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Thoughts from the Land of Frost :
A Discussion With Ben Templesmith
By Alexander Ness


Ben Templesmith is the artist of the award-winning comic book and best-selling graphic novel from IDW, 30 Days of Night. Written by Steve Niles (interviewed here), it has also recently been optioned for film by Sam Raimi, director of the Spider-Man franchise.

He is currently hard at work on Hellspawn for Todd McFarlane Press and Image Comics, Cal McDonald: Criminal Macabre for Dark Horse, and Dark Days, the sequel to 30 Days, for IDW.

AN: Hi, Ben, and welcome to my column, Thoughts From The Land of Frost. Please tell my readers about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live, and are you married? Any children?

BT: I'm Australian, and live in Perth, which is right on the other side of the country to Sydney. And no, Sydney is not the capital of Australia! Heh. I'm 25 too.

AN: What comic book was your first to read, buy and favorite to read?

BT: Well, before I went through the typical X-Men phase and Batman phase and what not...the first book that I really got into was the old Marvel Conan the Barbarian series.

AN: You went to Art School. What were the most important lessons you brought out of that experience?

BT: Well, I went to University actually; wouldn't really call it art school, and got a degree in Design. Majored in Illustration though. The most important lesson I learned was to take crit, and be open to new things.

AN: In comics, who are the greatest influences on your artwork? And who in fine art is your greatest influence?

BT: Well, I grew up with Ashley Wood being the local comic book big guy...he'd started getting work when I was leaving high school I think. A fair bit of him rubbed off on me that way I think, especially since he thinks outside the box a bit more than the normal artist types. I guess my greatest influences would also be Ralph Steadman...the man with the splats....Dave McKean, Mike Mignola...hmmm, probably those as the main ones.

AN: Considering that you've achieved some great success already would you still say that in some way every talented creator have to suffer for his or her art?

BT: Well, I work seven days a week, and right now, very long days at that.

Yeah, you have to suffer. It's hard enough to get into it in the first place and I think if you are lucky enough to have some success you can't afford to just sit there and be happy with it. You need to keep it up.

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AN: What was your first published work at a major?

BT: Depends on what exactly you might mean. I actually coloured an issue of Joe Casey's CodeFlesh comic when it was at Image. First actual comic drawing work was a few pages at the end of a Hellspawn issue, but I can tell you, the first actual comic, full 22 pages, that I actually ever completed, was 30 Days of Night #1. Not sure if it actually came out before another Hellspawn, but I know I finished it first. That was a big deal for me at the time.

AN: Who are your best friends in the comic industry?

BT: Coffee and the internet.

AN: What?

BT: Seriously. Oh, and Steve ain't a bad bloke!

AN: Hellspawn is both amazing for its artwork, and dense and dark for its story. How did you approach the work following Ashley Wood, an artist of some great talent?

BT: Well, at first I was conscious of that, and worked at keeping things a bit constant, but after a bit I could afford and wanted to see what else I could do artistically. I don't think I'm that similar to him nowadays. Well, hope not. Heh.

AN: Do you plan on staying on the book long after Steve Niles is working elsewhere?

BT: The future is a funny place, who knows? Depends on many things I guess. And not all up to me obviously.

AN: Could you also clue us in on what it was like to work within the Todd McFarlane Universe?

BT: Heh, I don't. I work in the Hellspawn Universe which might be similar to everything else but we get to go crazy! There's very little that Todd constrains us with on Hellspawn I think.

AN: What comics do you read every month (when able)?

BT: I don't believe in monthly comics, unless they're just a setup for collected editions or what not. Hellboy works perfectly that way...though it's still not a continuous monthly. True monthlies end up being soap operas in many ways, and I'm not into them! The only monthly I still sort of read would be Hellblazer. Apart from that, I read Hellboy, anything by Paul Pope, Ash Wood, Dave McKean and a couple others I can't remember... if that's actually what you were kinda asking!

AN: Tell me about your two web-sites: www.templesmith.com and www.templesmitharts.com.

BT: Well, if I had more time I'd really do more with 'em, but right now spare time is thin on the ground to deal with that. But I wouldn't pass it to someone else either, as I like being hands on. Templesmitharts.com I sort of set up as the more 'proper' site, on what I do and what not...the plan is to relaunch Templesmith.com soon just as a place I go crazy at. Put up an occasional webcomic, paintings with no particular purpose (not even comics related I mean). Shit like that.

AN: 30 Days of Night is a masterwork both for the art and for the story. How much reference material from Alaskan scenes did you use? And where did you get your image of the Vampires that were in the story? They certainly seemed born of Nosferatu than say Bela Lugosi.

BT: I didn't really use any reference, since I could only ever finda few vague shots of the real Barrow.

As to the Vamps, well, just my own sick mind really, but I guess it's hard not to be influenced by the classic portrayals of them either.

AN: Working with Steve Niles on that project and others would seem to make you two a famous pair.

BT: It might, but he gets all the press, since he's the pretty boy writer! (laughs)

AN: He is a handsome fella, not really pretty...

BT: He's really easy to work with, and is a good guy, so it's not really that, yes, we had some success, it's more that I'd work with him anyway, regardless of that. Know what I mean?

AN: Now you are working on a couple of projects with him, including one at DARK HORSE and one at IDW. Please tell us about them.

BT: Yeah, the Dark Horse one is Criminal Macabre, a Cal MacDonald Mystery...monster hunter on the trail of some nasties. The IDW book is the sequel to 30 Days called Dark Days, and it'll explore, naturally, what happens afterwards, with some of the characters as they pick up the pieces. There's a lot more, but I'm not gonna spoil it.

AN: How long do you spend on a single page?

BT: The short answer: Too long.

The long answer...

I'm not actually sure, since I don't tend to work on one at a time...but if I work diligently I can usually come up with about 2-3 a day finished. Of course, if I was able to take 10 days on just the one page, I'm sure they'd look a bit different, but right now I have a system that I use, that seems to work pretty well.

AN: Finally, could you clue my readers in to any project on your horizon to look out for?

BT: Ummm....well, maybe something else from IDW, we'll see. Just let me finish the three comics I sort of do a month currently first!

AN: Thanks, and may God bless you, Ben.

BT: No worries.

Thanks also to Ben Templesmith for sending some great exclusive art pics.

Final Thoughts:

Comic publishers and talent may send products for review to:

Alexander Ness
Land Of Frost
Box 142
Rockford MN 55373-0142

Buy a comic for a child, and start a journey of imagination.


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