Only a few hours after 44Flood launched Ben Templesmith’s new OGN project, “The Squidder”, to the crow-funding site Kickstarter, the 18,000$ goal was met. At the time of writing this piece, it’s been a few days since the project went live, and the funds have reached nearly 63,000$, proving to all of us that this is indeed, the Year of The Squid.
With slightly less than a month left in “The Squidder” campaign, lord knows what possibilities lie in wait for the talented men of 44Flood, especially the head of this project, the dashing Ben Templesmith.
“The Squidder” is a 108-page original hardcover graphic novel written and illustrated by Templesmith, his first creator-owned comic in five years. The story follows an old soldier in a post-apocalyptic world that has left him behind. Templesmith promises the graphic novel will be loaded with Lovecraftian elements, gore, and, of course, some black humor.
Weeks ago when Templesmith mentioned he’d be rolling out a new Kickstarter, he explained it to me as Mad Max meets Cthulhu, which has now become a sort of unofficial logline for the project. For those subsequent weeks I had squids, and luscious, terrifying tentacles dancing in my head. Naturally, being the nerd that I am, I chose to grill Templesmith on the Lovecraftian aspect of the project, and what I got in return was a philosophical dialogue on humanity, social issues, natural forces, creative empowerment, and the power to control your purpose.
BD: How similar in appearance and biological make up would you say your squid race is to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu?
Ben Templesmith: Not much, honestly. I’m not about grafting the actual visual of Cthulhu into THE SQUIDDER, more the general monstrosities and horror of the Lovecraftian way, plenty of twisted, tentacled monstrosities. There are beings in this thing that play with biological matter like play-dough. In many ways they find it to be a strange curiosity.
In a letter to his editor, Lovecraft said, “To achieve the essence of real externality… one must forget that such things as organic life, good and evil, love and hate, and all such local attributes of a negligible and temporary race called mankind, have any existence at all… when we cross the line to the boundless and hideous unknown… we must remember to leave our humanity and terrestrialism at the threshold.” With your creation of a human (your soldier) in a world of a “boundless and hideous unknown” (your alien squid race), would you say that this prominent Lovecraftian philosophy has had an effect on the premise of THE SQUIDDER and the universal truths within? Especially when dealing with aspects such as good and evil, love and hate?
Well, in many ways the book will be about a man wrapped up in his own bubble, his own problems, while ignoring the gigantic world and really, universe changing things going on around him. There’ll be a LOT of unknowns in the book. Fighting an enemy you can at least understand the motives of, or even acknowledge as the enemy in the first place…humanity has a lot to learn about expanding its horizons and its view of the universe at large. And religion, within the book sure won’t be the answer.
BD: What is your own personal philosophy and/or motives behind THE SQUIDDER?
BT: I wanted to tell a story and explore being tired, not wanting to go on, of letting the world pass you by and everyone forgetting the important things. Propaganda is alive and well and we’re all being morphed, pushed, subtly, into what “they” want us to do, be it gambling retirement savings on a stock market, convincing us actual money is harder to use than letting a middle man take 3% each time we spend our own money, or, of course, the controlling factors of religion and what “normal” morality is. The world changes and mostly, we all accept the new norms. But not everyone forgets how things used to be.
Personally, my motives? I just wanted to write again and tell a story in an organic way, which only one person can do when they both write AND draw. It’s been years since I have and apart from several huge career things, it’s the real reason I ever wanted to do comics. Working with some writers is fantastic. Working purely for a paycheck is also fantastic. But money and networking isn’t worth anything if you’re unfulfilled and you know you’re better off forging your own path, provided you’re not on the street in a cardboard box at the end of the day. It’s choosing me. It’s not conscious really.
Would you relate THE SQUIDDER’s soldier more to a hero, villain, or antihero? What qualities does he possess to justify your answer? And perhaps even more important, would you relate your squid race more to a hero, villain, or antihero? And again, what characteristics do the squids possess to justify your answer?
He’s a relic. His principles are dead. His entire purpose has entirely disappeared and he’s a man out of time, really. He’s an antihero for sure. The Squid things? Well, a force of nature as much as anything. I couldn’t really ascribe human attributes to their motives. They just are. They’d like to exist. It’s not their fault they come from where they come from. They’ll bind everything else together.
BD: If you had to choose one book (comic or novel) that has influenced THE SQUIDDER the most, which would it be and why?
BT: Heh, a fair dose of Harry Harrison’s West of Eden trilogy perhaps, actually. Roman history, oddly enough… all sorts of things. A love of Conan the Barbarian and Mad Max as well as the overall Lovecraftian ways of certain pop culture these days. Learning of the horrible way veterans are treated in America, yet culturally held up as figures to be deified at the same time. I’m not really sure where this thing is coming from. So many little things that I took from. I do worship a Giant Holy Space Squid, so it’s probably his Tentacle of Power that ultimately guides me.
