LinkExchange FORWARD

Ty Templeton:
The Interview

by Michael Hutchison

Ty's cover of Gotham: Lost Years Ty Templeton is a writer and artist who many of our readers may know from his work on the Batman Adventures comic books as well as illustrating numerous Justice League stories, writing the recent Plastic Man Special and plotting/writing several of last year's "Ghosts" annuals. Ty was gracious enough to do an interview despite his heavy schedule.

Fanzing: First of all, I'd like to thank you for participating in our "How To Save The Comics Industry" Special Report. Your comments about the comic shops were wonderful. We all know that the Comics Industry COULD do things to save itself…but I'm wondering if it will. DO you think that there's a light at the end of this particular tunnel?

Ty Templeton: I don't honestly know. I hope so certainly…cause I'm rather fond of comic books. I doubt we'll ever be without adventure characters or illustrated stories, but it would be a shame if cartoons and newspaper strips became the last of the breed. We did eventually lose Radio Shows, and Pulps, so it's possible….I'd hate to see comics disappear.

Fanzing: How did you get started in comics? What was the first book you drew, and what was the first book you wrote?

Ty Templeton: I got started at a small time Canadian comic book company called VORTEX COMICS. It was published out of a commercial art studio in Toronto, more or less between the CD and album cover assignments the artists did. I did a couple of comics called Mr. X, Stig's Inferno, Kelvin Mace, and Vortex Comics (an anthology title we published).

Fanzing: How are sales for the "Animated" books compared to the mainstream DCU?

Ty Templeton: It depends on which market you're talking about. In the direct market, the animated books don't fare well at all, mostly because kids don't go in to comic stores much, and adults were very wary of the animated books for some reason. However, on the newsstand, the animated books do better business than most of DC's line, because that's where kids and real readers see em. I heard once that Batman Adventures had something like 40% of their sales on the newsstand, and most DC books don't even do 15% of their sales on the newsstands.

Now, on the WORLD market, the animated books are amongst DC's best sellers. I heard Batman Adventures is consistently one of the best (if not THE best) selling titles DC publishes in France, Britain, Italy etc. Europe hasn't the same disdain for the clean line art of the Adventures books that America does…I don't know what the sales are like in Canada, but they're probably similar to the US market, cause we're in the same distribution system up here. I know we rule in France and Belgium and places like that, cause I was sent on a European tour to promote the books last year.

Fanzing: What would you like to see happen to the JLA in the upcoming years?

Ty Templeton: I don't really have a response to that. To continue selling well, and to employ my friend Mark Waid, I suppose.

Fanzing: What do you think of this whole DC-Siegel family situation? [Editor's note: I originally said "Shuster family" in the original question by mistake. Ty caught it and corrected me.] I don't know if you're allowed to comment about it while it's still in the air, although it is public knowledge now.

Ty Templeton: Hey, I'm allowed to comment on anything I wish. I don't work for DC comics, and I never have….I'm a freelancer, who sells stories and art to the company. Freelancers don't work for DC comics, DC comics is a client. I'm very fond of DC, though, and should they ASK me not to speak of this situation, I might consider not doing so.

Having said that…I hope the Siegel family gets tons and tons of money, and tons and tons of control back for the big red S. He should belong to the family the same way Tarzan belongs to the Burroughs' family, and the Simpsons belongs to Matt Groening. Creating something is as important as publishing it, and the law recognizes that, even when some of the publishers in the early part of our industry didn't. (The publishers nowadays are a wonderful, wonderful bunch, and in no way are responsible for what happened sixty years ago.) BUT….I would hate to see DC suffer terribly at this legal battle. The industry is hurting bad enough already….for DC to lose half of one of its biggest cash cows could cost folks their jobs. That's nothing to be hoped for….I hope there's a way of ensuring DC's viability that still puts tons of money and tons of control in the pockets of the folks who should own it.

Fanzing: Do you think you've had an impact on how people see Batman?

