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Monday, August 1, 2016

Ty Templeton and George Reeves' Superman cape

Ty Templeton is a fan's fan of an artist. A fan favorite, but someone who is a fan himself and it shows in everything he does. You can find him teaching at his Comic Book Boot Camp, teaching classes in Canada, creating comics regularly, self-publishing his Bun Toons online comic, and appearing at Comic Conventions. He is someone whose contributions continue to inspire fans and artists, and his enthusiasm shows in everything he does. A writer, artist, colorist, inker, letterer, editor and overall creator, you can find his work in the award-winning Batman Adventures, Bongo Comics' Simpsons, Marvel's Ren and Stimpy, Batman 66, and his own creation -- Bigg Time for Vertigo Comics.

I was having a great conversation with Ty at the Montreal Comic Con, when we asked if we could make it an official interview. It's casual and easy, because Ty is such a great guy to talk to. The interview picks up during our conversation about a commission he was working on and what characters he could use for it.

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Ty: "... I want all the women of Gotham City"... so I said "okay" and I listed all of them and I listed Talia and he goes "no, not Talia", and I went "why not?" and he said "all the women of Gotham City, but not her."

Mark: ...but not Talia..

Ty: I guess because she lives in the Orient somewhere. Technically, I think she lives in Tibet.

Mark: Ra's Al Ghul isn't living in Gotham City -- has no residence or jurisdiction...

Ty: ...he rents an apartment there, I'm sure... it's a lease, it's not an own.

[laughter]

Mark: Thanks so much for talking to DC in the 80s.

Ty: I was at working at DC Comics in the 1980s, it makes sense that you'd want to talk to me.

Mark: As a matter of fact, the first thing that you worked on -- to my knowledge -- for DC was Booster Gold #21 (1987).



Ty: Nope.

Mark: No? It wasn't?

Ty: Close. The first thing I worked on was a Secret Origins [issue]. I did a... well, actually, the FIRST thing I ever did nobody ever saw. Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin approached me to work on the Blue Devil character, which they were writing at the time.

They had a Blue Devil mini-series they wanted to do, and I started doing preliminary artwork for THAT... and the Blue Devil mini-series fell apart, so instead of doing that, they had me doing the Secret Origin of Blue Devil for Secret Origins #24. THAT was my first DC work.

Secret Origins #24 (1988) - pencils and inks by Ty Templeton

Mark: And then some of the other stuff you did was Elongated Man?

Ty: Yup. I did that, I did Justice League for quite a while. I did the actual Justice League mainstream book for about a year and a half. I followed Kevin Maguire and I was just before Adam Hughes. I also did a whole bunch of Legion of Super-Heroes and Superman stuff.

Mark: How was it doing the Booster Gold stuff initially? Was it just so short that you barely...

Ty: I did 4 issues of Booster in total. Well, what it was -- it was really fun because I like the character and I like Dan Jurgens, personally, a lot. One of the first things I got to work on was a big tie-in to a series they were doing I think was called...

Mark: Millennium?

Booster Gold #24 (1988) - pencilled by Dan Jurgens and inked by Ty Templeton


Ty: Millennium! That was it! ... and I was a long-time DC fan. I'm a HUGE fan of comics to begin with -- I have way TOO MANY comics than I should (probably about 70 or 80,000), and so, to me, the idea that within a few months of getting hired by DC I was participating in one of the big company summer cross-overs -- that was FUN to me. I was, like, 22 yrs old, and when you're that age it's like "Oh my god, I'm working for the place I've always dreamed of working, AND I'm working on a BIG project that everybody's working on".

I think right after Booster Gold I started inking Superman over John Byrne and Curt Swan. Those were two guys that I grew up ADORING. All through the '60 and '70s those were two of my favorite artists. (well, John starts in the 1970s, but...) two of my favorite artists in the world. The idea that I went to the Superman office and I was working with John and Curt was, like, constantly 'pinch me' stuff. It was kinda nice because Dan Jurgens, who was doing Booster Gold, when he went over to start doing Superman, he brought me with him -- which was really nice. He liked me.

So I got to work with Dan Jurgens while he did Superman a bit. And then the editor, Mike Carlin, said "well, we like your stuff. do you want to start inking over John Byrne?" and I went "Yyyyeeeeaaaaahhhhh". [enthusiastic look on Ty's face]

Secret Origins Annual #3 (1989) - pencils by Irv Novick and inks by Ty Templeton

So while I was in the Superman office I got to ink a while bunch of really cool guys I grew up with. I got to ink over Irv Novik, who was a Batman guy primarily, but he did an issue of Teen Titans (for some reason) that I inked. I got Carmine Infantino once. I got to ink over Jerry Ordway.

Mark: ...who is a lovely human being...

