Michel Fiffe interviews Ty Templeton Part Five (of Five)

Posted by on January 11th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Previously: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four.

From "Fair Trade," written and drawn by Templeton, in Flinch #4 (September 1999). ©1999 DC Comics

You started up your own comics company, Mr. Comics, a few years ago. What led you to start your own imprint?

The company pre-existed me originally called “Metallic Rose Comics” (that’s the MR in MR. Comics). They’d published a couple of ninja-furries comics that had sub-par writing and art, but really nice glossy paper, and I picked one up in a local comic store one day, and freaked out when I noticed the offices of the publisher were right down the road from where I was standing. Less than a mile from the comic store, and only about two miles from my home.  I went “ping”… there’s a comics company right over there! I’m going to go visit them and say, “Hi.” (I live in the suburbs, about 30 miles outside of Toronto now, and it amused the hell out of me that someone out here was trying their hand at comics, and I could just hop over there and say hello!)

So I just went over and knocked on their door, and said “Hi … I don’t know what you’re paying these guys to create these comics, but I can find you better and more skilled creators for the same price if you’re interested … as I know tons of people who are hungry and talented. Here’s some phone numbers, give ’em a call.”

The publisher, a guy named Steve, called a few of these guys … started a few new stories and projects with my peeps, and within a few weeks, he asked if I could be involved more directly with his comics. I said only if he’d put some effort into getting a license for characters the public had heard of, as ninjas and furries weren’t really my interest, and I was busy.  But if he could get his hands on a license like James Bond or Family Guy or Grand Theft Auto or any of a hundred viable licenses that weren’t currently being used, I’d happily come in as an editor or a creator for a percentage of the profits.  The guy actually secured the license for Family Guy fairly quickly.  This was when the show was off the air, and the license was cheap.  So I came in, redesigned their logo to the more familiar Mr. Comics logo, and put together some people to create the Family Guy comic, which would have been freakin’ sweet.

About a month into production, we’re told Seth McFarlane didn’t want us to have the deal. Clearly they’d just been picked up for TV again, and he felt we’d gotten the property too cheaply or something. We had a contract with Fox, but Seth got cold feet and never signed off on it, and Fox told us we were out of the Family Guy business, but that we could rifle through the Fox properties and pick something else that was currently unused for the same original price. I suggested Friday the 13th, Day the Earth Stood Still, Planet of the Apes and a bunch more, and the publisher picked Planet of the Apes, as he was a fan of the movies, as was I … and we were off and running.

Our first issue did pretty well. We were picked as best book of the month by Diamond.  We were nominated for a bunch of awards. We won a few. We were the best-selling indy-company launch in 2006, and I was delirious with how well we did for a property that had just fallen away with that awful Tim Burton remake. Eucch. But we managed to beat the odds and sell in the 7-8,000 range for the first issue.

Our publisher expected more than that, and was banking on sales in the 15,000 range. So we lowered our page rates, and promised everyone royalties off the graphic-novel collection at the end of the road, and everyone stayed aboard for the whole six issues at lower rates, and we pulled it off — even ended well critically.

And then, as we were gearing up for our next two series (Hoverboy and Big Max), our publisher announced he’d lost interest and wanted out, as he’d lost about five grand on the initial run. I could not, could not, could not convince him he would make every dime of it back on the collected Apes book, and that it was unheard of for a new publisher to turn a profit on his first venture, but holy god, we were going to do that if he’d just publish the collection. But he lost his nerve, and didn’t understand that the biz had switched focus to GNs lately, and was unwilling to publish the collection. Nothing could convince him. I lined up retailers to tell him they’d order it … reports on how well GNs were selling … nothing convinced him.

And since he’d already solicited Big Max and Hoverboy, but hadn’t printed them, he literally attempted to lower their print runs by releasing them without advertising, promotion, advance copies for review or any support whatsoever, and the poor things died in the marketplace unseen.