Ty Templeton: Sure. I wrote the book for three years, and when you include France, Italy, Brazil, etc….my issues were read by more people than any other Batman comic on Earth for three years. I would hope I helped shape the way folks see the character a bit. I was told ours was the only DC comic available in Russia for a while, which was cool, cause to Russia, WE WERE BATMAN COMICS. That's not bad, eh?

Fanzing: What books are you working on now (in any capacity)?

Ty Templeton: AVENGERS: UNITED WE STAND for Marvel, I'm writing that one, and drawing the covers. It's based on a new animated Avengers show on FOXTV. Something somewhat secret for Harris…. though I can mention a Vampirella comic I wrote and Bruce Timm drew that's coming out soon. I have a script or two I did for Superman Adventures, and there might be more, but not right away. (I'm also working on a TV pilot for Canadian TV that's currently sitting, finished, on a TV exec's desk.)

Fanzing: Fanzing contributor Jason Tippitt sent me this question about your Plastic Man special. "It was kinda marketed as a children's book, but the word "damn" made an appearance and there was a gag about "gay celebrity crushes." I'm not a person opposed to adult content or to letting things be out there that kids will learn about anyway, but I wondered if Ty or DC caught any flak over it."

Ty Templeton: I caught no flak about it whatsoever, and your friend Jason missed the very obvious condom references and two or three overt drug jokes tossed in for good measure. I never for a moment intended the comic for kids, not for a living second. If it was marketed that way, it shouldn't have been. I'm not sure it WAS marketed to kids, really…unless an awareness that I had worked on Animated books snuck into Jason's mind and he thought it was being marketed to the Adventures audience….? (Which had, by the way, a large female and adult readership, possibly higher than average for both markets.)

Fanzing: Are you planning on doing any more Plastic Man projects?

Ty Templeton: I was planning on it….I'm not sure DC is. The marketplace is a mess.

Fanzing: You've done some serious work, including 1998's JLA and Martian Manhunter Annuals (both of which I loved, by the way). Do you have an interest in working in dramatic areas, as opposed to humorous or 'animated' ones? Is this a good way to keep from being pigeonholed as a humor writer or cartoony artist or something like that.

Ty Templeton: I'm not pigeonholed at all….every project I've done in the last few years has been at my choice. I like animated projects, and stuff that comes from TV because that's the comics that play very well in markets OTHER than comics stores…where real readers are. Because I've worked on Ren & Stimpy, Batman Adventures, X-Men videos, Avengers Animated, etc, I've consistently worked on projects the real world has heard of. My friends are mostly musicians and actors, and I suppose I'm pulled towards the comics that are from the entertainment world, and sources the average person would recognize, rather than just purely from the world of Comics.

Fanzing: In the 1998 Martian Manhunter Annual, J’onn investigated a militia group. Instead of just making them a group of paranoid, racist hicks, you actually gave them some depth and made their leader a sympathetic character with some legitimate complaints (although their reaction is nonetheless extreme). Do you think it’s better to create villains who the reader may sympathize with, or is it better for comic stories to stick to straightforward good vs. evil?

Ty Templeton: I think it's best for the reader to sympathize with EVERYONE in the story. That's what makes you want to keep reading, mostly….even with the bad guys. General Washington (in the story you refer to) is damned upset at the quality of his government, and the very real problems with social and race relations in the USA because I feel some of those frustrations, and it makes him an easier character to write sympathetically. I tried, when I wrote the villains in Batman Adventures, to give them all good reasons for what they did, and often, heroic reasons for what they did. Two Face was a favorite, since he was half motivated by good, was always doing heroic or brave things in my stories. Penguin once starred in a story about letting free all the zoo birds, and many of the readers wrote in that they'd wanted to see him succeed. In the real world, the villains are human beings with motives and reasons, and to understand why the do what they do, and what makes them do it, is a step closer to stopping them. Pure evil is a myth. There [are] purely dangerous people from time to time (Hitler, Mussolini, Teddy Roosevelt, King George, etc. ), but the evil that they do is always motivated by something they believed to be correct and just. Hitler tried to redress the wrongs of the Versailles treaty, Mussolini was attempting to "recapture the glory of Rome", Roosevelt believed "Manifest Destiny" justified wholesale human slaughter, King George was trying to unite the world within the British Empire… in their own hearts, everything they did was good and right.

