What’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER?
Well, AICN COMICS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER is your weekly one stop shop for comic book news that’s dropped in the previous week. Thanks to Newsarama, CBR, Wizard, etc. for reporting it as it breaks. Click on the links for the original stories. This column cuts the crap to run down all the vital information for those of you who don’t follow it as it comes in, and serves it all up with that special ingredient of @$$y goodness. It’s also the place for interviews, previews, and special features.
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here with another Q&@ interview. Ben Templesmith burst onto the scene as the artist on Steve Niles’ smash hit 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. Since then he’s been scaring the pantalones off of us with projects such as FELL, CRIMINAL MACABRE, and his own character WORMWOOD: GENTLEMAN CORPSE. Templesmith’s moody and textured art is far from the norm when it comes to comic books. In my opinion, he is one of the best artists out there today (I even picked him for Best Artist of the Year in this year’s @$$ie Awards ). Mr. Templesmith was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
Ben Templesmith (BT): I was spoilt, so far as I'm concerned, on my first comics experiences. As I slowly discovered comics as a kid, the first book I picked up was Todd McFarlane's (and Peter David's) HULK, Eric Larsen on SPIDER-MAN, Jim Lee on X-MEN and Val Semeiks on CONAN THE BARBARIAN (the real reason I love the character). I tried to emulate those guys in the classic comicbooky styles, but then happened upon a local Aussie comic a few years later with art by Ashley Wood, and the way he used ink just blew me away. It was totally different to anything I'd seen before (little did I know there were others who did more "arty" comics also) but Ash set me off in a direction I've not looked back from since.
@: Growing up, what type of comics did you read and who did you find to be most influential in your pursuit of being a comic book artist?
@: Your distinctive art technique seems to involve quite a few steps utilizing a number of different mediums. Can you take us through your process from initial idea to finished product?BT:In a nutshell, or a colostomy bag if you will, the art is all hand drawn, on tonal paper, then I ink it, lay in some grey tones and white highlights using paint and markers and anything that comes to hand. Then I scan them in and add photographic layers, be it textures of cracked walls, collages I've made and bits of faces, before adding colour, all in Photoshop. At the end of the day it's still about 80% drawn and 20% computer. But I don't actually draw on it, I just use Photoshop as a composition and layering tool really.
@: Do you see computer art as the next logical step in comic book art evolution? Will the old pencil and ink format ever become obsolete?BT:I used to be one of the young punks, but now many, many people have surpassed me, and actually do all their work on the computer literally. I still like the hand drawn aspect. I like the object at the end (not least because you can sell or exhibit it!). I still use a mouse myself. Never bothered to get into the Wacom tablets everyone now uses...though I will be getting a Cintiq (the next phase of that sort of tech really) and will probably get more into the computer side of things...but there'll always be some people that prefer the feel of real media on paper, even if they know how to do it all on computer too. The medium evolves due to budgets and deadline constraints. So the computer wins. But the original art market will never die, and I think collectors and fans will always make sure there's at least some pencil and ink real world pages out there to be had. I'm not swapping to computer only work myself. I'll just keep using it to enhance.
@: Horrific themes seem to be your forte. Have you ever wanted to break the mold and do a SMURF comic or something completely out of left field like that?BT: It's the people who draw the cutesy girly animated stuff like Mickey Mouse etc you need to be worried about. Take it from me, they're often complete pychos compared to the horror, blood and gore type artists who so far as my experience goes are all super nice friendly people! We get it all out on the page but the cutesy artists internalize all that nastiness...until they explode...
For me, I think I'll stick to things with a darker or more offbeat tone. But that still means I can cover a large range of genres, even darker super heroic work, who knows?
@: WORMWOOD proves to be one of my favorite comics every month. It seems to be filled with crazy ideas and most importantly, serves as a showcase for your ever-evolving art style. So far, the dose of WORMWOOD has been on a somewhat regular monthly publishing schedule. How do you keep up with the monthly grind?BT: I'm often doing 2 or more comics projects at a time, which means I get very little down-time, but it's what I have to do if I want to do my own little book (though really, it's not so little anymore, as it's going back to print for the 3rd time shortly and has the biggest fan reaction for me!) WORMWOOD is still my guilty little pleasure. It's not meant to be anything more than a crazy self indulgent offbeat thing that makes me smile, and hopefully makes others smile too. He's taking a break with the miniseries right now, after CALAMARI RISING wraps up, but there'll be an "Art of Wormwood" in August with a short comic story included and then I'll make plans for some more stories further down the line for next year.
