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A Chat with Ben Templesmith on Gotham by Midnight, Lovecraft and Creator’s Rights

If you were to ask us to name an artist who’s better than most at conjuring atmosphere and mood it’d be an easy answer: Ben Templesmith. The man has been creating vivid, visceral imagery — from his work on 30 Days of Night with writer Steven Niles to his stand out run on Fell with writer Warren Ellis. Most recently, his X-Files-meets-Gotham series Gotham by Midnight proves his ability to capture the horrific and the disturbing once again.

Recently Templesmith’s second Kickstarter was successfully funded with 16 days to go. It’s an adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft short story into comic form and if it’s anything like his first Kickstarter, The Squidder, it should be incredible in its own right.

We had a chat with Ben on Lovecraft, his recent work on DC Comics’ Gotham by Midnight and the ever important question, “who would play you in a movie?”

AiPT: Gotham by Midnight is a rather awesome concept as it combines the supernatural detective work of say, The X-Files, with the moody and compelling art similar to your work on Fell. How fun is it to be creating something so new and compelling in a storied world such as Gotham?

Ben Templesmith: Well, cheers I guess. I just like trying new things, can’t claim I’m reinventing the wheel, just hope someone digs what I do!

AiPT: Working with Ray Fawkes, can you explore how the creative process has been?

Templesmith: We’ve been buddies for a few years now but really, as with any project, it’s just getting a script in the mail and my brain attempting to interpret it onto paper as best I can. Ray’s scripts are a breeze to work on though.

A page from Gotham By Midnight #3

AiPT: In a lot of ways it reads like the GCPD written by Lovecraft. Plus you have the Dagon Kickstarter recently funded, can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Lovecraft? When did you start reading him and what are your favorite stories of his?

Templesmith: Well, Lovecraft is the root and influence of a lot of creatives these days, he’s certainly left his mark. GBM is all from Ray’s head. I’m sure he digs Lovecraft too of course. For me, Dagon was my introduction to his works, and as a story just works so well I wanted to visualize it. The way it’s all narrated by the main character, it’s just a great story I wanted to tacke. There are lots of visuals to explore.

Plus, in this day and age where corporations are trying to guarantee nothing ever again enters the public domain and keep copyrights long after creators are dead, Dagon is one of those lucky works, (as opposed to some of his later stories) that remains open to anyone’s interpretation. I can’t imagine a world where people weren’t allowed to dabble in Shakespeare, and some lawyer or 28th cousin 15 times removed has to ok anything and keep a percentage of the profits. It’s an odd thing, being totally for creator rights as I am, yet being very pro public domain intellectual property too. I’d hope my kids or grand kids will make something of themselves, instead of seeking to leech off things I’ve created long, long after I’m dead. (I should be lucky to be in that position anyway!) Let the world have the amazing things people create, after a decent period of time. I know I’ll be making sure of that in my will!

Portrait print of H.P. Lovecraft by Templesmith

AiPT: You recently sold a original art from Gotham by Midnight and said its the first time you’ve done so. What prompted you to sell some pages from this book?

Templesmith: Ummmm… money? I like to eat and pay my rent, what can I say?

I plan on selling more, having the whole run up on if I can at some point. Just takes a while to compile the lot and set it up.

AiPT: What do you think of the current state of Australian horror films?

Templesmith: Err, well I’m not terribly aware of the industry back home, though we’ve had some hits, with things like Wolf Creek, The Tunnel and Wyrmwood that I definitely recommend.

AiPT: What is your favorite beer?

Templesmith: The one in front of me. I’m not picky. I’ll try locals wherever I am and Stella when in doubt, because I know what I’m getting.

AiPT: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

Templesmith: I wouldn’t want Hollywood to make a movie of my life, considering how they’ve done so with others in the past! If I had to, with luck, Benedict Cumberbatch could possibly look a bit like me. At least if you took him out back and punched him in the face enough times.

Having had a movie made of a work of mine though, and several things in process, I want to confidently tell everyone you never get to chose anything, let alone the cast… and are lucky to be given the time of day when Hollywood do anything with your stuff. I’ll take their money though.

The cover to the paperback of The Squidder, out now.

AiPT: What’s your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?

Templesmith: I’ll clean up, and actually do other work instead of what I know I have to do. I’m a productive procrastinator, I really am. The only thing I really do is play strategy war games. That’s my one vice and thing if I ever get relaxation time, I like to do. I am incredibly boring. Lock me in a room for a week with a Total War game and I’m good.

AiPT: Is there a planned length for Gotham by Midnight?

Templesmith: Sadly you’re asking me things DC should probably answer. I was on for the first five, that’s it. Nearly done! I’d do more if they ask me to come back but monthly schedules have me beat, quite a bit. Was a lot of fun though.


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