Ty: Oh yeah! I ADORE Jerry. It's really funny -- Jerry and Dan, the two guys who did Superman right after John Byrne left, are two of the most "awww shucks" mid-western Kansas guys (I don't actually know if they're actually from Kansas) but they really ARE THAT GUY. I don't mean that in a derogatory way in any way -- Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway were, like, born to be Clark Kent, they were born to BE that character. And they're really noble, good people. So they were literally perfect for Superman because they didn't come from a cynical asshole point of view -- they're really good "roll up your sleeves and get the work done" and be a good American. So that was really kinda cool that those guys got to do it.

Mark: ..and then DC started feeling comfortable enough with your work and loving your work and they put you on Who's Who. So you were doing the covers of Who's Who...

Ty: Yeah, I did A LOT of Who's Who.


Who's Who: Update '88 v1 #1 - wrap-around cover illustrated by Ty Templeton 

Mark: ...1988 you were doing the interiors...

Ty: Yeah, the reason for that is because -- outside the business you probably don't have an awareness of this, but inside the business it literally IS who you know -- and there are editors that have *this* number of books and editors that have *that* number of books. Some editors just know you personally and get along with you, and other editors don't really get to know you. So the editor for Who's Who, I think, was Mark Waid. Mark Waid and I were really good pals and we knew each other before either of us worked for DC.

Mark: Amazing Heroes?

Ty: Yeahyeahyeah! We met when he was doing Amazing Heroes! [Ty can barely contain his excitement]

Amazing Heroes #138 (1988) - Ty Templeton and Jack Torrance pin-up

Amazingly enough, we met when he was doing Amazing Heroes, I did stuff for Amazing Heroes. And we met there, so when he came to DC as an editor -- one of the first things he did was -- that's why I got to do that Blue Devil thing for Secret Origins. As soon as he found out I was at DC but didn't have a gig, he went "Oh! Come to my office and I'll give you a gig".

I used to hang out at Mark's office all the time because his office was across the hall from Julius Schwartz' office. As a die-hard DC fan from the '50 and '60s, I used to go hang out in the office and talk to Julie all day long. At the time, he was editor emeritus -- this was 1986/87 and he wasn't currently assigned any books but he still came to the office and drew a paycheck because he was there to offer the other editors advice -- and his actual official title was 'editor emeritus'. So, Julie would just be in his office and I'd just poke my head in and say "Hey Julie, what's up? Wanna grab some lunch or something?" To me, that was just dreamworld. I got to talk to Julie Schwartz, and when I wasn't talking to Julie, I'd go talk to Mark Waid. If you were hanging around the office long enough there would be moments like "Holy crap, Murphy Anderson just came in! Let's go talk to Murphy Anderson!" And it was glorious to be there in the 80s, because the office itself, you'd see all the legends come in to drop off their work and stuff.

Mark: Another person that you probably saw around the office was Andy Helfer?

Ty: Oh yeah, I worked out of Andy's office. Andy in fact, [laughs] actually, for a while -- because I wasn't great with deadlines, nobody is -- for a while Andy used to actually make me come in and draw IN HIS office so he could watch me. I lived in New York very briefly -- I mostly live in Canada, but I lived in New York very briefly -- and while I was in there Andy would go "You're not drawing at home, you're getting on the subway and you're coming to my office" and he set up a table in the corner of his office so he could watch me draw. This way I couldn't -- y'know -- spend the day screwing around -- he'd be like "you owe me this on Friday, I want to see a page come out of you today". And if i would go "I'm going up to the bathroom", he'd say "how much did you draw?". He really did that. He did it to Kevin Maguire, too.

Eventually, there was a store room in DC that they had a couple of drawing tables set up for people who visited and needed a spot to draw. And I drew in the store room a few times because my apartment was terribly small. It was like the size of this [convention] booth. So I would be in that store room. And then one day I'm in the store room and they start unloading stuff from a DC comics Smithsonian exhibit -- of items they'd lent stuff to The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian was bringing it back and it was all in boxes. I'm in the room and I'm looking through the boxes and "Holy Crap! There's George Reeves' Superman costume!... and Chris Reeves' Superman costume! and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman costume!" and a whole bunch of these things that are like "these are the REAL things". So, you would've done it -- of course you would've done it -- I put on George Reeves' cape.

George Reeves in Superman costume - circa 1952


Mark: Whaaaaat?

Ty: How could you NOT? I'm physically holding George Reeves' cape. So that's going around my... [mimes out action of him putting cap around collar]

I think I drew -- or I might have inked -- a page of Justice League wearing George Reeves' cape.

Mark: THAT is amazing.

Ty: I mean, they put me in the office with this stuff! The Michelle Pfeiffer costume -- first up, it was much smaller than I thought it was gonna be...

Mark: I think she had to lose weight for that role...

Ty: Yeah, but she's also a tiny person. She's like 5'6 or something. She wasn't that big. So the costume, they eventually put it onto a mannequin and it was upstairs in a meeting room. After they put it on the mannequin, I just went up there and unzipped everything and zipped it back up. Because who wouldn't want to unzip the zippers?!? Now most of them didn't work, but you could actually unzip one or two of them.