@: How does it feel to have the name Bill Sienkiewicz come up every time your art style is talked about? Your styles are somewhat similar, but when you look at both more closely, there are definite differences. Is comic book fandom just so stuck on the traditional style of art that anything that is a little more abstract than the norm is all lumped into one broad category?BT:That's funny, since I was never really into Bill until being made aware of his work a few years ago, long after I'd discovered the likes of Ralph Steadman and Ash Wood. I guess since Bill kicked off that style of comics, people just assume I am influenced by his work, but I'm not particularly, except by proxy through the earlier people who also loved his work. In no way does my work look like Bill's I think. For one thing, he's bloody GOOD, and I'm just blindly trying to find my way. So far in my career I've been accused of ripping off Ash Wood (ok, that one is sort of valid, my biggest and strongest artistic influence especially when I started), Kent Williams, Sam Keith, and much further down the list comes Bill. I just think it's amusing really. At least if I'm lumped in with all those great artists, I must be vaguely on the right track. But yes, a lot of the diehard superhero fans still just class anything that's not crisp clean linework in the traditional style as "the Bill look" or "The McKean school" etc. It's a shame, as in the rest of the art world, the old comic art style is just one particular look...it's not the *only* look.
@: You recently returned to Barrow and the vampires of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. When that book first came out, there really wasn't anything like your art (aside from Dave McKean on SANDMAN) out there on the shelves. How did you convince Steve Niles and IDW that you were the man for the job?BT: Well, I didn't actually "Return to Barrow" myself. Bill did the gorgeous art on that one. I wrote and drew a sort of prequel myself set in Russia during WW2 called RED SNOW...which was sort of my final comment on the whole franchise. I wanted to go back and do some art I was happy with, compared to the art everyone seems to judge my whole career on, from the initial mini...some of my oldest work! I wanted to show I've changed a bit. 30 DAYS was originally on the list of pitch ideas Steve had for me to choose from when we were finding ourselves with a lot of time on our hands while doing HELLSPAWN for TMP over at Image. I thought it was a damn cool concept and then somehow he managed to convince IDW to publish it as their first normal format comic (I was down in Australia at the time so have no idea how all that happened.) But it's damn lucky for us both that they did! I owe my career to that book.
@: I've noticed in more recent issues of WORMWOOD that your art style has definitely changed. Your panels are much more defined. They are still loose and moody, but it seems as if you've reeled in the abstract in order to tell a more cohesive story. Was this evolution a conscious choice in order to tell a story more cohesively or just a "happy accident"?BT: Well I basically ink my work now, whereas before it was literally all pencil sketchings (as on the initial 30 DAYS OF NIGHT compared to the recent RED SNOW book.) Some of it is because of streamlining due to deadline pressures, being comfortable and just plain old experimentation.
But hopefully I'm evolving (not devolving) as well in general. A big part of that perhaps was working with Warren Ellis on FELL, which required a little different take on things...and Matt Fraction broke my cherry on working within the grid format (which I went on to do in FELL as well). It really makes the story telling come to the fore, compared to the tricks us lazy artists can do at times. With grids, you have to concentrate less on the flash, and more on the guts of what's going on.
@: Can you go into a little more detail about "the grid system" you learned from Fraction and Ellis?BT: Oh, I just meant that comics in the grid format (you know, 6-9 panels or so, all the same sized squares, etc.) is a good way to give a story rhythm, or a beat, and to really make larger panels that deviate from that format have impact. But for an artist it also means the focus is more on the actual storytelling (you know, the second half of the actual job of a comic artist, besides making power explosions look pretty or large muscled bodies break out from a panel border)...it means that you actually have to do your job, and convey a lot of info in smaller panels on condensed pages. Worked with the Amazing Mr. Fraction on a 30 DAYS book where he broke me as an artist into the format. At first it was daunting. A lot of artists wouldn't choose to do it as it's not "easy" work...but after awhile and because of that book I learned to like it and then when FELL with My Lord And Master Ellis came around, it was no longer a scary proposition. I've never been one for huge splashes and characters popping out of pages everywhere...so it was/is really nice to have to actually concentrate on the actual story telling nature of it all. And learning it from the best also helps. I loves me an Ellis script to work on.
