If you are a fan of all-ages comics, odds are pretty good you enjoyed a fair share of comics involving Ty Templeton. So it did not surprise me when Marvel launched a new Ultimate Spider-Man comic (based on the new Disney XD series that premiered recently) and tapped Templeton and Dan Slott to co-write and draw a story for the first issue (which came out last week). Templeton will also be teaming with Slott on Avenging Spider-Man 8 (set for release on June 20). That just scratches the surface of what Templeton is working on--or as he put it in this email interview: "There's always something else going on." I'm hard-pressed to pick which of his new upcoming projects I am most enthused about, but the prospect of seeing him work as a live talkshow/webcast host nears the top of the list. Also, I am overjoyed to know that Templeton (a great creator with a wealth of knowledge and experience) is passing along that love of storytelling by teaching folks. Over the years, I have always relished interviewing Templeton and cannot believe this marks the first time we have done an interview for Robot 6.
Tim O'Shea: Did you contact Marvel, or did they contact you for this new Ultimate Spider-Man series?
Ty Templeton: They contacted me, but I've done a few things for the Spider-Man office here and there, so they were already in touch with me. I did a small chapter for an issue of Amazing about eight months ago, and a couple of one-page Spider-Man stories for Age of Heroes, and things like that.
O'Shea: I have caught a few episodes of the new TV Ultimate Spider-Man series, and there are elements of broad comedy to the show. Will there be broad comedy elements to the book as well?
Templeton: Yup. I've always been a stickler for trying to make TV tie-in comics as close to the source material as we can. It would be silly to ignore the style and voice of the new show and to do Spider-Man stories the fans of the new show won't recognize. I'd hate for someone to pick up their first comic book because they were brought to the character because of the show, and discover they didn't think the comic did the show justice. I always remember John Byrne's advice that every comic is someone's first.
O'Shea: What is the collaborative process like when you and Dan Slott co-write?
Templeton: It changes every time we do it. We wrote a bunch of Batman stories together which amounted to really using the other guy as a sounding board. We did a few issues of She-Hulk together that amounted to us trading off plot/dialogue duties each alternate issue. This time out, Dan and I talked out a story idea, then he went off and plotted something very loosely based on the discussion (with lots of new twists and turns, all delightful). I drew the art based on the plot breakdown, and then after the art was finished, I took the first pass at dialogue and Dan did a minor tweak for the second draft to keep the voices intact. It's an effortless process since we're both interested in servicing the reader and the character more than our egos.
O'Shea: What can you tell folks about the supporting cast for Ultimate Spider-Man?
Templeton: I'm not sure what I'm allowed to tell you, I signed an NDA about everything I've been shown. I think the stuff I can tell you is that Mary Jane, Flash, Harry, Jonah and Aunt May are all definitely in the cast, along with a few surprise characters from other parts of the Marvel Universe who have a role in this series. I'm probably being more coy than I need to be, since I think there's an episode or two already online as I'm typing this, but I'm a stickler for not revealing stuff I'm not supposed to.
O'Shea: As an artist yourself, when teamed with an artist like Nuno Plati, do you try to structure elements that play to his visual strengths?
Templeton: I was teamed with myself for this story. Nuno did the second story in the issue. But were I to be teamed with him, yes...I would absolutely play to his strengths. That's the best way to work with any artist...find what they do best and let them go nuts. When I worked with Bruce Timm, I tended towards stories that had a little sexy element to it, when I worked with Rick Burchett, I knew he could tell complex staging and make it easy to follow, so I could stage elaborate set pieces.
O'Shea: What can you tell us about your upcoming issue of Avenging Spider-Man?
Templeton: It features Doctor Strange, Silver Sable, Spider-Man, Captain America and a really cool guest villain that I've written before, but always love to work with. It's probably the most playful super-hero script I've written in a while, perhaps my years doing Simpsons stories are leaking into Marvel stuff, but it's got some genuinely funny moments in it, mixed with some kick ass explosions and cars been torn apart and lives in danger. Everything you'd hope for in a Spidey story.