Michelle Pfeiffer in Catwoman costume from 1992's Batman Returns


Mark: You're very mischievous. I'm seeing that. [laughs]

Ty: YYYEEESSSS. No.. honestly... if you're in a room by yourself with George Reeves' Superman costume, you'd be an idiot NOT to put it on. I didn't put the WHOLE costume on, but I absolutely put the cape on. Who wouldn't do that? Now, of course, someone from DC is going to hear this and get mad at me. This was like 25 years ago...

Mark: We can cut it out.

Ty: No no no, I'm fine. I've done worst than that. I absolutely made sure I went into the library and actually physically touched a copy of Action Comics #1 (1938) and Detective Comics #27 (1939). They have copies of everything they've ever printed -- and I just wanted to, at some point, say "I have held a copy of Action Comics #1 in my hands".

Mark: You are officially my hero. That's what's going on now.

Ty: This is just because I was a FAN as well as a CREATOR. And once you're a creator, you get the keys to the castle (somewhat). The most amazing part is that back in the 80s, the library wasn't guarded.

It was the library of all their published stuff, and it wasn't guarded!

Later on, you couldn't get in there without a guy to walk in there with you. Back then, this was back in the 80s, if you needed to borrow something (ex: "I need reference, I need a copy of Batman #200") they'd say "just go get it", and you could just go to the library and bring it back to your desk and work at it. So, one day, I needed something from a Legion of Super-Heroes book, and they used to have them bound together in volumes, and I grabbed the Legion volume from, like, 1967 or whatever it was (it was a Curt Swan volume). I had it on my desk and at the end of the day -- I didn't mean to do it -- but I packed it up and brought it home. And I realized it when I got home. Of course I brought it back the next day -- I wasn't interested in keeping it -- but I thought to myself "there shouldn't have been a system involved that I was able to do that!"

Mark: Walking away with Curt Swan Legion of Super-Heroes...

TY: Yeah! And it's because -- who was up there in the library except freelancers? There was nobody to distrust there. But I felt terrible.

Mark: Because freelancers are very trustworthy. [meant seriously]

Ty: Well most of the people who work at DC love their job. And you wouldn't want to risk your job. And somebody would've eventually figured out if I had kept it. And again, I had no intention and didn't mean to. I just accidentally put it away. I brought it back the very next day. It's still there. I swear to you it's not gone. But the idea that, in theory, I could've walked off with Action Comics #1 at some point...

Secret Origins #34 (1988) - cover pencilled by Jerry Ordway and inked by Ty Templeton 


Mark: So final question: You also did the Who's Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes. That was something early on for you. Was that a lot of fun? Were you a Legion of Super-Heroes fan growing up?

Ty: I was a HUGE Legion of Super-Heroes fan growing up. In fact, it was the first time I had worked with Curt. Before I started inking Curt, he drew a story I wrote for the Legion of Super-Heroes Who's Who. There used to be a little 8-page story in the front of those, and Curt drew one. I think it was the first story I ever wrote for DC that I did NOT draw -- because I used to draw my own stuff. It was the first one I wrote that someone else drew. I think the editor was Mike Carlin. He goes "Who do you want to draw this thing?" and I go "I don't know... what do you mean? who's available?", and Carlin goes "do you want Curt to do it?". And I went "Are you f%^king kidding me?!" (Like, I'm pretty sure I swore.) I was so stunned by this.

Who's Who in the Legion of Super-Heroes #4 (1988) - wrap-around cover illustrated by Ty Templeton


I got to meet Curt -- of all the people in this business that I've got to meet and know -- I’ve only ever asked for autographs from two of them... and they were Curt [Swan] and Murphy [Anderson]. I mean, I know Neal Adams and I've never asked him for an autograph, I've met Jack [Kirby] a few times -- I've never asked Jack. I've met Stan Lee a bunch of times -- I've never thought to ask any of them for their autographs. But one day Curt and Murphy were in the building together, and I just saw them down the hall and I went "DON'T MOVE!" and I ran into an office somewhere and said "get me anything by Murphy Anderson and Curt Swan together. I'll pay you for your copy -- just get me SOMETHING" and I found a hardcover copy of the GREATEST SUPERMAN STORIES EVER TOLD which has a bunch of Curt/Murphy stuff in it. And I got them to sign it and I had to buy a new copy to give to whichever editor I stole it from -- but it's the only autographs I've ever asked for.

Y'know, I've met Beatles and I haven't asked for their autographs. To me, Curt and Murphy is ground zero for my childhood.

Mark: Right. You're always chasing that first high you got from your first love in comic books.

Ty: Yeah! so before Kirby, before Neal, before Wally Wood, before any of those other people -- it was Curt and Murphy. So when I saw them it was like "Oh my god, the Gods are standing next to each other!"

Mark: Awesome. Well thanks so much, Ty. Very amazing.

Ty really is an amazing guy. If you ever have a chance to meet him at a con, get a commission and talk comic books, you won’t be disappointed.

-Mark Belkin

If you like Booster Gold, check out:



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