Michel Fiffe interviews Ty Templeton Part Four (of Five)

Posted by on January 8th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Previously: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Page from Bigg Time [©2002 Ty Templeton]

One of your biggest solo projects, Bigg Time, practically came from out of nowhere. After working on cartoon superheroes, Bigg Time was a notable change in that it was your personal vision come to life. How did this original graphic novel come to be?

A)  It didn’t come from nowhere; it took me over a year to draw, and a number of re-writes to satisfy my editor.

B)  It’s the most autobiographical story I’ve ever written … though I’m not really the main character, and I’m not really the antagonist, every character in the story is based on people I know, and I’m in almost all of them to some extent. The story is about someone trying to make it in showbiz, and I was an actor, a piano player, a stand-up comic, a magician’s assistant, a singer, a writer and a showbiz wannabe most of my young adult life, so there’s much in there to draw from. To top it all off, it’s greatly about religion, and my father was a tent preacher for 20 years before he married my mom, and started his family … so it’s all the themes that make up my brain.

C)  The basic idea came to me when I was driving in a car in the winter, listening to someone on a talk show saying that 55% of Americans believe we all have guardian angels, and as I looked out the window, I noticed some homeless people sleeping over a subway grate in the middle of winter. So if angels are part of democratic reality, I thought, how does one explain these homeless people? What, are their angels just incompetent, or are they sadistic prick angels? Boom! That’s the premise of the story.  What if you got to meet your guardian angel and he turned out to be an incompetent with a mean streak? Doesn’t it mitigate your personal failure if there actually are forces out to get you?

Page from Bigg Time [©2002 Ty Templeton]

I noticed that religion seems to play a part of your more personal material, yet I never get any sort of pedantic tone from your stories. Are you specifically interested in expressing personal concerns through these Christian tropes or is it more of a universal way for you to stage human drama?

As mentioned, my father was a tent preacher until he was about 40. He and a friend of his named Billy Graham formed the Youth for Christ ministry in the ’40s and ’50s — and my father was actually North America’s first televangelist back in the ’50s. And then one day, my dad gave up the Holy Ghost, and lived the rest of his life a doubter. Then I was born, into this family with a former preacher dad and a mom who was very down on religion. Mom thinks religion is a form of insanity. So, I play with Christian mythology a lot because that’s my family and cultural background.

I’ve spent a lifetime being fascinated by people’s belief in things that are inherited by geography and culture and not reason or evidence. I’m drawn to that question.

I just recently learned our bodies contain a trace amount of a chemical called Dimethyltryptamine, which is a natural psychoactive drug found in peyote, and other entheogenic substances, and this chemical itself causes human beings to believe in interaction and communication with supernatural beings when one ingests large amounts of it.  Wow, that’s a head spinner: We are chemically hardwired to talk to “God.” And some psychologists theorize that imbalances of this chemical in our bloodstream is what causes UFO abduction phenomena, religious ecstasies, and shaman spirit guides to manifest themselves to certain individual. Does that make these people with the imbalance crazy or does it make them more perceptive? I don’t know, but it fascinates the hell out of me.

It’s the world of organized religion — the human bureaucracy between people and God — that gets to my funny bone, not the world of existential exploration. People who say “I know the truth because the man in the very tall hat said so, and it’s written in this Bronze Age book that came into being before humanity understood science or electricity or math” are the ones that make me laugh. The willful ignorance or cognitive dissonance gets me every time. That, and the idea that people will fight to the death over whether their  religious leader has a bigger hat than yours does, or whether your women won’t take their hats off, or whether your males must wrap their heads, or take the hat coverings off in church, or put them on in temple. Religion is way more about hats than anything else. Hats and Sex. And Money. It’s never about the cosmological questions of existence, or the grand beliefs; the mythologies are used to control people’s sex lives and eating habits and monetary contributions and hats … those things amuse me. The trappings of the rituals, and not the big questions and philosophies behind it. I’ve read the Bible, and Jesus Christ had some amazing ideas and lessons, but he never once mentioned anything about hats. Darn few Christians have the slightest idea about who Jesus was and what he said and did, but they know they’ll kick your ass if you turn out gay, or they’ll punch you in the face if you’re wearing the wrong hat.

Don’t those guys crack everyone up?  I mean everyone who’s awake.

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

  1. […] 4 on Friday… Jump to Comments Part 4 of Michel Fiffe’s interview with Ty is up and going over at The Comics Journal.  Two pages of Ty’s thoughts on religion and his […]

  2. […] Part Four: Bigg Time & American Splendor- http://www.tcj.com/?p=2730 […]