Ben Templesmith is the artist behind such comics as Fell, 30 Days of Night, and Welcome to Hoxford (which he also wrote). His latest project is an original graphic novel entitled The Squidder which will be released through 44FLOOD and funded through Kickstarter. At the time of this writing, there are still two weeks to go, but the book has received over four times the amount needed. Ben was kind enough to take some time out of his tentacle-filled schedule to answer a few questions for us here at HorrorTalk.
James Ferguson: Aside from “an old soldier from a forgotten war in a post-apocalyptic world”, what else can you tell us about the story of The Squidder?
Ben Templesmith: Well, The Squidder has been a bunch of ideas in my head and in various notes for several years now. I just needed an overall narrative to fit a few things together and expand on the world I've created, and that's where "The Squidder" himself comes in. He's a tired old man, built for a war long lost. Yeah… "built". He's got to come to terms with that loss and the changing world around him. None of those changes being good, mind you. Humanity didn't win, and whatever *did* win is starting to kick its victory plan into high gear. He's a vet who lost everything, and everyone else moved on. There's going to be lots of Squid religion involved, the heat death of the universe, ideas of control, propaganda… and a few sexy squid ladies and horrific fight scenes along the way. I wanted to explore a little, the strange phenomena I see in America of deifying returned soldiers and the military in general, only to pay lip service to their real needs when they're back from war and indeed a lot of their treatment in general. If anything, that's what this book is about, a bloke who didn't have his war end while no one else really gives a damn.
And so many tentacles and Squid Things, of course!
JF: You've mentioned that this has been an idea that you've been talking about doing for some time. Just how long have you been working on this concept?
BT: Well, I've been threatening to do an honest to squid tentacle enthusiast book for years now. So it's finally time for me to put my money where my mouth is. Like I said, I've had notes on things percolating for a while now. And honestly, I've been in the wilderness somewhat for several years, figuring out where my creativity comes from, how to get it back… why I'm even doing comics… and most importantly, for *who* for. And that should be myself first, the world second.
JF: This is the first creator-owned book you've worked on in five years. Why are you returning to creator-owned work now with The Squidder?
BT: A better question to ask any creator who does comics is… why *aren't* you doing more creator-owned work? Why give your entire artistic career to corporate characters owned and created by others? For myself, I've discovered that the only real way I can do things is if they're just me, doing my own thing. Not even for money. (Hopefully I can make enough for a living of course, I'm damn lucky to have made it this far! ) But I think the years of trying to fulfill others’ visions without feeling truly invested or reaping the benefits of the projects myself are behind me.
Working with other writers can still be fun on specific things… but I need to do a lot more of my own storytelling. I just love the freedom of telling stories *my way* and hope a few people will come along for the ride. It's my first love and I've been denying it for so long and it's been killing me, I've realized. And I needed creator-owned to mean what it implies. If it's creator owned, I need to also control it on a fundamental level. That's especially where 44FLOOD comes in, being one of the founders. We wanted a home and a platform for our creativity, where the creators definitely come first and we can branch out from there. Kasra, Menton3, myself and the gang might just be a small group of people sharing a studio, seeing what projects we can get out there and what hits a note with an audience, but we're doing it from the ground up, via direct support from those who'll buy our books. We had amazing successes with TOME and LUST and now it looks like The Squidder is something a dedicated group of amazing people also dig! We really need as many people as possible to pre-order the book so I can eat and pay rent while I work on it, and so we can keep the lights on in the studio as we go. We're not getting rich on any of our projects by any means. (Certainly not after shipping costs heh!). We do things because art is in our veins. With 44FLOOD I have a home I can finally push all my ideas out from, hopefully!
Click images to enlarge.
JF: Are there any plans to release The Squidder digitally? Perhaps through something like Panel Syndicate?
BT: Hmm, I'm not familiar with Panel Syndicate, but yeah, Comixology seems to be the big boy nexus of things of late. A real gatekeeper to content. I'm not as educated on the online landscape as I should be though. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, to be honest. I definitely acknowledge the digital world… but for me it's going to come second to the actual book. I am in love with making physical objects first. And the people who support the Kickstarter deserve their copies before anyone else in my mind. My main concern with digital is how many players seem to want a piece of the pie. Half of the time it's like there's barely any percentage left for the creators in the end… and this is digital, where there are zero storage costs or printing costs. I'll deal with digital when and if there's enough reason to, for sure.
JF: Did you ever consider publishing The Squidder earlier through another publisher?
BT: Nope. Not if I wanted to keep 100% of the rights to my own work, including media, etc. Not if I wanted control over its direction and actual publication (including reprinting, should it meet with much success ), and certainly not if I wanted to be able to survive and keep the lights on while I finish it. That's the freedom you usually give up in order for others to finance a book usually. If you can get the basic financing to survive while you do the book, you keep all the leverage and so much more benefit and success of your work, should it have it. In the age of ideas, it's the content generators themselves who should be in the box seat. Everything I do, outside of fun jobs for others briefly, should be via 44FLOOD now or just my own goofy outlet and online store 78SQUID.bigcartel.com, to be honest. Others may put things out in other versions for other audiences, but they'll be after the fact.
JF: Squids seem to be a constant throughout much of your work, even down to your personal logo. Have you always had an interest in squids? Where did this come from?
BT: It seems they're a trendy thing these days, but cephalopods have always been a fascination. They're some of the most alien, beautiful things on the planet, yet so ancient and on this planet vastly longer than us opposable-thumbed upstarts. The whole Cthulhu, Lovecraftian angle also helps. They just lend themselves to horror.
Click images to enlarge.
JF: The Squidder is a bit of a departure from the other books that 44FLOOD has published to date. Is this an indicator of other possible creator-owned titles that will be coming down the line?
BT: 44FLOOD has a lot of plans, both art, comics, and other things. With names that may surprise you. I can't let the cat out of the bag by any means… but I helped found 44FLOOD because I wanted to do comics *my* way.
JF: You've described The Squidder as “Mad Max meets Cthulhu.” Does this mean there's a possibility of a Squidmobile?
BT: He does have a bike. But nothing that speaks of corporate merchandising opportunities. He's not the Bruce Wayne of Squid. He's a poor bugger!
HorrorTalk would like to thank Ben Templesmith for chatting with us today about his new graphic novel, The Squidder. There is still time to contribute to the Kickstarter and get plenty of great swag as a result.
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