One of the most wonderfully bizarre pieces of news to come out of this year’s New York Comic Con was IDW’s announcement that they’re turning the mad genius Ben Templesmith’s Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse into an animated TV series.
I first discovered Templesmith’s work, like so many others, within the pages of Steve Niles’ horrifying vampire saga 30 Days of Night. His work reads like a demon’s shadow plan, with harsh blues and deep reds, distilling great moments of both horror and humanity into deceptively simple artwork. Upon closer examination, though, there is nothing simple about his work. With his completely unique sense of style that blurs the line between graphic storytelling and surreal, gothic art you’d more likely find at a museum than the comic shop, Ben Templesmith is peerless.
Though his work on 30 Days of Night arguably launched his career and showed the world what he could do with another writer’s tale, his most interesting works are his own creations. He’s created/written/drawn many great comics, from the sci-fi mash-up of Singularity 7 to the blood-drenched werewolf comic Welcome to Hoxford, but my favorite of his works is the aforementioned Wormwood. (Though, I will add that one of my favorite comics ever was written by Chris Ryall and drawn by Templesmith – that book is called Groom Lake, and it features a chain-smoking grey alien named Archibald. That book, even though it’s not written by Templesmith, seems tailor-made for his diabolically grotesque sense of humor.)
It would be odd to call Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse – a comic about a “corpse-possessing worm” who spends his days operating well-dressed cadavers and saving the world – charming, but it really is. Templesmith’s work, for all its beauty, can also be bleak and scary. Wormwood is all of those things, perhaps more so than the others in parts, but it adds just enough humor to either comfort the reader or make them feel even more uncomfortable. Either way, it’s endlessly entertaining. Also, with its glowing demon gods, gluts of writing tentacles, monster strippers, skull-explosions, and Templesmith’s unmistakable fever-dream aesthetic, Wormwood would make a hell of a cartoon.
Though it’s been far too long since we’ve been treated to a new tale of debauched apocalypse prevention, there is thankfully a lot of Wormwood to go around. The series has been released in three trade paperbacks, including Birds, Beers, Blood & Beer; It Only Hurts When I Pee; and Calamari Rising. IDW recently reprinted it all as an oversized collection called The First Few Pints, which collects those along with some lovely bonus material. It’s a great run, but it’s not even nearly enough. The last time I visited Templesmith’s booth at a convention, he mentioned that there was more Wormwood to come. I hope, as IDW moves on this animated series, we’ll see more comic book adventures of that little drunkard demigod of a worm.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Robyn Hood, Van Helsing, Family Pets) and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). He trick-or-treated until he was seventeen-years-old. Because CANDY.