Fanzing: When you did the JLA "Ghosts" annual, were there any editorial rules about what you could and couldn't do when bringing back the ghosts of JLA members?

Ty Templeton: Heck no. The Ghosts Annuals were my idea. I pitched it at Dan, he liked it, we got to write em! Simple as that.

Fanzing: Here's a bit of a nitpicky question (and it probably isn't fair of me to dredge it up so late, but it's always nagged at me): when the JLA splits up into three teams in that annual, why isn't Aquaman assigned to the ocean-bound team? I know, I know, he still comes in useful when there's a lake in the cave, but it just seems an odd choice.

Ty Templeton: Okay. When I originally wrote the scene, I believed Aquaman couldn't take the extreme pressures at the bottom of the ocean, no matter how well he could breathe the water. The bottom of the Marianas Trench is miles down, and the pressure is enormous, which was a feature of that scene. Dan, the editor, figured it made sense, and we drew the scene that way, with Batman and Wonder Woman in an amazingly powerful submersible, ….but a couple of weeks later, an issue of Aquaman came out that firmly established Arthur COULD take that kind of pressure, and not collapse like an egg. We were stuck with the issue drawn already…. a few lettering changes tried to establish a reason for leaving Aquaman in another mission, but it wasn't as convincing as it could have been, you're right. I still think Aquaman couldn't take the pressure down there….it's rather strong, I hear.

Fanzing: Wow! That's actually a really good answer. I figured you'd just brush it aside!

What would you like to work on in the future?

Ty Templeton: Raising my new baby, (Sean William, born on Sept 8th), and his two brothers. Also, I hope my TV project works out…I'd like to get back to TV. Maybe a return to Batman wouldn't be bad sometime in the future….

Fanzing: Congratulations on the birth of your new son!

Which characters are your favorites?

Ty Templeton: Batman, first and always. I also like The Vision and The Scarlet Witch and those folks over at Avengers. Vish is my favorite Marvel Character other than Captain America, and where else but Avengers will I get to work on both of them?

Fanzing: I know that "Adventures in the DC Universe" wasn't a big hit (due to the artwork, among other things), but have there been any other attempts to do "Adventures" versions of the DCU mainstream? Perhaps, a "JLA Adventures"?

Ty Templeton: There were a few half hearted attempts. The sales in the direct market of the USA weren't strong enough to make the attempts much of anything. There was a JLA Adventures special (written by Roger Stern, drawn by me and Rick Burchett with a cover by Mike Parobeck) published by Welsh Publishing that did rather well…(half a million copies in '94, I think) It might have been that special issue of Superman and Batman Magazine, that led DC to try Adventures in the DCU, I don't know. But that was the only "real" JLA Adventures project DC did. (I wish they'd reprint it…it was pretty cool, and they DID make an audio adventure of it, which was kinda cool, too!) I asked around about a JLA Adventures book, but no one at DC was interested, even with me writing, and Burchett and Manley (two Eisner Award Winning artists) on board with me. The sales aren't there in the direct market for Adventures, and the editors don't really see overseas sales as important in the slightest. (Though the front office does, let me tell you.)

Fanzing: Finally, what do you plan on doing New Year's Eve, 1999?

Ty Templeton: Partying like it's 1998. I have kids.

Fanzing: I hope you have a great time! And I appreciate your taking the time for an interview while you're coping with a one-month-old! Thanks, "Ty the Guy"… and best of luck to you.

All characters are ™ DC Comics
This column is © 1999 by Michael Hutchison.