INTERVIEW: Ben Templesmith
Interview conducted by Arni Gunnarsson
Ben Templesmith is a unique and talented artist who rose to fame as the co-creator of the highly successful 30 DAYS OF NIGHT with Steve Niles and has since worked with the writer on several other projects including the sequel to 30 DAYS named DARK DAYS and the series CRIMINAL MACABRE starring private eye Cal MacDonald.
Arni Gunnarsson: He's now working on his first solo project and so it is only apt to ask for those who have yet to be introduced to him, who is Ben Templesmith and where does the nickname BLT come from?
Ben Templesmith: I don't know who I am. But my passport says I'm a
25-year-old Aussie guy. Does that help? And the once used nickname BLT (which I adopted and ran with for awhile for amusement) came from an uninformed and inaccurate rant a former comics professional wrote about me once.
Apparently, I am a sandwich.
So long as I'm tasty, I don't mind at all.
That's all I'll say about that.
So you won't comment on this professional being fellow Aussie Ash Wood?
Errr, no, it wasn't Ash. Ash is a good guy and perfectly cool. What are you on about you drunken Icelander? It was a guy who used to draw comics...whassisname...I forget.
Let's stay on Ash Wood for a moment. There are quite a few people who say your art is derivative of his. What do you have to say to those people?
Ash is a great guy. And yes, my art has been compared to his. But it's something that happens to everyone in this game. Mostly, it's from people who only ever take a passing glance at the art. While I grew up on Ash Wood art, and he is honestly, a major influence, we're going in completely different paths these days. Our work, side by side, is VERY different now. He's been compared to MANY people in his time too. Maybe cause people put you in a group, the moment you start using a computer. But what is a computer but a tool?
Same as a brush, same as a crow quill. Use a certain tool and work will always have some similar qualities. Every artist comes from somewhere. It's how you eventually evolve that matters. Oh, and Ash nearly killed me once. Bastard. Made me choke, as I was laughing so hard he did. I had been drinking though.
From what I understand you do drink a lot, or is that just something you'd like people to think?
Just something I'd not even really like people to think! I do drink, but only occasionally. And generally I hold my booze pretty well thank you. I think it all came from me posting an image online of my work desk with a tequila bottle sat on it.
Is that your preferred poison then? Tequila?
Tequila and Guinness. None of that weak bathwater often called beer. I cringe in horror every time I see some poor deluded bastard chug down a Coors Light or a Bud for instance. These people have no shame. They should be shot! I jest of course.
Not entirely sure why you jest, cause that's true enough. But let's move on to a town where alcohol is forbidden. The town of Barrow, where 30 DAYS OF NIGHT is set. What's the history behind the story?
Well, so far as I know, there's no real history to Vampires descending
on a am arctic town in the winter when the sun goes down for a very long
period of time before it gets light again...but I could be wrong.
On a am - on a small (I type like an idiot.)
But that's the story.
Maybe you should lay off the tequila. What is your own story regarding 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, which is the story that brought you to the attention of the world at large?
Oh, I turned it into a comic with Steve Niles for IDW Publishing while we were bored waiting on Hellspawn stuff approval. Things on Hellspawn always moved slowly, so we had time up our sleeves. Steve had shopped the concept around to studios before, but soon as we actively did it as a comic, people seemed to notice it, and after the 1st issue, which did rather small numbers, it went pretty ballistic.
It got optioned by Sam Raimi (director of Spiderman, Evil Dead, etc) and ended up being a huge GN seller. The numbers are still climbing on it and it's in its 4th print run now. If that's what you meant by history...then that's it!
That is quite impressive, considering it began as spare time. So do you feel that the success of 30 DAYS has made it easier for you to get work within the industry?
Yes and no. Yes, in that I'd been working on Hellspawn before that, which for some reason got zero press. And the work Steve and I did on it even AFTER 30 Days hit STILL got zero attention.
But everything else I went on to do got a lot of attention.
But no, in that I'm pretty typecast as a horror/vampire guy now. And the work you get judged on you did rather quick, and rather a while ago. So while it put me on the map, it also puts me in a rather specific geographical position on that map.
Working on changing that of course. Especially since we of course, live in the age of writers, which means Steve is a household name, and I lurk around mostly. I get ' Ooooh, you're THAT guy! ' A fair bit.
Are you annoyed or displeased with being typecast as a horror artist?
Such is life of course, as it's far better than nothing. And no, not at all. I love horror (real horror, not what most comics seem to pass for as horror) But I can and want to do many other things. It's just a case of opportunities and finding time.
What would you describe as real horror then?
One purpose of doing the story I'm working on my own is to show people what I can do. It's Science Fiction, but dark, very dark! So it's not too far removed from what people will be familiar with.
Real horror is all about the mood. It's about being scared. It's not about simply blood and guts and people killing things I think. That already happens in every other comic. Horror can be a completely psychological thing at times. I try to get a very dark, atmospheric mood to the work sometimes, that you simply can't get with traditional pen and ink and comic candy colouring as I call it
So you are trying an approach that compares to more traditional horror rather than the modern approach a la Scream?
