“Welcome to Denver Comic Con? Is that where I’m at?”
Ben Templesmith is kidding. This is his fourth year at Denver Comic Con and he’s been an extraordinary supporter of this organization from the very beginning. This writer still has one of the artist’s prints on his walls after Ben gifted him with a portrait of Doctor Who after discovering that I went so far as to contact Warren Ellis in his fortress in England for a comment on Ben’s work.
“They are really nice to me here and they’ve always been incredibly supportive of me and my work,” said Templesmith of his experience with Denver Comic Con.
Given his relatively young age, the Australian native is a legendary figure in the comics world with multiple Eisner awards and collaborations with some of the most fascinating creators in the business, as well as his own independent streak. Templesmith broke out with Hellspawn from Image Comics in 2002 and went on to create the groundbreaking vampire saga 30 Days of Night with writer Steve Niles and the horror gothic Fell with Warren Ellis. In recent years, the artist has broken into crowdfunding with his ambitious horror graphic novel The Squidder and has launched another Kickstarter to adapt a story, “Dagon,” by cult favorite H.P. Lovecraft
“San Diego is no longer a convention for comic people,” Templesmith explained of his relationship with local cons like Denver. “It’s too expensive for any grassroots people to set up anymore. It’s just not friendly to artists. I don’t even talk about cons like this one as ‘regional cons’ anymore. San Diego is just not relevant anymore. Denver is a show where I got in on the ground floor. They got double the numbers of people they were expecting the first year and they got double the numbers the next year, and they’ve been doing great ever since. It’s a show that does care about the artists. It’s just great. I’m not really here to sell people on my stuff. I’m here to meet people who are into my work.”
Templesmith has done a deep-dive into crowdfunding with his Squidder project and his lucrative and creative graphic novel project had enabled him to establish a more meaningful relationship with fans as well.
“With crowdfunding, you’re basically selling direct to the consumer,” he explained. “It removes the whole Previews, pre-ordering system for you because usually you have to wait for those orders to come in to create something. It also removes the need for the publisher to pay you, and I don’t give up my rights. I’m my own boss. As long as you can deal with the printer and you know how to ship books, you can conquer the world.”
The artist also indulges his own interest in geek culture with his regular outings into pop culture, creating fan art in his own wildly unique style celebrating Batman, Aliens, Breaking Bad and other cult classics.
“I’m a fan of things, yeah,” Templesmith said. “Thanks for point that out. I once had a girlfriend who said I wasn’t geeky enough and I wasn’t really part of the comic con crowd. If I’m a fan of something, of course I’ll do some fan art for it. Mad Max was the most recent thing I did because I was waiting for that film for 30 years. That franchise is my religion. It’s my Star Wars, really. Because I’m Australian, I’m excited that it brings Australian culture into the world. I only really do things to which I feel a connection.”
Asked if his subjects seem to fall in line with his bold artistic style, Templesmith is prototypically honest in his assessment.
“If anything, my art style could be considered [expletive deleted]. Please don’t edit that out.”