite cranky. It’s most definitely horror, Steve and I both had ‘John Carpenters The Thing’ going on in the back of our heads when we were doing it, so it has a bit of that feel. The first issue is all done too, and ’30 Days’ was fun. I zoomed through that and loved it.”
Going from zero work to doing three books practically overnight would drive any normal artist insane. Luckily, Templesmith finds the pressure a welcome change. “I’d had plenty of time to anticipate things, and I enjoy the work anyway. They don’t all overlap all the time either, so I’ve yet to go insane, plus, I’m relatively fast,” he said.
“I’m just excited something might actually see print. That whole deal is rather new to me, and already I get to work with some amazing people I never thought I would,” he said.