The World’s Finest caught up with artist/writer Ty Templeton to discuss his work on The Batman Adventures, the classic comic series based on Batman: The Animated Series, and a handful of other projects past, present and future.
Winner of the Joe Shuster Award for Outstanding Writer, nominated for countless others, and inducted in the Canadian Hall of Fame, Templeton’s career spans a multitude of mediums, characters and publishers, working on everything from Batman and Superman in both comic and animation form, to writing and drawing for The Simpsons, Vertigo Comics and assorted independent publishers. Even teaching classing classes to aspiring artists, Templeton has his hand deep in the comic and art community, both in Canada and abroad.
And now, DC Comics is releasing the classic The Batman Adventures comic series, featuring work by Templeton, in a new series of trade paperback collections, with the first volume hitting shelves Wednesday, November 12h, 2014. To find out what Templeton has to say about his work on that comic, and other projects, continue on…
The World’s Finest: DC Comics is reprinting the classic The Batman Adventures comics in a new series of trade paperback collections. Now, when the comic first started off, you had to start working on the comic before an episode of Batman: The Animated Series even aired. Can you walk us through how you managed to navigate such tricky waters to get that first issue out without having seen the show?
Ty Templeton: Well, that’s not strictly true. I’d actually seen the “On Leather Wings” episode when I was working on the first issue, and I think I saw two or three more before the general public did. It helps to be in the biz. Also, I had a set of turnaround and layout designs already from when I was briefly a storyboard artist for Lightbox Productions in Toronto, which worked on the first season of the show. It was the primary reason I was hired, was because I was already associated with the production before it made it to the air.
WF: And when you did see the first episode, did you think, in retrospect, you and Kelley Puckett (the writer) nailed it with your first opening arc?
TT: Again, the premise of the question is slightly off. And as an artist I’m never happy with what I do. I’d love to go back and fix all the mistakes in that first issue. There are plenty.
WF: After the initial three issues of The Batman Adventures, you stepped aside for the most part, save for the odd appearance, but then came back basically full-time with Batman & Robin Adventures. That opening two-part story remains, personally, one of the best Two-Face stories ever (“It was Tuesday” – brutal). Did your artist approach change when it can to drawing these characters again, now that the animated series and comic were established?
TT: I was originally only approached to do three issues, it was meant to be a micro series to test the waters, but we came out of the gate with enormous sales. Sales so good they could not cancel the book, so it kept going. I was unavailable for anything past issue #3 so the wonderful Mike Parobeck came and took over and did it for the next twenty eight issues before I returned, first as a writer (Batman Adventures #32) then as a writer artist with Mike for a few issues when Kelly Puckett left, then as an artist with Paul Dini, then as the writer/cover artist for the rest of the series, stepping back into the artist shoes for the Dan Slott scripted issues because, well, who wouldn’t want to draw a Dan Slott script?!?
WF: While the three issues included in the new The Batman Adventures collection highlights your pencil work, you also wrote this title for quite a few years. Which did you find easier – getting the look of the show down, or the voice? Why?
TT: There’s not really an “easier” between the two disciplines, but I enjoy both and didn’t want to step back from writing when I had my hands on the character. I kept up with the covers because I simply couldn’t write and draw an issue every month, so it was a question of schedule more than anything that kept me from doing it all. When Slott came aboard near the end, and scripted half the stories, I could write mine and draw his and was quite happy with everything at that point (though I missed doing covers! What a selfish bastard I was on that series!)
WF: The Batman Adventures is considered one of the best unsung Batman comics of the 90s. Any thoughts on that? Was it because the series wasn’t enveloped in countless ongoing crossovers, or perhaps because it ignored the other bad practices that popped up throughout the decade, or maybe…because, simply, there was just great storytelling. Thoughts?