So … two other projects in the pipeline got axed without even a solicit (one comic, drawn by a Planet of the Apes alumni named Sam Agro, was fully penciled up to issue #2) and he gave up. I offered to buy the logo and company name from him to continue what momentum we had, and he said he’d rather keep them in case he wanted to get back into the business someday.

I wish him luck.  It could have been fun.

Then there was Hoverboy: The Republican Super-hero, who survived the collapse of Mr. Comics and evolved into the multimedia mythology.

All I can say is, please, anyone reading this, go to the website (hoverboy.com), and watch the documentary about Hoverboy by clicking the “documentary promo” button to the left (that’s the button with the image of the naked people holding the Hoverboy sign in front of them, PETA-style). Then explore the comics and films section, and then come back to the homepage and enjoy.

Hoverboy is my current love. I toil with Hoverboy, and will for years to come.  Along with Rick Green (of The Red Green Show/Prisoners of Gravity/The Frantics/History Bites), Marcus Moore (of Robocop Prime Directives fame) and now Ed the Sock and Liana K (late night Canadian celebs, and arguably fandom’s most gorgeous cosplay star — Frank Cho’s muse I might add) and many others … we struggle to keep Hoverboy alive.

On the websites, are cartoons, old comics to download, toys, games, radio episodes and much more.

It’s my current passion, and it cannot be explained, only explored.  Hoverboy is the face of god.  Hoverboy is the answer to cancer. Hoverboy simply IS.

Last year at FanExpo, we opened the Hoverboy museum, and were told it was voted best booth at the convention. We had people lining up to share their memories and collectables. We sold tons of old episodes and cartoons, some of which hadn’t been seen in decades. We’re bringing the museum back this year to FanExpo (Canada’s largest convention … our San Diego) and we’ve recently found a full season’s worth of old Hoverboy radio episodes to enjoy.

Hoverboy is simply my favorite Golden Age/Silver Age superhero, and I cannot believe I currently share the rights to him. He is like no other superhero ever created, and you cannot understand it, until you experience him.

Was it your idea to resurrect Howard the Duck for Marvel Comics? How was the collaboration with Juan Bobillo?

Nope, it was Marvel’s idea. They were doing Civil War and wanted to include Howard in the hubbub.  Since I had just come off doing three issues of She-Hulk with Dan Slott and Howard had appeared there, they felt I was a good fit for the duck. Being honest, I think if Dan had had more free time, they would have tapped him. Lucky for me, he was busy.   But I wrote a Civil War special appearance in a special that was meant to launch a bunch of new series. “Everything except Howard, Ty. He’s not getting a new series, he’s just there as filler.” I was told that specifically.  So I felt I was only getting one shot, so… “Shoot the wad.” I tried to channel the spirit of Gerber and do my best. When the issue came out, the Howard story got a ton of good mail and was well received critically, and a month later they called and said “OK, we’re wrong, he’s getting a series. What do you have as an idea?” And I got teamed up with [Juan] Bobillo, who had drawn a number of issues of She-Hulk previously. Basically, we were a She-Hulk satellite book.

I’d never worked with Juan before, and the experience was a little frustrating at first, as he would alter some basic elements of the plot and I had to write around that.   It’s not Juan’s fault, as that was what he was used to doing with other writers, but I just wasn’t expecting it. Juan is a creative force of nature, and sometimes you have to work within the whirlwind. In the long run, Juan and I worked it out as we went along, and the last issue was a lovely experience, and the miniseries in general turned out pretty good … I hope someday to do another one with that character.  Gerber was one of my writing heroes, and it was a heartbreaker that he passed away right after we finished up.  I did hear through my editor that Gerber “wasn’t upset by our series,” which is the highest praise we could have gotten from him.

From Howard the Duck #1, written by Templeton and drawn by Juan Bobillo. ©2007 Marvel Characters, Inc. Nicked from Comicbookresources. Click to view larger image.