@: Is there a mainstream book that you'd love to get your hands on or are you happy with fringe horror? Man, a Templesmith DR. STRANGE or HULK series would be amazing!BT:There was a time I would have killed to do Ghost Rider, but really, that was just a visual thing for me. A more horrific/dark Hulk would be cool, or maybe the X-Men if they could be more Matrixed/Gothed up again. Actually, I'd just want to do a book on the old Reavers. Loved those guys. I don't know, it's fun to play with corporate characters but at the same time I still prefer trying to come up with completely new things instead of doing new slants on old things...though it is a lot of fun and one day I would like to try.
@: The film 30 DAYS OF NIGHT was released quite a while ago. What did you think of the film? It was nice to see the toothy maws of the vampires translated from the page to the screen.BT: We can always quibble with the aspects of the story, but for me being the visual guy, I thought it looked and felt fantastic. David Slade was a fan of the art, and really tried to capture as much of it as he could while keeping it realistic. When I was on set I couldn't believe how good the vamps looked, and that was all before any computer color or enhancement. So far as I'm concerned, David really made that movie fantastically. They didn't have to riff off the art as much as they did, but thanks to him, aspects of my art lived up there on the screen. And of course the little girl vamp Lilly, who was my sweet little idea child. A lot of the vamps made it in, either visually or at least in name, from my initial concept images I did up when we were trying to sell the comic and then as a film also.
@: Like Mike Mignola, there seems to be an awful lot of tentacles in your books, reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft. What is it about Lovecraft that seems to strike a visceral chord in comics?BT: To be honest I think I'm all tentacled out for awhile now, with the last Wormwood story being nothing *but* the damn things. Time for something new methinks! Yeah I have great affection for the Lovecraftian vibe of things, though by no means do I seriously try to go in that direction. I just like tentacles, dark gods, that sort of thing.
@: You've made a successful leap from the drawing board to the writing table. Other artists have tried this shift and failed. What does it take for an artist to make that transition from art to writing successfully?BT: I honestly have no idea. I don't class myself as an actual writer...I would find it hard to write anything I wasn't also drawing, for instance. I can merely gauge how the work is received and so far people seem to dig what I do. I'm just lucky it works out that way. Everything I've written to date has made money and been relatively successful, so until I run out of the ideas in the back of my head, I'll keep doing it I guess. I never got into comics just to be an artist...I simply wanted to be a storyteller, and that means creating the whole thing. Of course, the art still comes first.
@: I've drawn for most of my life, but I noticed that no matter how hard I tried, there were things that I just had to admit to myself that I could just never draw. For me, I often had difficulty with feet. Is there anything that you find especially difficult to draw?BT: Well, some people are of the opinion I can't draw at all...so assuming for a moment they are at least slightly incorrect, I myself would say hands are a pain, as are cars.
@: What comics do you read? Do you seek out comics for the writing or the art?BT: Usually it's for a combo of the writing and the art. Especially in the case of my favourite book, SHAOLIN COWBOY By Geof Darrow. Now all I need is for it to come out once in awhile! It's great if I can get into a story, but what starts me on the journey is the art. I watch films for the same reason. Some are absolute shit but I don't care as visually, they look brilliant and it's all ammunition for my own work eventually.
@: Are there any other projects coming out that we should be looking for from you?BT: Well, the cat just got let out of the bag today about me signing an exclusive deal with IDW Publishing (really just making a firmer commitment to them, as I already do most of my work with them) and the new miniseries I'm both writing and drawing for them, called WELCOME TO HOXFORD, which'll be a horror thing, but with some hopefully rather twisted and comedic aspects to it all. But it won't be too much like WORMWOOD. 4 issue miniseries, starting in August.
@: Thanks for answering these questions.BT: And thanks for asking them!
And now, the news!
Hey folks, Stones Throw back with a few more bullet points of the week’s most noteworthy news…@ The reason for George Perez’s departure from THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD has been revealed: he’ll be teaming with Geoff Johns for the Legion of Super-Heroes/Superman mega-event FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF 3 WORLDS, which will see Superman and every Legion member ever going up against Superboy-Prime and the Legion of Super-Villains. It spins out of Johns’ work on GREEN LANTERN and ACTION COMICS and runs concurrently with FINAL CRISIS, and stars every Legion team there’s been. Got that? Well, you’re doing better than I am…
@ Vote for Shadowline’s Create a Super-Heroine contest here…
@ THE ETERNALS get an ongoing series in June from IRON MAN writers Charlie and Daniel Knauf and artist Daniel Acuna. Art looks awesome, not a fan of the Knaufs so much.