Oh, I don't know if I'd call it traditional, but something like that. Something where you get more swept up in the mood of the book. Rather than just read it on the surface.
Or trying for a scare effect that just doesn't work which takes us on to your solo project.
Well, if they're trying that, generally it doesn't work too well I guess.
Lying In The Gutters named it SINGULARITY 7. Tell us more.
Well, a Singularity is many things... It can be the very centre of a black hole for instance...but it's also the name given to an event. The singularity event is when the rate of human discovery basically reaches infinity. It's based on some mathematical theory or some such, about how human advances are getting faster and faster at an exponential rate.
So the story will deal with some pretty big things, which I'll completely mess up, but I'll have fun doing it. Primarily though, it'll deal with Nanotechnology. The '7' refers to seven specific characters. Which will be fully explained later.
I want to keep people guessing and drawing their own conclusions as much as I can until the book hits. We're still in the planning stages right now of course, so I should say even less!
Do the movies Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven and Star Wars have a bearing on your choice of seven lead characters?
Heh, not at all. It was just a number I picked actually, for something else and I decided to run with it! But these '7' won't be 7 by the end, I assure you. So there are similarities, but only on a surface level. The story is actually really about ONE person... other than these seven.
This One person, will in effect, be the singularity. The centre of everything. In more ways than one. Am I vague enough here?
You mentioned nanotechnology as a key element of the story. Is there something about nanotech that fascinates you as a catalyst of a story?
Well, let's put it this way... nanotechnology will be like a tidal wave in a kiddie pool, compared to the information revolution our society has apparently recently gone through. It will transform everything. I'm amazed that there haven't been terribly many comics on the subject yet. Everyone is captivated by genetic engineering and such, but that's nothing compared to actually potentially building things from the atom up. Why bother messing just with genes when you can mess with the very stuff of existence itself?
So yeah, I guess you could say I'm rather fascinated by nanotechnology...we're progressing steadily along the path to some major breakthroughs sooner or later. I just wanted to go crazy with the story, and deal with a doomsday scenario of sorts with it. But there are so many...it's truly frightening. Imagine accidentally creating a micro machine that replicates and turns everything into goop or something. And you can't stop it. The whole world just ending up as a ball of goop.
So 'messing with the very stuff of existence itself' is what's at the heart of SINGULARITY 7?
In a sense, yes. It deals with that, and how people deal with this powerful tech. Potentially, you become a God. Theoretically. If you can change things on a molecular level, and control it, you can pretty much do and make almost anything.
A fact that the book will no doubt deal with. SINGULARITY will be a project all of your own, what prompted you to take that step?
Well, many reasons really. One is I have always wanted to write my own stuff. I always was before I started working as a pro. But it was always just so much easier to break in as an artist than a writer.
Another is that I'm aching to tell a story my way. Visually I mean. Pace it the way I'd like completely etc. It's really a challenge to myself as much as anything. IDW are great. They're letting me do whatever I want (within reason) practically. I also wanted to do something a little different than the vampire zombie stuff I'm usually associated with.
It also separates you from Steve Niles, with whom you have had a great deal of success, was that an intentional move as well?
I think it's just blind luck that we've had the ability to stay together and do stuff for so long. Basically because we work well together. That doesn't mean I can't or won't ever do anything with anyone else of course or indeed on my own either. Warren Ellis once joked I'm a copyright of the Steve Niles Corporation; I guess that's a perception that's stuck too.
So your intention with SINGULARITY 7 is to change how people perceive you in more than one way?
I guess, at the end of the day. But only if the project merits that. Hopefully it'll be received fairly well!
I also understand that you are considering a move to the US. Is it easier for you to work from there, or are there other reasons for it?
Well, I'm constantly visiting the US. But really, I don't need to be here to work as such. The power of the Internet is far reaching. We even have it in Australia now. I can just send work in that way. But being around the editors and such is always nice.
Has being in the US played a role in the creation of SINGULARITY 7?
Not really. It all comes from my head...and wherever my head tends to be at the time, is where it's created.
How long do you plan SINGULARITY 7 will be and when can people expect to see it on the stands?
Though details are yet to be sorted out, I want to produce one large-ish volume, and kill myself to get it out sometime early next year. Of course, we're still determining format and timing and what not. Apart from S7, I have a few miniseries and what not to fit in too.
In other words, you should be slaving away at the drawing table rather than taking the time needed for this interview.
Basically yes. Hey, I work all the time anyway. Actually speaking or typing to another human being is the highlight of my day sometimes!
Always glad to be of assistance. Any last parting words for those who've stuck with us until the very end?
Arni, you drink too much. I think you should do more drunken interviews.
You're really quite good.
Now go sleep it off!
Words of wisdom from Ben Templesmith. Now you should all go sleep it off.
Thanks for your time Ben, looking forward to SINGULARITY 7 and whatever else you have in store for us.
Arni is a volatile mix of comics and alcohol and thus should be considered dangerous upon approach. Arni is also Editor in Chief of Nextcomics.com, home to a number of popular webcomics and launching pad for several talented creators.
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