I was under the impression that Marvel writers no longer used the traditional Marvel Method any more. I thought they mostly wrote full scripts and perhaps the artists are encouraged to change it up from there, but it must be on a case-by-case basis.

Yeah, it probably is.  Each artist and writing team find their own level of comfort with each other.  As I said, by issue #4 we were humming along.  I learned to give him a little more space to create and stage scenes that were his own, and he felt happy about the room to play.

What are you currently working on?

Right now today?  A Simpsons script featuring Marge.  I just finished up a run of Star Trek comics for IDW called “Mission’s End” featuring the last adventure of Kirk, Spock and McCoy on the five year mission. That turned out pretty good, and I might be doing another one for IDW in the fairly new future, but it’s not ironed out on the schedule yet.  I’ll keep you posted when it gets a green light.

I’m finishing up some work for a Batman animated Brave and Bold issue, that I’m drawing and my wife is coloring.  Fun to be back playing with the animated Batman.

And in the middle of all this, something exciting for this Canadian boy … I’m doing a revival of Johnny Canuck and the Canadian heroes of comics.  This project takes up much of my current brain, as I’m writing it, editing it, and producing it for Moonstone Comics.  The art is by a fabulously talented newcomer named David J. Cutler … with colors by K.T. Smith (former Mr. Comics color alumni, and well, also my wife, but it’s not how she got the job). The story takes Johnny Canuck out of his WW2 roots and places him squarely at the end of the 21st Century — at the start of World War 3 with all the explosive, big action one would expect from that setting. Americans may not be as aware of him as we bacon eating hockey players are, but Johnny Canuck is our bedrock Canadian Comic Book hero, and the chance to update him and bring him to a modern audience is a chance of a lifetime. I’m so frickin’ lucky sometimes, it starts to be absurd.

Any ideal projects waiting to see print?

I think I’ve already done it.  It’s most of the stuff I’ve been up to for the last 25 years. Batman, Avengers, Spider-Man, Justice League, Star Trek, Johnny Canuck, Hoverboy, Simpsons … I tend to do the stuff I really want to do, and consider darn near everything I’m working at the time to be my ideal project.

I’ve shaken hands with a Prime Minister and shared a flexi-disc single with Alan Moore. I’ve seen my artwork go into space aboard the Shuttle, and I’ve seen Mark Waid in his underwear. I’ve acted opposite Al Pacino, sung a duet with John Goodman, been an opening musical act for Peter Tork (of the Monkees), hugged Ringo Starr, and played piano on a record that reached #1 on the Swedish country charts, even if only for one week. I’ve dated Playboy bunnies and famous TV stars, and managed to settle down with the finest woman who ever walked the Earth to raise four fantastically wonderful children. I cannot imagine something ideal I haven’t done. Except fix the $#)*($#@()$#@)* toilet in the downstairs bathroom. That’s my studio toilet and my 13-year-old broke it two days ago and it’s still broken, and I have to walk two flights of stairs to get to the one upstairs!
That’s my ideal project. Getting that damn commode fixed.

From "Present Tense," written and drawn by Templeton, in DCU Holiday Bash 2 (1998). ©1998 DC Comics

Templeton is a Toronto Cartoonists Workshop faculty member.

For additional art, visit Michel Fiffe’s website.

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3 Responses to “Michel Fiffe interviews Ty Templeton Part Five (of Five)”

  1. […] Part Five: Mr. Comics & Hoverboy-http://www.tcj.com/?p=2930 […]

  2. walterdickinson says:

    Ty is currently teaching a “Writing For Comics” course for the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop.
    It begins February 1st. For more information check out the following link and scroll down the page:
    http://cartoonistsworkshop.wordpress.com/workshops/

  3. […] This is The End Jump to Comments …of the five part interview of Ty, by Michel Fiffe. Ty discusses Howard the Duck, Mr. Comics and Hoverboy. Check it out over at The Comics Journal. […]