Diabolique: A lot of your work relates to depicting gruesome horror. Have you always had a fascination with this genre, or did it sort of develop once you became involved in the comic industry?
Ben Templesmith: I guess so. I just like drawing horrible things, or making people think horrible things. I like the dark. I tend to think the horrible things that happen in life define and shape us far more than the good things, on balance.
Diabolique: Like yourself, Steve Niles has done quite a lot of work pertaining to horror. What was it like working with him? Do you guys still keep in touch?
Templesmith: Well, we did 30 Days of Night. He broke my cherry, as the first writer I ever professionally worked with; Hellspawn first, then 30 Days. There really won’t be anything like that again, so far as working with anyone goes. But, generally, with any writer/artist collaboration, I just get emailed a script and try my best to interpret it the way the writer has laid out. I’m not the type to have a constant back and forth over every panel on a page. Life is too short. And yup, we do. Though my inbox is fucking horrible these days and I’m losing the battle to control it. Swapped to a new email program but I’m looking for a better one to manage everything. Doing comics means sitting at a desk and being very un-exotic, basically.
Diabolique: What were your thoughts when you found out that 30 Days of Night was being adapted for the big screen?
Templesmith: Well, I was happy, certainly. But it was quite surreal; I was still rather preoccupied with doing comics, which was my life’s dream and nothing has compared to that. I always figured it’d make an interesting movie, since my main inspiration visually, was John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Diabolique: You have a very distinctive art style that defies the slick and vibrant symmetry that the medium is known for. Besides Carpenter, what are some of the biggest influences in regards to your artwork?
Templesmith: Styles come into and out of fashion all the time. Thankfully, I’ve never been a “superstar” that had to worry about suddenly becoming “uncool.” I’m an acquired taste and I plod along doing things my way. I reckon about 50% of people don’t like my work and 50% do. Eventually the 50% that don’t just move on to other things and I will be left to develop my audience. Every now and then I do something that gets wider exposure to people unfamiliar with my art, and it’s like I just started out again. If anything, I guess my style is a bit like my character. I tend to be a stubborn arse. If people don’t like it, well, tough shit, I do things my way. Luckily, and thankfully, enough people like the way I do it. Beats being a hobo on the street! I owe my existence to my amazing audience.
Influence wise, Dave McKean and Ashley Wood would be right up there in my formative years, but most importantly would be Victor Ambrus, who has illustrated over 200 books. I’m betting most don’t know his name but have seen at least one of his books growing up.
Diabolique: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist, particularly with comics?
Templesmith: Oh yeah. You don’t choose art; art actually chooses you. It just depends if you listen to the urge or not. Yes, I always wanted to tell stories and am lucky I get to.
Diabolique: You’re most recognized for your art, but you’ve also written some of your own stories including Welcome to Hoxford and Wormwood: A Gentleman Corpse. What horror films, novels and/or other storytelling mediums have made an impact on you and your work?
Templesmith: Well, The Thing, all the Alien films, The Dark Crystal, things like that most definitely. Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a bunch of Harry Harrison’s alternate history novels. But mostly it’s been comics and picture books growing up, and a whole lot of things I forget. My memory is horrible.
Diabolique: Are there any upcoming projects that you’re working on that you can tell us about?
Templesmith: I just finished an entire graphic novel called The Squidder, with 44FLOOD. It’ll be out August—depends on the printer and shipping. We’re doing it via Kickstarter, but I’ll have plenty of hardcover slipcase versions left in my store, 78Squid, when they arrive. IDW are also republishing it in tandem to the OGN release, as a miniseries of floppies. Apparently issue one is going for a second print so it’s doing alright it seems! If you like tentacles, this is the book for you. I’m just a bit tired of drawing them at this point!
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