Ty Templeton penciled Batman Adventures #3 (December 1992), written by Kelley Puckett and inked by Rick Burchett. [Ā©1992 DC Comics]
Ty Templeton is an exceptional cartoonist, whose work shows a playful mastery of the form, sometimes giving unprecedented depth and vitality to characters usually rendered flat by lesser talents. His art and writing are extensions of one another, harmoniously creating what we like to call āPure Comics.ā Heās as brilliant as he is hilarious.
In the tradition of great cartoonists, being a humorist is a requisite. That being said, itās odd that humor as a sensibility is rare in mainstream comics and being funny relegates one to the fringes of an already marginalized industry, which is why Iāve always considered āfunnyā to be too limiting of a term to encapsulate Ty Templetonās work within the boundaries of the modern comics field. Although Templeton has a grasp on what makes humor work, he can run circles around the majority of his peers in any genre with incredible thematic range. Templetonās interest in human behavior may result in poignancy, pathos or scathing social commentary, but at the end of the day, Templetonās a funny guy.
After cutting his teeth in the black-and-white boom of independent comics, Templeton broke into the mainstream at DC Comics and has remained there for the majority of his career. In that time, he sharpened his skills on high-profile properties such as The Batman Adventures comics while lending his hand to many off-beat DC projects. It was in 2002 when Templeton crafted his most ambitious, most completely realized work to date, the satirical Bigg Time. Since then, he has been juggling a vast array of comic assignments, spearheading a comic-book company, teaching in Toronto, and fatherhood.
Despite Templetonās invariably high level of craft, his underrated talent is perhaps overshadowed by either the constraints of the āon modelā system, fandomās attention to superficial details or perhaps both. I was interested in how an artist of Templetonās caliber has remained dedicated to a business that is oftentimes resistant to his brand of humor. I found that his perseverance is a result of being genuinely enthusiastic about the material and about life in general. That dynamic has kept Templeton at the peak of his game. While his talent and adaptability are commendable, itās his sense of humor that has carried him through triumphs and tragedies over the years.
Ty the Guy was generous enough to talk about his humble beginnings at Vortex Comics, art vs. commerce, Harvey Pekar, religion, his semi-autobiographical opus and a litany of other unbelievable things.
In our mutual correspondence, Templeton once summed it all up by quoting, of all people, Ringo Starr: āIf you attempt to be sublime, youāll only end up looking ridiculous … but if you don’t mind being a little ridiculous, you can end up sublime.ā
Michel Fiffe: What inspired you to become a cartoonist?
Ty Templeton: Tons of things.Ā I suppose first and foremost, my father was a sports cartoonist in the ā40s, and a film and novel writer in the ā70s and ā80s ā¦ and though heād stopped the drawingĀ part of his career when I was young, I was aware of his cartooning when I was a kid, and saw examples of it growing up. He taught me some drawing lessons when I was very young, which Iāve delighted in passing on to my kids, and taught me quite a bit about plotting and writing as I grew into an adult.
Add to that, that the first comics I ever purchased with my own allowance were āJokerās Five Way Revengeā by OāNeil and Adams, and āEven an Android Can Cryā by Buscema and Thomas. Could there possibly be two greater comics to introduce you to the medium?Ā I think if my first comics had been something by lesser talents, Iād probably be a plumber. And as a kid I got handed copies of Asterix and Tintin. Then I found a Mad magazine that belonged to an older brother.
When I saw my first Playboy ā¦ I flipped to the back and checked out the Annie Fanny and Buck Brown cartoons. The centerfold was fine, sure ā¦ but the cartoons were the real gold. (Thatās just sick!)
Your first published comic story was for Vortex Comics. How did your involvement with them begin?
When I was in my late teens/early 20s, I was going to the Ontario College of Art in Toronto Canada, learning to do commercial storyboards and magazine layout comps, all the while playing guitar and singing with a couple of different local bands. Whatever ambitions I had towards cartooning at the time were in the direction of Playboy/New Yorker/Gahan Wilson single-panel gag strips. Not superheroes, as I didnāt naturally draw like that.
But one day, Iām at a party, and a fellow student named Anthony Van Bruggen tells me heād just had a story published in a local comic called Vortex, and that the publisherās office was three blocks up the street from our school ā¦ and that I should check it out. He had the issue with him and it looked pretty cool.
I went up the street the very next day and showed off some of my artwork to the editor, figuring it would be fun, and there might be money in it.Ā The editor asked if Iād like to do a story in an upcoming issue for something like 50 bucks a page, script and art. Not bad, as this was ā80s dollars.
After my first story, āCheap Thrillsā, I did something called āKilling Dragonsā and another couple of short two and three-page filler stories. And then I got offered my own title.Ā It was a fairly quick ride. Maybe six months from the first story, to being offered my own title.
The lettering of Mr. X and eventually writing a script or two for that book, came later, after Iād been hanging around the office for months, done a few stories for Vortex, and launched Stigās Inferno. By that point, I was the office rat and rarely went home.
This mustāve been around the time you were made into an editor. Were you given free reign in giving the title some identity?
Not really ā¦ I became editor, more or less, because I was in the office the day the previous editor had quit, and I didnāt mind taking on the task. At the time, I was really enjoying working in the comics industry, and actually liked all aspects of the biz, including marking up copy, reading letters, calling printers, all that stuff. There were some fun moments where I got to meet new creators. I bought the first stories published by Chester Brown and Sam Keith while I was there, and am very proud of that. (I didnāt really discover Sam Keith, as I think he might have published a few low-print things in his home state, but I did discover Chester through his Xeroxed minicomics he was selling on consignment for a quarter at local stores, and convinced our publisher to run with him.) I got to publish a Steve Ditko story, and talk to Steve on the phone, which was a rare treat. Most amusing of all, our office secretary was a woman named Alannah Myles, who we used to go watch sing at a local pub called the Horseshoe Tavern, downtown, and would listen to her demo tapes she and her boyfriend Chris Ward would bring into the office.Ā I remember how thrilled we all were when her first album topped the charts with āBlack Velvet,ā and then how un-thrilled we all were when she became so freakinā unpleasant to be around shortly after fame hit.
Next: Stigās Inferno