“THE SQUIDDER #1” (Comic Review)
Ben Templesmith has made a career out of his bizarre horror art and flesh burnt color pallete. While he’s better known for the work he’s done with his partner in crime, Steve Niles, such as 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, HELLSPAWN and CRIMINAL MACABRE, Templesmith has done created plenty of his own comics, penning stories as strangely grotesque as his illustrations. The latest is THE SQUIDDER, Templesmith’s crowdfunded creator-owned tale of apocalyptic madness that’s akin to MAD MAX VS. CTHULHU.
THE SQUIDDER opens on a cult praying to an unknown terror, a multi-tentacled monstrosity that demands human flesh and unflinching devotion. After sacrificing a young girl to its insatiable maw, every member of the cult immediately slits their own throat. Quickly, the comic cuts to an aging soldier as he moves his way through the post-Armageddon future. Through a series of flashback and angry dreams, we see the pieces of the world of old come crashing down and the war that ended all of civilization. But for this soldier, nicknamed “squidder,” the war has never ended and he soon ends up the target of a gang attack, one that needs his special talents. With a desert full of a religious maniacs and hardened criminals, his life suddenly takes an interesting turn.
Squidder is exactly the type of work one would expect out of Templesmith when he’s set loose on the page with no restriction, a freedom afforded by the success of his Kickstarter. A grandiose work with exceptional detail and toothy monsters, the author and illustrator creates a sprawling world that lingers long after the reader puts it down. Deep watercolors paint the landscapes while flashes of eclectic pen work scratch the characters into a ghost-like existence, composing a visual wonderland of balance between the foreground and background. The most stunning aspect of his art is his grasp of situational colors, blasts of red for rage, liquid blue for melancholy, and sickly green for a horror that only managse to deepen the visceral experience of his creations.
As mentioned, THE SQUIDDER was entirely crowdfunded by Templesmith’s fans, who raised a jaw-dropping $137,708 that surpassed the goal of $18,000.This isn’t Templesmith and Co.’s first attempt at Kickstarting a project either (the first being a multi-artist work called LUST and both have exceeded donator expectations, proving that independent comics will never go out of style. Now known as 44 Flood, the collaboration between Templesmith, Menton3, Kasra Ghanbari, and Nick Idell with various contributors, has slowly and deliberately been working outside of the comic industry by hitting the dirty streets of the internet and reaching out to their fans.
With the success of both LUST and SQUIDDER, 44 Flood has proven that unique art, smart material, and a solid dedication to your fans is all you really need to be successful. At a time when there’s so much spotlight on the comic industry—and not just about comics, but also about business practices and writer/artist intellectual rights— it’s inspiring to know that a small, grassroots campaign can reach such immense heights. Perhaps this is the shift that industry has needed; a moving away from larger companies and executive-decided storylines to smaller, artist owned collaboratives.
it’s also worth noting that there is a good possibility 44 Flood can only work because of the current comic boom and the growing interest in all things four-paneled that, ironically enough, are spearheaded by the very companies that 44 Flood is providing an alternative to. Let’s not forget, Squidder is being distributed by IDW, perhaps not one of the top three, but still one of the better-established businesses out there. It seems that despite the effort toward alternative comic representation, it’s the nuts and bolts of the comic world, mainly publishing and distribution, that could really hold back the development of the small press industry. 44 Flood has still a long way to go before it can truly walk on its own (and even then, will owe its success partly to its early partner distributors), but with such reputable work and talented contributors, perhaps the world of creator-owned/fan-funded comics isn’t as far as it seems.