@ J.M. DeMatteis returns to Spider-Man with NORTHWIND artist Alex Cal for a BRAND NEW DAY fill-in issue…
@ Comics for that girlfriend of indeterminate existence: Image is putting out a 500-page anthology of stories inspired by the songs of Tori Amos called COMIC BOOK TATTOO, featuring people like David “Hack” Mack, Mike Dringenberg and Jonathan Hickman…
@ More details on the Siegels vs. Time Warner case here. Parties will spend 60 days negotiating a settlement. Without an agreement, a trial will begin in November…
@ PATSY WALKER: HELLCAT becomes Alaska’s defender as part of the Fifty State Initiative, according to Joe Quesada’s MySpace column…
ROUND ONE / BRACKET TWO
Sixty-four of comic bookdom’s best fighters enter, only one will live to be THE SECRET TOURNAMENT OF INFINITE @$$-KICKERY Champion. It’s comics’ version of March Madness, folks. Ambush Bug here, on behalf of the @$$Holes at AICN Comics, welcoming you all back to a contest unlike any other, boiling fanboyism down to its basics...whether one guy can kick the other guy's @$$.
Before we move onto this week’s bracket, let’s see the winners of last week’s bout.
Red Sonja enters the ring wearing a tan bikini and cuff links. Her red hair glows under the red light. The lights go out. The crowds hums with excitement. The lights blinker back on. Batgirl is perched on top of the ropes of the ring staring out into the crowd. She raises both arms and backflips into the ring. A clown referee pulls down the mike and announces the contestants. The bell rings.
Batgirl stays in her corner. Red Sonja moves across the perimeter of the rope. Batgirl goes into a claw poise. Red Sonja runs up and does a flying kick in the air. She grips Batgirl around the head with her thighs. She puts her elbow into the canvas and flips Batgirl over in the ring crocodile style. She flips her, then flips her back.
Batgirl stabs her in the thigh with her nails. Red Sonja lets go.
Batgirl does a roundhouse kick. Red Sonja blocks it.
Batgirl does a scratch forward, connecting with Red Sonja in the face.
Red Sonja reaches forward, grabbing Batgirl by the ears. She knees her in the forehead. She elbows her in the middle of the back again and again. She lifts up Batgirl over her head and throws her on the canvas. She races over and places Batgirl in a brutal headlock. She swings her left, she swings her right. She pushes her on the canvas.
"I've spent my years fighting animals and barbarians. If I wasn't this strong, I would be stuck in some bastard's harem!" says Red Sonja.
Red Sonja kicks Batgirl under the chin. Batgirl is out cold.
WINNER: RED SONJA
Bane grabs Crossbones and immediately chokes him out, then shatters every bone in his body, starting with his individual toe bones. Crossbones dies in the most horrible agony any human has ever experienced...
Karate Kid, engaging the villainous Taskmaster, quickly realized his opponent¹s one weakness. As established in many previous encounters, the Taskmaster has to study his opponents in advance.
Since Taskmaster only has access to 21st century video imagery, no recordings of Karate Kid existed. Unfortunately for Taskmaster, upon hearing the name of his opponent, he watched all of the Ralph Macchio/Hillary Swank KARATE KID movies. Combined with the splitting headache he receives from them, this ignorance of his true opponent leaves him woefully unprepared.
When the two engage in actual combat, Karate Kid¹s mastery of every martial art skill in the known universe, a thousand years in the future, allows him to easily defeat the Taskmaster¹s accumulated skills of swordplay, pistols, shields, arrows, and 21st century martial arts. Even the skills of Bruce Lee, studiously copied from a DVD copy of ENTER THE DRAGON played at 2x speed, prove to be insufficient to defeat Karate Kid once the latter employs a little-known martial art style he learned from a slow-moving race of aliens from the planet Xchetl against their fast-moving invaders.
WINNER: KARATE KID
Neither woman necessarily would want to fight the other, but seeing as how they have no choice, they would start by throwing a series of punches and kicks at each other. Catwoman, being the more experienced of the two at fighting, would be able to punch Hellcat in the stomach and then in the jaw, knocking her to the floor.