Templeton: It's only been a couple of weeks since the finalist/potential nomination thing was announced, so I can't tell yet. I tend to have wildly different attention for each Bun Toon, depending on the subject matter. When I pick on Frank Miller or Alan Moore our readership quadruples from the strips when I say sentimental things about my family. Since the short list/nomination announcement, I've been getting a fairly average readership, but I haven't been going after Frank Miller as much lately.
O'Shea: Do you ever worry your irreverent nature (as evidenced in this installment and others) might burn your bridges with the mainstream big two, or do editors appreciate your sense of humor enough not to take offense?
Templeton: I've never had an editor take offence that I know of. I suppose someone somewhere might be bothered by my little gags, but I've never had it expressed to me. Quite the opposite in fact, I've had comments from fellow pros and editors, often expressing that they like a recent bun toon. I got a little flack from other creators when I seemed to take Marvel's side in the Gary Friedrich case a few weeks back, but I can't see how an editor would be upset I took their side. Steve Bissette and Steve Niles called me out on my opinion, but I think it was all fairly civil...and as facts came out in the case, I turned out to be more or less right, which is always a good position to be in. I don't know if Bissette is still annoyed by me, but Niles and I emailed each other once or twice and I THINK we're okay with each other. I hope we are.
O'Shea: How did come to develop Fit to Print and your Bootcamp courses?
Templeton: I started teaching Bootcamp classes in the making of comics about six years ago when a man named Walter came up to me at a convention and said that listening to me talk to fans about my process made him think I'd make a good teacher, and he introduced me to the head of a local art college and suggested to her that I work for her. I spent two years at the art college developing and teaching courses in writing for comics, layout for comics, cover design, inking and all sorts of other skills involved in making the art form work.
The second year I was doing this, a group of my students didn't want to take a break for the summer and continued to have regular meetings on their own (at the party room at a student's apartment building) to discuss creating stories together. I came to most of the meetings to look over what everyone was doing, and to act as an informal editor for a bunch of six page stories intended to be put together as an anthology. The individual stories were published as mini-comics and sold at the next big FAN EXPO and it was a terrific experience for everyone involved, I'm told. . Mostly it involved students moving from working towards making comics, to actually making comics. I always say to anyone interested in the industry to stop telling people what they're going to do, and only show people what they've done.
When I quit the art college and helped create the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop, I started up the program again with a more specific schedule and goal. Now, when we do the project (once a year) the anthology is printed as a proper print edition, as well as an online digital version, distributed free to whomever wants to read it on the web, and sold at local comic stores and conventions in Toronto (and through mail order from the school). The first two issues of the series Holmes Incorporated, have been better than my expectations, with students turning in amazingly professional looking work, often creating full stories for the first time in their lives.
The basic premise of the series, btw, is that Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler had two children in the late 19th Century and the descendants of that union (at least six in this generation, including a Watson great granddaughter) have formed themselves into a trouble shooting agency for the 21st Century, solving the sorts of crimes that police cannot, and solving problems that governments cannot. It's a fun series, and I recommend anyone and everyone download the digital copies and read some fun stories from some promising newcomers.
O'Shea: Anything we need to discuss that I neglected to ask?
Templeton: There's always something else going on. I'm starting up a live talkshow/webcast in a couple of weeks from the Comics Lounge in Toronto [On the Couch with Ty Templeton]. Once a month, lively discussion featuring big name comic creators and myself sparring verbally about the state of the industry and the state of the artform. Plus a few war stories if we can fit it in.
I've also got an issue of the Simpsons coming out in a couple of weeks that I wrote and drew. It features MAGGIE, who rarely gets the spotlight, so it was fun to switch up, as I usually do Bart and Homer as the leads in my scripts.
And it's being drawn as I speak, I've scripted a story for Heroes of the North, the webcomic/webisode series from Montreal about tough-as-nails super-heroes up in the frozen wastelands of Canada.
And ALSO: Coming up in late June/early July, my collaboration with Marc Tyler Nobleman, Bill: The Boy Wonder, (the secret co-creator of Batman). A book about Bill Finger, detailing his involvement with the creation of Batman and setting the record straight. Mark wrote it, I illustrated it, and I'm dying for people to read it and really see the injustice done to Mr. Finger fixed.