Tito W. James: I’ve been talking to several artists about artistic influences and what frightened them as a child. You have a signature creepy art style. What freaked you out as a kid?
Ben Templesmith: Well, I do horror art. So it never scared me. I just liked the vibe. I never really get scared I just like mean evil things.
I’m always rooting for the bad guys. I don’t care about the rebels in Star Wars, I care about the Emperor. I like that guy! That’s why Al Swearengen from Deadwood is my favorite character in history; because he’s bad, but good, but not bad. That’s why everyone loves Loki anyway.
I like the bad guys, I like the dark shit. I’m not afraid of it, I embrace it. I get it all out of me on paper so that’s why I’m nice in person. Now, the people who draw Micky Mouse; the “happy happy joy joy” stuff, they’re the people you worry about. They keep the darkness inside.
TWJ: You’re absolutely right about that.
BT: I’ll bet you didn’t expect this interview to go this way did you?
TWJ: Not at all. But I’m glad. Did you ever get a reaction from your work that you weren’t expecting? Did people think that you might be creepy because you draw creepy art?
BT: The reaction I don’t usually expect is that they like my work.
BT: Hey I’m Australian so I have to be self-depreciating. I don’t take compliments well anyway. It’s a cultural thing. I’m just amazed that people liked my stuff.
TWJ: I mean everything is trying to kill you in Australia because a lot of things are poisonous.
BT: Oh no it’s not. There are only a few things that are poisonous just as there are a few things here. We’ve got the brown recluse spider and rattlesnakes. Meanwhile you have mountain lions, grizzly bears, and firearms. Everything with kill you in this country.
In Australia we have socialized healthcare so whatever happens to you, we’ll take care of you pretty much for free. There’s plenty of anti-venom.
The only thing you really have to worry about are the spiders. Apparently you thing our spiders are big. Bigger than normal.
TWJ: What is a normal-sized spider for you?
BT: There’s a range…
[Pinches thumb and index finger]
[Widens the gap between fingers about an inch.]
[Extends all five fingers]
TWJ: Ok. That’s definitely a large spider for me.
BT: Most of them aren’t poisonous of anything.
TWJ: They’re just creepy looking so it freaks us out.
BT: I live in the U.S. now anyways.
TWJ: What’s your illustration process?
BT: The process is someone promises to pay me money or they pay me money and then I do what they tell me. As a commercial artist that’s what you do, right?
It’s kind of hard to explain but I draw it, ink it, then paint it. It’s like trying to explain music to a deaf person. So, I could say my work is like a punch in the guts while you have diarrhea.
TWJ: You’re drawing and writing your own book Wormwood. Do you have any influences from writers?
BT: Warren Ellis and Hunter S. Thomson. I only write for myself I’m not a pro pro writer.
TWJ: I think a lot of pro writers just write for themselves and everyone else goes a long for the ride.
BT: But what I really mean is that I only write for my own projects that I draw. I’ve never written a comic for someone else to draw.
TWJ: You have a vision that’s atypical to what’s seen in most mainstream comics. Do you have any advice to aspiring creators?
BT: Don’t give up. Because most people give up. 98% of people give up and it’s the 2% of people that stick with it long enough. It’s never easy to get in. If it was easy everyone would do that fantastic job that everyone wants. It’s the people that don’t give up that make it.
Look at J.K. Rowling, she never gave up. But she was rejected how many times before she got Harry Potter off the ground?
Perseverance and self-motivation are the biggest thing for anyone in a creative career.
I’d like to thank Ben Templesmith for taking the time to do this lengthy interview. His series Wormwood is available now.