Thinking that she's won, Catwoman would turn away from Hellcat. Hellcat would lash out at Catwoman, creating large gashes in Catwoman's back. Seeing that Hellcat is willing to fight 'dirty', Catwoman would jump around Hellcat, landing blows here and there, while keeping Hellcat on the defensive. Hellcat would keep trying to throw her own punches, but Catwoman would be able to deflect most of the blows, with only a glancing shot at her wrist causing damage.
Licking off her own blood, Catwoman would continue punching Hellcat in the ribs. Hellcat, growing furious, would throw her claws out, hoping to hurt Catwoman further. Catwoman would back up against the wall, and Hellcat would lunge at her with her right hand. However, Catwoman would not only duck the charge, she'd shove Hellcat's claw into the wall itself. Catwoman would grab Hellcat's other claw and shove that into the wall as well.
Now trapped, Hellcat would try pleading for Catwoman not to do anything she would regret later. Catwoman would reply that if Hellcat were a real cat, she shouldn't worry - she'll still have 8 lives left. Catwoman would then land a kick onto Hellcat's back, breaking it and causing Hellcat to pass out from the pain.
Congratulations all winning participants. Winners will move on to Round Two. Be sure to check out this week’s bouts. But first, the rules:@ To even the playing field, contestants are powerless and weaponless upon entering the ring. They must win on fighting prowess and character alone! @ Check out the fights listed below and send a 300 word (or less) fight scene to us determining who the winner is and how the fight should play out. (Remember: it’s best to SHOW, don’t TELL in these submissions. That means write the scene as if it is happening, don’t tell us what will happen…it makes for more interesting readin’, don’t cha know!). @ Be sure to indicate winner of each match in the subject line of your email. @ Submissions are judged by a select group of @$$Holes (Hint: we’re looking for the most entertaining one to win, not necessarily the one that has been done and over done in comics before. ORIGINALITY RULEZ!). @ Winners of each match will be announced in the column a week later (that means if the fights were introduced in Monday’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER Column, the winner will be announced the following Monday, same for Wednesday’s reviews column). @ Submissions can be sent in to @$$Hole HQ via the link below until midnight Friday. @ THIS CONTEST IS NOT FOR PROFIT! but done out of love for Fan Fic, comic book store trash talk, and online comic book debate. @ Have fun and enter as many times as you’d like! There can be only one winner, it’s up to you who that turns out to be!
Here are this week’s combatants!
Perfection is a word used to describe Mr. Terrific. Basically, the guy is good at just about everything. He’s one of the smartest men on the planet, one of the most brilliant scientists, and one of the most formidable fighters in the DCU, starring in both JSA and CHECKMATE.
MR TERRIFIC VS MVP
MVP (Michael Van Patrick) is the pinnacle of physical human perfection as well. MVP was so perfect that the scientists in Marvel’s INITIATIVE monthly series couldn’t let him go when he was killed in action and cloned him in order to make more perfect warriors. Since then, MVP’s clones have donned the Scarlet Spider costumes and proven to be the Initiative’s first line of defense. For this match, though, MVP will fight alone.
Both are in peak physical condition, but only one can win.
Little did Jason Todd know the fateful day he decided to steal the hubcaps off of the Batmobile that he would one day fight by the Batman’s side as Robin and eventually die by the hands of the Joker. Recently Todd was resurrected and starred in DC’s COUNTDOWN maxiseries, where he’s donned a darker version of his original costume and begins a new, harsher fight against crime as Red Robin.
RED ROBIN VS MOON KNIGHT
Marc Spector knows a thing or two about rising from the dead as well. As Moon Knight he patrols New York enacting brutal vengeance against the guilty. Lately, Moony has shown an even more demented side, carving moon-shaped crescents into the foreheads of his victims in his own monthly Marvel comic.
Which of these unhinged warriors will make it to Round Two?
Batwoman made headlines for her sexual preferences as well. Her estranged relationship with Renee Montoya was one of the main plotlines of DC’s 52 maxiseries. We haven’t seen much of this new heroine since then, but she’s probably been honing her fighting skills for a match just like this one.
Now this is one fight I want a front row seat to.
Nightwing may not be a vampire, but he is surely a creature of the night. The first and best Robin graduated to gain the respect of Batman and all of the super hero community. Batman once admitted to himself that Nightwing was a better combatant due to the fact that he possesses all of his fighting powers and none of his fractured psyche.
Which streetfighter will rule the night?