BD: How long have you been working on this concept? What is your biggest fascination with this new alien squid race?
BT: I slowly wrote the congealing ideas behind it down over the course of several years, and not while I was doing any drugs. Promise.
I’ve had bits of things floating around for a while. The Squid Queen, a bit of a character visual I’ve drawn for prints a few times over the years, was a constant… everything just slowly came together. Plus, I just want to draw tentacles and Squid things.
BD: With 44FLOOD’s new partnership with IDW Publishing, what made you decide to crowd-fund this project via Kickstarter?
BT: The partnership with IDW doesn’t mean they’re going to fund us or anything. They don’t own us and we won’t be doing anything but feeding them projects that they agree to put out in their markets/audience base. We still have to try and eat and pay rent as we put out our own fancy versions of our books. Basically, we get to use some [of the] fantastic infrastructure they have, and distribution, they’ll make money off the books, and so will we, but ultimate ownership of IP and control of what a creator wants to do with their book, will remain with the creator. The creator can do as they wish. (Which isn’t really the general rule when dealing with getting a book published by anyone except Image [Comics], historically)
A book is a book and speaking for myself, I like making books with people in the business of making books. Anything else? Well, that’s separate and nice, but not books. Amazingly, IDW are excited and happy to be in the book business too. I can’t wait. It’s going to be very interesting and fun because I’m definitely done with the old dynamic of a creator individually dealing with a publisher. It’s the age of ideas now and who should ultimately control them? I’ll have a place I can put my ideas out to the world at large, with luck.
Where Kickstarter has come in, is enabling creative people to finance their projects themselves and change that old dynamic of *needing* a publisher to front costs on something that may or may not succeed. That’s the traditional risk of a publisher so they get to be very picky with what they put out. And fair enough! They have to be choosy since they could lose big time. Going direct to the people via Kickstarter, proves demand, if it’s there… it covers the costs to empower a creative to either do it all themselves or at least cut a better deal with the middle man between them and their audience eventually. Kickstarter is a fantastic system, liberating and emboldening so many people now. It’s fantastic to see both established people with audiences and new people with clear quality people just love coming through.
44FLOOD is still just a few guys in a studio trying to keep the lights on while getting some art out there and Kickstarter gives those with [an] entrepreneurial spirit the chance to sink or swim in their marketplace. I don’t think Kickstarter has even gone mainstream yet either. It’s still building to something way bigger.
BD: Should we expect more of THE SQUIDDER after this first OGN? Will this be a part of a series? Perhaps a franchise?
BT: I hope so. When I said this thing came together over the years, I mean the world at large did. With THE SQUIDDER I just found that one story I could tell within it. Part of my problem is that really, I have so much I want to put in it but logistically can’t fit it in. Yet. If it goes over at all well [editor note: it did!], it’ll be my new home for quite a few things. And best of all none of it would be “just because the first one made money.” I’m rather sick of endless sequels purely for commercial reasons, trust me.
BD: Curiosity looms over your departure from Ten Grand and what it means for the future of your career. Will you do monthlies? There have been rumors of future projects between you and Straczynski, do you foresee this happening?
I never did monthlies. Not really. Nor, as it turns out, am I cut out for that. Apart from personal issues that kept me doing anything BUT comics for a time (yes, some things are still more important and it’s hard to feel creative with other big things going on) I’ve been on a quest for motivation, to figure out what makes me tick, why I should do what I do… and money and fame or whatever bullshit people on the outside looking in may come up with matter not one bit. I don’t know. Communicating ideas with an audience… that seems to be the thing that matters most. I’m finally living in one place for the first time in years, a place that feels like home and gathered an amazing group of people that seem to want to put up with me. I’m rather enjoying just being creative, taking my time and not being pushed or pulled into being things I’m not. I can’t speak for the future, beyond getting a new thing finished and maybe finishing some older things I promised I would.
BD: What do you feel is the most positive aspect of the 44FLOOD/IDW partnership for you and your work personally?
BT: Ultimately it’s going to be a fantastic chance for new and fine artists to be able to expose their work to a whole new audience IDW are trying to reach, or already reach. Their distribution is basically amazing and they seem hungry to try new things. Creative empowerment almost always gives the best results and I think Ted Adams really understands that. IDW was always the place that fit most. It’s totally mutually beneficial and I can’t wait to start getting back and into doing comics and art for the reasons I started out doing it in the first place.
Check out “The Squidder” Kickstarter and check out the amazing (and some exclusive) perks. Also check it out in order to pre-order your copy of this limited edition graphic novel.
Interview by – Bree Ogden