TT: If it’s unsung, it ain’t considered one of the best anything. It’s like being a tall midget, it doesn’t work logically. Unsung means unnoticed. We weren’t unnoticed, though … we won a bunch of Eisner awards and Fanny Awards during this period (I have most of ‘em on my wall), and were quite happy with the recognition and very healthy sales. At one point, Batman and Robin Adventures was DC’s best selling comic worldwide, as it was, by far, their most translated. We were in dozens and dozens of countries and outselling everything DC put out in Europe, except Gaiman’s Sandman book. There’s a pair of contenders, eh? So your contention that we were ignored is slightly off. But … the book was not particularly supported in editorial at the time, because DC was going through a real “identity crisis” of sorts at editorial, where they really didn’t like the idea of kids reading comics. Obviously, you need kids to have a new generation of readers every ten years, but I had constant requests to get off the book from editors telling me my career would be better if I did a more mainstream book. I was happy where I was (stayed there off and on for like fifteen years!) and was happy to connect to the audience. It was editorial that didn’t love us, and gave us no promotion, no reprint series, little attention when we won awards. We were only unsung around the DC offices, actually, not around the biz.
WF: Switching gears for a moment, you’ve kept yourself quite busy over the years, but you always seem to pop back on to a Batman book every once and a bit. Given this is Batman’s 75th, do you have any comments on the character’s enduring appeal? Maybe perhaps those 1980s Zellers commercials (laughs)?
TT: The character’s appeal is simple. His story is the ultimate metaphor for control vs. chaos, which is the basic story of existence. The living impose order on a chaotic structure, like the planet Earth for instance,, and Batman is the embodiment of that struggle. It’s not a coincidence that all of his best villains are centered around madness or temptation.
As to the Zellers commercials….my work animating and doing layout for those commercials was where I connected with Lightbox Productions in Canada, which is what led to them being part of the original set of animation studios working on Batman The Animated Series, where I was hired to do storyboards, and hooked up with the whole thing. So domino theory in action.
WF: Continuing this off-topic track – You recently worked on the Batman ’66 Meets Green Hornet mini-series. Is there any intimidation to working on such beloved interpretations of these classic characters? How….careful are you when approaching these characters from an artistic standpoint? Do you ask yourself how close you need to stay to their look while allowing yourself a little room to put some of yourself in there?
TT: No intimidation at all. I lobbied for the gig, and sent the editor likenesses of all the major actors and some of the villains as part of my lobbying. It’s what got me the gig, so I knew I could catch the actors well.
WF: Is it safe to assume you’ll be losing many, many days watching the new Batman: The Classic TV Series Blu-ray/DVD Collection? Any episodes in particular you’re eager to revisit?
TT: I’ve had a set of those episodes on DVD for more than a decade. It’s good to have connections! As a result, I went through a bunch of them again while doing this recent series. My favorites are always the ones with Penguin, by far. Though the Joan Collins/Siren episodes tickle me for some reason. Obviously I watched the ones with Green Hornet and Colonel Gumm a bunch of times lately.
WF: And swinging back to the topic on hand, any last thoughts on the new The Batman Adventures collection, particularly your issues included within? Given that it’s been over twenty years since these have seen print, is it humbling to revisit these early works?
TT: Humbling is the wrong word. I’m never a fan of my old work (and barely a fan of my current work), so when reprints come out, I confess that I don’t look at them. I get sent copies and I put them on a shelf in my house so there’s a copy if I need it, but I’m never comfortable looking at my work in print. It’s almost impossible to get me to read a printed copy of my work, especially if I drew it, rather than wrote it. I sometimes go back and re-read scripts I’ve done, but there are damn few of those I think I did just right, so I tend to see mistakes, rather than stories.
WF: Lastly, can you fill us in on your current works and list off, perhaps, some upcoming projects you can share with us?
TT: Currently, as of this writing, I’m on vacation! I just finished up the Green Hornet Batman series and am taking a delightful two weeks off before plunging back to work. I’m doing some small work on a creator owned thing at the moment, and, in theory, am supposed to start something with Dan Slott at Marvel this fall, but he’s been a bit overbooked and I haven’t gotten a script out of him yet. So I owe him a phone call about that…
The World’s Finest would like to thank Ty Templeton for his participation in this Q & A. To find out more about Templeton’s work, check out his Ty Templeton’s Art Land website.
The Batman Adventures – Volume One, a ten-issue trade paperback collection from DC Comics, hits shelves on Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 for $19.99US. More details on the The Batman Adventures comic book series can be found at The World’s Finest Batman: The Animated Series subsite.
Stay tuned for further news and updates right here at The World’s Finest.
Twitter – Facebook – Tumblr
Batman: The Complete Television Series and Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham are both now available to own from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Interactive, respectively. Click on the links below to discuss these new releases!